After an extended buildup spanning five episodes, Ahsoka finally unveils Grand Admiral Thrawn, who had been quietly biding his time in a distant corner of the universe, flanked by stormtroopers, awaiting discovery – a rather fortuitous turn of events, one might say!
However, it would be remiss to gripe excessively, for ‘Part Six’ of the Star Wars series injects much-needed momentum back into the narrative. The series has been preoccupied with invoking nostalgia and cramming in references tailored to fan-service, exemplified by Ahsoka’s fifth episode foray into The Clone Wars.
While it may stand as one of the finest animated series, there’s an air of self-importance in the return of Hayden Christensen, seemingly summoned solely to revisit these scenes. But I digress – ‘Part Six’ reintroduces us to Thrawn in all his imposing grandeur, and heralds the resurgence of Ezra Bridger, the pivotal Star Wars character at the core of this tale.
Guided by Baylan, Shin, and Morgan, Sabine Wren arrives at Thrawn’s location on the pivotal planet of Peridea, intrinsically linked to the Nightsisters. Here, they encounter a coven of witches who promptly whisk Sabine away, leading them to an audience with the erstwhile Imperial officer. He commands a contingent of his unique troopers, aptly dubbed Night Troopers.
With the weight of expectation set by Dave Filoni, there was little chance that Thrawn’s entrance would wholly satisfy. Nevertheless, Lars Mikkelsen stands resolute as a menacing leader poised to take up the mantle of rebuilding the Galactic Empire in earnest. The visuals harken back to classic Star Wars imagery, an ominous phalanx standing steadfast behind their impeccably attired authoritarian leader.
In his initial move, Thrawn resolves to employ Sabine to track down the elusive Ezra, who has been keeping a low profile on Peridea. We then shift our focus to Sabine, who seizes an opportunity to evade her robotic captors, unknowingly playing into the broader scheme. As she traverses the terrain, she encounters fellow inhabitants who recognize Ezra’s name, ultimately leading her to a village where she reunites with the man himself.
Filoni handles the buildup of Ezra and Thrawn in similar fashion, one rooted in affection and the other in fear. Yet, Ezra’s return proves notably more subdued, necessitating little more than his survival to appease Sabine and Ahsoka. In contrast, the true Thrawn would always grapple with the monumental weight of the dread he instills.
The most compelling Star Wars antagonists often find their foundation in actions rather than reputation. Be it Darth Vader’s arrival in the Star Wars films or Kylo Ren’s brutal interrogation in The Force Awakens, their impact is keenly felt. At times, it’s simply a matter of looking undeniably impressive, a trait embodied by General Grievous. Thrawn, on the other hand, has been the subject of fervent excitement stemming from thirty-year-old Expanded Universe novels, albeit without the same internal narrative gravitas.
Longing for the return of a friend is an easily relatable emotion, while being the harbinger of a new era of darkness proves more intricate to delineate. This has been Filoni’s notable stumbling block in the Ahsoka narrative thus far. There’s still room for development, as the tantalizing prospect of Baylan and Thrawn’s alliance teetering on the edge of dissolution looms.
A classic double-cross appears to be on the horizon, potentially signaling a redemption arc for Baylan, who professes a residual fondness for the “idea” of the Jedi, if not the institution itself. Shin, it seems, may very well align with the nomadic creed that Ahsoka ultimately embraces.
Turning our attention to our eponymous former Jedi, she graces the screen in but a single scene, soaring alongside the spacefaring whales, engaging in a cosmic dialogue with Huyang about the annals of galactic history. As Huyang articulates the quintessential Star Wars prelude aloud, a groan escapes my lips, much akin to when “Solo: A Star Wars Story” integrated the Imperial March as an in-universe musical composition. Star Wars pays homage to a multitude of elements, but none more fervently than itself, and I fear these narratives may find themselves caught in a recursive loop until all interest wanes.