Star Wars TV shows have soared to heights even Marvel superhero series reached long ago. Devoted fans still eagerly consume every fresh episode, but casual viewers find their schedules too cramped for blind commitment. So, is Ahsoka a crossover delight similar to Andor, the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, and the final installments of The Book of Boba Fett? Or does it fall into the category of a fans-only chore, like much of Boba Fett, recent Mandalorian episodes, and the entirety of Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Following an initial double feature that introduces us to Ahsoka Tano’s (played by Rosario Dawson) new escapades, our judgment is still out. Ahsoka boasts glimmers of what made Andor and the early Mandalorian thrilling, yet it grapples with the same ailment that plagues lackluster Star Wars content: it presumes too much on our interest due to its reverence for the franchise’s lore.
Our protagonist, Ahsoka, once an apprentice to Anakin Skywalker, before he became Darth Vader, hasn’t succumbed to the Dark Side. Yet, pinpointing her exact identity is tricky – not ideal for a lead character. She embodies a mix of mentor, vigilante, and problem solver, exuding a composed but resolute aura in a time of fragile progress. The oppressive Galactic Empire has fallen, but fears of its resurgence loom. Ahsoka’s quest involves tracking down and neutralizing Grand Admiral Thrawn, a banished Empire loyalist. She believes an ancient map could unveil his hideout. When malevolent mercenaries wielding Jedi-like powers take an interest in the map, a race begins – though it’s not a race of swiftness.
Ahsoka’s backdrop is a galaxy so distant that it remains unaware of the screenwriting adage to jump into scenes late and exit early. Consider the instance when Ahsoka explores an abandoned subterranean hub on a desolate planet. Similar to everything else in the show, this dusty, creaky hideaway showcases splendid design. Indiana Jones vibes abound as hidden trapdoors are revealed, artifacts are unearthed from sand, and stone obelisks twist into position, awakening their enigmatic power. Yet, it all unfolds at a leisurely pace. If you haven’t approached the show ready to savor every nuance of Ahsoka’s actions – avid fans have followed her evolution for over a decade through animated series like Clone Wars and Rebels – you might question why you’ve invested minutes observing a woman find a map.
Eventually, amid the gazing at impressively crafted CGI backgrounds and scenes where characters wander prior to action, a crew materializes. Ahsoka’s need for map decryption assistance leads her to take a chance on her gifted but volatile former protégée, Sabine Wren (played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Reliable aid comes from Hera Syndulla (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a New Republic general.
The potential lies in this all-female trio for a nuanced, character-driven approach to space escapades. Maternal Ahsoka and aunt-like Hera endeavor to nurture Sabine’s untamed warrior skills. While Ahsoka’s demeanor occasionally resembles a sitcom mom, arms crossed in silent exasperation, and Hera’s most apparent trait is her green complexion, the dynamic is evident. The show doesn’t skimp on spectacular action: Sabine’s impulsiveness ensures hoverbike duels and chases are ever-present, and Ahsoka frequently displays her cool reverse-grip lightsaber combat style. A trip to a bustling port for information adds an Andor-esque insight into the perpetual battle against fascism. It’s clear that though the empire no longer controls the port, not everyone in charge has embraced the light.
The groundwork is laid, provided the show recalls that peak Star Wars is snappy and enjoyable, not sluggish and grave. Another missed opportunity arises with Huyang, a droid voiced by David Tennant (reprising his role from Clone Wars). Huyang delights in sounding like a caring yet fussy butler, echoing notes of Jeeves from PG Wodehouse and Red Dwarf’s Kryten. However, in scenes needing exposition, characters often stand and dryly discuss elements directly – the “show, don’t tell” rule seemingly lost in cosmic transit. Tennant often struggles with unfunny lines despite his entertaining voice. Just like everything else in Ahsoka, he could shine brighter if given room to captivate and amuse.