Ahsoka Episode 1: Master and Apprentice Review – A Terrific Start

The first couple episodes of Ahsoka are here and I'd say it's off to a terrific start. I'm going to cover Episode 1 of the two part premiere and talk about what was good and what was bad. Spoiler alert, not much of it was bad.

Ahsoka Episode 1: Master and Apprentice ReviewAhsoka is finally available to stream on Disney+ and boy, I’d say the wait was worth it. Ahsoka has a lot riding on it right now after the underwhelming Obi-Wan Kenobi left a lot of Star Wars fans let down. Despite the franchise being a fixture in pop culture, Disney seems to have more misses than makes when it comes to their Star Wars content. Save for The Mandalorian, most of the Disney Era stories have fallen flat. However, with Dave Filoni determined to right the ship, Ahsoka is coming in hot to give fans something to look forward too. 

This review will be for Episode 1: Master and Apprentice. Spoiler Warning for those who have not watched the episode.

Ahsoka | Official Trailer | Disney+

Story: The Race to Thrawn Begins

The story for Ahsoka starts with a nice callback to the Star Wars tradition of rolling text to recap previous events. It’s no secret that Dave Filoni is a huge Star Wars nerd and this is something he’s worked into many of his previous projects, such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The text recaps events that happened in The Mandalorian, when Ahsoka Tano was first introduced to us in live action.

This sets the stage for an epic introduction to Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati, two core antagonists. They pose as Jedi to lure the captain of a star ship into a false sense of self confidence and let them on the ship. The captain doesn’t believe them and calls their bluff. He soon comes to regret it though, as Baylan and Shin reveal they are force sensitive, but they are no Jedi. A massacre ensues and leads to Baylan releasing Morgan Elsbeth from her imprisonment. This was a great introduction to the show and made me curious to find out more about these characters.

Elsewhere, Ahsoka makes her appearance in an Indiana Jones-esque scene where she is trying to solve a puzzle in some old ruins. After some sleuthing, she triggers a mechanism that reveals a golden orb. Ahsoka explains to her droid companion, Huyang (voiced by famous Doctor Who actor David Tennant), that the orb is a map that will show the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who plays Sabine Wren

Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who plays Sabine Wren

However, Ahsoka doesn’t know how to activate the map, which leads to her visiting General Hera Syndulla (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Hera doesn’t have any clue either, but she recommends Ahsoka visit someone who might. We then travel to the planet, Lothal, and are introduced to Sabine Wren. Ahsoka and Sabine have some awkwardly tense conversation because Ahsoka was training her in the Jedi arts, but Ahsoka didn’t feel she was ready. She convinces Sabine to help her by saying if they find Thrawn, they will also have a chance to find Ezra Bridger who disappeared with Thrawn in the series finale of Star Wars: Rebels.

Meanwhile, Morgan Elsbeth tells her mercenaries that her witchcraft, which she learned from the Witches of Dathomir, is telling her that Ahsoka went to Lothal and Sabine is the one that has the orb. Sabine is trying to wrap her head around any clue that could help her decipher the map. Eventually, she discovers a pattern that unlocks the orb and projects a galaxy that has the exact location of Thrawn (and presumably Ezra). Unfortunately, Shin Hati and assassin droids ambush her before she can tell Ahsoka what she found out. A battle between Sabine and Shin Hati occurs which leads to Sabine being fatally wounded by a lightsaber thrust. Sabine loses consciousness as Ahsoka arrives too late to catch the enemy and the show ends on that cliffhanger. 

Sabine Wren watching a recording left by Ezra Bridger

Sabine Wren watching a recording left by Ezra Bridger

Characters & Performance: An Excellent Job From Everyone

Going into the show, I was worried about how the cast would portray characters who have been firmly established by performances from other actors in previous Star Wars projects. Rosario Dawson does a great job of continuing her portrayal of a seasoned Ahsoka that she gave us when she appeared in The Mandalorian. She’s wise and a little jaded to the world around her, but she isn’t without levity as she can be cheeky and heartfelt with her close friends. She has a humorous rapport with her droid, Huyang, and they got a few chuckles from me throughout the episode. Natasha Liu Bordizzo does a good job of portraying Sabine’s infamous self-willed attitude. These kind of characters can fall into the trap of being portrayed in an annoying light, but Sabine hasn’t crossed that line yet and she’s showing an emotional vulnerability that I am interested in exploring.

Of the protagonist that were introduced in this episode, I felt Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as Hera was a bit one-note. She mostly played the part of mediator between Ahsoka and Sabine, which is a shame as her character in Rebels was much more than that. She did have a lack of screen time, however, and it’s only the first episode so hopefully she can get more of a spotlight next time around. The antagonists were also a highlight of the show for me. Baylan and his apprentice are an intriguing pair as they are Jedi who survived Order 66 and decided to become mercenaries for hire. Morgan Elsbeth is also an interesting villain that is most likely hiding her true potential as a witch taught by the Witches of Dathomir. Even her former Jedi companions were wary of her. 

Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati

Baylan Skoll and his apprentice Shin Hati

Cinematography & Sounds: Great Use of CGI/Practical Effects

If there’s one thing I’ll preach over and over again, it’s that Dave Filoni and his team know how to make Star Wars look great on screen. Each of the planets look unique and varied in their components. We’ve seen this in The Mandalorian as well, and it looks like Filoni is taking those same practices and applying them to Ahsoka. Another aspect I love about the show is the use of practical effects mixed with CGI. Again, Filoni is a big reason for that as he’s used this practice for Grogu and various other creatures to help with his world building. It’s refreshing to see practical effects be used to give us an almost tangible creature or environment and then mix CGI in to help give those things maneuverability.

The use of color was also great, each world had a different vibe that was conveyed through color palettes, alien skins were colorful but not tacky, and the lightsabers gave excellent luminous shades when they were ignited. Sound production was also top tier, everything felt like it had the natural and satisfying sound that should accompany it. Especially, the lightsabers and the sounds they make when they are used in combat. The score is also a nice highlight, particularly the score for the closing credits. 

The titular Ahsoka chatting with Hera Syndulla (left) and Huyang (right)

The titular Ahsoka chatting with Hera Syndulla (left) and Huyang (right)

Editing & Pacing: Fight Choreography Was My Favorite Part

The fight choreography in the first episode was absolutely terrific. If the rest of the series continues with this style, I feel confident in saying it could produce some of the coolest fights in Star Wars history. It’s fluid and deliberate, but not slow enough to feel like the actors aren’t actually fighting each other. The editing of these fights was also a positive. They took their time to craft the fights so that they can go for several seconds between cuts instead of a style like Marvel’s where fights can be cut to death. I think it’s a good marriage between the slow fencing-like dueling from the original trilogy and the fast super powered swordplay from the prequel trilogy.

The pacing of the show was constructed well, giving you a nice back and forth between story moments and action scenes. The beginning is mostly trying to establish the mystery of the orb and how they can find Thrawn and Ezra, but they sprinkle good character interactions and fight scenes between that to keep things fresh.

Ahsoka Episode 1: Master and Apprentice was a home run. The characters and everyone's performances are top notch, the fights and how the show is edited keeps things nice and fresh, and it's an intriguing story. It overall made me hyped to see the rest what the show has to offer. If I had to knock one thing, though, you'd better be prepared to Wiki some things if you haven't seen much of Star Wars: Rebels.
  • Interesting story
  • Great performances all around
  • Top notch fight choreography
  • Good callbacks
  • Opening scene was stellar
  • Requires knowledge of previous lore to fully understand plot and character motivations

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