The final episode of Disney’s latest Star Wars left us more puzzled than satisfied. Here are some thoughts on the Ahsoka finale.
NB: the following may contain mild spoilers for Ahsoka.
I have very fond memories of Star Wars. I watched the original trilogy on a boxy 90s TV while my parents explained to me what the Force is and what makes a Jedi. I liked the colours of the lightsabers and the different creatures. Later on, the prequel trilogy were the first ones I could see in a cinema, even if I was still a little young for them.
Then came the sequels. The Force Awakens was everything I wanted it to be and more. I have my issues with the other two films, but for the most part, it felt good to see Star Wars back on the big screen.
Since the prequels, Star Wars (and Disney…) has also conquered the galaxies of the smaller screen. Both Clone Wars and Rebels are beloved among its fanbase, but personally, I never had access to either at the time of release so I’m helplessly out of the loop.
Which brings us to Ahsoka, the latest Star Wars show to hit Disney+. Episode 8, which was also the season finale, became available yesterday and the consensus seems to be that it was a lacklustre ending to a thoroughly mediocre series.
The series focused on Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson. Ahsoka isn’t an actual Jedi, although she is Force-sensitive and pretty damn skilled at wielding a Lightsaber. The series’ description, before it aired, was vague to begin with: “Ahsoka Tano investigates an emerging threat to the galaxy following the fall of the Empire.”
This emerging threat turns out to be Grand Admiral Thrawn. He’ll be a familiar face (and voice!) to those who watched Rebels. Lars Mikkelsen plays the live-action version of the character he also voiced in animated form. For those of us who are less knowledgeable on the character’s history… Well, quite frankly, we were out of luck and were forced to rely on Wikipedia to provide some context.
This is all fine, of course. I wouldn’t walk into Paddington 2 without having seen the first one – or at least I would acknowledge from the get-go that some nuance would be lost on me and that would fully be my own fault.
But Ahsoka is, in theory, its own thing. There’s no number two strapped to its title, and while it exists as a part of a larger cinematic universe, it should be easy to follow without having seen every single other Star Wars show and film.
Ahsoka is the fourth Star Wars TV show to hit Disney+, following The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett. All of those also heavily relied on previous knowledge of the whole franchise, but Ahsoka feels more crippled by this. A certain character calls our titular heroine “Snips”. To me, it meant nothing. To my partner, the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet, it meant everything. I felt cheated out of an experience.
It’s not that Ahsoka’s narrative is dizzyingly complex; if anything, it’s too slight and understated to leave any kind of impression. No, the problem is everything else. Characters are brought in and introduced, but never developed. Presumably their development happened elsewhere, on a different show.
Episode 8 of Ahsoka does resolve some matters, which we won’t spoil here, but it also seemed to act as a prelude for the real story. No second season has been announced, but all Ahsoka manages to do is get certain people out of places and others somewhere else. There’s some fantastic emotional beats teased in Ahsoka, but they never pay off. Unless they do and I was just unable to catch them because I don’t have a masters degree in Star Wars lore and characters.
The point of this article isn’t just to complain about the state of modern Star Wars, but to highlight a larger issue which is also plaguing Marvel. Cinematic Universes are becoming increasingly complex and quite honestly, far too much work than I am physically able to put in. I don’t want to have to watch something, I want to choose what I watch based on how much I will enjoy it. The current state of things is certainly eating away at my enjoyment.
It seems that unless you manage to catch every film as soon as they come out and watch every TV show, weekly, you’re simply out of the loop. With Ahsoka, I felt like I was constantly passively observing something that I wasn’t quite getting. While with Marvel there’s still a healthy gap between the comic book source material and the screen versions, things have become more convoluted in the galaxy far far away.
We still have plenty of new Star Wars stuff coming up, including James Mangold’s Star Wars film, but is this new approach to entertainment going to keep fans engaged, or will it prove alienating? As a long-time Star Wars obsessive, I’m starting to question if I have what it takes to be a fan in the current climate.