(A version of this article was shared with Pirates & Princesses on October 9, 2023.)
(SPOILER WARNING: Plot points from the Ahsoka series are discussed below.)
It’s a whole new ballgame, folks. Or should I say, it’s a whole new galaxy. The dust is just settling on the Disney+ series Ahsoka, which aired its finale Part Eight – The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord on October 3rd.
Overall, Star Wars creative guru Dave Filoni’s highly-anticipated series delivered on its promise to build on the story of an intriguing character born out of made-for-tv animation, and plus it with a thoughtful enhancement of the Star Wars Galaxy as we know it. In addition to helping us connect with the title character, Ahsoka also introduced (or in a few cases, reintroduced) several compelling characters and storylines which have Star Wars fans salivating with great expectations.
The series finale has been met with mixed reviews, with many criticizing that it failed to deliver on some of the plot lines initiated at the beginning of the eight-episode run. While that may indeed be a valid point, some of the “loose threads” (to quote the Dathomirian Nightsisters) may well prove to weave together whole new story lines desperately needed in the Star Wars Galaxy. In fact, leaving so many unresolved story arcs may even be part of Dave Filoni’s master plan for the future of the franchise.
Let’s explore a few of these loose threads here, and see where they may take us going forward.
A Whole New Galaxy
Ahsoka took six episodes – out of eight total – to finally reach Peridea, the adopted home of Rebel Ezra Bridger and Imperial Warlord Grand Admiral Thrawn. As the series painstakingly establishes, the planet of Peridea is not a simple hyperjump away. The planet resides firmly in a completely separate galaxy from all we’ve ever seen in the Star Wars franchise. Think about it – the Star Wars Galaxy is home to hundreds of inhabitable star systems, most of which have been fought over by the Republic and the Empire (or First Order). But Peridea is located outside of anywhere we’ve ever seen.
This “new” galaxy is so far away, that Thrawn’s Star Destroyer didn’t have enough power to travel back from his purrgil-induced exile. It took a supercharged space gate made up of seven giant hyperdrives, combined with navigation from a secret (and now destroyed) space map, to travel that distance. In other words, this new galaxy functions much like the world our global explorers sought centuries ago, sailing the ocean blue looking for new land.
Peridea, and any additional planets and systems in the new galaxy, are completely unexplored to us fans, and therefore represents a blank page, just waiting for new stories and legends to be written. Tiny turtle crab people, red raiders, and god-like statues are only the beginning.
As the Ahsoka series progressed, and the difficulty of traveling to Peridea became readily apparent, I started to wonder if Filoni might take an unexpected turn and strand all visiting characters in this new land. This would have helped resolve the major restrictions brought on by the established Skywalker Saga. Alas, some of our new characters do indeed make it back to the Galaxy we all know and love, so at this point we are likely to see the development of an expanded Star Wars universe, rather than a completely separate galaxy of stories. Still, it allows for some room to grow, outside of the Skywalker Saga.
With Ahsoka being set a few years following Return of the Jedi, and before the events of the First Order “sequel trilogy”, the characters and stories within the current “Mandoverse” can only flourish for a finite period of time, before they need to disappear and/or be relegated to spaces outside the established storyline. But on Peridea, we have a chance to start anew, with a genesis of new heroes (Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang) and villains (Baylan, Shin, and the red raiders). Plus, we have mystical statues and towers which actually connect to the Force of the Star Wars canon (more on that later). Basically, we have a breeding ground for a whole new genesis of Star Wars stories.
Perhaps the most intriguing new character to come from Ahsoka is former Jedi Baylan Skoll. A defector of the Jedi Order, Baylan exudes a mysterious aura, and displays conflicting sentiments about both Jedi and Sith. As a mercenary for hire at the outset of the series, he is most decidedly no longer a Jedi. But over the course of the series we see Baylan’s tough exterior soften, as he looks, feels, and ponders his way to (and through) Peridea. Baylan has a huge respect for Ahsoka, as he mentions several times in several different ways throughout the series, begging the question of whether he may still have some good in him (like someone else we have met).
Regarding Peridea – Baylan once thought of the land as one of “children’s tales.” But as he prepared to travel, and even more so when he had a chance to connect with the planet, Baylan’s viewpoint of the planet changed to one of hope (balanced with a little uncertainty). Now a full believer, Baylan tells his apprentice Shin Hati that he feels something “calling” to him.
Near the end of the Ahsoka finale, we see Baylan standing near the top of the statue which appears to be one of the Mortis gods – characters who were briefly explored in a three-episode arc of The Clone Wars series. The Mortis gods were shown to be effectively the origin of the Force, animated through one dysfunctional family consisting of the Father (on whose arm Baylan stood in the finale), a Son (who represented the Dark side of the Force), and a Daughter (who represented the Light Side of the Force). With Baylan potentially exploring the origins of the Force on Peridea, we have the makings of some epic lore, which may serve as seeds for a number of Star Wars projects originating back in time (and back on Peridea). Like I said, a blank page.
Baylan’s charismatic character – brilliantly played by the late Ray Stevenson – reminds us of what an enigmatic Force wielder can be, and I’m here for more of him. Unfortunately, with Stevenson’s recent passing, Baylan will need to be recast if Filoni wants to continue exploring his journey.
Baylan’s young apprentice, Shin Hati, seems less conflicted in her motivations than Baylan. But for all that Shin exudes in her fledgling Dark Side rationale, she lacks in experience. As the Ahsoka series progresses, Shin’s character transforms from a simple evil apprentice to an inquisitive student wondering about the meaning of what is developing around her.
For reasons yet to be explained, Baylan essentially ditched Shin in Part Seven of the series, sending her off to tackle Ahsoka and company alone while he explored Peridea’s Force callings. It seemed like a bad idea at the time, and I suspect it will lead to conflict between the two down the road.
Like her master, Shin was last seen wandering the wastelands of Peridea, having been bested by Ahsoka and company just a short time ago. There was a moment at the end of Shin’s conflict with Ahsoka where she appeared to be actually considering Ahsoka’s offer to teach her (the ways of the Jedi). Shin ultimately fled, but we now have to at least consider that her motivations may be muddied.
Our last moment with Shin saw her approach a band of red raiders and raise her orange lightsaber in a dominating position. Could this be an invitation to join with them and lead them on a conquest, or is she looking to battle with them? Shin’s future path looks very much uncertain, which will most definitely provide for more compelling storytelling.
The Nightsisters of Dathomir
Throughout The Clone Wars series, the Nightsister witches of the planet Dathomir were a recurring source of conflict for both the Republic and the Separatists (later recognized as the Empire). The predominantly female society of witches leaned very heavily towards the “dark” side with their allegiances, though they were ultimately loyal only to their own kind. They use a unique brand of “magick” which is entirely separate from the Force, and sets them in a mindspace all their own. Almost all of the Nightsisters were wiped out by Count Dooku and the Separatists during the Clone Wars, and the society never made it to live action.
In Ahsoka, Filoni figured out a way to reignite the spark of the Nightsisters. He started with Thrawn fortunately stumbling upon the three Great Mothers on their ancestral Nightsister planet of Peridea. He added in an intriguing foe we grew to know as Nightsister descendant Morgan Elsbeth. And he topped it off with a collection of what appears to be an army worth of “cargo” in the form of casket-shaped boxes, locked and loaded for later use. At the very end of the Ahsoka finale, Thrawn’s first stop back in the familiar Star Wars Galaxy is to the planet Dathomir. It is here that he looks to be setting up shop for his new quest to rule the galaxy, and where we seem poised to witness a resurrection of fallen warriors (whether those are Thrawn’s stormtroopers, deceased Nightsisters, or a combination of both remains to be seen).
It looks like the planet Dathomir may factor heavily in the future of the known Star Wars Galaxy. Dathomir is a grim and foreboding place, but will shine brightly for the franchise if handled with care.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
After enduring a long-lasting five episode tease, we finally caught up with Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger in Part Six of the series. Thrawn is not new to the Star Wars Galaxy, being introduced in non-canon books, then included as a canon character in Star Wars: Rebels. Those (like me) familiar with Thrawn’s characteristic cunning strategy and cultural appreciation lauded the blue-skinned Chiss Admiral’s debut in live-action. And Thrawn did not disappoint. His signature coolness, which can at times be downright frightening, was metered in with just enough flavor over the three episodes of Ahsoka to leave us always wanting more. When Thrawn matter-of-factly declares victory to Ahsoka in the finale, then leaves Peridea in his space dust, we realize (along with Ahsoka) that our heroes are now trapped in a whole new world, while Thrawn will be able to march unchecked into the familiar Star Wars galaxy.
Thrawn’s calculated ruthlessness and top-notch military strategy will make him a difficult villain for the New Republic to dispatch. Even without the capabilities of the Force, Thrawn is still as able to assert dominance as many other baddies that came before him. One thing the Republic has going for it, however, is the storytelling confines which demand that Kylo Ren and the First Order be firmly in power just a few short years from Thrawn’s newest ascent to power. With Thrawn being such a juicy villain I find myself somewhat routing for – the confining aspect of the march of the First Order is one I find disappointing.
A please to Mr. Filoni – can you please craft a storyline wherein Grand Admiral Thrawn pivots direction and seeks a future in another galaxy (even if it needs to start back on Peridea)?
In an age where CGI re-creations and creepy de-aging have increasingly become the norm, the Ahsoka series seems to have found a sweet spot in the portrayal and involvement of Jedi legend Anakin Skywalker. At the outset of the series, rumors were swirling that Filoni was planning to bring back Anakin in some way, with the odds-on favorite being Part Five, which Filoni directed. That is exactly what happened, and Filoni did not disappoint.
First off – Anakin looked amazing. The character’s integration into the story within a semi-living realm allowed him to contribute to the story in ways resembling dream sequences, while untethering the character from the strict confines of proper age placement. These scenes, based in Ahsoka’s memory, worked well to get Star Wars fans who have not invested in The Clone Wars animated series up to speed with some of Ahsoka’s past, while furthering Ahsoka’s growth as a character in the process. Even after that iconic episode of Star Wars television, Anakin appeared two other times within the series, in much smaller doses, in ways that worked well to progress the story.
Going forward, I doubt we will continue to see this much Anakin Skywalker. But in this series, Filoni pulled in just the right degree of Anakin to enhance Ahsoka’s story without fully redirecting the spotlight. If future Ahsoka-based storylines continue in the Star Wars Galaxy, I can see an intermittent, well-measured, modest amount of Anakin greatly enhancing the deeper Force-driven storylines.
While the Ahsoka series failed to close on several of the threads it opened at the outset of the series, it certainly paved a path for many new storylines in the Star Wars Galaxy. Which of these potential future storylines excites you the most? Reach out and let me know, either with a comment here or on social: