This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the episodes being covered here wouldn’t exist.
The third episode of Disney+’s Ahsoka clocks in at just over half an hour (considering the introductory recap and end credits), and that comparative brevity allows it to focus on one brilliantly executed action sequence.
The episode opens with Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) training with droid Huyang (voiced by David Tennant) before Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) takes over and submits Sabine to a more rigorous and force-centered training. The scene is surprisingly long and reiterates the show’s focus on characters and their relationships, showing the teacher and student dynamic between Ahsoka and Sabine for the first time in the show.
It’s a scene that sets the stage for the episode’s larger action, which lives up to the potential shown in episodes one and two.
Character Development in Action
The episode sees Sabine, Ahsoka, and Huyang arrive in the Denab system, where they are swiftly attacked by Sith apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) and company in the service of Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto). The battle starts as a classic Star Wars space dogfight and offers viewers one of the best in the franchise as a piece of action, but more importantly, as a piece of character development.
Ahsoka instructs Sabine to take the tail gun and return fire on their assailants, and the two banter about who needs to improve their skills as a pilot and gunner. But after it becomes clear that their individual commitments to doing things their own way isn’t going to help them, Ahsoka defers to Sabine and asks what she needs. It’s a small moment that leads them to a minor victory and shows them genuinely working together instead of butting heads.
That minor victory doesn’t get them out of danger, though, and we’re treated to an all-too-brief scene of Ahsoka fighting oncoming ship attacks with her dual lightsabers that’s one of the most visually exciting sequences the show has delivered. It also offers another glimpse into these characters, as Ahsoka exudes confidence and Sabine worries greatly for her teacher and Huyang amid a battle.
A Sense of Wonder
Ahsoka’s lightsaber battle with enemy ships isn’t the only visually striking moment of the episode, though. On either side of it, there are much moodier, less exciting, but more wonderful images that show what Star Wars can be at its best.
The first comes when a laser blast hits a ship, and its debris flies through space like a sparkling tail behind the now slow-moving ship. It’s an image that evokes the blood spatter in samurai films and animation, in which the consequences of violence are made beautiful, at least for an instant.
The second provides the series’s first truly amazing Star Wars moment as the dogfight finds its way into the clouds above the planet Seatos. But it’s not the clouds that amaze; it’s the Purrgil star whales that fly through it. These massive creatures look like blue whales mixed with squid, and their scale and graceful movements through the clouds create a magical sense of wonder.
A Sense of History, For Better and Worse
Not content to visually remind fans of what Star Wars can be at its best, the episode also reminds us of Star Wars history in other ways, some of which are better than others.
In an early scene, General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) requests aid from politicians, including Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly). It’s a frustrating scene for multiple reasons. The inclusion of Mon Mothma feels more like the worst kind of reminder of an interconnected universe that lands more like an advertisement for other shows than anything else.
But more than that, the fact that four of the five senators in the meeting are human (the fifth is Gran) draws away from the magic of what Star Wars can be. Historically, the franchise has had so many human characters for budgetary and relatability reasons. Still, scenes like these are perfect for highlighting the many races in the galaxy, and we know that Disney has the money to create fantastic costumes.
On the other hand, the early scenes of Huyang, Sabine, and Ahsoka training together continue to draw on the franchise’s samurai film-inspired roots as they use wooden bokken sabers and Sabine dons a mask that’s almost identical to traditional Kendo masks. And Huyang comes into his own as a C-3PO-esque, fussy droid overly concerned with protocol in several laugh-out-loud funny moments.
The smaller focus of episode three of Ahsoka helps it more than deliver on nearly every promise made in the first two episodes. Its only fault is an insistence on placing the series in the interconnected world of Disney+ shows, which draws attention from the story and characters.