Since the start of the Star Wars television universe on Disney+, the focus has largely been on the greater galaxy and not the Force. The Jedi were prominent only in Obi-Wan Kenobi, which served as a warm bit of nostalgia to make the prequel films seem more favorable twenty years down the road. Otherwise, it’s been much more about the fall of the Empire, the rise of the New Republic, and the constant threat of yet another enemy looking to force things back to dark times. The newest offering, Ahsoka, has all that and more, but brings the excitement of the Jedi back to a front and center position.
Rosario Dawson stars as Ahsoka Tano, who previously appeared in one episode each of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. There’s no need for much introduction since she’s already been established as a character, and it’s only the web of personalities around her who appear for the first time. At her side is the loyal droid Huyang (David Tennant), and she has a firm ally in General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who supports her as she attempts to utilize a map garnered from her former prisoner Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) to find the long-missing and presumed dead Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen).
These specific events may be new, though there’s a certain formula to all Star Wars fare that feels very familiar. Things are relatively stable and peaceful, and the New Republic remains in charge, but there are elements fomenting unrest and slowly building a gradual rebellion. Hooded enemies posing as Jedi arrive to free Elsbeth, and those characters – Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) – are clearly powerful, determined to stop at nothing to see their new world order achieved. Tano also has a reluctant partner in her former Padawan Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), a Mandalorian who has little interest in taking orders from anyone.
The pairing of characters and their dynamics feel reminiscent of the other Disney+ shows that have come before this, like Din Djarin and Grogu, Boba Fett and Fennec Shend, and Obi-Wan and Leia. It’s easy to assume that characters have appeared before in other projects unless audiences have a firm grasp on all the animated Star Wars series and other media from the past few decades. Taken on their own and with only the context of the other live-action Disney+ shows, this premise feels fresh enough but also in line with much of the preexisting content, dependably stylized and anchored by the power of friendship and goodness to defeat the overwhelming threat of evil.
The first two episodes of Ahsoka boast a good deal of action, and this show certainly looks great. Setting a chunk of its events on a bustling planet with well-resourced cities puts spectacular visual effects on display, and the fight sequences feel deliberately choreographed and fast-paced. There are moments at which it can seem excessive and showy, like when Ahsoka’s opponent adds a second lightsaber a la Darth Maul to their battle (Ahsoka already wields two) or when she slices through a window with her lightsabers to make a speedy exit, but it’s all in the aim of a quick, compelling energy that propels the series. That serves as a welcome alternative to the somewhat meandering discovery scenes that populate a portion of the first episode, similar in middling pace to the mythology establishment of Moon Knight.
It’s great to see Dawson, who previously inhabited a different streaming superhero franchise with roles in Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders, get a show of her own to headline. Tano has an endearing banter with Huyang, voiced to perfection by Tennant, and a fun rapport with both Syndulla and Wren, the former considerably friendlier and warmer than the latter. Winstead, a standout of the third season of Fargo opposite fellow Star Wars veteran Ewan McGregor, brings an amused energy to Syndulla, while Bordizzo gives Wren plenty of prickly personality. The late Stevenson, seen last year in a different villainous role in RRR, is a standout as a bad guy not prone to letting his temper get the best of him, a rare brand of villain whose calm demeanor might make him even more chilling. It’s also always a treat to see Clancy Brown, who appears in a minor role.
Ahsoka feels like a natural fit for the Star Wars TV universe, and certain elements also make it feel more futuristic despite its setting shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi. When Wren rides out to the city limits to escape a ceremony she deems unworthy of her time, it feels like a new environment and landscape that’s sleeker and more polished than much of the sand-covered planets often seen in this franchise. In that way, Ahsoka feels both new and old simultaneously, a standard but dependable entry with its high points and the potential for true satisfaction should it continue to emphasize those moments in the future.
The first two episodes of Ahsoka are now streaming on Disney+.