Ahsoka's Biggest Failure Exposes a Frustrating Dave Filoni Blind Spot
By trying to do everything at once, the latest Star Wars show didn’t focus on anything.
What was Ahsoka about?
From a plot perspective, the Disney+ series centered around the long-awaited returns of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) and Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi). But beyond how it furthers the larger plot of the Mandoverse, what was Ahsoka actually about? Unfortunately, the answer still isn’t clear. Ahsoka Season 1 never offered the kind of thematic clarity that, say, Andor Season 1 does.
The closest Ahsoka gets to a unifying theme is the idea that master-apprentice relationships require trust and sacrifice from both sides. Theoretically, that’s a compelling idea for a show, especially one about a character whose former master fell to the dark side. However, in order for the series to truly explore that idea, it needed to invest far more time into developing its turbulent relationship between Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo).
Before the series began, Sabine and Ahsoka didn’t have much of an established relationship. While they’d interacted throughout Rebels, they’d never formed a noteworthy bond. And instead of picking up with those two characters in the immediate aftermath of their reunion in the Rebels finale, Ahsoka begins several years after their first attempt at a mentor-apprentice relationship failed. Even more confusingly, the reasons for the initial disintegration of their bond aren’t revealed until Ahsoka Episode 8.
In that episode, Huyang (David Tennant) explains that Ahsoka put a stop to Sabine’s Jedi training when she became concerned the loss of her family during the Purge of Mandalore would lead her to the Dark Side. That adds new shades of complexity to Ahsoka and Sabine’s relationship, but not only is it a throwaway line late in the series, it’s the kind of moment that would be far more impactful as a flashback than as a brief monologue from an outside observer.
Ahsoka and Sabine’s bond is supposed to be the emotional core of the show, but Ahsoka herself spends most of her time thinking about her master-apprentice relationship with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Sabine, conversely, spends more time thinking about her eventual reunion with Ezra than her connection to Ahsoka. The series itself feels perpetually torn between relitigating the complicated nature of Anakin’s legacy with blatant fan service and exploring the present-day bond between Ahsoka and Sabine.
For all of its memorable moments, Ahsoka never feels as narratively assured or cohesive as it should. As exciting as it is to see Hayden Christensen get more chances to play Anakin Skywalker, his presence in Ahsoka ultimately did more harm than good. His importance to the actual Mandoverse story Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau are trying to tell is minimal at best, but rather than using its main character’s moments of introspection to develop her relationship with Sabine, Ahsoka frequently shifts its focus back to Anakin.
Imagine, for instance, that the flashbacks in Ahsoka Episode 5 had not been live-action memories from The Clone Wars, but scenes set before and during Ahsoka and Sabine’s original split. How much more clarity and depth would seeing those moments have added to the relationship that’s meant to be the emotional center of Ahsoka? Instead, the Disney+ series chooses to retread well-covered ground. As a result, it squandered its chance to tell a legitimately compelling story about teachers, students, and the fragility of the relationships between them.