For whatever reason, the storyteller tends to creatively play his cards very close to his chest, often taking far too much time to make even a simple point. As a consequence, his characters and their motivations tend to remain a bit too nebulous, and this perhaps inadvertently has the audience “filling in the gaps” as the stories go on their merry way. As an example, former Jedi Baylan Skoll has taken the better part of five episodes to remain otherwise downright mysterious as to what his true intentions are, and they’ve now been laid bare (well, to a degree) in Ahsoka’s sixth installment, titled “Far, Far Away.” Apparently if I’m understanding him correctly – and I make no guarantees – Skoll has hitched his existential wagon to Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Nightsisters, and whatever forces of evil exist in the galaxy for the sole purpose of (cough cough) ending the cycle of violence resulting in the ever-changing political regimes of the Outer Rim.
So … his big plan to bring an end to galactic bloodshed is to do … what? Stage one huge, huge, huge Star War to – presumably – end all Star Wars?
Well, good for him.
It would seem that he’s missed the memo that wars tend to breed fanatics. These fanatics can then serve both good and/or evil objectives. In fact, there are many ‘in the know’ who’d cite that war is the single greatest cause leading inevitably to only more war. So … short of disarming this galaxy’s resident population of every conceivable weapon of choice, legislating peace with the enforcement of the death penalty for violating it, and re-educating each and every member of society to think about cause and effect radically opposite to any possible natural survival instinct … how is he truly going to accomplish this laudable goal? Frankly, I doubt even he knows that answer.
This single argument demonstrates the central flaw upon which Filoni’s house of cards has its foundation: there’s just not enough logic. However noble Baylan’s or Shin’s or Thrawn’s or Ahsoka’s or Sabine’s intentions may be, there remains an undercurrent of naivety – call it ‘blissful ignorance,’ if you will – that dooms every character. And this doesn’t seem to be improving. That may be growing clearer – as certainly this sixth episode finally shed light (as I said) on Baylan’s possible end game or strategy – but that doesn’t have it making any more sense.
Furthermore, I’ve stressed that since this show’s beginning I don’t understand the ‘Rebels’ insistence that only Ezra Bridger can fix this situation. Yes, yes, and yes: I ask this question knowing full well that it was Bridger who sent Thrawn and his ship and crew into this distant quarter of space. Following that train of thought, am I to assume that once the blue intellect returns to known space, is it their intention to have Ezra simply do it again? Send the enemy back into the black void? Where’s the logic in that? Won’t he just return again, making us as the audience have to endure yet one more ‘cycle of violence’ when Thrawn returns yet a second time? A third time? A fourth time?
Why not just get there to Peridea and kill the bastard?
Look, I’m all for more Star Wars instead of less Star Wars, folks. All one need do is take a gander at my site – SciFiHistory.Net – to grasp just how fully I’m committed to the galaxy far, far away. Yes, I’ve had problems with the Sequel Trilogy and the subsequent TV adventures, but – to varying degrees – each has offered me something of value. It might be a trait as negligible as being ‘entertaining,’ but I’ve often written about some of the best experiences in all of entertainment history have no greater impact than being e-n-t-e-r-t-a-i-n-i-n-g. Some of my favorite shows and movies and books and radio programs are entertaining. They’re not necessarily smart. They’re not necessarily good. Yet, I’m entertained by them. But, at some cosmic level, it still has to make sense … and Ahsoka doesn’t.
I’ve also often pointed out that I find difficult in reviewing episodic yarns. As I demonstrated above, some characters’ motivations and true purpose in the expanding tale aren’t known until later in the piece; this often produces the unintended consequence of having me dislike small moments that don’t appear legitimate in the time and place that we originally see them, and it isn’t until some fact is uncovered later in the series’ run that delivers the required epiphany. Given Filoni’s propensity for playing those cards the way he does, I’m willing to hold out hope that this tactic may be spoiling a good deal of my time with Ahsoka in real time. Who knows? By Episode 8, all of us may be convinced that he’s the Second Coming that the media is trying to convince us he is.
As to the rest of “Far, Far Away?”
Thankfully, the central villains appear to have finally emerged from the chaos. Without question, the Nightsisters are behind a great deal of the shenanigans; and Thrawn – long promised – has finally shown his blue face.
Back in junior high school, I had the misfortune of being cast to play the villain in a rather popular stage play adaptation of something making the rounds through the education system. Initially, I was gobsmacked. A villain? Me? Why, I’m the nicest guy around! Everyone loves me! How can I play someone that produces boos and hisses from the audience? In fact, it wasn’t until the director – one of my favorite teachers from my youth – explained to me that good stories need not just any villain but a grand, convincing performance from a key player in order to function. Because I was a bit of a class clown, he thought I had the chops to do the role justice. And he was right, I must say.
Consequently, it goes without saying that seeing Thrawn should arguably be this series’ selling point.
Though the sentiment across the Information Superhighway seems to be very positive with his reveal, I was a bit underwhelmed, in all honesty. I won’t go into the physical aspects of a somewhat portly and pasty make-up job because, again, this might eventually be explained by a turn of phrase or development yet forthcoming. But seeing him in the flesh only reminded me of the immense difficulty of translating a mostly cerebral villain onto the silver screen: what works in print may suffer dramatic ‘shifting in flight’ with the shadows, light, and fog. No. Most definitely no. He wasn’t big enough. He wasn’t bold enough. He wasn’t brash enough to be the Grand Admiral I’ve know in literature, nor did he exhibit the presence of one who could bend the knee of the Nightsisters. Without knowing more of the struggle he’s endured in the years since being forced to this galaxy (which could very well have accounted for his loss of luster), I seriously don’t know what to make of this Thrawn … but he’s less than I expected.
Again, I understand perfectly well that he and his were essentially jettisoned to Peridea against their collective will, but have they been doing nothing but hanging out and repairing their armor with red duct tape since their arrival? Why, Ezra Bridger was hiding on the same damn planet below, and they’ve never been able to find him in a decade … and yet Sabine Wren just practically stumbles across him in only a matter of hours? Erm … exactly how potent (or not) is that Nightsister magic? Why couldn’t they locate him but can otherwise seemingly communicate vast, cosmological distances supernaturally?
This is the problem with magic, of which the Force is not included.
Magic can be used to prop up whatever good or bad elements are already there in the plot when it’s conceived. Because magic knows no logical end, the downside to introducing it is that it’ll have smart viewers constantly rethinking not only what’s happening but also what’s come before and why (or why not) it wasn’t able to make things right baring any rational explanation. For example, the Nightsisters were apparently offended by a Jedi stench coming off Sabine; well, why not the same for Skoll and his apprentice, Shin? Since midichlorians can be practically in any living being, why not anyone else? Shouldn’t everyone stink? Clearly, the magic has limitations. It hasn’t harnessed any space whales to return Thrawn to his home galaxy. It hasn’t revealed the secret hiding place of Ezra Bridger. But, boy, it can sure sniff out a Jedi!
Now, this isn’t to suggest that “Far, Far Away” lacked some nice elements.
Peridea – a new world within the wider Star Wars mythology – was well designed. Its ‘space whales’ graveyard’ set of rings around the planet was a nifty touch, but it did leave me wondering exactly why the purgill do this. (This naturally assumes that Filoni has some explanation, and that it isn’t magic.) The horse/wolf creature that Sabine rides around trying to find Ezra was clever; while I didn’t quite understand why she thought it would blindly follow her wherever she wanted to go (horses don’t work that way, Dave) was a bit off to me, but that’s small potatoes. And the intelligent crab species of hermits that Bridger has taken to hiding out with produced a few chuckles here and there, even though I couldn’t quite understand why some were simply lying in wait for Sabine to discover them … other than a screenwriter’s convenience.
Therein lies the biggest problem with far too much of Ahsoka: events are transpiring far too conveniently and not organically. We’re an astonishing six episodes in, and – to some degree – we’re still asking questions. Answers had better be coming soon, as there are only two installments left.
Last but not least: is it weird that Ahsoka – as a show – works better when Ahsoka herself is not in it?
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.