Ahsoka made its two-episode premiere on Tuesday night on Disney Plus, and there are several things that stood out to me. Was the Force strong with this one? Let’s discuss below and find out.
Always Two There Are
A few weeks back, Star Wars began emphasizing the theme of Master and Apprentice. In fact, that was the title of Part One. Several of the trailers and early footage indicated Ahsoka at some point had taken Sabine as an apprentice of sorts.
Dive into the new Star Wars master-apprentice legacy with the cast and filmmakers of @AhsokaOfficial.— Star Wars (@starwars) August 14, 2023
Experience the two-episode premiere, streaming August 23 on @DisneyPlus.
(Previously Recorded) pic.twitter.com/2bEn3PB1gO
Going back to Yoda’s famous quote, “Always two there are,” this series once again seems to be highlighting the Master/Apprentice relationship. In addition to Ahsoka and whatever happened with Sabine, we also see early on the relationship between Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati. The duo works in tandem, and it’s clear at several points that Shin depends on her master for guidance and direction. Baylan notes that they are no Jedi, but it also seems as though they are not full-on Sith either. How that affects their master/apprentice relationship remains to be seen, as does the type of bond the duo has formed.
It’s also clear that the ghost of Ahsoka’s former master, Anakin Skywalker, weighs heavy on her still even after his death. How that affected her relationship with Sabine in the past and potentially in the future remains to be seen, although it’s clear that she attempts to protect herself and is more guarded than the young padawan the audience met during The Clone Wars.
It’s also clear that both Ahsoka and Sabine hold recriminations against each other for the way their past relationship crumbled. Ahsoka seems weary to get Sabine involved again, preferring to do things on her own, and Sabine seems to resent the fact that Ahsoka abandoned her and wasn’t really looking to rekindle their association. Sabine points out that Ahsoka hasn’t always gone where she was needed and that she never made things easy, but Ahsoka gives it right back when she tells Sabine she should have been a good Jedi. But as Huyang points out early on it’s the job of a Jedi padawan to watch their master’s back and he points out that with a potential master/apprentice duo on the other side, Ahsoka might not be able to go it alone.
Both Hera and Huyang gently try to bring Ahsoka and Sabine back together. Hera points out their similarities and suggests that they could help give each other structure while Huyang rejects Sabine’s reasoning that she can’t train if Ahsoka doesn’t want to teach her as an excuse, and a poor one at that. He points out to Sabine that the past is the past, and it is time to move forward and begin again.
Sabine is clearly still dealing with those abandonment issues, using the fact that it was Hera’s idea, not Ahsoka’s, to involve Sabine in unlocking the map as evidence that Ahsoka doesn’t want her back. Huyang does remind Sabine that she’s never indicated that SHE wants to come back, which she deflects. Sabine notes that she’s not like Ezra and won’t waste any more of Ahsoka’s time, and while Huyang admits her aptitude with the Force falls short of all other padawans he’s met, the only time she is wasting is her own.
For the light side to succeed, clearly the bond between Ahsoka and Sabine will need to be mended.
Speaking of Anakin Skywalker, it’s clear that Ahsoka continues to feel guilt over how her decision to walk away from the Jedi Order affected her master and how it may have helped nudge him even closer to the Dark Side. The friendly mood between Hera and Ahsoka changes when Hera brings up Anakin, as she becomes tense when recalling her relationship with her former master. Ahsoka notes to Hera that sometimes the right reasons can still yield the wrong consequences, and it’s not entirely clear if she’s just talking about her past with Anakin or perhaps also her relationship with Sabine.
Sabine, meanwhile, is battling her own survivor’s guilt when it comes to her erstwhile comrade-in-arms Ezra Bridger. She’s living on his home world, in his former residence. She also avoids a celebration in honor of her and her rebel friends and is seen looking over a holo recording of Ezra explaining why he essentially sacrificed himself (or did he?) in the Rebels finale. It seems clear this is not the first time she’s watched this, so on some level she is still dealing with the fallout of Ezra’s disappearance. Even her efforts to aid Ahsoka in unlocking the map may not be so much to thwart Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return as much as to find Ezra. She later corrects Huyang when he mentions that she still has her lightsaber, asserting that it’s EZRA’s lightsaber. However, Huyang says he left it for her and she has made it her own.
Student becomes the teacher
Through her relationship with Sabine, the tables have turned on Ahsoka. Where in The Clone Wars she was impetuous and rebellious at times, going against her master’s orders, now she is the master exasperated by her apprentice’s actions.
Sabine taking the map with her against Ahsoka’s explicit orders and inadvertently leaving it vulnerable to theft from Morgan Elsbeth’s associates further exasperates whatever wedge had developed between Ahsoka and Sabine, which has clearly left some bitterness. However, the second episode takes pains to show that the gap is not insurmountable, as Ahsoka’s explanation a person just knows when they are ready is later unconsciously echoed by Sabine.
We’ve never really seen Ahsoka as a teacher, so it will be interesting to see what elements of her own training and former masters she carries forward toward Sabine. Perhaps acknowledging Sabine as her padawan — showing the audience that Ahsoka believes Sabine is ready to be trained — suggests things will be different from whatever failures and difficulties occurred in the past.
The New Republic was ripe for the picking
The Mandalorian season 3 showed just how ineffectual and complacent the New Republic was basically from the beginning, and Ahsoka did little to change that impression.
Whether it be the opening moments where the captain of the vessel holding Morgan Elsbeth completely underestimates a threat to the point of laughing in the face of his own demise or the lackadaisical manner in which ex-Imperials were allowed to undermine the New Republic right under their noses in the second episode, it’s clear ruling was not as easy as rebelling. We’ve still yet to see Mon Mothma’s appearance that the trailers teased, but something tells me that the New Republic won’t be proactive in preventing the existential threat posed by Thrawn and his minions.
Perhaps the New Republic was so eager for peace and an end to war that it willingly looked past obvious red flags. Or perhaps there was a persuasive naïveté that suggested that there would be no way anyone would be loyal to the evil, tyrannical dictatorship that saw Palpatine rule with an iron fist. Either way, it’s easy to see why the New Republic was almost doomed from the start.
Hera brings people together
Throughout the run of Rebels, Hera and Kanan Jarrus served as a form of surrogate parents to the Ghost crew and that doesn’t seem to have changed for Hera here.
First, she is eager to see Ahsoka bring Sabine back into the fold, advocating for her while Ahsoka is skeptical. Even as Sabine is screwing up by running off with the map, Hera is attempting to press Ahsoka to find a way to make things work with Sabine this time, pointing out that although Sabine screwed up initially she did eventually deliver useful information in that they discovered the HK-87 droids came from Corellia. Hera also attempts to play master/apprentice matchmaker while she and Ahsoka are touring Elsbeth’s old factory. She thinks Ahsoka and Sabine could help each other.
Hera also gives Sabine a pep talk in the way a parent might while Sabine is recovering from her lightsaber wound from her duel with Shin. Hera reassures Sabine that she did well and that her relationship with Ahsoka, despite whatever issues exist, is not irreparably broken. Hera notes that Ahsoka and Sabine need to help each other and that Ahsoka really does need Sabine’s help. This unconditional support allows Sabine the courage to face her past mistakes and fears and come to Ahsoka and ask to begin again and resume her training.
Something dark this way comes
In the second episode, we discover that Elsbeth is a Nightsister of Dathomir. Known for their witchcraft, the Nightsisters are powerful and have shown themselves to be worthy adversaries to Force users. Both Baylan and Shin seem somewhat dubious about working with a Nightsister, but not dubious enough to stop what they are doing.
Upon using her magick in the second episode, Elsbeth reveals that the map will lead them to where Thrawn is banished. Baylan calls it the Pathway to Peridea, which the children of the Jedi talked about in fairy tales. Fairy tales Elsbeth says are based on truths. Elsbeth says Thrawn calls to her across time and space.
We know the trailers have shown that Ahsoka senses a growing darkness, and Baylan tells his apprentice that finding Thrawn will mean war for some, a new beginning for others, but for them will bring power such as they’ve never dreamed. An ominous note to be sure.
Meanwhile, the reveal that ex-Imperials remain embedded at every level of the New Republic, including at places such as the Navy Yards on Corellia, further underscores that as the regional supervisor Myn notes, an Empire does not just become a Republic overnight. Hidden enemies remain in the path of our heroes.
Combine that with the Inquisitor Ahsoka duels, the two dark Jedi in Baylan and Shin, the Nightsister Elsbeth and the nearly complete hyperdrive for the ship to bring Thrawn out of exile, and plenty of darkness is rising to face off with the light.
Callbacks to Star Wars’ past
Going into this series, it was clear that Rebels and Clone Wars were going to be heavily referenced here and that was definitely the case.
Whether it be Loth cats, Sabine’s art, her hair-cutting ritual calling back to Kanan’s at the end of Rebels, Elsbeth being a Nightsister of Dathomir or Mandalorian armor, there are plenty of things for fans of past Star Wars media to geek out on.
Baylan’s rampage through the New Republic cruiser is reminiscent of Darth Vader’s at the end of Rogue One and Huyang himself is a relic of the old Jedi Order that could serve as a conduit to bridge the old with the new. Meanwhile, Chopper is as feisty as ever, still full of personality in the vein of many past Star Wars droids and key to whatever mission he is a part of.
Moreover, the series begins with the quintessential Star Wars opening of a crawl, albeit slightly different than what we’ve seen on the big screen in the past. After Andor’s story was completely devoid of Jedi, Sith and lightsabers, this series looks like it will lean heavily on those elements. I thought the fights and lightsaber battles were well done and expect that to continue throughout the series based on the trailers we’ve seen.
The key for this series will be whether it can move beyond just being fan service or easter eggs to past stories. As a huge Star Wars fan, I appreciate the callbacks to a point, but the series really has to be able to stand on its own and attract an audience independent of past glory. I have faith in Dave Filoni and I thought the first two episodes struck an encouraging note. Time will tell how well Filoni and Co. walk the tightrope of giving true fans what they want while at the same time delivering something new and essential.
Hit me on up on X at @ByAndySilva to let me know what you thought of the first two episodes and how excited you are for where the series might go.