By Andrew Smith
“Ahsoka” just wrapped up last month on Disney+ and left me disappointed and wanting more. The series relied on nostalgia, which drove it forward but often felt quite predictable.
In this eight-episode TV-14 science fiction adventure series set in a galaxy far, far, away, Rosario Dawson stars as Ahsoka Tano, who is now much older than we previously saw her.
This new series continues plot lines from previous projects. It faced a challenging situation in continuing the existing plot lines and translating many of them to live-action for the first time since the main inspiration “Star Wars Rebels” was an animated show. Director Dave Filoni, who co-created “Rebels,” did an excellent job bringing these fan favorites into a new setting that naturally progressed their story.
Joining Dawson is co-star Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who turns in a tremendous performance playing Sabine Wren. Bordizzo captures her character’s curiosity and tenacity, which has been portrayed in previous projects.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was cast as New Republic General Hera Syndulla. While Syndulla was a central character in “Rebels,” she took the back seat in this new project and was only featured in the show's first few episodes.
In addition, this series saw the return of two fan-favorite droids, Huyang and Chopper. Both David Tennant and Filoni returned to voice their respective droids, which was a nice touch.
The story begins after “Rebels” when Wren longs to find her friend Ezra Bridger, who was stranded in the Unknown Regions of the Galaxy. Bridger sacrificed himself by sending one of the show’s main antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and himself to these regions, which was seen as an incredibly heroic moment as his fate was unknown to the audience. Would Bridger finally make it home? This question puzzled fans for half a decade.
However, while Wren looks for her friend, the Imperial Remnant is just as committed to finding their former leader in this distant location. Throughout the show, the two sides raced to find clues and eventually the map to find them.
As with most “Star Wars” projects, the villains steal the spotlight, and this series is no exception. The late Ray Stevenson made his debut in the world of George Lucas and delivered the standout performance. Playing a mercenary, Stevenson portrays an older man who has seen the rise and fall of two galactic powers and is searching for a larger power in the galaxy. Stevenson’s character, Baylan Skoll, who has never been seen before in the “Star Wars” universe, outwits the heroes at many points and is very strong with the force, as a turned Jedi.
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“Ahoska” does not truly pick up until the Imperial Remnant locates where Thrawn and Bridger are. The pace fires up and the viewer can begin to feel the angst and dread of what Thrawn will do when he is saved.
Lars Mikkelsen returns as Thrawn and portrays him just as well as he did in animated form. While the character looks a bit unsettling in live action, Mikkelsen delivers a terrifying performance of the former Imperial General who is ready to return home from his exile.
Bridger, the other individual waiting for his allies to rescue him, is played by Eman Esfandi. Out of the new cast, Esfandi performs best at bringing his animated counterpart to live action. The casting felt so organic and Ezra appeared just as he did under a decade ago in animation.
The jaw-dropping moment was seeing the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Christensen was given one episode and it was truly the best. The chemistry between Dawon and Christensen was excellent, and this episode honored the fans who have been loyal to this franchise for a long time.
“Ahsoka” relied on nostalgia to keep fans watching but unfortunately fell short. The ending left me wanting more from a story perspective and the story felt very cliche. I look forward to seeing where the story will go in future projects but I hope Disney begins to take more risks with “Star Wars” and not rely on the past to move their story forward. Hopefully, the writers will expand the story to include new places and events that “Star Wars” fans never witnessed.