Editor’s Note: Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers about the season finale of “Ahsoka,” “The Jedi, The Witch and the Warlord.”
Although it was billed as a “season finale,” “Ahsoka’s” eighth episode felt like more of a beginning, or rather, a hyperspace jump from the Disney+ streaming series back into the galaxy where it all began, on the big screen.
Those expecting anything approaching closure were surely disappointed, but that was never the plan. Instead, “Ahsoka” did the heavy lifting of locating Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen, nicely inhabiting live-action form after providing his voice in “Star Wars Rebels”) and establishing him as a major threat to the New Republic, as underscored by his ominous parting words, “Long live the Empire.”
In a nice bit of symmetry, the finale, coyly subtitled “The Jedi, the Witch and the Warlord,” landed nine years to the day after the premiere of “Rebels,” the animated series that laid most of the groundwork for what Dave Filoni (an architect of Lucasfilm animation) and Jon Favreau have brought to these live-action shows.
Of course, “Rebels” launched the year before Lucasfilm embarked on the latest “Star Wars” movie trilogy with “The Force Awakens,” only to see a kind of paralysis set in after the stand-alone title “Solo: A Star Wars Story” fell short of box-office expectations.
Eager to establish its streaming service, Lucasfilm parent Disney funneled its “Star Wars” projects toward Disney+, including not just “The Mandalorian” but Ewan McGregor’s return as “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which had been initially planned as a theatrical release.
In a sense, the padawan has become the master with “Ahsoka,” which has set up a cast of characters and villains that create ample opportunities for what comes next. The only dour note involves the unexpected death of actor Ray Stevenson, who quickly turned Jedi-turned-mercenary Baylan Skoll into a fascinating villain. (Despite the digital trickery used to revive characters, the wise move would be to recast the role.)
The finale certainly didn’t scrimp on action, with the striking image of Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson), Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Ezra (Eman Esfandi) wielding lightsabers side by side in a battle against a unit of zombie stormtroopers, which, from a cultural perspective, felt like it violated the old “Ghostbusters” warning not to cross the streams.
Ahsoka also engaged in an extended duel with the witch Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), certainly one of the better choreographed fight scenes the series produced.
Lucasfilm has announced that Filoni is slated to direct a “Star Wars” movie derived from this corner of the galaxy, and it felt clear early on that “Ahsoka” was designed to feed those ambitions and fill a void in the “Star Wars” timeline.
“Let’s try the front door,” Ahsoka said, with customary bravado as she, Sabine and Ezra rode into battle to try to stop Thrawn’s escape.
For a while, “Star Wars” appeared to have lost the key to the door that leads to movie theaters. Time will tell (and the pacing could still stand to improve a bit), but after this highly entertaining eight-episode ride, “Ahsoka” might just have kicked it open.