This review contains full spoilers for episode four of Ahsoka, now available to watch on Disney+.
While Episode 4 of Ahsoka, “Fallen Jedi,” delivers some strong plot twists and lightsaber duels, the series continues to feel bogged down by stiff performances and bland dialogue. It also struggles under the weight of effectively being a live action season of Star Wars Rebels that needs to be accessible to people who never watched that show and just want to see familiar faces from The Mandalorian.
As they try to conduct repairs on their ship or at least find a way to call for help, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Huyang (David Tennant) reiterate their conflicting motivations without bringing anything new into their relationship. Huyang wants the duo to get along and stick together as a proper master and apprentice pair, but Ahsoka’s absolute commitment to the greater good at the cost of attachments is an understandable rift between her and Sabine.
Star Wars: Ahsoka – Live-Action vs. Animation Character Comparisons
There are arguments that Ahsoka could have made about why it’s better to destroy the map than let it fall into enemy hands that might have sunk in for Sabine. Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray/Eman Esfandi) chose to disappear with Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) at the end of Rebels in order to stop a terrible threat to his closest friend and the entire galaxy. Helping him at the cost of releasing Thrawn would make his sacrifice meaningless. But Ahsoka has continued to be vague when referencing that plot, which seems like a disservice to anyone who didn’t watch Rebels. Instead we just get Ahsoka flatly mentioning the danger Thrawn would pose as Heir to the Empire, an obligatory title drop of the Timothy Zahn novel that introduced the Imperial mastermind.
Meanwhile, General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has decided to send help to her friends even without authorization. She explains away her decision by saying “Once a rebel always a rebel” which feels like a pale imitation of Rogue One’s trailer line “This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel.” I question Hera’s decision to take her young son Jacen Syndulla (Evan Whitten) along on a dangerous mission, but I guess leading a squad of child soldiers gave her a warped risk assessment model.
Hera’s assembled a small squad to support her which bafflingly includes The Mandalorian’s Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung) but not her former teammate Zeb Orrelios (Steve Blum), who was last seen with Carson at a New Republic base. If that The Mandalorian cameo is all we’re getting of the gruff Lasat, I’m going to be very disappointed.
Fallen Jedi Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) is meanwhile left guarding what is effectively a video game load screen while he deploys his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno), Inquisitor Marrok (Paul Darnell) and some droids to ensure Ahsoka doesn’t interfere. Huyang disabling the ship as a form of distress signal is clever and the fighting that follows is the show at its best. The parallel duels tear the gorgeous red forest apart. Ahsoka’s classic samurai-style fight with Marrok – where a tense standoff is settled by a single well-placed blow – is reminiscent of how well Ahsoka’s live action debut in The Mandalorian paid tribute to the genre. We’re now down one faceless, personality-less ablative enemy so the stakes can now get more serious.
The resolution of the fight between Hati and Sabine is also excellent. Hati braces herself when she sees Sabine desperately try to Force push her, only to be darkly amused by her failure. But Sabine gets a similar effect by using a Mandalorian wristdart, demonstrating that she should really focus on her strengths rather than worrying about her weaknesses. Rebels’ Kanan Jarrus used blasters as often as his lightsaber because he was in hiding. He taught Sabine how to use the Darksaber and his versatility could provide a strong model for Sabine, but his life and sacrifice is barely a footnote in Ahsoka.
Stevenson is the true highlight of this episode. He really sells his performance as a world weary former Jedi, dredging up old emotions for Ahsoka, even if it does involve a cliche exchange about Anakin speaking highly about Ahsoka but never mentioning Baylan. The fight between them is made more dynamic by the fact that the map is the real objective and that Baylan really doesn’t want to kill Ahsoka. It’s a duel defined by lunging and feinting along with dialogue that cuts to the core of Ahsoka’s complex feelings about her former master and the order she abandoned. She even appears to briefly channel the Dark Side when Hati appears without Sabine, showing a fragility in her otherwise perfectly zen Jedi demeanor I’d like to see more of.
I’m curious how Baylan knew so much about Sabine. He reveals that her family died in the Great Purge of Mandalore and that she blames Ahsoka for the loss, which presumably is what ended their partnership. The conflict about whether or not to destroy the map seemed like it wouldn’t really go anywhere because Thrawn is obviously going to appear this season, but Sabine’s betrayal came as a genuine surprise. Hati’s attempt to kill Sabine even after she agreed to Baylan’s terms shows Ahsoka isn’t the only one with apprentice problems.
The cliches continue in space as the launch into hyperspace decimates Hera’s squad. Jacen saying that he’s got a bad feeling is clearly meant to demonstrate he shares his father’s connection to the Force, but he just watched a bunch of soldiers die and the bad guys get away. If you didn’t have a bad feeling, I’d be worried about your observation skills.
Ahsoka falling off a cliff and awakening in the World Between Worlds, the mystical plane where she was previously saved from death by Ezra in Rebels, is undoubtedly what’s going to get most people talking about this episode. But while there’s certainly plenty of emotional resonance in a reunion between Anakin and Ahsoka, it’s diluted by the uncanny valley of the CGI used to deage Hayden Christensen. Stretching stories across decades continues to create a practical problem for the franchise in live action. And, as great as some of the fights and special effects are in Ahsoka, I continue to wonder if the series wouldn’t have been better off as just an animated reboot.