Ahsoka: The first installment of “Ahsoka,” the brand-new “Star Wars” miniseries on Disney+, is titled “Master and Apprentice,” which makes perfect sense. Yoda and Luke, Anakin and Ahsoka, the Mandalorian and the floating baby, Obi-Wan and Anakin. “Star Wars” has a single plot and stays true to it.
Two of the eight episodes of “Ahsoka,” which will debut on Tuesday night, were made available for review. This show is especially faithful to the well-worn story of acrimonious mentorship and surrogate fatherhood. It puts two master-apprentice pairs against one another: the former Jedi Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) and his cruel sidekick Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno) on the side of good, and the former Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and her young Mandalorian protégé Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) on the side of evil.
While looking for Thrawn, an officer of the wicked Empire, these four jump through space, play around with droids (cute when they’re on the good side, clanky and forbidding when they’re not), fight it out with lightsabers, and invoke the force with different degrees of success. If he is discovered, he could pose a threat to the fledgling New Republic, which has just come to power following the events of the first “Star Wars” trilogy but has not yet encountered the existential dangers shown in the most recent films.
That will be vital to “Star Wars” enthusiasts and foundation commotion to most of us — the mind-boggling size of the establishment, across each kind of business medium, and the bounty of twisting rear entryways down which its story lines run make it hard for the relaxed fan to stir up much interest on the planet building implications of some random portion.
An earlier Disney+ entry, “Andor,” responded to this by emphasizing gritty, real-world political-historical texture. This strategy sparked a lot of interest among the elite but wasn’t ultimately very fruitful. In their Disney+ collaborations (which include “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett”), Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, who created and wrote “Ahsoka” as well as directed several of its episodes, have taken a more measured approach to the issue: They have established themselves as purveyors of artisanal space opera.
You’ve already seen all of their plot points, thus they fulfill the canonical narrative requirements of the “Star Wars” franchise while keeping a lighthearted, arm’s length distance from its more sentimental and childish tendencies. They concentrate their efforts on providing the genre conventions that can sate any viewer’s desire for unrestricted amusement with loving and competent attention.
They more than meet this threshold in the first few episodes of “Ahsoka,” even more than in “The Mandalorian,” which has primarily been used to deliver Yoda babies. Any “Star Wars” product’s responsibility is to execute the formula skillfully, and “Ahsoka” succeeds in this regard.
It succeeds with its fantastical settings, which alternate between crystalline metropolis and desolate desert vistas. It also succeeds with its massive industrial settings. (Corellia’s shipbuilding industry is involved.) It delivers on its more human-than-thou droids with the necessary cautious robot sidekick, engagingly voiced by David Tennant. David Tennant is the most recent in a tradition of on-screen cautious companions dating back to Bert Lahr in “The Wizard of Oz.”
And it delivers on its lead character, Ahsoka, who was originally conceived as a cartoon and appeared in the animated programs “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels.” Ahsoka is a prime example of the universality of the “Star Wars” property. (In one of the program’s funnier in-jokes, a grand monument honoring resistance fighters is shown.
Although bringing a cartoon alien to life in a live-action film might not seem like the most exciting challenge, Dawson succeeds in “Ahsoka” in some way. She controls herself and proceeds with what appears to be her normal disposition: a kind of controlled amused scorn. Ahsoka may not be funny, but Dawson’s acting is perfect for a character who has been there and done that a lot and doesn’t have a lot of compassion for her apprentice’s emotional outbursts. Additionally, it cleverly evokes the two-dimensional cartoon character at the same time.
Additionally, it helps that Ming Qiu, J.J. Dashnaw, and Michelle Lee, Dawson’s stunt double, helped her give her combat scenes a visceral sense of realism.
Dawson elevates your attention above the “Star Wars” of it all with the help of Stevenson (who passed away in May) and the consistently welcome Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who portrays a New Republic general. She even gets past the dangling pair of rubber bags that are the scalp protrusions that she got from the cartoon character. You’ll eventually learn that a mystery structure was constructed by “an ancient people from a distant galaxy.” But if you concentrate, you can shut it out.