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Space-Whales, Witches, and the Return of Snips: A Review of Star Wars Ahsoka

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Warning: This review will contain minor spoilers for Ahsoka and major spoilers for the Star Wars animated series Rebels and The Clone Wars, as well as most of the movies.

            Packed full of hyperspace whales, loth-cats, witches, zombies, lightsabers and decades of lore, the Disney+ series Ahsoka is the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. Ahsoka has received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans alike, though some criticize its overuse of nostalgia. This series admittedly does not break much new ground in the franchise, but it does not intend to…and perhaps, it does not necessarily need to. While the Star Wars series Andor provides fresh material by tackling the dark realities of war, rebellion, and espionage, and the popular spin-off The Mandalorian shows the lawless outer reaches of the galaxy, Ahsoka—perhaps even more so than any newer series thus far—recaptures the fun, upbeat action, and pulpy sci-fi magic of George Lucas’s original trilogy. As the franchise continues to expand through the Disney+ streaming platform, there is room enough for content to suit all tastes.

Note that I really cannot speak as to how someone unfamiliar with Star Wars would react to Ahsoka, but as it is lore-heavy and follows up on loose threads from previous series, I would suggest at minimum watching the first six films and ideally, the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels, to which Ahsoka is a direct sequel.

Most of Star Wars focuses on one of the two major conflicts in that famous galaxy far, far away: the Clone Wars, which ends in the defeat of the heroic Jedi and the rise of the Galactic Empire, and the subsequent Rebellion to overthrow the evil Emperor, roughly twenty years later. Fans of the movies—or anyone with a knowledge of pop culture, for that matter—will remember Luke Skywalker as the quintessential Jedi hero of the Rebellion in the original trilogy, while the prequel trilogy explores the Clone Wars and the origin of the iconic villain, Darth Vader.

However, as Star Wars has grown into one of the most successful science fiction franchises, there are many, many more interesting characters in this vast, distant galaxy. The animated spin-off The Clone Wars introduced one of the most beloved fan-favorite characters in all of the Star Wars mythos—Ahsoka Tano (pronounced Ahh-SO-Kah TAWN-Oh), originally voiced by Ashley Eckstein and portrayed in live-action by Rosario Dawson, since the character’s live-action debut in The Mandalorian.

Unlike previous installments, Ahsoka’s titular plot focuses not on fighting a major galactic war but preventing a new one in the post-Rebellion era, whilst healing from the scars of past conflicts. The Jedi—space wizards who wield a power called the Force, the collective energy of all life in the universe—are often the backbone of Star Wars, and some of the most important relationships are between a Jedi master and their apprentice, called a padawan, which means ‘learner’. Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, for instance, are one notable master-padawan pairing. Ahsoka Tano was the padawan of Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker, who affectionately nicknamed her Snips for her snippiness; however, before she finished her training, she left the Jedi Order due to a complex and highly emotional story-arc involving false accusations of terrorist attacks and a shocking betrayal by a close friend.

In this new series, we see her decision to abandon the Jedi ways has haunted her for decades, as her master Anakin (Spoiler for Empire Strikes Back, which came out in 1980),  eventually became none other than the infamous Darth Vader, who was corrupted by the duplicitous Emperor Palpatine into a powerful Sith (evil Jedi). Ahsoka Tano blames herself for abandoning him and contributing to his fall to the dark side of the Force. In Ahsoka, Hayden Christensen reprises his role as Anakin.

Ahsoka marks the live-action debut of several other fan-favorite animated characters and addresses the much-speculated cliff hanger ending of the series Rebels. (Major Spoilers for Rebels ahead). In final episode of Rebels, the young Jedi Ezra Bridger plans to sacrifice himself to stop the ruthless Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn (a blue alien of the Chiss species), and they both are ultimately whisked off to mysterious, unknown regions of the universe by the hyperspace whales that live in cosmic void, called purrgils. (yep, space whales). Now, in Ahsoka, the Empire has fallen, but rumors are spreading of Thrawn’s imminent return. If true, Thrawn could claim his right as heir to the Empire and plunge the galaxy into yet another brutal war. Note that Heir to the Empire is a series of non-canon Star Wars novels that the series draws inspiration from. Thrawn is portrayed by his original voice actor, Lars Mikkelsen, whose brother Mads Mikkelsen previously portrayed the scientist Galen Erso in Star Wars: Rogue One.

To prevent the return of Thrawn, Ahsoka works alongside the ancient robot Huyang (voiced by David Tennant of Good Omens and Doctor Who) and Hera Syndulla, the famous Rebel pilot, originally voiced by Vanessa Marshall and portrayed in live-action by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is married to Obi-wan Kenobi actor Ewan McGregor. However, Ahsoka must also enlist the aid of Sabine Wren (original VA: Tiya Sircar; played by: Natasha Liu Bordizzo). In the gap between series, Ahsoka trained Sabine as a padawan, which as previously discussed, carries much weight in this universe and makes Sabine one of few to be both Jedi and Mandalorian. The pair had a falling out and are not on good terms. This adds another layer to Ahsoka’s quest for absolution regarding Anakin’s fate. Sabine, meanwhile, wants desperately to reunite with her dear friend Ezra Bridger (original VA: Taylor Gray; played by Eman Esfandi).

The villains include Morgan Elsbeth, a witch of the planet Dathomir (yep, space witches), and her Sith mercenaries: Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). Morgan Elsbeth is portrayed by Diana Lee Inosanto, one of the most decorated woman martial artists of all time and Bruce Lee’s goddaughter, who at the age of fifty-seven, most impressively performs her own stunts. Baylan Skoll actor Ray Stevensen gave an incredible, powerhouse performance for this surprisingly sympathetic Sith; unfortunately, Stevensen unexpectedly passed away shortly after production on the show ended and the role will likely have to be recast.

The Jedi and their allies vie with Morgan’s forces over an ancient map that allegedly contains the migration routes of the space-whales, which would give the wielder a chance at finding Thrawn and Ezra. But as Thrawn’s return could doom the entire galaxy, the heroes must prepare to face the choice of either thwarting the Grand Admiral or saving their friend. All the while, Ahsoka battles her ghosts from the Clone Wars (sometimes literally).

Overall, Ahsoka is a fun, classic Star Wars romp that brings cherished animated characters into live action, but unfortunately, the limited number of episodes does not quite allow the screen time to showcase all of them as well as fans might hope. The high budget lets the series achieve amazing visual effects, but at the cost of a very short season in which the story really only just begins. Furthermore, Ahsoka starts out a tad slow, as it attempts to fill enough backstory to retain viewers who have not seen the animated series. Yet, there are also some fantastic “wow! moments”, as Ahsoka goes beyond the surface of the lore to remind fans that Jedis are not just space wizards, but devotees of a richly mythological religion with gods and legends aplenty.

Thus, Ahsoka is a must-watch for Star Wars fans familiar with the characters, who seek to recapture the feelings of watching A New Hope for the first time.

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About the Contributor
Emily Deal
Emily Deal, Staff Reporter
Emily V. Deal is a senior from Ashton, WV, majoring in Electronics Engineering Technology. She seeks to someday publish a novel. Her hobbies including daydreaming, chasing chickens, cosplaying at renaissance faires, and collecting crystals, comic books, preserved animal specimens and wild golf balls fresh from the field.
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