Dave Filoni being described as apprentice to George Lucas is an understatement.
Filoni has served as the head for some of the best-known and well-received Star Wars series including The Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian. Most recently he hit a homerun with Ahsoka, a spin-off of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.
Ahsoka follows the titular character (played again by Rosario Dawson) as she investigates a threat to the galaxy, specifically the possibility of the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen, reprising the role from Rebels). As Ahsoka investigates this threat, a former Jedi named Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sahno) free Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto, reprising her role from The Mandalorian) and set out to find Thrawn, who is rumored to be in another galaxy.
Ahsoka is joined in her quest by her former padawan, Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who is desperate to find Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi), who disappeared into the Unknown Regions with Thrawn about 12 years before this series (as depicted in the series finale of Rebels). Ahsoka and Sabine are aided by Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her young son, Jacen (Evan Whitten), whose Force abilities also start to manifest midway through the season (Jacen’s father is Kanan Jarrus from Rebels). Chopper (again voiced by Filoni) also joins the adventure, namely as Jacen’s protector.
The show can easily be called Rebels Season 5. It continues the story that began in Rebels and even reveals that the final moments of the earlier show, where Sabine narrates an epilogue, takes place during this time. The same departure of Ahsoka and Sabine in Lothal is retold in live action in this series. And with Filoni at the helm, the series feels just like Rebels, just with a live action twist.
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead
The most welcome part of the show featured the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Anakin appears to Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds first introduced in Rebels. This is the first time Anakin and Ahsoka have appeared in live action together. The reunion starts in episode four and is the focus of episode five.
Anakin tells Ahsoka he is there to finish her training. While Ahsoka thinks it’s too late, Anakin coyly reminds her there is always more to learn. Anakin even refers to Ahsoka as “Snips” and hearing Hayden saying that word is enough for a tear or two.
As part of Ahsoka’s training, Ahsoka experiences flashback to the Clone Wars. Fans of the animated series are finally treated to seeing that show in live action, and Hayden looks exactly like Anakin did in early seasons of the animated show. Hayden also excels in bringing the personality of Matt Lanter’s Anakin to his portrayal, often sounding just like animated Anakin and trying to teach Ahsoka the best he can.
Throughout the flashbacks and the lightsaber duel between master and apprentice, Anakin frequently changes forms between Anakin and Darth Vader. This suggests that although Anakin was redeemed, Vader is still part of him. However, this portrayal suggests Anakin has tamed Vader and is able to control him and not let Vader consume him.
Major Spoilers End Here
After episode five, the series focuses on the two groups (Ahsoka & Sabine and Baylan, Shin & Morgan) headed to the Unknown Reaches in search of Thrawn and Ezra. Thrawn’s appearance in live action lives up to the hype and furthers the show living up to Rebels. With Mikkelsen reprising his role from Rebels, hearing his gravely voice as Thrawn cements the character in his live action debut.
The reunion between Sabine and Ezra is right up there with the Anakin/Ahsoka reunion and is a beautiful moment in Star Wars. For fans of Rebels, it gives closure to the ending of that series.
Most intriguing about the series would be the characters Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati. It is clear Baylan is motivated by something relatively mysterious. Indeed, he hints at what motivates him without outright saying what it is, speaking of a “higher purpose.” Shin appears to have a lust of power on par with other Dark Jedi and Sith, though she does seem to hesitate at moments. The season ends with an unknown future for both characters, in particular Baylan, as his actor, Ray Stevenson, died before Ahsoka’s premiere. However, it seems likely both characters will make an eventual return to Star Wars.
While the end of the season may not be what you were expecting, it does set up the future. At Star Wars Celebration in May, it was confirmed Filoni will write and direct a Star Wars film that will wrap up the events of the live action post-Return of the Jedi series (The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka and the upcoming Skeleton Crew). The ending of this show suggests there is still a lot to come and sets the stage for at least part of that film.