Ahsoka- In spite of the immense potential held by its all-female trio, the latest installment in the space series seems to take its dedicated fan base for granted. Even the character of the droid voiced by David Tennant misses a chance to shine.
Star Wars TV shows have reached a juncture that Marvel superhero series crossed quite some time ago: dedicated fans eagerly consume each new release, but casual viewers are no longer willing to blindly invest their time. So, where does “Ahsoka” fit into this spectrum? Is it a thrilling crossover sensation like “Andor,” “The Mandalorian” (limited to its first two seasons), and the latter episodes of “The Book of Boba Fett”? Or is it a laborious endeavor meant primarily for die-hard fans, akin to most of “Boba Fett,” recent “Mandalorian” seasons, and the entirety of “Obi-Wan Kenobi”?
Following a double episode introduction to Ahsoka Tano’s (Rosario Dawson) new adventures, the answer remains elusive. “Ahsoka” occasionally exhibits the same spark that made “Andor” and the early “Mandalorian” so captivating, yet it suffers from a common affliction that plagues mediocre Star Wars content: an excessive reverence for franchise lore that assumes the audience’s interest as a given.
Our protagonist, Ahsoka, is a former apprentice of Anakin Skywalker, the man who ultimately became Darth Vader, but she resisted the pull to the Dark Side. Though Ahsoka’s character is somewhat elusive, a less-than-ideal trait for a lead, she embodies a composed yet resolute figure in a time of fragile stability.
The oppressive Galactic Empire has fallen, but concerns about its resurgence persist. Ahsoka’s mission is to track down and neutralize Grand Admiral Thrawn, a banished figure from the Empire, and she believes an ancient map holds the key to his whereabouts. When two sinister mercenaries with Jedi-like abilities show interest in the map for nefarious purposes, a race ensues. However, it’s a race that lacks urgency.
“Ahsoka” unfolds in a distant galaxy that has yet to grasp the concept of the old screenwriting adage: “start a scene late and leave it early.” For example, consider a sequence in which Ahsoka explores an abandoned underground facility on a desolate planet. While this dusty, decrepit lair, like everything else in the show, boasts exquisite design and evokes an enjoyable Indiana Jones vibe with hidden trapdoors, buried artifacts, and enigmatic stone obelisks, it all unfolds at a languid pace.
If you don’t come prepared to appreciate every subtlety of Ahsoka’s actions—fans having spent more than ten years seeing her character develop in the animated shows “Clone Wars” and “Rebels”—you might wonder why you just spent several minutes watching a lady discover a map.
Eventually, after prolonged contemplation against visually stunning CGI backdrops and numerous scenes of characters leisurely wandering before taking action, a team assembles. Ahsoka’s need for assistance in deciphering the map leads her to take a gamble on her gifted yet volatile former protégée, Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). More dependable support comes from Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a general in the benevolent New Republic.
The potential of this all-female trio lies in the prospect of a nuanced, character-driven approach to space adventures, with maternal Ahsoka and aunt-like Hera attempting to nurture Sabine’s untamed warrior talents. Although Ahsoka can be somewhat inscrutable at times—she occasionally exudes the demeanor of a sitcom mother, displaying muted exasperation at the foolishness around her—and Hera’s defining characteristic so far seems to be her green complexion, the dynamic is there.
Moreover, the show doesn’t skimp on spectacular action sequences: Sabine’s impulsiveness ensures that thrilling hoverbike duels and suspenseful chases are never far away. A visit to a bustling port for fact-finding injects a touch of “Andor”-like insight into the ongoing struggle against fascism, as it becomes evident that although the Empire no longer governs the port, not everyone in charge has embraced the light.
The groundwork is laid, but the show must remember that the essence of Star Wars at its best is swiftness and entertainment, not languid seriousness. Another squandered opportunity emerges in the form of Huyang, a droid voiced by David Tennant (reprising his role from “Clone Wars”). Huyang could have been a delightful character with a voice reminiscent of a caring yet meticulous butler, akin to PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves or “Red Dwarf’s” Kryten.
However, in a series where characters often stand around dryly discussing things when a scene needs to convey information—ignoring the “show don’t tell” rule that hasn’t transcended interstellar travel—Tennant is frequently left to deliver unfunny lines in a humorous tone. Like everything else in “Ahsoka,” Huyang could be so much more if given the freedom to entertain us.