Ahsoka on Disney+ review: Star Wars finds its heart again

Rosaria Dawson as Ahsoka  (Disney+/PA)
Rosaria Dawson as Ahsoka (Disney+/PA)

We were first introduced to Ahsoka Tano in 2008, in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, she quickly became a favourite among die-hard devotees. An “if you know, you know” character that only those who had watched the cartoon spin-offs, read the comics and maybe even played the video games would love. In fact, among this group, Ahsoka is commonly referred to as one of the most crucial, under-the-radar figures in the franchise – and it’s easy to see why.

With ties to Anakin Skywalker (he was her former master), the Empire-defying Rebel Alliance (she was one of their founding members) and kinship with Grogu (she’s a fellow Jedi who introduced Baby Yoda to Luke Skywalker), she’s exists in a prime intersection of Star Wars lore.  So when Disney announced her first ever solo adventure in live-action form in 2018, many had high hopes for the new series.

Despite being part of a canon only known to the most committed Star Wars fan, the series Ahsoka does a good job of world building to bring newbies up to speed without sacrificing pace. Played perfectly by Rosario Dawson, the first episode immediately imbued her gravitas and badass-ery – fighting off killer drones four on one before outrunning an atomic-esque explosion.

She’s equally matched by Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), a purple-haired mandalorian rebel soldier with an aversion for rules who debuts in a breakneck motorcycle chase. Together they quickly establish a padawan/ master (or apprenticeship for non Star Wars fans) dynamic that alone could uphold the show. But this has so much more going for it.

Take the bad guys, a beguiling set of former Jedis and an ancient witch who spend the first two episodes in a cat-and-mouse chase to secure a map that will reveal the missing Grand Admiral Thrawn’s location. Referred to as “the most brilliant of the Emperor’s minions” and the apparent “Heir to the empire”, his foreboding presence overhangs these episodes.

Moreover, with Lars Mikkelsen reprising his role as Thrawn (he voiced the blue-faced, red-eyed villain in Star Wars Rebels) it’s likely to be a huge payoff when he finally appears. Especially as this news got the loudest applause at a panel earlier this year promoting the Ahsoka show.

In the first two episodes available to review there’s no filler, with all attention put towards developing this core set up. It’s Star Wars, so it can be a little cheesy at points, especially during droid Huyang’s pep talks. However the epic and unnerving score by Kevin Kiner helps keep it grounded.

All in all it has potential, and is already much better than other limited series like Obi-Wan Kenobi and the last season of The Mandalorian. Best of all, with Ahsoka having trained under Anakin Skywalker (and a Hayden Christensen cameo confirmed), and last seen dropping in on a training session with Grogu and Luke Skywalker in Bobba Fett – there’s plenty of room to cross over with the franchise’s most beloved characters.

Ahsoka is available on Disney+ from August 23