This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
The two-episode premiere of Ahsoka did a solid job of evoking classic Star Wars while setting the stage for a new story. A large part of what worked in “Master and Apprentice” and “Toil and Trouble” was the relationship between Ahsoka and Sabine. Their history and the question of whether they can repair their relationship and move forward with Sabine’s training is the emotional core of the story.
“Time to Fly” continues to center Ahsoka and Sabine and they finally begin to interact as Ahsoka attempts to adjust the way she approaches Sabine’s training. Despite the satisfying character progression and more solid action set pieces, Ahsoka once again leans on allusions and references to previous scenes in Star Wars canon. It’s beginning to feel like the show doesn’t have much to offer other than playing the hits.
After two episodes where Ahsoka and Sabine were mostly apart and talking about their past together with other characters, “Time to Fly” has them interacting almost exclusively with each other. It’s a welcome change and the training sequence provides insight into why they failed as master and apprentice in the past. Sabine is convinced that she’s a lost cause as a padawan and Ahsoka struggles to find a way to lead Sabine to an understanding that talent in the force is not the sole factor in determining her future as a Jedi. In fact, after Huyang dunks on Sabine again and says that she would never have been chosen for training by the old Jedi council Ahsoka states plainly that she doesn’t want Sabine to be a Jedi.
Ahsoka’s past as someone who left the Jedi Order should position her to be the best person to train Sabine. Huyang even calls out that she comes from a long line of “non-traditional” Jedi. I kept expecting Ahsoka to make some reference to this in her conversations with Sabine. Ahsoka’s disillusionment with the Order is a core facet of her character but she brings none of that perspective to her training of Sabine. Instead, she has Sabine train blindly in a scene full of callbacks to Luke’s first training with Obi-Wan. The sequence is competently choreographed and directed but once again the direct references to scenes and lines from the classic films saps some of the energy.
The ensuing dogfight with Shin Hati, Marrick, and their forces fares a little better. In this sequence at least there are some novel ideas. Seeing Ahsoka standing on the wing of her starship and staring down the oncoming fighters is genuinely thrilling. When she somersaults off the ship and slices a ship in half “Time to Fly ” momentarily captures the magic of Star Wars. Having Sabine drop into the gun seat and work to pick off fights is also classic Star Wars but again the parallels are too on the nose. What does work in these moments is how the action nudges forward their partnership. Ahsoka realizes that Sabine needs space to operate in her own way so she meets her halfway and allows her to lead during the firefight.
The action also allows Rosario Dawson an opportunity to play Ahsoka as someone other than a stoic warrior. Dawson is a charming and charismatic performer and she’s finally able to bring that to the role as Ahsoka begins to rekindle her bond with Sabine. With Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang off on their own, there’s a fun dynamic established between Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, and David Tennant. In a different Star Wars media landscape a show with just those three characters traveling and having misadventures could be a fun and breezy little show. Unfortunately, these Disney+ shows currently have the responsibility of carrying the entire franchise’s weight on their shoulders given the lack of big-screen projects.
Outside of the core relationship, “Time to Fly” is a little threadbare. Morgan Elsbeth follows in the time-honored Star Wars villain tradition of building a massive space structure. This time it’s a giant hyperspace ring. Also in classic Star Wars tradition, there is tension in the enemy ranks as Elsbeth and Hati trade barbs. Nothing results from the tension in this episode but it is a thread that was seeded in the previous episode and may signal some interesting turns in the story to come.
The other major scene is General Hera’s conversation with Mon Mothma and the Senate Committee. The Mandalorian has explored how the New Republic’s arrogance and ineptitude ultimately allowed for the rise of The First Order and this scene is another example of that. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does as much as she can with the material but there’s just not enough meat on the bone. After the masterclass of political intrigue that Andor delivered, these brief check-ins with the New Republic provide only surface-level exploration of these themes.
The end of the episode leaves Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang temporarily stranded on Seatos and still in pursuit of the map or some other way of locating Thrawn and Ezra. Baylon Skoll releases a squad of assassin droids to hunt them down, setting up an exciting next episode. “Time to Fly” signals that Dave Filoni and crew are happy to reference the previous highlights of the Star Wars canon and may not be interested in much more.
If Ahsoka and Sabine’s relationship can continue moving forward in a satisfying manner and the action continues to be adeptly handled Ahsoka will be a fine if unremarkable entry into the Star Wars universe. After the retread that the sequel trilogy turned out to be, that would be disappointing. At its best, Ahsoka manages to capture the magic of the universe without lifting things whole cloth and my hope is that it can find more of those moments in the remaining episodes.
Ahsoka airs new episodes on Disney+ every Tuesday
Feature image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
'Ahsoka' 1x03 - 7/10