Fans of the beloved animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels” are in for a treat with the arrival of Disney+’s latest addition to the “Star Wars” universe, “Ahsoka.” Positioned within the same timeframe as the third installment of “The Mandalorian,” this new series comprises eight episodes, following the journey of former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano, portrayed by Rosario Dawson. Having survived the harrowing Jedi purge and liberated from the clutches of her former master turned Sith Lord, Darth Vader (also known as Anakin Skywalker), Ahsoka embarks on a mission to safeguard the fragile New Republic.
LucasFilm, boasting successes such as “The Mandalorian,” “The Book of Boba Fett,” and the captivatingly dark “Andor,” has undeniably found its stride when it comes to live-action ventures in the “Star Wars” realm. The involvement of Dave Filoni, the co-creator of the Ahsoka character alongside George Lucas, who not only penned all eight episodes but also directed two of them, undoubtedly bolsters the series’ appeal. For ardent followers well-versed in the extensive “Star Wars” lore, “Ahsoka” presents a warmly welcomed return to familiar narratives. However, even newcomers are in for a quick orientation into this specific narrative thread, thanks to the series’ adept summarization.
The story of “Ahsoka” commences in the midst of a battle. Despite having previously been captured and sentenced to trial by Ahsoka herself, Morgan Elsbeth (played by Diana Lee Inosanto), a former Magistrate of Calodan with Imperial sympathies, refuses to surrender to the New Republic. Instead, she’s been orchestrating a long-term strategy involving Nightsisters’ magic, aided by mercenaries Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson) and Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). Together, they harbor ambitions of liberating her mentor Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) from exile and igniting a fresh conflict.
Ahsoka, on the other hand, is driven by a sense of duty rather than a thirst for power. Her motivations are rooted in her indebtedness to Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi), a young Jedi apprentice who sacrificed himself to save her when Thrawn was banished into hyperspace, inadvertently being transported across the galaxy as well. Fuelled by her gratitude to Ezra, Ahsoka embarks on a quest to locate the star map pointing to Ezra and Thrawn’s whereabouts.
Amidst the array of lightsaber battles and starship skirmishes, the heart of “Ahsoka” resides in its characters. Dawson adeptly embodies the commanding yet haunted presence of Ahsoka, capturing every nuance of the Togrutan fighter, from her speech cadence to her precise combat movements. The series delves into the intricacies of Ahsoka’s history, including her ties to Anakin and her former apprentice Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who also shares a history with Ezra.
While “Ahsoka” doesn’t delve into the same darkness as “The Mandalorian,” its emotional depth is striking. Set in the early years of the New Republic, the narrative is anchored by the weight of war and loss, propelling characters forward through what they’ve had taken from them. Ahsoka’s emotionally guarded demeanor contrasts with Sabine’s determined recklessness, often bringing them into conflict. The dynamic between Ahsoka, Sabine, and General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who provides strength and nurturance to their diverse group, forms a compelling trifecta. Additionally, the millennia-old droid Professor Huyang (David Tennant) and Syndulla’s astromech Chopper add to the ensemble.
“Ahsoka” retains the core essence of “Star Wars” storytelling but introduces distinctive elements that set it apart. As the first show to centralize non-human characters, it also boasts a female-led cast, offering a visually stunning representation from a relatively niche aspect of the universe. With Filoni at the helm, coupled with outstanding cinematography and Kevin Kiner’s impressive score, the series seamlessly integrates into the expansive “Star Wars” universe.
Similar to “The Mandalorian,” “Ahsoka” shines by focusing on a serialized adventure while allowing audiences to savor the intricate details. The inclusion of Hayden Christensen reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker and Lars Mikkelsen as Thrawn, a character he previously voiced in “Rebels,” serves as tantalizing Easter eggs for dedicated “Star Wars” enthusiasts, without alienating newcomers.
For those not previously captivated by the “Star Wars” saga, the central theme of master versus apprentice that underpins “Ahsoka” might not be sufficient to entice exploration into this elaborate world. However, for lifelong devotees who comprehend the significance of “Rebels” and have an affinity for one of the franchise’s iconic female characters, delving deeper into her narrative and uncovering the fates of Thrawn and Ezra promises to be an extraordinary experience.
Mark your calendars: the initial two episodes of “Star Wars: Ahsoka” premiere on August 23rd on Disney+, followed by weekly releases on Wednesdays.