Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice and fan favorite Ahsoka gets her own shot at a TV series.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the works being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Hello all and welcome back to our favorite galaxy as we prepare for more Star Wars television with Ahsoka. As foreshadowed in the Mandalorian episode “The Jedi,” it’s time to tag along with Anakin Skywalker’s former padawan, current “I’m not a Jedi!” Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) as she tries to prevent the remnants of the Empire from reforming. The first and second episodes are premiering on the same night, so this recap will cover them both, starting with the Dave Filoni-written and directed “Master and Apprentice.”
But first! Let’s talk about Star Wars Rebels for a moment. Airing from 2014 to 2018, the cartoon focused on the crew of the Ghost, a suitably ragtag band of rebels known as the Spectres, consisting of Twi’lek pilot and group mom Hera Syndulla, former Jedi Padawan Kanan Jarrus, Mandalorian (we can’t escape them) artist and fighter Sabine Wren, Lasat warrior Zeb Orrelios (last seen in a Mandalorian cameo), Ezra Bridger, Kanan’s padawan, and Chopper, Hera’s astromech. It’s been mentioned more than once that Ahsoka seems to effectively be Rebels season 5, but let’s see what the reunited gang gets up to before we make any of those calls, shall we?
We open with a good old-fashioned Star Wars scroll, letting the audience know that Ahsoka Tano is searching for a map that’s also sought by Imperial remnants, as it reveals the location of the long-missing Grand Admiral Thrawn (last seen being teleported away from the known galaxy with Ezra Bridger and a pod of purrgils). Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Insosanto), one of Thrawn’s gang, is currently being transported to her New Republic trial (end scroll). The crew of the transport ship receives a puzzling message from a couple of Jedi in a shuttle. The “Jedi” want to speak to Morgan, but the ship’s captain isn’t buying their story. The two so-called Jedi are Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno), who waste no time revealing their true lightsaber colors, killing their way to Morgan’s cell, and promptly releasing her.
Elsewhere, Ahsoka investigates some ruins (there are many, many ruins in this show), cutting her way underground and locating an ancient puzzle, which in turn reveals the aforementioned map, a locked sphere. Ahsoka realizes she’s been followed and fights a posse of assassin droids, causing the last survivor to enable their self-destruct. Ahsoka makes it to her ship, no thanks to her co-pilot Huyang (David Tennant), an ancient droid who used to help Jedi younglings build their lightsabers and contains a convenient archive of Jedi knowledge in his fussy head. Ahsoka and Huyang receive word of Morgan’s escape and meet up with Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Seeing these actresses each in full alien makeup lends a certain air of disbelief to the proceedings, unfortunately. Ahsoka’s lekku design has yet to improve much since her earlier appearances (she still seems in some scenes to be wearing a lekku hat) and Winstead, for reasons unclear, has been given a pair of Dune spice-eye contacts to portray the blue-eyed Hera. Hera’s eyes are blue, they aren’t supposed to see into one’s soul. Hopefully, familiarity will breed comfort when it comes to the character designs, but then, we haven’t seen Thrawn yet.
Hera believes both Thrawn and Ezra to be dead, but encourages Ahsoka to reach out to Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), with whom Ahsoka has had a falling out in the intervening years between Rebels and the present. Sabine is on the planet Lothal, Ezra’s home planet, living in his old communications tower home and ignoring her responsibilities at a local ceremony to celebrate Lothal’s rescue years before. Sabine watches a goodbye holo message that Ezra (Eman Esfandi) left for her and receives word that Ahsoka has arrived and is asking for her. There’s clear tension between the two, and we learn, in bits and pieces, that Ahsoka had been training the not-very-Force-sensitive Sabine as a Jedi, but one or both of them had walked away. Sabine thinks that she’ll be able to decipher the map and takes off with it while Ahsoka and Huyang are identifying Baylan via a picture of his lightsaber.
Speaking of Baylan: he, Shin, Morgan, and the third member of the Non-Jedi party, a former Inquisitor named Marrok, have arrived at another set of ruins. Morgan tells a curious Shin that her ancestors, the Nightsisters of Dathomir, built the ruins. Shin is sent to Lothal to find Sabine, who has just managed to solve the key to the map when a new group of assassin droids attacks her, snatching the map and destroying all of her other materials. Sabine comms Huyang for backup and faces off with Shin in a duel, Sabine wielding Ezra’s old lightsaber. Sabine, for a Mandalorian, is not great at this (especially considering she too had the Darksaber for a while) and Ahsoka lands just in time to see Shin stab Sabine and flee with the map.
Written once again by Filoni and directed by Steph Green, Episode 2, “Toil and Trouble” (because the Nightsisters are witches, get it?) starts with a recovering Sabine having a nightmare in her hospital bed. Can we get her in a bacta tank, please?! She wakes and tells Ahsoka that she opened the map and it revealed a pathway between their galaxy and another. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to decipher where the entry to this path might be and the droids destroyed all of her backups. Ahsoka realizes that one of the droids must still be at Sabine’s tower and she hastens out there to dispatch the droid and return with its head.
Sabine tries to access the droid’s encrypted memories for Ahsoka, Huyang, and a holo Hera but is only able to determine that the droids came from Corellia. Ahsoka notes that Morgan used to own warehouses on Corellia, and leaves to follow that lead. Hera gives Sabine a little mom pep talk before heading to Corellia herself, telling Sabine that she’s done a good job and that Ahsoka will need her help.
Back at the Nightsister ruins, Morgan opens the map with her “magic” and reveals Thrawn’s location and their jumping-off point to the other galaxy. Baylan sends Shin off again, this time to get to Corellia and aid Morrak. Wow, we’re all heading to Corellia, huh? Hera and Ahsoka, having already arrived, have a chat as they travel to Morgan’s warehouse, Hera talking up her adopted daughter and asking for clarification on some Jedi points. Now, it’s clear that Hera is an audience stand-in for a lot of the Ahsoka/Sabine backstory here, but she’s asking questions about the Jedi that her decade-long relationship with a former Jedi would likely have covered. Less exposition and more goings-on, please.
Hera and Ahsoka investigate Morgan’s former facilities where the shady crew tries to pretend they’ve never built an assassin droid in their lives before a protocol droid spills the beans and the pair have to take out the Empire-loyal warehouse staff. Learning that the latest droid is leaving Corellia on a transport, Hera heads to her ship (and to Chopper!) to follow it while Ahsoka duels some more droids and Marrok himself. Shin arrives and gathers up Marrok, while Hera and Chopper, evading the transports’ weapons, manage to get a tracker on it before it enters hyperspace. Back on Lothal, Sabine leaves the hospital and goes home, where she lays out her Mandalorian armor and chops off her hair. She sends a holo to Ahsoka, letting her know she’s ready to go.
Ahsoka picks up Sabine by the latter’s mural of her Rebels family and, Huyang having received the transport’s coordinates, the reunited master and padawan head out to try and stop another war. Hard as it can be to praise double-episode premieres, this tactic really worked for Ahsoka. Giving Hera and Chopper time to shine after being glorified cameos in “Master and Apprentice” made their existence on the show almost immediately justified. Hera, though still being thrust into the exposition dump, gets to showcase the skills and personality that made her such a beloved character and Mary Elizabeth Winstead gets to actually act, rather than contact-lens act.
Dawson continues to demonstrate why she’s the exact right choice for a role that seemed almost impossible to transfer to live-action and to a new actress (rather than long-time vocal actress Ashley Eckstein), but it’s Natasha Liu Bordizzo who is the shining star of these episodes. Her Sabine is a frustrated genius, an artist and engineer who just wants to piece her family back together while dealing with her apparent failure as Ahsoka’s padawan. Spunky and snarky, but never over the top with it, Bordizzo brings Sabine to brilliant life. Ahsoka is off to a solid start, blending nostalgia (and all of Filoni’s faves) with new characters and a new mission without leaning too heavily on “Look! It’s the Rebels crew!” We’ll wait and see how the series will bring in its clear Legends inspirations and make them work with the new canon; most of that will have to wait until we finally see Thrawn.
● “Master and Apprentice” is dedicated to Ray Stevenson, who passed away earlier this year, and whose performance is already destined to become a Star Wars favorite.
● Does Shin Hati have the galaxy’s first set of bleached blonde baby bangs?
● For the love of the Maker, let characters get new clothes. Why is Hera dressed exactly the same as she did for years on Rebels and apparently for years ever since? Let her buy a new shirt! It’s never clear who will get the new outfit permission slip in a Star Wars property.
● During the transporter chase, Chopper, the internet’s most beloved war criminal, wonders aloud if it would really be that bad if they just shot the transporter down and let it crash into the city below.
● This week’s Thrawn fact: He absolutely knew that Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker, and I wonder what he’ll do with that knowledge once he meets Ahsoka once again.