Ahsoka Review - For Star Wars: Rebels Fans Only

  • First Released Aug 22, 2023
  • television
Phil Owen on Google+

If you don't already care about Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren, this show probably isn't for you.

I used to think I was unreasonably harsh on Disney's attempts at live-action Star Wars because I didn't like any of it. Then I watched Andor and saw what a legitimately good Star Wars TV show looked like. I'd rather not go back to the old normal. But despite its attempts to pretend otherwise in the two episodes provided by Disney+ ahead of the series premiere, the old normal is exactly what Ahsoka represents. Unless you're a Rebels fan dying to follow up on that cliffhanger from the series finale, there's no reason to watch this show.

Ahsoka begins with a pair of villainous Force users--Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati--invading a New Republic Cruiser to rescue a one-off villain from Season 2 of The Mandalorian named Morgan Elsbeth. As we learned back then, Elsbeth knows something about the location of the missing Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn, and they imply that somebody (it's not said who) paid these Force-wielders to rescue Elsbeth and help with her quest to bring him back.

Coincidentally, in the very next scene we see Ahsoka Tano reenact the opening credits of Guardians of the Galaxy, but more boringly and without dancing--she visits some kind of ancient archaeological site in the middle of nowhere on some nothing planet to recover a magical orb, after which she is immediately confronted by and has to fight some baddies who work for the main villain. This orb contains the map to Thrawn, who may or may not be in a different galaxy. So Ahsoka reconvenes with surviving characters from Rebels, Hera Syndulla, and Sabine Wren, and the race to Thrawn is on.

Are you lost yet? If you didn't watch Star Wars: Rebels, which saw the genius Thrawn and protagonist Ezra Bridger pulled into hyperspace toward an unknown destination by space whales, you probably are. Ahsoka is a direct follow-up on that animated series' cliffhanger ending--it's basically Rebels Season 5--and the result is that the two episodes I've seen don't have much to offer fans who didn't watch that cartoon.

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These first two episodes--which were directed by showrunner Dave Filoni, who also was responsible for the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons--make an attempt to ape Andor's slower pace by, as far as I can tell, simply holding shots longer. But it doesn't work. These episodes end up having no rhythm to speak of, as every scene is filled with extraneous pauses--Ahsoka has all the flow of Attack of the Clones.

The look of it isn't much better, with a series of action sequences that all look basically like the maligned final battle from Marvel's Secret Invasion series--the camera is always far too close to the action to get a good look at what's going on, and the fights are inexplicably inert. It's hard to believe that we've gotten to the point where I groan when it's time for a lightsaber battle, but that's the reality of the situation here.

To make it all the worse, you can feel some of the more cartoony DNA of Rebels seeping into the whole production. We've got Ahsoka doing comical spin moves to cut holes in the floor during a fight like she's Bugs Bunny. One of the bad guys is a former Inquisitor named Marrock who has one of those spinny lightsaber handles that those folks used on Rebels, and he got it spinning really fast and then threw it like a boomerang--it didn't look awesome. And near the end of the second episode, Hera Syndulla is chasing a bad guy ship and asks her astromech droid to prepare a tracking device--this droid, seated on the outside of the ship like R2-D2, starts rummaging through a pile of things that are just sitting there freely on the surface of this ship like it's a desk while Hera is doing all sorts of combat maneuvers. Eventually, it finds the tracker, and then physically throws it with its pincer arm. Maybe you can get away with this in an animated series that's inherently less grounded in reality, but in live-action, this was just embarrassing to watch.

But hey, it could be worse: They could have Marrock use his lightsaber like a helicopter blade and fly around with it, which the Inquisitors did on Rebels. But there are still six more episodes to go, so don't count it out.

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What's really frustrating here is that if you strip away all the previous story baggage and the characters that this show assumes we already like, there's a potentially very interesting large-scale story happening here that could take us someplace new. Ahsoka and pals racing some free agent Imperials and mercenary Force users on a grand galaxy-spanning quest to solve a cool mystery that might actually take us beyond the scope of Star Wars as we know it? And we've got folks like Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the late, great Ray Stevenson chewing the scenery? That sounds like it could be fun.

Right now, though, all that fun stuff is obscured by, well, that story baggage and these characters the show assumes we already like. Hopefully that dynamic will change as this series continues--as we saw with The Mandalorian Season 3 earlier this year, the quality of these Disney+ Star Wars series can vary dramatically from week to week. And after this very rough start, Ahsoka could use one of those dramatic quality shifts right about now.

Phil Owen on Google+
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The Good

  • This cast could be great
  • There's a potentially interesting core mystery

The Bad

  • Inert, unenergetic filmmaking
  • If you didn't watch and love Rebels, this show isn't for you

About the Author

Phil Owen is a freelance writer. Disney provided screeners of the first two episodes of Ahsoka for this review.