The best storytellers have learned a thing or two about managing those risks. When to divulge something to the audience is arguably as important at times as what’s being divulged: giving up the ghost too soon could result in a bit of confusion or wasting what could’ve been an even grander reveal for later in the narrative. This doesn’t mean in any way that I’m opposed to the occasional loose ends, unanswered questions, and/or twist endings; rather, it’s merely a statement of fact, a cautionary tip to those spinning yarns that it helps knowing when it’s right to tell viewers information versus showing it to them. Hollywood is very good at one thing, and not so good at others: can you tell which is which?
Now, Ahsoka is in the best hands it could possibly be in. Dave Filoni knows more about this particular iteration of the mythology than probably does anyone. The upside to this is that he should be able to put the pieces together in such a way that all of an unfolding series functions properly. The downside is that his familiarity might occasionally have him using shorthand that not everyone in the viewing audience understands.
This is where I think Ahsoka’s second episode – “Part Two: Toil And Trouble” – is. The audience is trapped at a narrative crossroads where we’re probably struggling a bit with what we know versus what we don’t. I’m not sure that this bodes well for the future of the franchise – has it grown too cumbersome with the adherence to canon, or are the showrunners concealing a bigger endgame for fear of spoiling the brew – but answers had better start dropping a bit more quickly, lest Star Wars perish in the resulting doom and gloom.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessarily solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of person who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the episode’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Ahsoka and General Hera Syndulla travel to New Republic shipyards and make an unexpected discovery.”
So … right after the conclusion of “Part Two: Toil And Trouble” and the curiously-sounding ‘Game Of Thrones knock-off’ end music began to play, the wifey turned to me and asked, “Well, what did you think of that episode?”
To my utter surprise, I felt absolutely nothing. I had – literally – nothing to say. For all of the flash and sizzle and all of the pomp and circumstance, this second installment – the very one that had so many online critics saying was better than the first part – just felt flat. Unimportant. Uninvolved. A bit of set-up here, and no payoff in the investment there. Some interesting characters added to the mix, but they end the less-than-hour incarcerated … so?
And I told my wife: “I seriously have nothing to say about it.”
That’s where I’m at with Ahsoka.
Sadly, I’ve no real investment (yet) with these characters. Oh, they’re doing good work – this is not a complaint about their respective interpretations and/or deliveries: this is about the weakness of the narrative and the fact that I’m being given little substantive reason to care about their individual and/or collective fates. If I don’t care – if I minimally don’t have that smallest of emotional investments – then I don’t find the journey they’re taking me on significant much less interesting. As they’re (cough cough) marquee names, I know that they’re not going to be killed off and/or sacrificed at this point in the process, so it’s hard to even get nervous about the risks they’re taking … unless I’m given more.
We’ve no functional idea why Morgan Elsbeth (played by Diana Lee Inosanto) desires a reunion with Grand Admiral Thrawn. We’ve no functional idea how she convinced Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) to join up with her in this undefined quest. We’ve no idea why a former Jedi – a fallen Jedi? A dark jedi? A sith? – would collaborate with a known enemy to the New Republic, an organization he likely originally pledged to serve. We’ve no idea how and/or why Skoll has an apprentice (‘Shin Hati’ as played by Ivanna Sakhno) and why the two of them are apparently so evil and/or bloodthirsty. We’ve no idea why or how Tano thinks that finding Ezra Bridger might somehow avert an all-new outbreak of galactic violence. We’ve no idea why Sabine Wren is hellbent on recovering Ezra as well except for maybe rekindling the familial bonds. We’ve no idea why it is that the New Republic can’t seem to keep anyone behind bars. We’ve no idea where any of this is, ultimately, going … do we?
So … in the absence of any information, I’m left with feeling – literally – no attachment to any of this.
Oh, it’s well produced. It looks good. It sounds good. The details are top notch, there’s no argument there. As I said in my review of episode one, Filoni is a bit of a Jedi Master at cultivating an aesthetic that looks part and parcel of that galaxy far, far away. While I’m not quite won over with his ability to pick up and carry the torch for this universe, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and give him an honest chance … but, seriously, is this the best he can do? This story is flat when it’s not confusing, and unless there are some A-N-S-W-E-R-S coming very soon – answers that both support and further the narrative in a way that’s enriching – I’ve now got a bad feeling about this.
As I alluded to above, some of these shortcomings may result from the fact that Filoni’s firsthand knowledge of the people and places he’s crafted might be working against him with the audience here. Juggling the established canon and putting characters through their paces is never an easy task, and “Toil And Trouble” – with its rather obvious allusions to Shakespeare – feels like its trying to portray an epic scale to all of this that I’m just not seeing, not matter how hard it tries. It’s a square peg, and the writing is trying to force it into a round whole. Were there more substance present – or if there were a clearer sense of directions and motivations – it might not feel this disconnected.
And yet … it does.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I’m beholden to no one to provide a review of Star Wars: Ahsoka streaming series as I’m presently a subscriber to Disney+ … which might be changing in the future as their programming has really gotten a bit stale.