The true tale of Ahsoka Tano is her perception within the fanbase. When she was introduced in the Clone Wars cartoon movie, many fans rejected her outright. The movie wasn’t the best, and the lore never mentioned Anakin Skywalker having an apprentice. However, once the Clone Wars cartoon took off, and new layers were put onto Ahsoka’s character and relationship with Anakin, she became one of the best Star Wars characters ever. So when she was brought into Rebels and later announced to be making her live-action debut, fans rejoiced. And now, as my Ahsoka Season 1 Review will tell you, her return continues to be great…up to a point.
As fans know, Ahsoka made her live-action debut in the second and third seasons of The Mandalorian where she teased her plotline for the new miniseries via the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Sure enough, that is what we get here, and fans of both Clone Wars and Rebels will have plenty to enjoy just from a “reunion” level as the histories of those shows come into play more times than not. And in case you’re wondering if the show is going to get a good score like The Mandalorian or a bad score like Star Wars’s Andor…don’t worry; Ahsoka and crew are getting a thumbs up from me.
From the first scene in the first episode, which was dope, btw, we see Ahsoka and various forces in action as they try to find Thrawn and, by extension, Ezra Bridger. This leads Ahsoka to reunite with her “old apprentice,” Sabine Wren, as well as Hera Syndulla, as they try and figure out how to both stop Thrawn’s return and possibly save their friend. It’s important to note that this all takes place after Episode VI and the events of The Mandalorian Season 3 when the Empire has fallen, the New Republic is trying to build itself up, and certain “Imperial Remnants” are trying to make their move. Some might not understand why Thrawn is such a threat to the New Republic, but anyone who read the Expanded Universe novels before they were retconned or saw Rebels knows that he’s easily one of the most brilliant minds in the galaxy and a focal point by which the fringe forces of the Empire could rally behind. Ahsoka, Hera, and more know that if Thrawn comes back…war is inevitable…and they might lose.
But for Sabine, she’s more focused on getting Ezra back, as she views him as the “only family” she has left. She even has stayed on Lothal (which is canon, given the ending of Rebels) and helped watch over the planet after his “sacrifice” to remove Thrawn at the end of their original series. While not on the best terms due to “past events” between the series, Ahsoka and Sabine have to work together to figure out what is at play here and stop those who are in pursuit of the “Heir To the Empire.”
That includes Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati, two “Mercenary” Force-users who are at the beck and call of returning villain Morgan Elsbeth (Mandalorian S2). Baylan is easily one of the most interesting characters of the entire series, as he plays a different kind of “villain” in the grand scheme of things. He’s not afraid to kill to get things done, and he’s definitely not a Jedi, but he’s also not a Sith. He seeks something more, to “break the cycle” and feels that finding Thrawn will help him do that…albeit not in the way we expect. The fact that actor Ray Stevenson gave this incredible performance, only to pass away right as the show debuted, is a true tragedy. They might recast the character to show his plans, but it won’t be the same.
Speaking of “not the same,” while it’s true that the Rebels crew aren’t the same as the voice actors that once played them (save for Thrawn, and sorry, no Zed in this series!), their live-action counterparts do a great job showing their dynamics. While I’ll get to Rosario later, you do feel her power, confidence, and presence in every scene she’s in. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (the wife to Ewan McGregor, no joke) does a wonderful job as the fun, brash, and yet motherly General Syndulla, and Natasha Liu Bordizzo does an incredible job as Sabine from the first scene she’s in. It’s honestly sad that we don’t get to see the full crew together, including Zed, at all during the show, but not everything is about this reunion. Oh, and Chopper is incredible because of course, he is.
While the plot does focus on just “finding Thrawn and Ezra,” it takes many turns along the way that fans have the right to be excited about. For example, we got a wonderful expansion of the “Witches of Dathomir” in a way that didn’t feel shoehorned and added to the gravity of the situation with Thrawn. Episode 5 shines as the miniseries’ best episode as Ahsoka faces her past and her old master to recapture the will to live and once again learn that she’s more than just a “legacy” or a “fighter.” She’s technically not even a Jedi if you recall Clone Wars, and that plays heavily on her throughout the series. The visuals alone in that episode are enough to make you gap, and my jaw certainly dropped more times than not.
Hayden Christensen delivers once again on his “second chance” to make his character better than what many people perceived his movie performances as, and he shines. He acts just how you would expect around Ahsoka, and yet the “cuts” between him being Anakin and Darth Vader are majestic and terrifying. Remember, she clashed with Vader in Rebels, and that, too weighs heavily on her mind. So when she says, “I Choose To Live,” you know she means it. I honestly wish we had gotten more of this than some of the other things we got.
The last few episodes were full of tension and twists as the various forces converged in a different galaxy. Grand Admiral Thrawn was indeed alive and ready to bring the Empire back to its glory. Ezra was alive and was a strong Force-wielder while in exile and happy to be “going home,” and you had to wonder how everything would turn out, especially as Thrawn started “making moves” to ensure his victory. And yes, Lars Mikkelsen is just as menacing in live-action as he is in animated form. He’s SUCH a great villain and you hang onto every word he says.
I also want to point out the layers of fighting we had in this season. Yes, we had lightsaber fights, but we also had plenty of blaster duels, Force battles, a droid fight (it was awesome), and an undead Stormtrooper apocalypse! Welcome back to Star Wars, everyone.
Oh, and did I mention that David Tennant’s Huyang droid was back? Because he was, and guess what? He was one of the best additions to the Rebels crew. He was always straightforward, honest to a fault, and yet believed in what the crew could do, especially when they “stay together.” You’ll thank him later.
Honestly, right up until the final scenes, I was going to have my Ahsoka Season 1 review end with an incredibly high score…and then…I saw the ending. I’m about to get to serious spoilers here. You’ve been warned!
Full stop…I hated the ending of the first season. After SO MUCH buildup, they just pulled a reverse on Rebels and had Ezra and Thrawn “return home,” only for Sabine, Ahsoka, and Huyang to be stuck in the distant galaxy with no way home. So why did this hurt so much? First off, we KNOW they’re going to get back; somehow, it’d be cruel to trap them there. Second, the way Ahsoka acted at the end, where she says, “Ezra’s exactly where he needs to be, and so are we,” felt so…out of touch and out of character that I was seriously confused by it. After all, she’s seen and been through, and after ALL the talk she did about Thrawne returning to the main galaxy being catastrophic…and now she’s like, “Eh, it’s their problem now. Ezra’s got this!” How does that make sense?
Plus, there was some clear “stalling” in the plot to ensure that Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra could at least attempt to stop Thrawne. Such as when he told the Hyperdrive ship to come down to the planet to get them…instead of…you know…the FLYING SPACESHIP going to the Hyperdrive? Even when Ahsoka’s ship is wrecked, and they show her being a GREAT DISTANCE AWAY, she and the others make it JUST in the nick of time…per hero story logic. And it’s all in vain as Thrawne escapes with relative ease alongside the Great Mothers and their THOUSANDS of dead bodies that can’t be good for the galaxy.
The other reason I didn’t like this was that it was clear at the end that they were hoping to get a second season to continue things. Plus, there’s possibly going to be a movie to tie everything up? That’s…nice? But it leaves fans with lots of questions about HOW they’ll get Sabine and Ahsoka back…and it’s kind of unfair to hinge so many things on this renewal.
Plus, and this HAS to be said…remember the Sequel Trilogy? I know many of you don’t want to, but it’s important to remember that NOWHERE in those movies do they mention Thrawne or the “second war” that happened after the New Republic was formed. It was simply that the First Order had shown up…and things were getting bad again.
So this is another case of them “writing in the pages to history” even though no one else is clearly “aware” of this history in other properties…or just didn’t feel the need to mention these “grand threats” that happened NOT so long ago in a galaxy NOT far away.
And now, let’s get back to Ahsoka herself. While I think Rosario Dawson did an incredible job as Ahsoka once again, the early episode had her being very…basic. I’ll explain. In the first few episodes, her relationship with Sabine is seriously strained to the point of Rosario barely emoting, even when the situation calls for a “deeper expression.” It’s a direct contrast to her Mandalorian scenes where she’s happy, smiling, laughing, talking brightly about the future with Luke or getting to know Grogu. Yes, we see her “loosen up” a bit, but it’s almost a case of “too little, too late.”
Adding to that, we were really beaten over the head with “something happened between Sabine and Ahsoka” and not really given a meaningful answer outside of “Ahsoka feared what Sabine might become.” That’s it? After everything Ahsoka had seen and gone through, it feels odd that she would shy away from that “challenge,” given how she could fight to ensure that Sabine DIDN’T go in that direction. To be clear, they ended up having many great scenes together, including in the final episode where Sabine came to save Ahsoka, but it was REALLY forced at first.
That brings me to…the New Republic. Oh…my…gosh, I can’t stand the New Republic. Between Mando S3 and this season, the New Republic was doomed to fail, and they’re not even trying to hide it! General Syndulla and Ahsoka should carry great weight with their words, and yet the senate, outside of Mon Mothma, believe her! One dude even called out what ACTUALLY HAPPENED as “fairy tales,” and yet an entire FLEET saw some of it happen. Plus, their insistence that there are “no threats from the Imperial Remnants” wreaked of arrogance and stupidity, especially AFTER Hera and Ahsoka found THREE Imperial loyalists in the same room, ensuring that they got the parts they needed for their mega Hyperdrive ship!
And while I loved the “Leia/C-3PO” save on Hera, it came off as a way to “dismiss” the storyline entirely.
Finally, but also just as important, there were some serious oddities and inconsistencies in the eight episodes that don’t hold up when you really look at it. Such as Sabine’s lightsaber impalement not really mattering (a troubling theme in recent Star Wars shows…), or how Ezra never learned the terrible cost of getting him home and potentially arguing with Sabine about it. Speaking of which, how did Ezra slip away from Thrawn’s ship and find Hera…even though there was no way of knowing where she would be given his time away? Plus, let’s not forget there are a LOT of “rogue elements” on the planet that Ahsoka and Sabine are now stranded on, and they’re just…not going to converge. Exactly. Oh, and when did Ahsoka meet up with Huyang? They never addressed that.
These little things can bring down a show, and sadly, they did.
But make no mistake, Ahsoka Season 1 is a great show that brought in new elements while also building off the legacy of animated franchises that came before. The ending will be very bittersweet for many, and now we have to hope we get more so this story doesn’t just “end.” Yet, it was great seeing these characters in live-action, and I hope it’s not the end…because I WANT to see where things go from here so we can get that truly happy ending worthy of being a story that Huyang will tell future Padawans.
Ahsoka Season 1
Ahsoka Season 1 brought back many fan-favorite characters for a new fight against an old enemy. You’ll be amazed at the show when it’s at its peak, and be confused when it’s not firing on all cylinders. But in the end…it’s very Star Wars.