in , ,

Ahsoka’s First Episodes Set Up a Character-Focused Race Across Space

Rosario Dawson Ahsoka
Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

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.

Ahsoka, the new live-action, Dave Filoni-helmed Disney+ Star Wars show, wastes no time getting audiences into its narrative. It’s the first of the live-action Star Wars shows to use the franchise’s iconic opening crawl to introduce viewers to its ongoing story, which continues from the animated series Rebels.

While new viewers will undoubtedly feel out of the loop for the first ten minutes, Ahsoka is purposefully open to newcomers who may be more interested in live-action or simply watching the show to see Rosario Dawson take on the eponymous role. The opening crawl is overwhelming, but as the narrative proper starts, the show takes time to introduce characters and their relationships. In fact, it’s those characters that seem to be the focus of Ahsoka.

Exposition and Movie Stars

Ahsoka’s first episode relies a little too heavily on some clunky exposition, particularly the “As You Know” kind, with characters telling each other things everyone in-universe knows. The worst instance comes when a holo message left by Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi) tells Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and the audience, that she’s like a sister to him because they grew up together. But these awkward messages and conversations do their job of inviting viewers to care about the characters at the center of the show.

In the first two episodes, those characters are former Jedi Ahsoka, her former apprentice and Rebel Alliance hero Sabine, and Rebel General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The casting of Dawson and Winstead helps significantly with the sometimes unwieldy writing that’s an issue in character development and lore communication to the audience. The two are veritable movie stars with incredible charisma and are a joy to watch in every scene, whether they’re discussing the logistics of space travel or their feelings.

Fanfiction Ready

Mary Elizabeth Winstead Ahsoka
Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

And there are a lot of feelings. Especially between Sabine and Ahsoka, whose conversations with and about each other feel very much like ex-romantic partners. At one point, Sabine even tells a character urging her to return as Ahsoka’s apprentice, “She [Ahsoka] doesn’t want me back; she wasn’t even thinking about me.” Dawson and Bordizzo also play their scenes together with a complicated sense of longing and frustration with one another that sometimes registers as sexual tension more than anything else.

Not to be left out, scenes between Winstead and Dawson have a charge as well, one that feels less complex, but as if there’s longstanding respect, admiration, and possible attraction between the two.

These, for lack of a better word, vibes between the central characters of Ahsoka feel almost like a conscious attempt on the creators’ part to give fans fanfiction fodder to create the kind of booming fanfic economy that the prequel films produced from the Obi-Wan and Anakin relationship. It also certainly doesn’t disabuse anyone of this notion that all three leads are stunningly beautiful; whether their distinct Star Wars races and perfectly applied makeup and prosthetics increase or decrease their beauty is up to individual viewers.

A Race Across Galaxies?

Ahsoka’s lead plot driver is the search for Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn (​​Lars Mikkelsen), who may be in a different galaxy. The heroines believe that finding Thrawn will lead them to Ezra as well. The first two episodes feature some amusing Indiana Jones-esque sequences in and on ancient ruins filled with puzzles whose solutions may lead the way.

But of course, things can’t be so simple, our protagonists are set up in a race against the villainous Thrawn ally Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) and the Sith master and apprentice aiding in her quest, played by Ray Stevenson and Ivanna Sakhno. Run-ins between the Sith and the heroes are few in the first two episodes but promise to continue throughout the series as each side trades the lead in the hunt for Thrawn.

Digital Effects and Action Need Some Work

Ivanna Sakhno Ahsoka
Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

The run-ins in the first two episodes deliver some lightsaber action, but these fights vary in quality. Some action scenes with Ahsoka, who uses one longer and one shorter lightsaber blade in a fun Samurai-inspiration call-back to Star Wars’ roots, are thrilling. But others feel a bit lackluster. None fail so much as to be poorly choreographed or filmed; there’s simply a lack of urgency, danger, and visual excitement in several action scenes in the first two episodes.

Similarly, hit and miss so far are the tableaus of alien planets that have become establishing shots of choice for the franchise. Some are beautiful and look entirely real, while others lead to a game of “spot the greenscreen” because of poorly combined practical and digital sets. This set problem also continues in several smaller scenes, including a shipyard sequence that’s one of the worst looking things the entire Star Wars franchise has produced.

A Solid Start With Room to Grow

The first two episodes of Ahsoka set up the characters and adventure that the rest of the series will explore with some less-than-smooth exposition. But there’s a real sense that the show cares about its central trio of Ahsoka, Hera, and Sabine, and the performances bring them to life well. Not only as distinct characters but as three women who have extensive and sometimes complicated histories with one another.

The effects and fights so far are serviceable. But there’s a sense that the fights will only grow in quality as Ahsoka and Sabine take on their Sith counterparts throughout the series. Whether the effects get better feels less certain.

Grade: 6/10

Written by Kyle Logan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *