23rd Aug2023

‘Ahsoka: Episode 1 & 2’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ray Stevenson, Ivanna Sakhno, Diana Lee Inosanto, David Tennant, Lars Mikkelsen, Eman Esfandi | Created by Dave Filoni

Series length: 8 episodes
Average episode length: 50 minutes
First two episodes watched for review

Created and written by Dave Filoni, Ahsoka is the latest live-action TV series to be set in the Star Wars universe, following The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor. It centres on the character of Jedi warrior Ahsoka Tano, who was introduced in the animated 2008 Clone Wars film (2008), before starring in the animated Clone Wars TV series (2008-2014) and its follow-up series, Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018), before making her live-action debut (played by Rosario Dawson) in the second season of The Mandalorian.

The live-action series takes something of a gamble, as it’s a direct continuation from the events of Star Wars Rebels, with the events occurring in the same timeframe as The Mandalorian, i.e. shortly before the events of Rogue One (2016) and the 1977 Star Wars movie. After an opening crawl sets the scene, two powerful Sith characters – Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson, to whom the pilot episode is dedicated) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) – free the powerful former Magistrate Morgan Elspeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), who we last saw being subdued and captured by Ahsoka in The Mandalorian.

Elspeth is searching for a secret map, that will reveal the location of a hidden galaxy, said to be the location of powerful leader Grand Admiral Thawn (Lars Mikkelsen), who mysteriously disappeared at the climax of Star Wars Rebels. Working alongside New Republic General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Ahsoka is tasked with retrieving and deciphering the map and recruits her former apprentice, ex-Mandalorian warrior and bounty hunter Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) for help.

The pilot episode has a fair amount of heavy lifting to do, in terms of introducing a large number of live-action characters who are already familiar to fans of the animated shows – indeed, only Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati are entirely new characters, created for this series. To that end, the pacing drags considerably in the first episode, but things pick up considerably after that, as the action really gets going.

The casting is extremely impressive across the board, and the characters are immediately likeable and / or intriguing as a result. Dawson is a perfect fit for Ahsoka, and she sparks compelling chemistry with both Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who totally rocks the Twi’lek green make-up look) and Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who gives their apparent master/apprentice relationship an interesting undercurrent.

Similarly, Stevenson brings significant weight and gravitas to Baylan, suggesting that there will be more to him than the standard villain role, while Ivanna Sakhno’s distinctive look (combined with her mostly silent menace) is likely to be an instant hit on the cosplay circuit. Elsewhere, David Tennant – reprising his role as the voice of Hera’s lightsaber-creating droid Huyang from the animated series – nabs all the best lines and is likely to prove a fan favourite and there are a number of scene-stealing droids and creatures dotted about too, like Hera’s other droid Chopper and Sabine’s Loth-cat.

Plot-wise, the opening episodes (of a planned eight) are very promising, clearly establishing a plot and a potential threat to be defeated. To that end, it’s worth noting that the series should have a definitive and satisfying ending, because Thrawn isn’t mentioned in any of the subsequent movies, chronologically, suggesting he will be defeated at the climax of this series, if not necessarily this season.

In keeping with the other live-action Star Wars shows, the production design is outstanding and has presumably had large amounts of money thrown at it. The designs are appealing too, most notably on Ahsoka’s spaceship, the T-6, destined to become a Lego best-seller, if it isn’t one already. That said, it’s a little sad that everything is so shiny and clean the whole time, particularly when George Lucas went out of his way to create a dusty, lived-in universe for the first Star Wars movie.

Crucially, Ahsoka more than delivers when it comes to the expected Star Wars staples. Accordingly, the first two episodes are full of spaceship battles, speed bike chases, lightsaber duels and Jedi force tricks, alongside amusing droid interaction, sinister villainy and reaction shots from cute space creatures. The only downside is that the dialogue is a little flat on Ahsoka’s part, though hopefully that will improve as the series continues.

That minor quibble aside, on the strength of the first two episodes, Ahsoka could be one of Disney Plus’ best Star Wars TV shows to date. Here’s hoping they stick the landing and the subsequent episodes maintain the same high standard.

**** 4/5

Ahsoka is available to watch on Disney+ now.


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