If you’re like me, you may have watched the first two episodes of Ahsoka and thought, “That was fine.” And according to Rotten Tomatoes, there are likely a lot of you like me. Currently, season 1 of Ahsoka has scored just 78% with audiences despite scoring a much higher 89% with critics.
To be honest, I’m not sure there’s anything egregiously wrong about the show even if I don’t agree with some of the decisions creator Dave Filoni has made. But after thinking about it all weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a serious problem with the show. And it’s a problem that’s all the more vivid in my mind because I think it’s something that Andor got completely right.
The problem? So far, Ahsoka doesn’t feel compelling unless you’ve seen Star Wars Rebels.
Obviously, having some — or even a lot of connective tissue between Ahsoka and Star Wars Rebels makes sense. This is, in essence, a Rebels sequel. I even said in my Ahsoka primer for Tom’s Guide that Star Wars Rebels will really matter over the course of season 1. But even with that caveat, the first two episodes feel overly reliant on having seen Rebels to the point where it is detrimental to the show. And Ahsoka will need to fix this issue in episode 3 if it wants to be must-watch TV going forward.
Ahsoka’s reliance on Rebels is hurting the show
Remember how I said that I thought Andor got this problem completely right? That’s because, at its core, you don’t need to know anything about Star Wars to enjoy Andor. Yes, it helps if you’ve seen Rogue One and are already familiar with Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, but it's not necessary viewing for the show to be compelling. His relationship with his mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw) feels compelling from the start and you immediately are drawn into why his story is worth watching.
I actually really liked Rosario Dawson’s performance as Ahsoka Tano through two episodes, but I can’t say I find the show compelling. Not without having seen the entire runs of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels multiple times. The threat Thrawn poses and Ahsoka’s relationships with Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) don’t need to be fully fleshed out immediately, but they do need to feel compelling and earned. And so far, the inclusion of these characters and storylines largely feels like fan service to the truly devoted.
In particular, Ahoska’s relationships with Sabine and Hera feel shallow so far. Sabine and Ahsoka clearly have some history, but what that history is exactly is largely glossed over. I can’t tell if Ahsoka merely felt Sabine couldn’t be taught to be a Jedi, or if something far deeper is behind their rift. My current theory is that Ahsoka stopped Sabine from saving her family during the Empire’s destruction of Mandalore, but as far as the show is concerned, their fallout could have come down to mere friction between friends who chafed at having a working relationship.
But while Ahsoka’s relationship with Sabine feels surprisingly shallow, Ahsoka’s relationship with Hera almost feels ancillary. Hera feels like she could be completely replaced by a new character and hardly feels like one of the show’s main characters. It's clear that they know each other, but you don’t get the impression that they were any more than acquaintances from their time in the rebellion against the Empire. The depth of their relationship — and shared trauma — are almost untouched in the two episodes we’ve seen so far. Hera's inclusion almost feels like fan service at this point, though I’m hopeful it will go beyond that as the season progresses.
Ahsoka can fix this problem with an excellent episode 3
While Ahsoka’s lack of compelling, deep characters, relationships and storylines is a serious problem so far, I truly believe that it can be fixed. In fact, I think it can even be largely fixed in the next episode alone.
And to be fair, while Ahsoka and friends aren’t the most compelling, they aren’t the only characters in the show. Baylan Skoll (the late Ray Stevenson) and his apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) got my attention from the first scene of the show and I’m already invested in learning more about them and their relationship. Morgan’s reveal as a surviving Nightsister of Dathomir and her relationship with Thrawn also has me intrigued.
The reason why these newer (and in some cases outright new) characters might seem more interesting and fleshed out? Because Filoni cannot rely on existing Star Wars canon to flesh them out. Both casual viewers and fans need to be convinced to care about those three villains.
If Ahsoka can replicate with its heroes what it’s already done with its villains, this show could truly take a turn toward greatness. But to do that, it will need to do what Andor did and become a show accessible to those new to Star Wars, or more casual fans, rather than those of us who already know the backstory that Star Wars Rebels provides.