Ahsoka season 1 episode 3 review: Democratizing the Force (Image Credit: Space.com)
We were thoroughly impressed with the series premiere of Ahsoka last week, and it seems that most critics and viewers still on board with Star Wars T.V. agree. It brings a different type of sensibility to the increasingly complex Star Wars tapestry, all while continuing plot threads from Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars. Moreover, visually it’s perhaps one of the best Star Wars T.V. shows on Disney Plus besides Andor.
That said, Ahsoka isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel nor become “prestige” television, instead choosing to honor George Lucas’ classical spirit while exploring new horizons. After so many Disney-era Star Wars projects, we know that’s a tough balancing act, but Dave Filoni – now a key creative force inside Lucasfilm – perfectly understands what’s expected from a new age of Star Wars storytelling. The animated shows he led and expanded upon already told us that maybe he was Lucasfilm’s true Heir to Lucas’ Empire, and so far, this show is only solidifying that notion. This is great, especially since his next big project is a full-blown theatrical movie.
For an episode that sits roughly around the 30-minute mark (once you take out the intro, recap, and credits), there’s an impressive amount of character work in this one, all while delivering big-screen-worthy dogfight action in the back half.
If after this episode you’re still hankering for more stellar Star Wars content with this snippy heroine, then 10 episodes of Star Wars to watch before Ahsoka is a must!
Spoilers ahead for Ahsoka episode 3: ‘Time to Fly’
Things start calm with Sabine Wren and Huyang resuming her Jedi training. The biggest questions raised so far in this show pertain to Ahsoka Tano and Sabine’s relationship. When did the Mandalorian warrior become Lady Tano’s Padawan? Why did this happen? Yes, us Star Wars Rebels veterans are as confused as you are. Sabine never exhibited an aptitude for using the Force, so there’s something new-ish (at least for on-screen Star Wars storytelling) happening here.
Answers to these will have to wait a bit, as we first see Sabine struggling with her lightsaber stances and moves against Huyang and later Ahsoka herself, who also forces her to train blind, much like Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. At some point, Sabine half-predicts her master’s moves, but it doesn’t seem like the Force has much to do with it. We’ll be returning to this later.
Much like in Chapter 19 of The Mandalorian, we get a healthy dose of New Republic exposition and politics here. While Ahsoka is mostly concerned with the more mystical side of the Star Wars universe, one of the protagonists’ ultimate goals is preventing the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, or at least to prepare ahead of it. Unsurprisingly, Hera Syndulla is the direct link to the New Republic government and even Chancellor Mon Mothma herself (played once again by Genevieve O’Reilly).
In The Mandalorian, we saw government functionaries and minor officials dismissing claims of sizable Imperial remnants. The same applies here, but it’s more worrying to see people in the top positions of power refusing to face the facts. The biggest skeptic in the group we meet is Senator Xiono (father of Star Wars Resistance’s Kazuda Xiono), who ironically is from Hosnian Prime, one of the important New Republic planets that are destroyed by the First Order in The Force Awakens.
Mothma is visibly more worried than her colleagues – given her experience as a Rebel leader during the civil war – but her hands are tied as the New Republic focuses on rebuilding rather than hunting down alleged Imperial remnants. For now, Hera won’t be getting the military forces she needs to chase the evildoers. Right after, as a nice bonus for Rebels fans, we meet Jacen Syndulla in live-action. Contrary to what a leaked Lego set teased, his hair is green, though he definitely looks way more like his father, Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus, here than in the Rebels epilogue.
In the next scene, Ahsoka gives Sabine easier (but equally frustrating) homework by starting small as she tries to reach out to the Force. She also reminds all viewers of something George Lucas has insisted on for decades: that everyone has the Force. Yoda’s words in The Empire Strikes Back are especially important. It surrounds everything and everyone; it’s this mystical energy anyone can tap into (remember Rogue One‘s Chirrut?), but harnessing a fraction of its full power is a different thing altogether and something only gifted individuals can do. As much as deniers try to erase the sequels from existence, this is yet another link to some of their most intriguing bits.
Before we even have time to move on to the question of what makes the Jedi and Force sensitives special, Huyang – a droid who worked for the Order for thousands of years – and Ahsoka have an insightful conversation on the matter. The quick version is that Jedi are Force sensitives that receive proper training. But, of course, the bar was established by an Order that doesn’t exist anymore, so it makes sense that a Jedi as unorthodox as Ahsoka is willing to lower it and to not expect Sabine to move rocks around. Still, she holds out hope there’s something within her. This is solid reasoning, especially now that Jedi are so scarce, but the key question still remains: What did she originally see in her (off-screen for now) to consider making her a Padawan?
It’s also important to underline that, much like Anakin during the Clone Wars, Ahsoka is struggling as a master too. Maybe it’s because of the current situation and her very difficult life, but she seems rather impatient with someone who maybe isn’t even the right pick to be a new kind of Jedi. She also doesn’t trust Sabine enough, something they work out together in the following scene. While the obvious parallel here is the aforementioned relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka, this happened before with Obi-Wan and Anakin, and even before that with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan… You can see where Dave Filoni is going with this, right?
The arrival to the Denab system, where Seatos is located, is sudden and rough, as Shin Hati, Marrok, and a full squadron of goons instantly attack the heroines’ ship, which is sturdy but not indestructible. What follows is a dogfight/chase sequence that mirrors the iconic Millennium Falcon sequence in A New Hope, only it’s now Sabine struggling to hit her targets. This shooting practice unexpectedly breaks Ahsoka’s stoic nature and gives Rosario Dawson some room to be more playful. The moment Lady Tano trusts her Padawan, things start to work out for them… at least until they approach Morgan Elsbeth’s Eye of Sion.
The massive hyperspace transport ring is far from a battle station, but it’s certainly imposing and equipped with heavy turbolasers. The only reason why our protagonists approach the structure is because Huyang needs a full scan. Big C-3PO vibes here, but both the writing and David Tennant’s line deliveries made him a fresh new addition to the live-action roster of often funny droids.
When we thought we were done after Ahsoka’s ship is disabled by Elsbeth, we get the first-ever zero-gravity Jedi action outside of cartoons and comics. Sabine can tinker with the systems while Ahsoka deals up-close with the fighters. This is yet another moment which feels lifted straight out of Rebels, the kind of stuff you’d see in a memorable Saturday morning cartoon, and we’re here for it.
Things are taken a step further – turning this whole sequence into an exhilarating Star Wars ride we won’t soon forget – when the chase is taken to the planet’s cloudy skies and purrgils show up to unintentionally help the heroines’ shake off their pursuers. It’s director Steph Green’s final test in the Ahsoka series, and she passed it with flying colors by delivering masterful cockpit shots and orchestrating the fighters’ sharp movements like in good ol’ fighter pilot movies – a strong inspiration for Star Wars filmmakers like George Lucas and Rian Johnson. The scale here is remarkable as well, with the ships looking like mosquitoes navigating between the colossal creatures.
The episode ends with Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang stuck in enemy territory and Baylan Skoll – Ray Stevenson simply looks perfect in the final shot – telling Elsbeth’s troops to hunt down the Jedi hiding in the red alien forest that, we must say, reminds us of Star Trek: Into Darkness’ opening scene.
As we suspected, Ahsoka is playing out like one big story split into parts, which is what Filoni had been teasing all along. This isn’t The Mandalorian, and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear this is the main gateway to his event movie. Perhaps the most impressive thing about ‘Time to Fly’ is how it proves that 30 minutes are more than enough time to give every major character a chance to shine, move the plot forward, and enchant viewers with big spectacle… in the right hands. It’s hard to imagine someone without extensive T.V. animation writing experience hitting the effectiveness levels on display here.