Friday, August 25, 2023

Recap: Ahsoka Episodes 1 & 2

The first two episodes of Ahsoka give long-time Clone Wars & Rebels fans *truly* something to get excited about in a way that’s more than just lazy fan service. Casual Star Wars fans will also enjoy a story told from a force-wielder’s POV that’s not a Skywalker.

This episode kicks off rarin’ to go out of the gates with the first Star Wars TV show to have a text scroll! And it’s blood red. We learn of the fragile state and uneasy peace of the New Republic, and that Grand Admiral Thrawn is in exile and is rumored to return. 

Ahsoka’s former prisoner, Morgan Elspeth, has a McGuffin/map that knows where he’s located. Things are going to get interesting…

The Best Opening 5 Minutes of a Star Wars TV Show Ever?

The show opens on a New Republic Star Cruiser, though with the Captain in the center of the bridge giving orders, it’s not unlike a Star Trek ship, lol. The cruiser is hailed by a menacing shuttle claiming to carry two “Jedi.” 

As the two cloaked characters meet the ship’s captain in the hangar, I was struck for a minute by something — I actually have missed Jedi! The Mandalorian, Andor, and the Book of Boba Fett have revolved primarily around secular characters (with a few distinct appearances, of course).

But when these obviously-bad-guy Jedi characters aggressively raise their red lightsabers and absolutely decimate the entire ship’s crew, I found myself cheering. The fight choreography was dark, aggressive, and 100% awesome, a combination of lightsabermanship and force pushes and pulls. It's a much more badass form of swordplay — I was never a fan of the wheedley-wheedley twisty motions in the prequels.

These two Jedi — I mean, dark force users obviously (like in the way that Ahsoka is a light force user and not a Jedi per se) — are there, of course, to rescue Thrawn ally Morgan Elsbeth. The man is Baylan Skoll, and his frightful apprentice, Shin Hati, who’s reminiscent of Pris in Blade Runner.

Ahsoka Is Here

I don’t know how to explain it, but somehow Rosario Dawson actually is Ahsoka Tano. Not only is the physical resemblance uncanny, but she also manages to capture her essence. For folks that may not be familiar with Ahsoka, you should know that she was also Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan apprentice.

In this first episode, we first meet her on a dusty planet amidst stone ruins. It's giving Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with mystical lights and shadows lining up against the wall. We spend about 8 minutes with her as she deciphers a puzzle that’s a literal combination of the games from Fallen Order and also the last scene of Fifth Element. 

Ah yes, the map McGuffin! She secures it with the help of Huyang, her droid friend/assistant/wise advisor (Clone Wars fans will smile at this familiar face). Whenever these two talk, I’m all ears. Voiced by David Tennant, Huyang is an incredible droid that’s thousands of years old — he used to help Jedi younglings assemble their lightsabers. Their conversations reveal a lot of plot in a short amount of time. Of all the droids in Star Wars — and I love them all — Huyang seems the most human. Maybe because he's spent the most time around them.

Filoni Really Made a Live-Action Rebels, Huh?

Ahsoka jets off to meet her NR contact, none other than General Hera Syndulla, rebellion hero and old friend of Ahsoka’s. I could spend this entire review pointing out/fangirling over the Rebels and Clone Wars homages/connections/easter eggs, but I won’t  it would take too long and possibly alienate casual SW fans. But suffice it to say, that this show is the closest to a live action Rebels that we’ll ever get. And it’s pretty awesome. 

Ahsoka and Hera go over details about this McGuffin, and learn that it leads not only to Thrawn but also to Ezra Bridger, their old friend. Ezra has been missing since the finale of the Rebels show, when he summoned a hyperspace whale (yes, really) to latch on to Thrawn’s ship that he snuck onto. Together, the two got shot into deep unknown space.

Of course, nothing can be easy with a McGuffin, so Ahsoka must visit yet another old friend — Sabine Wren on the planet Lothal. She’s a Mandalorian and a rebellious graffiti enthusiast and explosives expert. Sabine also, we soon learn, became Ahsoka’s Jedi apprentice sometime over the last ten years, and it didn’t go well. This makes their reunion tense, to say the least. 

And the McGuffin Goes Missing Again

As we learn more about Ahsoka and Sabine’s failed apprenticeship, the latter absconds with the McGuffin/map because she's desperate to find Ezra. While deciphering it at her house, the dark Jedi apprentice that looks like Grimes finds her and they battle. Fun fact: This is the first lightsaber duel between two female characters in Star Wars history! The episode ends on a cliffhanger, though, as Sabine gets impaled.

I’ve seen a lot of jokes on the internet this week about two characters in recent SW lore surviving similar impalements (Reva from Kenobi and now Sabine) — meanwhile Qui-Gonn looks down as a force ghost like, “Am I a joke to you?”


Episode Two

Whew, Sabine didn’t die. But now our two heroes have a McGuffin for their McGuffin — they have to go retrieve it. Fortunately, Sabine is a whiz at electronics, so she manages to find out the planet the droids who attacked them are from. Meanwhile, Elsbeth uses the McGuffin to pinpoint Thrawn’s whereabouts. They’re also building a weapon? device? transport? called the Eye of Sion to help facilitate this return. I’m sure we’ll learn more about it soon.

Pure Star Wars Moments

This episode is a little less plot heavy, but filled with moments that fans can absolutely just revel in. This show really excels at atmosphere and emotion — it’s maybe the best at it so far. Ahsoka is so meditative, so deep, so full of silent contemplation that I could watch her walk around and ponder a scene for hours. And when she gets to pet a Loth-cat? I’m dead. It’s too amazing. This show is so cinematic, and it makes me feel like a kid again watching Star Wars with wide-eyed wonder.

Hop In Your Toyota Corellia, We’ve Got a Lead

The droids are from Morgan Elsbeth’s former shipyard in Corellia (aka Han Solo and Wedge Antilles’ home planet). They head to the system to investigate and uncover an Imperial-loyalist plot to steal an old Super Star Destroyer’s hyperdrive. It’s fascinating to me that 5 years after the fall of the Empire, there are still folks who are loyal to it. It didn’t exactly seem like the type of organization to engender such fierce loyalty. 

Before they can make sense of the situation, a huge tug ship swoops down to come take the hyperdrive. Well, shit. It makes its way to some type of super weapon possibly — or maybe it’s a transport device? It kind of looks like the ring that Obi-Wan’s ship flies into that enables hyperspace travel. Fortunately, our old pal Chopper (the sassiest astromech droid in the galaxy) manages to plant a tracker on the tug before it jumps to hyperspace. This was after, of course, he suggested a slight war crime (shooting down the tug/hyperdrive and letting it fall into the populated city below). 

While Hera was pursuing the tug, Ahsoka was battling what looks like a former inquisitor. They have a visually stunning and intense battle but reach a stalemate, and he escapes with the dark Jedi. 

A Transformative Haircut and a New Start

Sabine finally decides that she’s ready to resume her Jedi training with Ahsoka, thanks to yet another deep, meaningful, and wise conversation with Huyang — love that guy. Both Sabine and Ahsoka are ridiculously stubborn, and they both miss each other, it's clear. And Ahsoka definitely will need her help. Sabine takes up her old Mandalorian armor and cuts her hair (just like Kanan did). She's ready. Also, if this scene looks like the final scene in the Rebels epilogue — it's because it is.

My final question: Who is going to feed her Loth-cat while she’s out adventuring? Looks like next episode, we’re headed to Seatos.


The Math

Baseline score: 8.5/10

Bonuses: +5  These two episodes have it all: Jedi, Loth-cats, Dathomirian Nightsisters, an apprentice that looks like Grimes, Chopper, you name it. 

Penalties: -1 Some scenes drag a little long, but if you’re into it, they’re fun. 

Nerd coefficient: +5 It’s going to be impossible to count all of the easter eggs in these episodes from Rebels and Clone Wars. But I recommend you try!

Gonk droid count: 1!

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo-nominated podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She loves nautical fiction, vidalia onions, and growing corn and giving them pun names like Anacorn Skywalker.