Tales of the Empire Never Gives Itself Room to be Great

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Inverse Reviews

When Dave Filoni announced Tales of the Jedi at Star Wars Celebration in 2022, it felt like the world of Star Wars was finally going to shed more light on some of its most underrated characters: Count Dooku and Ahsoka Tano. The animated shorts collection filled in key parts of both of these characters’ backstories, and it was a delightful if short supplement to what we already saw in The Clone Wars.

With the next collection Tales of the Empire, Filoni takes on a different challenge: Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth, the former Nightsister seen in The Mandalorian and Ahsoka; and Barriss Offee, the Jedi who turned against the order and framed Ahsoka for bombing a Jedi Temple in one of the most acclaimed Clone Wars arcs. But while the series is a welcome look into the past and future of these characters, it’s not nearly what these characters deserve.

Unlike Tales of the Jedi, Tales of the Empire tells its two stories one at a time: first, we meet Morgan Elsbeth years before her debut in The Mandalorian Season 2 when she was a survivor of the Dathomiri massacre. Despite everything, she becomes a major ally to the Empire (yes, even running into Thrawn) and becomes the character we first met on Corvis.

Barriss Offee’s story is continued — however briefly — in Tales of the Empire.


Meanwhile, the second half does the opposite. It fills in Barriss Offee’s story from where we left her: locked in a Jedi prison. We see her under the Grand Inquisitor’s tutelage (thankfully voiced by Jason Isaacs once again), and we see her out in the field.

But both of these arcs only consist of three shorts, barely filling 45 minutes. Plus, when you factor in Disney+’s long credit sequences and the Star Wars requisite of one fight scene per episode, that greatly limits the time allotted to each of these characters. It’s hard not to imagine what the collection could have been if it was twice as long or only focused on one of these two characters.

Of course, the series does the absolute most possible with the time it does have. The voice acting is on-point, the animation has never looked better, and the character design of both of these characters feels deliberate, not just the same model with more or fewer wrinkles. Filoni’s writing is snappy as ever, with one-liners that will go down in Star Wars history.

Morgan Elsbeth’s origin story is as brutal and action-packed as her debut.


However, the show always feels like it's holding a breath, leaving most of the interesting worldbuilding in the margins and subtext. It’s only one issue, but it affects every other part of the series. Cameos like Thrawn, the Grand Inquisitor, and Darth Vader are exciting, but there’s no room for them to really do anything except be around. The most surprising appearance is actually a planet, a setting that actually gets to contribute to the plot of the episode. Even the main characters only have time to react to what’s going on directly in front of them, with the character-building moments fleeting but valuable.

While Tales of the Empire is certainly better than nothing, in an era where Ahsoka got an animated series, a Tales spotlight, and a multiple-season, live-action spinoff, it’s hard to imagine what these stories could have been in another format like a comic series or even a novel. Perhaps we’ll see them again in live action (more likely in Morgan’s case than Barriss) but Tales of the Empire feels like a tantalizing taste at what could have been a gorgeous character portrait. These stories deserve a meal, and yet we’re left with a tasting menu.

Tales of the Empire premieres May 4 on Disney+.

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