Over the course of eight episodes... not a lot really happens in the first season of the Star Wars spinoff Ahsoka. There’s plenty of searching for a map and then getting to the destination on that map, but in a lot of ways, the show felt like moving pieces around on a board, setting them up for future adventures. And yet, I found myself really enjoying it — less for narrative reasons and more because the show leans into the mysticism and mythology of Star Wars in a way that’s often ignored by the plentiful shows and movies. This is a Star Wars story full of witchcraft and folklore — and nowhere is that more apparent than in its finale.
First, a little setup. The first season of Ahsoka has been almost entirely about one thing: a race to find Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), a red-eyed military commander exiled in a different galaxy who has the ability to bring another war in the name of the Empire. Trying to prevent his return is a group led by former Jedi Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson), her reluctant Mandalorian Padawan Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and saucy droid Huyang (David Tennant). On the other side are, well, the dark side of the Force, with master Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin (Ivanna Sakhno), who are working at the behest of the Nightsister Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto).
As is Star Wars tradition, Thrawn’s location on the faraway planet Peridea can only be found if you have the right star map, and so much of the season has been characters jostling back and forth to get it. But that’s all over as we get to the finale (which, it should be noted, has the excellent title of “The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord”). Thrawn is preparing to return to his home galaxy with his army of Night Troopers (stormtroopers but spookier) as soon as they finish loading some unspecified cargo. Sabine is off searching for her friend Ezra (Eman Esfandi), who disappeared alongside Thrawn. And Ahsoka is finally on her way to Peridea after hitching a ride inside of a migrating intergalactic space whale.
Basically, the whole season has been setting up a few key moments that finally happen in this last episode, including Sabine’s heartfelt reunion with Ezra and the inevitable confrontation with Thrawn’s forces.
The finale delivers on all of that — but with some very satisfying magical twists. It starts out predictable enough. First, the trio of Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra have to fight their way past Shin and Skoll (who clearly has some secret ulterior motives) in some solid lightsaber combat that often feels like a sci-fi take on a samurai movie (another Star Wars tradition). But things really get interesting when the group makes its way to Thrawn’s stronghold, where he’s preparing for departure.
They slice their way through some Night Troopers who initially seem just as inept as regular old stormtroopers. Except, we learn, they are seemingly undead, able to come back to life thanks to the magic of the Great Mothers (a trio of really powerful witches). The battle is probably as close as Star Wars will get to zombies (well, unless the novel Death Troopers becomes canon once again). Later, Ahsoka is forced to face off against Elsbeth, who has recently been given new witchy powers from the Great Mothers, which includes giving her a literal flaming sword. It’s a great twist on a lightsaber duel, something we’ve all seen many, many times at this point.
Basically, the episode follows a number of expected Star Wars beats — stormtrooper battle, lightsaber duel, etc. — but makes them more interesting by imbuing everything with a dark, mystical energy. Stormtroopers can’t die; witches have swords covered in green flames. Instead of riding on regular mounts or speeders, everyone gets around on the back of a giant alien wolf. Ahsoka is a story about an attempt to revive an empire, and the plan relies almost entirely on “the old ways” and “magicks.” It’s the stuff of folklore brought to sci-fi life.
This is not to say that Ahsoka did not have issues. The show was very inconsistent with how it treated Sabine’s relationship to the Force, as she seemed to only be able to utilize it when the story called for it. Toward the end, it also relied heavily on viewers already knowing details from past shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels; as someone who hasn’t seen those animated series, I still don’t really understand what exactly makes Thrawn a threat other than his piercing gaze and ability to inspire seemingly every bad guy into giving their life for him. And despite the name, there was surprisingly little development for Ahsoka herself in this series.
Instead, Ahsoka works better in terms of aesthetics and tone than it does with story. At its best, Star Wars makes you feel like there’s a huge universe out there filled with fascinating secrets to uncover, ones dripping with mystery and magic. Ahsoka pulled back the curtain on some of that, particularly when it comes to the Nightsisters, who utilize magic in a way that’s wholly different than the Jedi and Sith. (It’s also not the only Star Wars show that is stronger when it’s moody and mysterious.)
So yes, I may have been confused some of the time, but I’ll trade that knowledge for sweeping views of a former witch kingdom rendered a wasteland, complete with strange statues dotting the landscape and towering sculptures carved into mountains. What was this place like in its glory days? That’s something I’m going to be thinking about a lot. In an earlier episode, the planet is described as “a land of dreams and madness,” which, it turns out, is exactly what I want from Star Wars.
Things will likely change in the future. While a second season hasn’t been confirmed just yet, the first clearly was a setup for more. At this point in the story, almost everyone has changed places: Thrawn is now in his home galaxy intent on wreaking havoc, while Ahsoka and friends are trapped on Peridea. A big focal point of a new season will likely be an actual war — or at least the fight to stop it. Maybe I’ll finally learn why Thrawn is so scary and what happened to Ahsoka’s personality. I just hope the show doesn’t lose its sense of mystery in the process.
The first season of Ahsoka is streaming on Disney Plus now.