Ahsoka Episode 1 and 2 Recap: “What Makes Someone Ready?”

Ahsoka searches a temple for a map of the galaxy
Photo Courtesy Disney+/Screenshot

The following recap contains spoilers for Ahsoka Episode 1, “Master and Apprentice” (written and directed by Dave Filoni) and Episode 2 “Toil and Trouble” (written by Dave Filoni and directed by Steph Green). Some elements of the Star Wars Rebels series are also discussed in this recap.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

The greater Star Wars universe is no stranger to broad, wide-ranging experiments. Even as early as 1977’s A New Hope, George Lucas and his predecessors have been asking audiences to accept and enjoy the concept of a space opera focused on a mysterious life force that can be controlled by only a few and seen by no one.

But the stakes that creator Dave Filoni has placed on the new Disney+ show, Ahsoka, might be Star Wars’ most ambitious experiment to date.

Ahsoka creates a plan to retrieve the map
Photo courtesy Disney+/Screenshot

For the first two and a half decades of its existence, the Star Wars canon was almost exclusively movies. There were various novels and comic books written to fill in some of the more intriguing gaps from the original trilogy, but most of those were wiped out as canon when George Lucas sold the rights to Disney in 2012. Movies continued to be churned out after the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy at the turn of the 21st century. An up-and-down sequel trilogy from 2015–2019 followed, a Han Solo stand-alone movie is something that exists, and the story of the Rogue One crew brought the movie total to 11 before 2020 arrived.

Those 11 films make up a whole connected universe themselves, and someone who might be a connoisseur of the Star Wars movies undoubtedly has seen the hype (or at least the marketing push) the Disney machine has put behind Ahsoka in recent months. But Ahsoka is decidedly something different.

Even if you are someone who can name every lightsaber color and midichlorian count of each Jedi in the Star Wars movies, you will not recognize a single character in Ahsoka. If you tuned in to see the two-episode premiere on August 22 (“Master and Apprentice” and “Toil and Trouble”) and thought you were in good shape to consume some Star Wars content, you come away thinking there are a lot more (animated) corners of the Star Wars universe out there that you will need to explore.

Dave Filoni and his team are counting on it.

In a number of ways, the eight-episode first season of Ahsoka is the culmination of 15 years of Star Wars work for Filoni. Beginning with 2008’s animated series The Clone Wars, continuing through Star Wars Rebels of the mid-2010s, and most recently connecting through various Disney+ television shows (such as The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett), Ahsoka looks to be the first binding string to tie these various properties together into massive cinematic events.

Filoni and partner Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2) have admitted they want Star Wars to be the “clamoring of characters” on the level of an Avengers event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Considering the broad connection that former Jedi Ahsoka has to so much of the larger Star Wars universe, Tuesday’s premiere episodes were a large step in the right direction.

The timeline of Ahsoka takes place five years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, where the Empire has been defeated and the New Republic is in the process of working through its own version of reconstruction and government-building. But that is simply the backdrop for the main thrust of the plot which is a continuation of events that happened at the end of the animated series Star Wars Rebels. In that series, which ended in year 0 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope), upstart rebel and Jedi Ezra Bridger vanishes to unknown parts of the galaxy alongside Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn, a master military tactician and strategist for the Empire.

Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati listen to Lady Morgan
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For Ahsoka (played by Rosario Dawson) and the other rebels who remain, searching for Bridger has always been something they wanted to do after the Empire problem was solved. The scattered remnants of the evil Empire including Lady Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Insanto, reprising her role from an episode of The Mandalorian), are also motivated to find their former Admiral. They believe he can help reorganize the remaining Imperial pieces and lead them into another war to regain their power.

Lady Morgan assembles her team to hunt for Thrawn, including a former Jedi-turned-mercenary named Baylan Skoll (played by Ray Stevenson, who sadly passed away in May of this year) and an unknown but deadly apprentice, Shin Hati (played by Ivanna Sakhno). Together with an inquisitor named Marrok, they join in a search to locate Thrawn.

Ahsoka, along with her droid Huyang from The Clone Wars series, begins to put the rebels band back together for their own reunion-tour search and rescue mission. Joining Ahsoka from their journeys together in Star Wars Rebels are General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a gifted pilot and warrior who was responsible for many victories leading up to the defeat of the Empire, and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), a Mandalorian skilled fighter who also has expertise in art as well as weapons and technology.

sabine wren holds the map orb
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The MacGuffin in this pair of episodes that both sides seek is an orb that carries a map to the supposed location of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Apparently, the Star Wars team got a bulk discount on map and map technology at the Hollywood prop store, as this is now three tentpole projects that have seen a map or piece of a map at the center of the plot’s movement. Both The Force Awakens (R2-D2 holds a piece of the map that will uncover Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts) and The Rise of Skywalker (who can forget Kylo Ren’s Wayfinder that is used to locate Darth Sidious?) feature maps as crucial elements of the story. I get it, I guess. The galaxy is a big place and if you don’t have the latest map app installed on your communication device, you’re likely to get lost.

After Ahsoka recovers the orb from a temple on the planet of Arcana, she seeks out Hera and Sabine for help in unlocking it to uncover the data inside. It’s here we begin to see some of the cracks in the foundation of relationships that were built over the final episodes of Rebels. The final scene from that series shows Ahsoka taking on Sabine Wren as her Padawan/traveling companion as they begin their hunt for Ezra Bridger.

In the roughly 10 years that have passed since that time, there has clearly been some kind of falling out between the two, and the show does a decent job of showing us and not telling us about the details of that fracture. Surely this will be explored in future episodes, but in Episodes 1 and 2, I was struck by how robotic and emotionless both were to one another considering their warm past.

Sabine reluctantly agrees to try and uncover the secrets of the orb and is able to decipher how to unlock the map. But she is almost immediately ambushed by Shin Hati and her assassin droids. It’s here we see that Sabine has received at least some Jedi training and is capable with a lightsaber (she has claimed Ezra’s old weapon as her own) but is easily dispatched by the more mature, force-sensitive foe.

Before they left with the orb, Sabine was able to take down one droid and she is able to track its previous locations and provide space detectives Ahsoka and Hera with a location where they might look for some clues as to where Lady Morgan, Baylan, and Shin Hati would be going. Ahsoka and Hera find their way to an old starship recovery yard that has not-so-secretly been serving as an Imperial parts store, where splintered factions can salvage pieces needed to rebuild parts of the Empire’s infrastructure.

Hera inspects a parts factory with Ahsoka
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It’s here that Lady Morgan has commissioned a hyperspace drive to be delivered to an outer area of the galaxy, where she is assembling a ship to travel to the far reaches of the known universe to find Thrawn. Hera and Rebels-era, fan-favorite droid Chopper (voiced by Dave Filoni) track the delivery but know they will need reinforcements to first stop the search for Thrawn, but then also to use the map to restart the search for Ezra.

The end of Episode 2 finds us full circle from where Star Wars Rebels ended. Ahsoka and Sabine Wren decide to recommit to one another as master and apprentice, united under the common goals of destroying the Empire and locating Ezra, just as they did at the end of Rebels. The natural question to ask as these two identical scenes stare at each other in the mirror is, “Were these first two episodes even necessary?” We finish “Toil and Trouble” at the exact same place we ended Star Wars Rebels. But it’s as clear as a kyber crystal that these first two episodes were meant to reestablish our characters and the socio-political environment not just in an overarching sense for those who have not seen the animated series, but also to set the emotional stakes of all players on the chess board.

Early in the first episode as Ahsoka tries to convince Huyang to complete some tasks outside the normal Republic protocol, she informs him, “the Order doesn’t exist anymore.” Yes, she is literally talking about the Jedi Order that was wiped out during the Clone Wars and Order 66, but she is also talking about the binary way Star Wars has been viewed for decades. In this in-between time where the Empire has failed, but the New Republic is in its infancy, things aren’t so black and white (or light side and dark side) anymore.

ahsoka prepares to fight with her lightsabers
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Ahsoka the character is the perfect vehicle to drive this new narrative as we explore various characters’ complicated motivations and intentions. Even the weapons that Ahsoka yields represent the changing of the order of things. Her double lightsabers have been modified over time to include components she has picked up on her travels and to include kyber crystals from enemies she has battled. Her blades are a bright white light, clearly symbolizing the presence of all colors in the light spectrum.

Baylan Skoll, who acts as a ruthless murderer when he attacks a Republic ship looking for the map, shares his feelings on potentially confronting Ahsoka. “Her determination is vivid…To kill her will be a shame. There are so few Jedi left.” As someone who has straddled both sides of the light and dark sides of the force, Baylan sees the value of preserving the lineage of someone who is such an impressive force-user. Darth Vader would never.

But nowhere does this theme resonate more than in the relationship between Ahsoka and Sabine. We have no details of their falling out, only that there was a period of time when Ahsoka trained Sabine in the ways of the force. Referencing when Ahsoka left the Jedi Order after events that transpired during the Clone Wars, Ahsoka confides in Hera, “Anakin never got to finish my training…just like I walked away from Sabine.” Jedi are taught not to build intimate connections or to form bonds that can get in the way of their duty and mission. But seeing as how neither are Jedi, Ahsoka and Sabine clearly share a bond they both desperately want to rekindle. They need one another, and perhaps they must depend on one another.

As they reconnect to go after Thrawn and Ezra, Sabine recommits to Ahsoka by chopping her hair and putting back on the Mandalorian armor. Ahsoka recommits to Sabine by referring to her as “padawan.” Are they ready to go on this journey together and can they succeed in eliminating the threat that is Thrawn? In Hera’s words, “I’m curious. What makes someone ready?”

Are we ready for the Star Wars universe to get a lot bigger, more complex, and less black and white? I hope so because we as an audience are traveling through hyperspace now and it looks like the end is still a long way off.

Written by Ryan Kirksey

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