Home » ‘Ahsoka’ Premiere Review – Dave Filoni Promises the Next Disney+ Hit

‘Ahsoka’ Premiere Review – Dave Filoni Promises the Next Disney+ Hit

by Jacob Fisher
Rosario Dawson stars as Ahsoka Tano wearing her gray Jedi robe in the new live-action Disney+ original series.

It’s safe to say Star Wars television is in a rather fascinating position at the moment. The Mandalorian Season 3 proved to be the most divisive season yet, where many fans were turned away by the execution of the Bo-Katan Mandalore arc. On the other side, Andor was just nominated for 8 Emmys, including Best Drama Series, which is a major milestone for Lucasfilm. Obi-Wan Kenobi managed to secure an Emmy nomination in the Best Limited Series category too, despite the backlash that show got mainly due to some of its lackluster visuals and direction that brought down its overall potential greatness.

Nevertheless, pending the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes ending with fair deals for both actors and writers, the future of Star Wars television looks bright. From Star Wars animation continuing to thrive with The Bad Batch entering its third and final season to live-action storytelling looking set to have a huge 2024 outside of the “Mandoverse” with The Acolyte from showrunner Lesley Headland (Russian Doll) and Andor Season 2 from Tony Gilroy. Still coming from the Mandoverse in the foreseeable future is Star Wars: Skeleton Crew from Spider-Man: No Way Home director Jon Watts and, of course, Ahsoka which is being overseen by none other than writer-director Dave Filoni.

Ahsoka on Disney+ continues the titular character’s story from her live-action debut in The Mandalorian Season 2 as well as following her tale with Sabine teased in the epilogue of the animated series Star Wars Rebels. Audiences tag along with the former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano as she investigates an emerging threat, Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), to a vulnerable galaxy. The live-action show picks up various plot threads left hanging for over five years from the series finale of Rebels, including Ezra Bridger and Thrawn’s disappearances and Sabine and Ahsoka setting out from a newly established Lothal to find them.

The big question about Ahsoka is whether or not new viewers will need to have watched Star Wars Rebels beforehand in order to understand this Disney+ original series. As someone who has ranked Rebels as their favorite Star Wars series for years, it’s difficult to definitively say whether someone with no knowledge of these characters will still have enjoyment watching Ahsoka. Coming out of the first 2 episodes, showrunner Dave Filoni does an adequate job of re-establishing all of the main and supporting cast within this corner of the Star Wars universe, providing brief refreshers for returning fans and newbies alike.

Natasha Liu Bordizzo plays Sabine Wren in live-action as she ignites her green lightsaber in the Disney+ original series AHSOKA.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo in ‘Ahsoka’ courtesy of Disney

However, certain references to Ezra, Thrawn, and other minor callbacks to Rebels will surely fly over the heads of some new people watching or make them confused. Whether this show succeeds without prior knowledge of what came before depends on what sort of television viewer you are. As much as a full watch of Star Wars Rebels is recommended, new audiences can be pretty much invested without that or by just watching a simple recap video – something that is not ideal for the future of television.

A major point of contention with Ahsoka is the translation from animation to live-action where many fans have wished that Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau kept this project to the medium that it was started in. Admittedly, settling into these live-action character interpretations takes a minute. What really helps solidify this live-action translation as a success is Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren. Bordizzo’s performance is revelatory for this series and easily its biggest strength. Not only does she embody what Tiya Sircar made brilliant about the Mandalorian warrior in Star Wars Rebels, but Filoni’s writing also allows Bordizzo to bring her own dimensions to Sabine.

Sabine Wren almost feels like a fully fleshed-out new person from how we last saw her five years ago. There’s a clear unseen backstory established between Sabine and Ahsoka that helps to establish theorization of what has happened during this time gap as well as what we will discover within the incoming plot. Natasha Liu Bordizzo will leave you wanting more of her interpretation of Sabine, making the character a fresh fan-favorite for some and a further beloved icon for others.

Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star as Ahsoka Tano and General Hera Syndulla in the new live-action Disney+ series.
Rosario Dawson & Mary Elizabeth Winstead in ‘Ahsoka’ courtesy of Disney

Meanwhile, main star Rosario Dawson hasn’t yet reached her full potential as Ahsoka Tano. Even though her performance has improved since her last live-action appearance in The Book of Boba Fett, Dawson still hasn’t been given the right emotional beats for Ahsoka that made fans root for her animated counterpart. Signs begin to pop up within the second episode that Dawson clearly understands the intricacies of Ahsoka from her younger self seen in The Clone Wars. Still, it may just be getting used to an older interpretation of this Jedi Knight who no longer has all this hope around the galaxy. Rosario Dawson has delivered a satisfactory performance so far but elements introduced before the second episode closes provide hints that she’s about to bring even more energy to the role that will be familiar to the Ahsoka people first fell in love with.

The final three major translations into live-action are Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla, David Tennant as Huyang, and Chopper. Winstead’s performance takes a little bit to get used to at first, but once she embodies Hera’s attitude as a General and you see her bantering with Chopper on The Phantom, she effortlessly falls into the role. Just like Sabine Wren, Ahsoka on Disney+ honors what Vanessa Marshall had set up with the revolutionary leader previously while bringing on board a Hera with more authority and responsibility. Hera still acts as a mother to her found family though, especially towards Natasha Liu Bordizzo’s Sabine. Interactions between the two feel earned and heartfelt, recalling their history in Star Wars Rebels alongside their shared losses.

As for Chopper, he’s ripped from animation to live-action with ease with all humor still intact. David Tennant reprises his role of Huyang that he first started in Star Wars: The Clone Wars just under a decade ago. Where he only got a few episodes to begin this character’s story in that series, Tennant gets to have a lot more fun with Huyang in Ahsoka. Dave Filoni creates a much-welcomed dimension of levity from Huyang that makes the ancient droid professor all the more lovable and hilarious.

An action shot of the astromech droid Chopper in space from the live-action Star Wars show AHSOKA on Disney+.
‘Ahsoka’ courtesy of Disney

New antagonists introduced in these first 2 episodes of Ahsoka include Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson), Shin Haiti (Ivanna Sakhno), and Marrok (whose actor is currently unknown). Skoll and Haiti are the villains that really get to shine and not only are they immediately proved to be very formidable foes for this series, but their origins are also set up with interesting kinks that tease a fascinating narrative behind their motivations as well as brilliant contrasts from Ahsoka and Sabine. Ray Stevenson and Ivanna Sakhno get their individual moments to take the spotlight, both bringing menacing performances. It will be very exciting to see the pair as they are coupled together more as master and apprentice going forward.

Ahsoka is mostly a success on the visual front. Where major criticisms have been levied about the middling use of “The Volume” for recent Star Wars ventures, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dave Filoni and his fellow directing team (Steph Green helms the second episode) do a splendid job so far of bringing Ahsoka to life with its own stylistic flair differentiated from The Mandalorian. While the visual quality never hits the heights of Andor, the series always looks best on Lothal, a perfect recreation of what we saw in the Star Wars Rebels finale put into live-action. The cinematography of Ahsoka especially stands out in these scenes and leads to some of the best visual work we’ve seen from the Volume so far.

The first 2 episodes of Ahsoka on Disney+ are quite exciting. It’s obviously enjoyable to finally be able to catch up with familiar faces such as Sabine and Hera, but their live-action interpretations add new splendid dimensions that will keep audiences rooting for them for more time to come. Although many Disney+ original shows tend to deviate in quality as they progress, Dave Filoni has shown to be one to break that cycle, using the first 2 episodes of Ahsoka to perfectly set up intrigue and excitement in a fascinating tale that will leave fans clamoring each week for a new episode. This is a very promising start and it seems Ahsoka is on the right track to be the next beloved hit in Dave Filoni’s arsenal.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The first two episodes of Ahsoka premiere August 22 at 6pm PT/ 9pm ET on Disney+!

Follow EIC Jacob Fisher on Twitter: @JacobDFilm

1 comment

Kevin Michael Callihan Sr. August 22, 2023 | 2:26 pm - 2: 26 pm

Thank you kindly for the review. I found it interesting. These words especially from your text. * Nevertheless, pending the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes ending with fair deals for both actors and writers, the future of Star Wars television looks bright. Hope exists whereby this empirical mind agrees with a continuing future for cast & crew within the various owned entities and their abilities in monitoring and governing their shared purpose while disclosing to fans your progress. I appreciate it.


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