Watch out! This post contains spoilers.
The moment I was sure I did not like “Ahsoka” came when Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) finally reunites with Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi) in episode six. The season had been building to this major moment; Sabine had traveled so far, made so many complicated decisions and promises, and believed for so long that Ezra was still out there, alive. Ezra was her only family left, she’d said. So seeing him again was the only thing that mattered.
And then, when she finally finds him . . . they share a tepid hug. That’s it. Ezra says he’s surprised she found him, but zero surprise is evident from the way he actually says that. When he starts to ask how she did it — crucially lacking any astonishment or confusion or real emotion accompanying the question — she says, “I just want to be happy that I found you.” But she doesn’t seem that happy about it, either. I’ve had more excited reunions with friends who I accidentally run into on the subway than they do after years and parsecs apart.
And this, I realized, is my main problem with the show. The emotional pieces just don’t work. Almost everyone seems like they’re ghosting above the surface of the plot, never engaging with it. Ahsoka herself (Rosario Dawson) seems detached and distanced from the action, very unlike her previous appearances in “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” the two animated Star Wars series she previously appeared in. And yes, Ahsoka is years older and has survived another massive war when we catch up with her here, so it makes sense for her to have changed in the intervening years, weathered down by what’s happened. But Dawson’s performance doesn’t feel like she’s portraying someone dealing with trauma and death; she just seems disinterested in everything going on around her. After she meets with her former Jedi master Anakin (Hayden Christensen), she is supposedly transformed, having finally completed her Jedi training. In reality, she acts the exact same way she did before; only her costuming changes to all-white duds. Watching, I wondered over and over again why this show was even named after her at all.
This issue also spreads to pretty much all the other “hero” characters. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Hera — in part burdened by a very boring, unnecessary, and poorly thought-out political plot — never leaves a big impact, and she too has a strangely distanced reunion with Ezra in the season finale. Even David Tennant, who voices the droid Huyang, can barely find a moment to latch on to, and I would never describe his acting as muted. Ultimately, it feels like a wasted opportunity to bring these beloved characters into live action and then do this with them.
The only characters who are able to avoid this dullness are some of the villains. The late Ray Stevenson plays Baylan Skoll, a former Jedi who first seems like a mercenary but slowly reveals his own intentions. He brings depth, pain, and excitement to the role, grabbing your attention in every scene. And Diana Lee Inosanto is intense and magnetic as Morgan Elsbeth, a Nightsister of Dathomir. The Disney+ Star Wars shows have almost always had great villains — “The Mandalorian”‘s Moff Gideon, “Andor”‘s Syril Karn and Dedra Meero — and Skoll and Elsbeth are proud additions to their ranks.
Some time during this season of “Ahsoka,” my social media algorithms figured out that I am a Star Wars fan and started serving me extremely positive content about the show. There were fan-made graphics of the show’s characters in the animated series next to them in real life, tributes to Christensen’s return (and his “Clone Wars”-specific costuming), a round up for every C3PO appearance in any show or film. But this is all fan service, and while I suppose “Ahsoka” delivered on that front, that doesn’t mean the show itself is interesting or has anything in particular to say about these characters’ journeys.
“Ahsoka” hasn’t been renewed for season two yet, but I can only imagine that’s a formality at this point (though perhaps a continuation of the story will get a new title). Throughout “Ahsoka”‘s season (and especially in its finale), I was frustrated by the feeling that this was all setup for some future story, which promised to be bigger and better than this one. It’s something I’ve also found true of many of the Marvel Disney+ shows and films, like this year’s “Secret Wars,” last year’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and even parts of “WandaVision” and “Loki”‘s first season back in 2021. I’m sure fans will defend this season, saying it’s all building to something amazing.
But I don’t care about the next season, or the next movie. I care about this season, this story, right now. I wish the creators did, too.
“Ahsoka” season one is streaming now on Disney+.