The Rise of a Pattern
It’s anyone’s guess why the Disney brand is sinking like the Titanic, slowly and tragically, for some to watch in horror, having loved the golden age of Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, and Aladin, and for others to celebrate after Disney subverted their favorite characters to push new, cardboard characters into the spotlight.
This far into Dave Filoni’s Ahsoka show, it’s a perplexing show of stupidity why the Disney bosses allowed such a poorly written show onto the platform. Then again, they’ve made similar choices with Marvel and Pixar, so they must have reasons. Either that, or they don’t have a clue and won’t admit it to themselves, even though everyone on the outside knows.
The show has a pattern now. Virtually all of Ahsoka’s scene with her team of female empowerment feel lazy in their dialogue and directionless in the drama. Filoni seems to have not the foggiest clue how to show rather than tell, opting instead to have characters either state the obvious or merely re-state plot details from one moment to the next. It’s as if Filoni, the son George Lucas never had, lost control of his show when Jon Favreau removed the training wheels after The Mandalorian. Filoni has no bearing on how to gauge the interest of his Star Wars Rebels fandom, whether they’re bored to tears or clapping at what he assumes is clever dialogue.
The Ahsoka show violates a basic rule of writing: The information the audience already knows, repeat it not. Ahsoka learns of Sabine’s fate by listening through the Force, but her fate had already played out entirely in a previous scene, leaving the audience to wait for Ahsoka to catch up. There’s no better way to bring the story to a screeching halt and disengage the view with a full stop.
Sometimes, the acting rescues the audience from checking their watches in a poorly written show. Not so here with Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performances, which feel like they’re putting in minimal effort as they wait for roles worthy of their talent. It’s hard to tell who is more bored: the actors on screen or the viewer tuning in. If this writing keeps up, no one with a Disney+ subscription will beg for the strikes to be over. Because either way, it’ll be bad writing.
One can imagine part of the problem being Kennedy calling the Star Wars: The Clone Wars veteran into her den to shove a quota of female characters that she expects him to bake into his scripts for the show. It’s hard to imagine the same writer credited as creator for Ahsoka being credited as writer for the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maybe it’s animation versus live-action. Whatever the case, everyone thought Filoni was ready to go solo. Ahsoka makes that abundantly incorrect.
The silver lining continues to be Baylan Skoll and the surprise cameo of Anakin Skywalker. These two heavy-weight characters bring weight and gravitas. Their performances spark that Star Wars spirit, if only briefly, before cutting back to bad, high school writing with the empowered women sporting boyish haircuts and Spirit-quality headgear. Baylan Skoll and Anakin Skywalker’s scenes tease the bruised heart of any fan who imagines what Star Wars could have been like in an alternate timeline where Kennedy drove her own company into the ground and had to flip burgers to make a living instead of smiling behind her desk at Lucasfilm. With Filoni at the helm, it’s anyone’s guess as to what could have gone wrong, whether it was Filoni writing under pressure or directing actresses who accused his direction of being patriarchal.
Whatever Filoni has up his sleeves for these male characters won’t equal the lackluster sum of the show’s parts. If five episodes in, this eight-episode show can’t prove there’s life in the scripts, Filoni’s live-action debut might as well be the scene of the crime for all to know where and when Star Wars breathed its last.
What momentum the show gains with Baylan and Skywalker gets cast to the wind when Ahsoka and her Kennedy-certified female bosses stink up the screen. Where they show up, the energy flatlines. How much she’s giving the show in her performance, Winstead might as well look directly into the camera, break the fourth wall, and say, “I got this job because Ewan McGregor is Obi-Wan, and he left his wife to be my husband when we’re not pretending.” Their feminist Hollywood propaganda makes for great national news but horrible streaming content for the trans-dressed Disney platform.