“Dreams and Madness” was quintessential Star Wars — dogfights in space, lightsaber battles, stormtroopers, inept politicians and a familiar cameo.
The series’ seventh and penultimate episode inched us closer to the series’ endgame as the pieces moved on the chessboard in anticipation of next week’s finale. Let’s get into it.
Two weeks ago in “Shadow Warrior,” Anakin Skywalker returned to complete his padawan’s training in the World Between Worlds. This week, we see Ahsoka back in action and applying those lessons.
We get another bit of fan service, with Ahsoka practicing her lightsaber forms to a training holo of Anakin, one of over 20 we learned that he left for her. We hear his speech from in a commercial prior to the start of the series, name-dropping General Grievous, Asajj Ventress and Count Dooku, before a bit of foreshadowing in which he says he won’t be able to be there to look out for her and that she’ll need to be able to make it on her own. He tells her not to be afraid, remember his teachings and trust her instincts. Then he leaves he with once last encouragement, “I know you can do this, Ahsoka.” With that, having finished her last form while looking right at him, she bows to the hologram and he bows back, before disappearing.
This feels like a fine exclamation point on the examination of Ahsoka’s past and her relationship with her former Master. She even speaks of their relationship for the first time, saying he was a good Master. Following her journey in the World Between Worlds, Ahsoka has finally shed her anger at Anakin as well as her survivor’s guilt and is ready to reflect fondly on their relationship. She notes to Huyang that this was the final lesson Anakin left for her, so one wonders if that now means that she has achieved Jedi mastery and what the future holds for her following this adventure.
Ahsoka had a training bond with Anakin, as all Jedi padawans did with their masters. And as it turns out, Ahsoka has a bond with her own padawan, Sabine Wren.
After the purrgil approach Peridea and immediately spring Thrawn’s minefield-laden trap, Ahsoka is forced to navigate a debris field, following in the tradition of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones and the Millenium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back. After evading pursuit, with Thrawn ordering a brief hold, Ahsoka hides in the field. Huyang tries to scan for Sabine, to no avail. However, Ahsoka knows there another way. And despite Huyang’s slight skepticism, yes Ahsoka and Sabine’s bond is strong enough for them to communicate and for Ahsoka to “see” Sabine on Peridea. Just in time too, as Thrawn’s forces begin firing upon Ahsoka’s location in the debris field.
Meanwhile, Sabine’s bond with Ezra seems as strong as ever. The two banter back and forth, with Sabine catching Ezra on the events of the galaxy — Battle of Endor, fall of the Empire, death of the Emperor (that’s what people say, Sabine accurately says with at least some lingering skepticism), dawn of a New Republic. Despite all their camaraderie, Sabine continues to deflect on how she found Ezra, merely saying it’s complicated, although admitting that it’s worse than their usual level of complication. Kudos to Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Eman Esfandi for bringing a fond familiarity to this conversation and making it feel like two long-lost friends catching up for the first time in a long time.
One does wonder what his reaction will be once he learns what she’s done in order to find him. Ezra made a very deliberate sacrifice in order to save Lothal and even the galaxy from Thrawn and the Empire. It seems disrespectful to that sacrifice to throw it away in the way Sabine did. Although he is certainly happy she found him, he may feel some sort of way at his sacrifice being potentially diminished as a result.
On the baddie side bonds seem to be at least fraying a bit. Baylan and Shin come to a parting of the ways once they locate Ezra and Sabine. He tells her that her ambition is leading her in one direction while his path is heading in another, which he spoke of in the prior episode. After telling her to take her place in the coming Empire, he imparts one final lesson: Impatience for victory will guarantee defeat, which seems to be a bit of foreshadowing for his duel with Ahsoka.
Meanwhile, several times in this episode Morgan questions Thrawn, and he in turn seems to take several subtle, passive-aggressive jabs at her because of her association with Baylan. Thrawn continually picks at the Baylan scab, even when things appear to be going well and certainly when things turn the other way upon Ahsoka’s arrival in the battle. Speaking of Thrawn ...
Staying One Step Ahead: Thrawn’s Mind Games
Thrawn is known for his intellect and his calculating nature. In the past, he’s allowed enemies to escape to further his own purposes. And it appears that time in a different galaxy hasn’t changed him on that front.
Thrawn immediately perks up at seeing that Anakin was Ahsoka’s Master, and begins plotting how he can use that to his advantage. He notes that if Ahsoka is anything like her old Master, that means she will be unpredictable and dangerous, which means they must control all variables. This leads to several decisions throughout the episode, including calling off the debris field pursuit as well as Thrawn calling their losses unfortunate but acceptable given Baylan’s absence (which at the same time, doubles as a mind game with Morgan). Thrawn even sees Ahsoka’s arrival as something that plays into his end goals, as while she may have won the battle, he will win the war. He notes that Ahsoka’s victory has cost her the one thing she can’t afford: Time. While she’s saving the kids and fighting his troopers in battle, his cargo transfer is nearing completion. His time on this forsaken planet may be dwindling.
Battle of Peridea
Speaking of the battle, while Sabine and Ezra are squaring off with Shin, the bandits and Thrawn’s forces, Ahsoka has her rematch with Baylan.
First of all, Ezra and Sabine fall right back into a comfortable fighting routine. These long-time allies briefly bicker over who will take the lightsaber, with Ezra eventually saying the Force is his ally (as Yoda once told Luke). This seems like perhaps another unintentional lesson for Sabine in her apprenticeship, and Ezra shows her just how powerful of an ally the Force can be. Ezra dominates the bandits, easily subduing them both with his fists and the Force. He seems unconcerned facing Shin despite fighting her unarmed as she wields her lightsaber. Sabine eventually catches up, and their tandem offense seems to have things looking bad for Shin, until Thrawn’s forces appear on the horizon. Shin Force pushes Ezra right into one of the Noti pods and out of the battle, and Sabine-Shin Round 3 begins. The fight is mostly a draw, with Ezra saving Sabine while she’s down, until the stormtroopers arrive. There he tries to negotiate saying that they shouldn’t kill them, but rather should take them as prisoners.
While all this is going on, Ahsoka finally enters the fray after a slick move that she and Huyang finally get down involving a sliding jump off her ship’s ramp. Of course, she rolls right into Baylan. He is surprised to see her again, although not disappointed. She notes that she doesn’t have time for this, but he notes that he can’t allow her to interfere and they duel.
This fight feels much more aggressive than their past fight. Rather than circling each other and Baylan attempting more mind games, they go right at it with gusto. This is certainly the best lightsaber duel of the series and it appears Ahsoka’s form practice is paying off. They appear fairly evenly matched and Baylan arrogantly says he can’t beat him, but she doesn’t have to as Huyang circles by and fires, distracting Baylan and allowing cover for Ahsoka to escape, although it should be noted that he doesn’t seem overly upset.
Luckily for Sabine and Ezra, Ahsoka arrives just as Shin orders Thrawn’s troopers to open fire, turning the tide. Despite being in a different galaxy, it’s the same old result for the stormtroopers, as they are as inept as ever, easily being picked off by Sabine and Ezra. Ahsoka, meanwhile, easily subdues an unbalanced Shin. Thrawn remarks it’s almost like watching the Jedi of old, before ordering a retreat, satisfied with his aforementioned acceptable losses.
Suddenly outnumbered, Ahsoka orders Shin to surrender her weapon noting that she can help her. Instead, Shin races off, galloping on her Howler off into the distance by herself.
Sabine is clearly overjoyed to see Ahsoka alive after the events of Seatos. There appears to be no recrimination on either side, which bodes well for our heroes going into the finale.
Meanwhile, Ahsoka is perhaps the happiest we’ve seen her yet in taking in a grown-up Ezra. As much as she seemed willing to forsake finding Ezra if it meant thwarting Thrawn’s return, it’s important to remember that Ezra saved her life by pulling her out of Malachor in the World Between Worlds. Our heroes are reunited, leaving Ezra with a good feeling about this (as opposed to all the other times someone has said they have a bad feeling about things) and that he is beginning to think he’s going home after all.
New Republic, Same Old Problems
A relatively small thread in this episode is the fallout from Hera’s unauthorized mission to Seatos. Or was it unauthorized?
The New Republic continues to show its ineptitude, with Senator Xiono almost more offended at Hera using the term Imperial Remnant than at the idea of the potential for the Empire to rise again. Xiono continues to downplay the “dwindling” Imperial forces, mocking Hera’s report on the Seatos as full of child-like fairy tales and dismissing the incident on Mandalore (tying in the events of The Mandalorian Season 3 finale) as the work of a lone warlord (Moff Gideon). This all leads Hera to note that she doesn’t know whether she should be more frightened by the possibility of Thrawn’s return or of the New Republic’s unwillingness to see it, which further lays bare that even if Ahsoka is successful in the finale in stopping Thrawn’s return the New Republic is still irreversibly flawed and doomed for failure, as seen in the sequel trilogy.
Just when it seems as though bureaucracy is about to find Hera court-martialed her white knight arrives — or should I say her golden knight. Yes, C3P0 makes his standard cameo, appearing on behalf of the still-absent Senator Leia Organa. Threepio, despite Xiono’s dig at Threepio being a mere droid and generally uncouth behavior, effectively ends this charade by claiming that Leia personally authorized Hera’s mission, and further emasculates Xiono by slapping him down for not consulting her in her role as leader of the defense council. Xiono, much to the seeming satisfaction of Chancellor Mothma, is forced to stand down and amid defeat.
While it’s great to see Threepio as always, his standing in for Leia is both the best this series could have done and also another reminder of the limitations of making Star Wars content in this era of the timeline. As I’ve noted before, a threat as big as Thrawn’s should at the very least be on the radar of our OG heroes, but none of them aside from brief mentions of Leia has even appeared on the periphery. Due to Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing in 2016, as well as the advanced age of Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, it’s impossible to really have them at the center of this type of story as logic would dictate they should be. You could enlist Alden Ehrenreich to return as a young Han Solo, but of the OG heroes, Han seems like the least likely of the bunch to get drawn into this conflict. It’s always good to see Threepio, however, and it was nice to see him call back to Obi-Wan in claiming that the guard didn’t need to see his identification.
Meanwhile, as always, Mothma appears to be the only one among New Republic leadership to be open to the potential danger that lies ahead. She asks Hera to put aside her personal feelings and tell her how real the Thrawn threat is. Ominously, Hera tells the Chancellor that they have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The finale should be a barnburner.
- Once again, it’s great to see Hayden Christensen in Anakin’s Clone Wars costume. Appearances in Obi-Wan Kenobi and this series have been a wonderful redemption arc for Christensen after he largely shouldered the blame for those who didn’t like the prequels. If this is the last time we see Anakin in this series, and it feels like it probably should be, then it certainly more than met my expectatons.
- Never jinx things in the Star Wars universe. Huyang does it early on by noting that the purrgil were giving Ahsoka’s ship cover in the Imperial minefield, only to have the space whales immediately make the jump to hyperspace. Later on, Ezra steps on the same rake by taunting Shin that things don’t look good for her, just before the stormtroopers appear on the horizon. He would also get Force thrown into a Noti pod for his troubles.
- Senator Xiono continues to be aggressive, and aggressively wrong, against Hera. We obviously know that in the future Xiono will excoriate his son for joining the Resistance, and is still stubbornly wrong even after the First Order attacked Hosnian Prime. If you didn’t know any better, one would even wonder if he was an Imperial double agent given how bent out of shape he got by Hera using the term Imperial Remnant. Alas, it seems he is just doomed to be loud and wrong.
- It’s fitting that Threepio makes a cameo in this episode as it is also one in which Huyang is at his most Threepio-like. At the beginning, he continually complains about Ahsoka not listening to him when it comes to hitching a ride with the purrgil and later bickers with her about protocol and their failure the last time Ahsoka tried her slide jump maneuver. If Chopper takes his cue from R2, Huyang definitely channels his inner Threepio in this episode.
- Things are looking up for Sabine when it comes to learning the ways of the Jedi. Her successfully connecting with Ahsoka over their bond seems like a major development and makes me believe that the finale could see Sabine finally wield the Force. There are little breadcrumbs throughout which appear to be lessons for Sabine and a bit of foreshadowing, and it will be interesting to see where the series takes this thread.
- Similarly, the futures of Baylan and Shin are also intriguing. Unfortunately, Ray Stevenson passed away before the series premiered. His tragic passing has done nothing to diminish what has been an excellent performance from him throughout the series. It seems like Baylan is likely to not make it out of this story, but who knows what the plan was before Stevenson’s untimely passing. It’s sad that he’s not here to see the response he’s been getting for his work on this series, but hopefully, his loved ones are taking at least some solace that one of his last roles has been so fondly received. As for Shin, it’s hard to say where she could be heading. Prior to this episode, it seemed far more likely to me that Baylan could be redeemed than Shin, but Ahsoka’s offer to help her opens the intriguing notion that Shin could find the light. I’m not necessarily anticipating that, but it’s possible. It will be interesting to see how she reacts after basically being abandoned by her master and left alone in a strange, unfamiliar galaxy.
Are you ready for the finale? How will our heroes get home? And will Thrawn be coming with them? Hit me up on X at @ByAndySilva to let me know what you thought of “Dreams and Madness” and how you’re feeling heading into the finale.