Tales of the Empire review: "Mature, beautifully animated shorts that are worthy additions to the Star Wars canon"

Tales of the Empire
(Image: © Disney)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

These six mature, beautifully animated shorts are worthy additions to the animated Star Wars canon.

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Tales of the Jedi has returned with a dark side makeover. The anthology series has rebranded to Tales of the Empire, and these six new shorts are mature, fascinating, and worthy additions to the animated Star Wars canon. 

While season 1 focused on Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku, season 2 pushes into more uncharted waters. I personally would be happy to watch endless animated shows featuring Ahsoka, but branching out is the right move for Tales of the Empire – after all, the best thing about an anthology show is its potential to explore previously untold stories. This time, our main characters are Morgan Elsbeth and Barriss Offee, AKA the villain of the live-action Ahsoka show, and a key character from the Clone Wars. 

Now, Tales of the Empire might be a little inaccessible for newcomers, as no time is wasted recapping who these figures are and what their significance is. Though, that's not entirely important, as each character's three episodes function as self-contained stories in their own right. You'll get more out of Barriss's episodes if you're familiar with the reasoning behind her disillusionment with the Jedi Order, of course, but there really is no required viewing for these six shorts. 

Exploring the saga

Tales of the Empire

(Image credit: Disney)

Tales of the Empire strikes the perfect balance between filling in the gaps in canon and telling brand new stories. Morgan's tale turns out to be one fuelled by quiet, controlled anger, explaining her devotion to the Empire with careful glimpses into her past. It's an absorbing look into the rise of a villain, and proves that no story is ever truly finished – Morgan was killed in Ahsoka, but we're not through with her yet. It's also more evidence that the prequel era of the Star Wars timeline remains rich ground for fresh storytelling.

Morgan's story pairs perfectly with Barriss's, too. While Morgan is coldly committed to the Empire, Barriss is more uncertain. We pick up with her in the aftermath of Order 66 as she trains to be an Inquisitor, with her complicated emotions running alongside her relationship with an Inquisitor named Lyn (who you might recognize from the Obi-Wan Kenobi series,  but, again, it doesn't matter if you don't). Barriss's tale takes us through familiar Star Wars themes, though it doesn't feel like a mere retread of anything we've seen before. Instead, it's another exploration of that timeless theme of light vs. dark, and how that conflict can play out within just one individual. 

Tone poems

Tales of the Empire

(Image credit: Disney)

When Tales of the Jedi was announced, Filoni described each short as a "tone poem" with minimal dialogue in exchange for a focus on visuals. Tales of the Empire looks as stunning as its predecessor, though it feels a little more dialogue heavy, meaning it plays more like mini episodes of The Clone Wars. This means it suffers ever so slightly in comparison to Tales of the Jedi thanks to losing some of that unique, atmospheric feel. The slight runtime remains, though, with each installment between 10 to 15 minutes long – so the economical storytelling really shines, and each episode feels like a snapshot in time. 

The structure of focusing on two characters per season really works, and I hope the future of the show continues to follow the same pattern: there are so many unexplored points in the Star Wars canon and characters who have yet to take the spotlight, which could all flourish in the Tales structure. 

With the mainline Star Wars saga focusing on galaxy-shaking goings-on, it's a pleasant change of pace to dive deep like this, in slower, more meditative episodes that don't have to propel the overarching narrative. Slowing down to look at the scenery is just as satisfying as speeding through those major events. 

It's unclear at the moment if there will be more Tales, but this season is proof that there's space for it – and if there is a season 3, I'll definitely be tuning in. 

All episodes of Tales of the Empire arrive on Disney Plus this May 4. See what else the galaxy far, far away has in store with our guide to all the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.