Ahsoka Episode 6 Review: The Threads Of Destiny

Ahsoka Episode 6 Review: The Threads Of Destiny

If last week’s episode of Ahsoka—which featured lengthy, surreal scenes centered on Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano—was showrunner Dave Filoni catering to both Clone Wars and prequel fans, then the newest episode, “Far, Far Away,” is for Rebels loyalists. But not just Rebels loyalists, as Ahsoka episode six feels like Star Wars is finally giving us something new. And it’s about damn time.

Editor’s note: OK but for real, spoilers follow. Big ones. Lots of em. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, back out of the piece now and come back when you’ve had time to watch it and process. — David.

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Image: Kotaku Australia

Ahsoka episode six begins with a needlessly CG sequence of the purrgil (space whales) making their intergalactic migration through rainbow-colored streaks of light. It looks, well, like a cartoon, so I’m relieved when it cuts to Ahsoka and Huyang sitting inside the ship that’s parked on one of the purrgil’s tongues. Huyang remarks on how mind-blowing this entire ordeal is before they both start talking about the lengthy history lessons he used to give at the Jedi Temple. The scene is a great reminder that David Tennant (who voices Huyang) is a stellar actor, as he imbues the droid with a lived-in, sage-like personality that feels unique to the character.

Read More: Ahsoka Episode 5 Review: The Ghost Of Anakin Skywalker

Ahsoka reveals that she knows Sabine went with Baylan Skoll, Shin Hati, and Morgan Elsbeth willingly, and that her decision has set forth events that could cause the return of Thrawn and an all-out war. Huyang plays devil’s advocate, suggesting that she made the only decision she could have made, or that felt right for her. Miffed, Ahsoka changes the subject—she wants to hear one of those old history lessons. Huyang obliges: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Screenshot: Lucasfilm / Kotaku

A new galaxy

That’s the last we’ll see of Ahsoka this entire episode, as we’re now laser-focused on Sabine and company’s trip. She awakens in a gold metallic cell on Morgan’s ship, and she’s frustrated—she thought she’d have a room with a view, she tells Baylan. Once again we’re reminded of the tragic loss of Ray Stevenson, who continues to slowly unravel and reveal the former Jedi’s character with a grace and subtlety that’s so rarely seen in Star Wars, let alone Star Wars TV.

Baylan clearly likes Sabine, despite everything, but his motivations remain unclear. Though some have pointed to this lack of clarity as a mark against Filoni’s character development or writing (which I have no problem lambasting when necessary), I think Baylan’s shifting motivations are a mark of the inner turmoil he’s facing—and a later conversation with Shin proves that theory.

But before that, we have to get to the big, blue elephant in the room: Thrawn. The unlikely groupquad has arrived at the coordinates given to them by the now-destroyed map: Peridea, the end of the migration route for the purrgil, a worldmap surrounded by Saturn-like rings that are actually massive purrgil bones. This is a graveyard.

Sabine is taken from her cell and thrust onto a transport ship that’s taking them down to the surface of Peridea. Shin and Sabine shippers get some extra fodder for their fan-fic, as the two women stare at each other rather than the ancient planet laid out in front of them. There’s nothing like an enemies to lovers arc, am I right?

Screenshot: Lucasfilm / Kotaku

Something wicked

Here is where Ahsoka starts to really feel new, or at least, unrecycled. We’ve never seen the Nightsisters (an ancient witch clan of which Morgan is a part) in live-action, just in the animated shows and in EA’s Jedi games. And boy do they look cool here, a trio in blood-red robes and pointed hats, standing amongst towering pillars, giving equal parts Dune and Star Wars.

They shower praise on Morgan, their leader speaking in an unnerving, layered voice that’s a vocal effect carry-over from The Clone Wars. The overall vibes—from the creepy voice to their glowing red magic to their corpse-gray visages—give the episode a spookiness that is far too uncommon in Star Wars media, a spookiness that feels fantastical, like something out of a fairy tale told to warn children off of wandering into forests, or accepting help from strangers. Even Shin and Baylan are freaked out by the Nightsisters: Shin echoes Baylan in an earlier episode when he watches Morgan spin magic with her fingertips, hissing “more witches” as the three Nightsisters reveal themselves.

The three sisters warn that Sabine reeks of Jedi, and her quick reaction tells a multi-layered story in just seconds: She’s briefly shocked that they sense Jedi in her, then somewhat annoyed that she’s getting picked out, then angry that she’s about to be put in isolation again. Natasha Liu Bordizzo is, once again, excellent here.

After Sabine is escorted away, Shin and Baylan get a rare moment to themselves, and give us a rarer moment in Star Wars: full-blown introspection. “This is a land of dreams and madness, children’s stories come to life,” Baylan says. This is a forgotten place, a folkloric land—and Shin thinks that’s a good thing. “Sometimes stories are just stories,” she shrugs. But he remembers what it was like to hear these stories back at the Jedi Temple, and he also remembers what it was like to see everything he knew burn. Shin’s excitement at her master’s willingness to open up is palpable, and it’s great to see Ivanna Sakhno show off her acting chops. We already know she’s great at playing feral, but here we see Shin’s youthful curiosity come through. She is, after all, a student.

“As you get older, look at history, you realize it’s all inevitable—the fall of the Jedi, rise of the Empire, it repeats again and again and again,” he laments. Shin thinks this means it’s their turn now, but he’s quick to correct her. It’s not about turns, but it’s about ending this entire cycle, starting fresh—and this planet holds the key.

In her far less luxurious cell, Sabine calls out to Ahsoka, then decides she could potentially use the Force to get herself out of this mess. In a similar vein to the scene in which she fights Shin back on Lothal, we get a brief moment where it appears she, maybe, possibly, has tapped into the Force, as the stone walls of the cell begin to vibrate and loose rocks fall to the ground. But wait, what is that in the brief slice of window behind her? It’s a massive Imperial Destroyer, languidly drifting overhead, with some banging music accompanying its arrival. Thrawn is here.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm / Kotaku

It’s hard to live up to the massive expectations that come with a live-action Thrawn reveal, but it certainly helps that Lars Mikkelsen also provides his voice in Rebels. Though, once again, the makeup/costuming choices in this series break the fantasy quite a bit, as Thrawn seems a bit too blue, his hair too jet-black, his eyes too red—like a misguided attempt to copy/paste the cartoon version of himself into the live-action world (the same fate that befell Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Hera Syndulla).

But as he walks amongst his army of kintsugi Storm Troopers, Thrawn does cut an imposing figure (though I am consistently shocked throughout this episode at how pedestrian so much of it looks, as the reliance on the massive Volume soundstage turns so many scenes into something out of a SyFy movie). This man, infamous across the galaxy for his tactics, his ability to predict his enemies’ next moves, is angry that Morgan, Baylan, and Shin have brought a prisoner along…until he learns it’s Sabine Wren. Mikkelsen is amazing in these moments. He’s calm and collected, but you can see the cogs turning behind those candy-apple-red eyes, you can see him taking six steps before anyone else in the room has taken one.

Sabine and Thrawn come face-to-face, and though their meeting feels somewhat anticlimactic considering the years of history between them, the confusion he causes almost immediately is wonderful to behold. Thrawn gives Sabine provisions, a mount, and the last known location of Ezra Bridger, as well as her weapons back, and promises to let her go. Cue face cracks from the trio that brought her here, but Thrawn has a plan. “Once my starship departs, you’ll be stranded here forever. It’s also quite possible that your friend is dead.”

Sabine’s single eyebrow shooting briefly to the top of her forehead tells you that she’s not the Mandalorian to be fucked with. She’s not in the mood for Thrawn’s soft-spoken verbal sparring, she just wants to get on her mount and get the fuck outta dodge. And she does just that. But remember, Thrawn is playing 4D chess: He sends Baylan and Shin after her so that if she does manage to find Ezra, the mercenaries can wipe them both out in one fell swoop. And if Thrawn’s preparations are complete (he’s offloading bodies from catacombs, likely to resurrect them via the Nightsisters help), he doesn’t care if he leaves all four of them on Peridea. The man is cold.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm / Kotaku

Die well

Sabine is given a mount by Enoch, the leader of Thrawn’s creepy shiburi/kintsugi army, and climbs on the back of it without hesitation. (Animal lovers always thrive in Star Wars, remember?) Enoch hands Sabine her weapons, warns her of the planet’s dangers, and tells her to “die well.” The stone walls of the space part, revealing the surface of the somewhat barren planet dotted with ancient, crumbling totems of a bygone civilization. Sabine forges ahead on the back of the Howler, her cloak trailing in the wind, and Sabine sets off on Ezra’s trail, following a scent laid five years ago with the finale of Rebels. From this moment forth, Star Wars feels like it hasn’t in years.

The second half of “Far, Far Away” is like a stellar ‘80s fantasy flick. There’s a scrappy young lead determined to forge ahead in an unknown land full of surprises on the back of an (at times) unruly steed, an ambush from dangerous nomads that she barely fights off (in yet another incredible fight scene that makes excellent use of Sabine’s Beskar armour and lightsaber skills), and adorable little creatures called Noti that speak nonsense in high-pitched tones and offer help to this strange, gallant figure. By the time Sabine makes her way to the Noti’s village, I’d almost forgotten that this was a Star Wars show, as it feels more like a full-blown movie from decades ago.

The creature work is brilliant, with the Howler moving and reacting like a fussy pet and Sabine reacting to it like an owner slightly annoyed that their dog won’t stop trying to eat poop at the dog park. And the Noti, who at one point all stand up and reveal themselves to Sabine like little alien hermit crabs, could very well be a best-selling toy this holiday season.

But there’s even more going on here. In a brief scene showing Baylan and Shin’s attempts to track Sabine, we get a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it adjustment to Star Wars canon that will have the Jedi fanboys freaking out for months to come. Baylan refers to Ezra as a “Bokken Jedi,” which is a term we’ve never heard before (though “bokken” is a Japanese word for a wooden sword). These Jedi were trained after the fall of the Order, which means that Luke and Rey fall into that category—but Baylan is quick to make sure Shin knows that she is not that, either. He’s trained her to be something more. It’s an interesting new way to look at how the Force can be utilized, warped, and twisted under different tutelage, and how the power of a word can drastically shift the meaning of an idea.

“I miss the idea of it,” Baylan says of the Jedi Order. “But not the truth, the weakness. There was no future there.” He reveals that something on this planet is calling to him, something is stirring here that is beyond the power of the Nightsisters.

Turning back to Sabine, we discover that, naturally, the Noti are exactly what she’s looking for, as the little crab dudes are all mysteriously wearing necklaces with giant Rebel logos dangling from them. Looks like Ezra Bridger has spent the last decade dabbling in making jewelry, and Sabine realizes that these chittering guys are the key to finding him. They take her to their village, which is full of adorable details that once again evoke older fantasy flicks: a Noti patching the roof of their home, Noti preparing dinner on an open fire, a baby Noti with impossibly large eyes rocking in a hammock. It’s a lengthy scene full of moments that make you coo, until you realize that Ezra doesn’t appear to be there.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm / Kotaku

Just kidding, he’s behind you, Sabine! He’s leaning up against one of the huts with a thick beard that reminds us that he was a teenager when he went missing, but that was 10 years ago, and he’s been waiting a long time. “I knew I could count on you,” he says. “Though, it sure took you long enough.” Sabine and Ezra briefly fall back into their typical banter, before embracing each other. Though I am completely undone by the decision to give actor Eman Esfandi horrible contacts that look like the Fremen eyes in David Lynch’s Dune, it’s great to see that Filoni isn’t wasting any time. Ezra is so back, and he’s not going to be all that pleased to learn what Sabine had to do to get to him.

But that will come next week, as will, likely, a battle. The threads of destiny are entwining, as the Nightsisters point out, and Ahsoka is en route, remember? This was a really strong episode (though it looked, occasionally, like shit), perhaps even better than last week’s. It manages to give us a massive payoff for longstanding Rebels cliffhangers, while also feeling fresh and new. This is a welcome sign of what’s to come. If Filoni keeps this up, I might actually end up openly optimistic about his forthcoming Star Wars film.

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