Warning: This review contains spoilers for Ahsoka episode 7.
It’s a relief how quickly the seventh episode of Ahsoka, 'Dreams and Madness,' gets its big cameo out of the way. Just minutes into the pre-title prologue, fans are greeted by a familiar face who is – spoilers! – C-3PO, still voiced by Anthony Daniels, who steps in on behalf of Senator Organa to help Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) keep her military post in the New Republic.
It’s cute and good fun, thanks in large part to Daniels’ enduring voice-over performance as the iconic droid. (A depressing contrasting thought: What a nadir state for franchise media how a cameo isn’t just expected but better if done with minimal intrusion.) But it’s the rest of the 40 minutes that do so much more for Ahsoka. It’s not because this week’s episode, written by Dave Filoni and directed by Sense8 and The Mindy Project director Geeta Vasant Patel, unearths more useless lore or the appearance of a random action figure. It’s simply because it feels like archetypal Star Wars: Breakneck space chases, bickering sidekick robots, scary villains with scarier powers, and oh so many lightsaber battles, all sandwiched by the positive vibes of a heartfelt reunion between friends.
'Dreams and Madness' will not be anyone’s favorite episode in the long run, and it may well disappear in the fandom’s consciousness years from now. But if the promise of capital-M More Star Wars was why anyone signed up for Disney Plus in the first place, this episode is that promise fulfilled.
Picking up just after last week’s similarly rousing episode, Ahsoka resumes the efforts of its title hero (Rosario Dawson) to reunite with Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who she hopes has also found the elusive Ezra Bridger. Indeed Sabine has found Ezra (Eman Esfandi), living among a nomadic tribe of adorably cute crab/snail-looking things, the Noti, who will be your niece’s favorite plush toys this Christmas. There’s a lot of action before Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra can group hug, and thankfully Part 7 doesn’t disappoint in sheer entertainment via a non-stop barrage of empty-calorie action.
It begins with Ahsoka and Huyang (the ever-reliable David Tennant) dodging exploding space whales – read that again, exploding space whales – before they’re running with their hips first to evade the onslaught from above. Before long there are even more foot chases and lasers firing and lightsabers colliding. This is not to say 'Dreams and Madness' is mayhem only.
There are still stretches of talking in between, and it’s of the familiar variety. Generals giving orders and witty banter in the face of imminent danger, all signatures of Star Wars. But when all this talking happens to have more Lars Mikkelsen imbuing straight evil into his role as Thrawn, or more of the late Ray Stevenson growing into a beloved franchise actor, or even just more of Sabine and Ezra together (at least for Star Wars Rebels die-hards only), there’s little to complain about Ahsoka. Nothing is outstanding, but rock-solid quality can still take you places.
Holding Ahsoka back still is, rather ironically, its clingy attachment to Star Wars’ past. Ahsoka is fast becoming a show that stands well on its own feet. (I’m particularly enamored by its explicit samurai movie aesthetics, which are so much more potent here compared to anything else in franchise history.) Yet the finer details that would and could make the series sublime stay lost in a cartoon from nine years ago. I’m thinking specifically of the nuances present among these characters, their fractured relationships, and how they’ve allowed shame and neglect to create a vast valley between them all. Ahsoka isn’t just a show about upholding a complicated legacy. It’s about how hard it is to just be honest with people. At least, that’s what Ahsoka should be about. Instead, I’m burdened by an overbearing expectation that I’m supposed to feel things between Sabine and Ezra because they were cute when they were CGI models.
What I actually feel is underwhelmed, and a bit lost in the way you might be in a group conversation and zone out for five minutes. While I’ve seen Rebels, I didn’t love it and thus I don’t love how much Ahsoka loves Rebels. Maybe it’s because Bordizzo and Esfandi have as much chemistry as a college physics department. Maybe it’s because Ahsoka has only a handful of episodes and too many fans to please. Maybe it’s all of those things. Yoda might say: Clouded, my senses are.
Star Wars has always been a saga in conversation with what’s happened before; the original trilogy strove to emulate George Lucas’ cinematic influences, while both the prequel and sequel trilogies strove to emulate what Lucas did decades prior. By virtue of its premise, Ahsoka necessarily feels displaced in the franchise’s already non-linear timeline, a jigsaw piece that doesn’t quite fit in the complete picture. With such strong reliance on any and all affections for the animated Rebels – it’s to the point the show was ill-conceived as a direct sequel – Ahsoka feels like it’s going someplace fast with no real sense of direction other than what’s behind it. However, I won’t complain more if the ride keeps me awake.
New episodes of Ahsoka drop every Tuesday in the US and Wednesday in the UK on Disney Plus. For more on the Star Wars show, check out our guides to:
- Who is Jacen Syndulla?
- The purrgil explained
- Explaining the mystical realm of the World Between Worlds
- Why Anakin calls Ahsoka Snips
- Everything you need to know about Star Wars Rebels
- The Ahsoka end-credits clues explained
- The Nightsisters of Dathomir explained
- Where have we seen Morgan Elsbeth before?
- The Ahsoka timeline explained
- The Ahsoka release schedule