Well, it took six episodes of Ahsoka teases, but finally all of that searching for Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger pays off. In the episode titled “Far, Far Away”, a nice homage to George Lucas’ iconic opening crawl, there actually isn’t very much Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) at all. Following last week’s episode which was entirely about Ahsoka, her past, and her future as a mentor, this one turns its attention to her apprentice, Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who we last saw in enemy clutches. Well, willingly so.
In fact, the episode begins with Ahsoka revealing to Huyang (voiced by David Tennant) that Sabine went with Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson), Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno), and Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) willingly, when she could’ve ended the threat of Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) once and for all. But that would also mean destroying all hope of finding her lost friend, Ezra (Eman Esfandi), and that was clearly something Sabine could not do. Huyang and Ahsoka talk about old stories of the Jedi from their time at the Temple. She isn’t in the mood for them at the time, until Huyang suggests that for Sabine going with the enemy might’ve been her only choice. Suddenly, Ahsoka wants to hear a story…”A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Bedtime stories while road trippping inside of a star whale, what could be better?
That’s the last we see of Ahsoka Tano as the action turns to Sabine, who wakes up in shackles aboard Morgan’s ship. Baylan arrives to check on her, and she demands to know where Ezra is, reminding him about their deal. He refuses to answer, and tells the others that Sabine’s short-sighted focus on finding Ezra will blind her. It isn’t long before they drop out of hyperspace and onto the planet of Peridea, the homeworld of the dangerous Nightsisters of Dathomir. It’s also the place where Thrawn and Ezra disappeared to. They are greeted on this rocky, desolate world by three Nightsisters (Jeryl Prescott Gallien, Claudia Black, and Jane Edwina Seymour) who thank Morgan for coming. They promise that Thrawn is on his way, but in the meantime, they banish Sabine into solitary confinement. Apparently, she stinks of Jedi, which I don’t think a simple shower can rinse off.
Next comes my favorite scene of the episode. Baylan begins talking to Shin about the “old stories” he heard as a Jedi youth. To him, this place is like legend and fairy tales come true, and you can see his utter amazement. He talks about the endless cycle between the Jedi and forces of the Dark Side, saying the Jedi’s demise was inevitable. It’s not the first time that we sense some longing in him for the old Jedi ways, and some sadness over their demise. As to whether Thrawn can be the one to make all of the old stories real, he seems to exprss some doubt. Baylan also suggests that a greater power is hiding in the shadows on Peridea, and that is what he’s truly fighting for. Hmmmm…
Then, the moment finally arrives. As Sabine tries and fails to use her Force powers to break from her cell, she’s distracted by the arrival of a massive Star Destroyer. Thrawn’s Star Destroyer. The intimidating Chiss leader is flanked by his second in command, the gold-helmeted Captain Enoch (Wes Chatham), and a battalion of battle-scarred Night Troopers. It’s clear they’ve seen their share of battles while away, and Thrawn admits their numbers have been diminished. Thrawn thanks Morgan for coming to his aid, and even agrees to aid Sabine in her hope of reuniting with Ezra. Readers of the Heir to the Empire novels and Thrawn’s appearances on Star Wars Rebels know him to be a cold, calculating tactician, which makes his reactions to everyone very interesting. He seems a bit skeptical of Baylan, who he immediately recognizes as a former Jedi. While at the same time, he also appears to be honorable in helping Sabine. He has her released from captivity, with all of her weapons intact, and even gives her a rat-like Howler to ride as transport. However, he also tells Sabine that she’ll be stranded there once they leave the planet; and tells her that Ezra might not even be alive. It’s dangerous out there, after all.
Revealing his true colors, Thrawn sends Baylan and Shin to trail Sabine and, if she ever finds Ezra, to kill them both. Shocker, thrawn wasn’t at all honorable.
The rest of the episode is about Sabine’s search for Ezra, fighting off deadly nomads and braving Peridea’s brutal natural terrain. After fighting off four attackers thanks to her Mandalorian beskar metal armor and lightsaber, Sabine encounters hermit crab-esque creatures known as the Noti. They’re basically just future Star Wars merch in waiting, let’s be honest. Making friends with them quickly, Sabin recognizes the symbol one is wearing, and it recognizes the same on her armor. Realizing they must know where Ezra is, she follows them back to the Noti village and…TA-DAH!!!! Ezra is there, sporting a full beard (The Noti don’t have Bic) and the same positive disposition he’s always had. It’s like he hasn’t changed a bit, except for the extra facial hair. He has tons of questions, but Sabine, obviously reluctant to bring up Thrawn and the Nightsisters, just wants to enjoy the moment. Ezra, somewhat solemnly, tells her how eager he is to finally get home. Well, that conversation is going to be difficult.
Baylan begins telling Shin what he knows of Ezra and his training as a Jedi, and again it’s hinted that Baylan is up to something. He has larger designs of his own. The duo are confronted by the same nomadic warriors that faced Sabine, and Baylan suggests taking a diplomatic approach. Meanwhile, the Nightsisters have picked up on Ahsoka’s impending arrival. Thrawn wants to know everything about her in order to be ready, and we know that when Thrawn has information and time to prepare he can be the deadliest person in the galaxy. Thrawn also confirms his lack of trust in Baylan because, well, he was a Jedi.
I might be the odd man out here, but this was just a solid episode for me and not a great one. The plot finally took the huge step forward that it needed to, but it felt like that was all Dave Filoni prepared for and not much else. The story’s momentum ground to a halt as soon as Thrawn arrived, as he dumped a bunch of exposition on us, and later when Ezra showed up. In the latter case, though, it was because Filoni really wanted the emotion of the moment to sink in, and I have to admit it was beautiful to see Sabine and Ezra reunited. I know the series has sorta established a purely platonic bond between the two, but am I reading that there could be something more? Director Jennifer Getzinger has a lot to play around with visually, from the kid-friendly Noti to cool lightsaber battles, and the deathly atmosphere of Peridea. I also like how Thrawn’s blue skin practically glows against the barren landscape, making him look more menacing.
I’ll be honest it sorta surprised me to see Ezra in this episode. At this stage I was thinking we would finally get him in the final moments of the final episode, which would end on a post-credits note that “Ezra’s Journey Will Continue In 2024!”. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and with two epsiodes left I’m curious to see what secrets emerge from Ezra and Thrawn’s next confrontation. There’s a lot that we don’t know about what happened after their disappearance, and you can bet something will throw Sabine for a loop.