Well … I hate jumping into the midst of controversy, folks, I really do. As many of you know, I do preach that it deserves being avoided, despite what positive effects it could propose as potential ‘click bait’ tactics to bolster one’s marketshare on the Information Superhighway. I don’t always avoid the politics of blogging in this space, but I have always made a concerted effort that – when I do jump into the fray – I minimally try to offer something fresh to the debate, hoping that you’ll see my two cents as an honest contribution and not some attempt to fan the flames.
Now … that said … it’s pretty clear that in certain circles, Ahsoka’s fourth episode – “Fallen Jedi” – kinda/sorta did set the world on fire, and I’m sorry but I’m standing clearly on the side of the folks who don’t quite understand why. Despite some pretty graphics and tightening of pace here and there, I saw the 40 minutes as more of the same underwhelming potboiling. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that the Peter Ramsey-directed installment felt more like a creative misdirect than it did anything else.
Ok … buckle up.
Here’s the episode’s plot summary as provided by the folks at IMDB.com:
“Hera risk her career to help her friends while Ahsoka and Sabine confront enemies.”
I’ve always had a bugaboo about stories that aren’t specifically if not painstaking clear as to what their central point is. Just this morning, I kinda/sorta ribbed an otherwise very affectionate and heartwarming time travel flick – Aporia (reviewed here) – for taking me on a journey of discovery only then to let me down by not specifically showing me an effective conclusion. What the writer/director does is end with a smile, and – despite evidence to the contrary – I believe it was implied that all of the characters received a happy ending. But without being shown that absolute reality – the entire film was structured around changing the flow of events – I’m left to assume that the lead (the lovely Judy Greer) was justly rewarded by a forgiving universe.
My problem with that is – as a person who is presently alive – I know all too well that our universe is many, many things; but I’d stop short of calling it ‘forgiving.’ Arguably, it’s incredibly unforgiving to those who make a general mess of things – as the characters within Aporia do – so I resent the ambiguity of the conclusion. I accept that the lady found happiness; I just don’t know what shape happiness took. And that matters. It matters greatly given what steps to took to subvert the natural order of things, but I don’t want to get too far into the weeds.
Even titling an episode “Fallen Jedi” leaves a lot for me to dissect. Who? Who is the fallen Jedi of which I’m being directed? Is it Ahsoka? Well, again, I hate to split hairs, but she walked away from the Jedi and the Jedi Order, so why are we merely granting her Jedi status yet again in this universe? The audience has been treated to a small handful of speeches by her as to how wrongheaded the Jedi have been, so … does she even consider herself a Jedi?
Okay, okay, okay … if the fallen Jedi isn’t Ahsoka, then who is it? Baylan? Well – again, sorry with the hairs – he’s not a fallen Jedi as he, too, pretty much walked away from his responsibility of dispensing justice in the universe with the fall of the entire Jedi Order, and he shackled his cart to the villains’ horses … so is that really fallen? He could’ve taken a stand but chose not to, and I’m not inclined to start giving him a ‘free pass’ to get out of galactic jail at this point, not with all that he’s apparently done and is doing.
Okay, okay, okay … if the fallen Jedi isn’t Ahsoka and it isn’t Baylan, then who is it? Anakin? Anakin Skywalker? The guy that the movies pretty much showed he brought balance to the Force? That guy? He doesn’t show up until the final moments of the episode, brings nothing to the narrative other than a bit of an M. Night Shyamalan twist ending, and … what? Is that ‘dark Anakin’? Is that what you’re referring to, Mr. Filoni, because you ending the installment musically with Darth Vader’s theme, so that’s the only truly fallen Jedi I can detect in the adventure.
Now, I understand fully that there are many who critique television and movies who like engaging in such mental gymnastics. What can I say other than I’m not one of them? If you don’t have the gumption and/or the desire to pony up some authentic story and storytelling within each episode of an ongoing serial, then maybe episodic television really isn’t your strong point. I know that’s not the case with Filoni – I’ve seen him do some very, very, very respectable work on The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars: The Bad Batch – but I’m seriously at a complete, total, and utter loss to understand where he’s at with this incarnation and where he might be taking us.
Yes, yes, and yes: I’ve watched enough video reviews to fully grasp that this might be precisely where the storyteller wants you to be. As I said, this is my two cents, and – frankly – this is what’s been plaguing me with Ahsoka since the first episode, that being … it appears directionless.
Often times, writers will engage in such misdirection – mystery writers, in particular, love to insert McGuffins and plot twists to keep viewers guessing as to whom the guilty culprit could be – and the results could be good, bad, or middling. With Ahsoka, I’m strongly sensing an incredible amount of mismanagement, though, as developments either aren’t organic to what’s come before (hello, smoke creature Marrok), what’s been established in canon (hello, world between worlds), or what’s remotely plausible (hello, just about everything else that doesn’t quite add up). Folks, I’m no Filoni hater – I’ve mentioned before that I’ll agree if anyone deserves the chance to right this sinking enterprise it might be him – but this show is feeling more and more like a two-hour movie bloated out to an eight-hour series … and for absolutely no valid reason.
Sorry, too, to all of those who proclaim that actress Rosario Dawson is doing a fabulous job with the material because – again – I’m just not seeing it. Her delivery is particularly stilted – so much so that I’d have to insist she’s been instructed to deliver both her dialogue and her fight scenes with decidedly leaden effort – and it’s ruining what I thought was an otherwise interesting side character. (I do agree with many who question if this program was, functionally, even necessary; that, too, may not be answerable until we arrive at its ultimate destination.) There’s no sense of urgency to the character on any level. She seems to be going through the moral motions only because someone has to, which leaves me to ask, “Was no one else a bit more interesting available?”
Also, I have to throw just a touch of shade on all of the praise being afforded the late actor Ray Stevenson. (Bite your tongue, haters, and let me make my point.) While I think the man was an immeasurable talent who left our world far too soon, can someone please explain to me why I should give a player major kudos when looking like he’s downright Shakespearean while be paired up with planks of wood? Of course, I’m glad he showed up for work and isn’t phoning it in, but even his delivery in places only begs the question as to what is his true motivation as a villain especially when he claims he’s only doing this for the good of the galaxy? Who defines good? The guy who joined some dark players in order to advance his agenda? Or the guy who apparently walked away and hid while his brothers and sisters were felled in the execution of Order 66? Didn’t we just cheer Hera for pointing out something thematically similar to a New Republic senator? Why are we giving Baylan Skoll a pass? Because we like him?
Has anyone called New Republic Child Services on Hera for her unauthorized ‘take your child to work day’ excursion? Are we not concerned about toting the young’un into battle, or is that perfectly acceptable ‘girl power’ on display?
Has there been a more useless droid in the Outer Rim than Huyang? At least C3PO convinced the Ewoks that they were better off helping the Rebels defeat the Empire. Plus: great comic relief.
At spending an alleged $25M per episode, could we really have not come up with a better line than “going somewhere?” In case you missed it, that’s what Shin confronted Ahsoka and Sabine with in the forest before swords were drawn and blood (erm … smoke?) was spilled.
Does the New Republic employ so few X-Wing fighter pilots that Captain Carson Teva must appear in every show? Good grief? What? Are there only twelve space jockeys on staff? No wonder the Sequel Trilogy undid this useless New Republic so quickly. Even I know better than that, and I’ve never been to space!
Lastly … and I do mean lastly … why was it that the magical ball/map only burned Ahsoka? Sabine touched it. She’s fine. Baylan touched it. He’s fine. Why is it damn near everyone else can get their hands on the thing without being harmed? Again … is that a misdirect … or is something more at work?
I just don’t know.
As I hope you can see, I’m downright befuddled by this show and – to a small degree – both sides of its reception. I can see strengths and weaknesses in every scene, and I can only hope against hope that (cough cough) Anakin’s arrival might help shine a bit of light on just what the maker has intended for this whole, galaxy-hopping affair … because right now? I haven’t a clue.
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.