Before Disney took over Lucasfilm, Marvel, and what feels like fandom at large, a story was just a story. Someone who had never heard of Indiana Jones could watch Last Crusade and get the gist. Nowadays, we have homework. Sure, Star Wars has always built on its previous films—but watching A New Hope before you see Empire Strikes Back is a little more normal than what's going on in the franchise right now.
The latest Star Wars series, Ahsoka—which debuted its first two episodes Tuesday night—won't hold your hand. It doesn't even bother to help answer questions like, Who is Ahsoka? If you slept through the time The Book of Boba Fett morphed into The Mandalorian Season 2.5? Well, good luck understanding Ahsoka.
Catching up on Disney+'s Star Wars offerings isn't even enough to place yourself in Ahsoka's world, either. Ahsoka Tano was created long before Disney's Lucasfilm acquisition. Ahsoka first appeared in 2008's animated The Clone Wars series. She then appeared in four seasons of Star Wars Rebels, before making her live-action debut in The Mandalorian's second season. Other characters from Rebels—such as General Syndulla, Ezra Bridger, Sabine Wren, and Grand Admiral Thrawn—also play key roles in Ahsoka. Oof. One (or all) of those names sound unfamiliar to you? Have fun at Wookiepedia.
The opening crawl, meant to be an exposition dump for casuals, does nothing to help. Much like The Mandalorian, we're in the dead space between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. "A plot is underway to find the lost Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn," the text reads, about the blue alien whose return could potentially start another war. We're also on the hunt for one of Thrawn's allies—a prisoner named Morgan, who is immediately captured by a mysterious red-lightsaber-wielding third party. If that's not enough, we also need a "secret map which is vital to the enemy's plan." Got all that? Because that's just the text you read before Ahsoka even begins.
So, after killing some robots to obtain the secret map, Ahsoka reveals that the map needs a special key to unlock its data. It feels like I'm playing a video game—and not a very well-designed one. Every little accomplishment is instantly hit with a roadblock that would make the player groan. How did it come to this? Star Wars was once about a struggle between a father and his son—and a galaxy full of the franchise's signature simplicity, charm, and heart. In today's Star Wars tales, Macguffins reign supreme. But this convoluted "wayfinding," as The Rise of Skywalker once called it, isn't the actors' fault. Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka was one of the first modern Disney roles to be cast solely on fan service alone, and it was the right choice. Dawson is charming, poised, and truly treats the character with respect.
In the end, Star Wars is—to put it simply—cool. As a viewer, you're imagining yourself flying around space, playing with futuristic weapons, and maybe even donning some weird tentacles on your head. At the very least, a Star Wars series should feel as fun as it looks. But when you develop a whole series solely for fans to see animated characters walk around in live action, that's where we run into some issues.
Most stories aren't meant to last forever. It's often best to reach for stories at the outer rims of the galaxy than to painstakingly work toward maintaining continuity. That's why a story like Andor—which could have fit into any science-fiction universe—hit with audiences who were about to give up on Disney+'s Star Wars projects entirely. Sure, Disney gave us Babu Frik and Baby Yoda. The Mouse House even let them meet, thank the lord! But at this very moment, Ahsoka isn't a story that's one more Babu Frik appearance away from making any sense.
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