Star Wars: Ahsoka at the Half: Marrok, The Heir to the Empire, and Baylan's Ambitions

With the season half over, we break down the evolving relationships, new developments, theories about the future, and that mysterious final cameo.

by | September 6, 2023 | Comments


Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Thanks to the way Star Wars: Ahsoka debuted, the halfway mark of the season is already upon us. And with half its story told, what can be gleaned about the past, present, and future? Sure, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) declared she was uninterested in musing about the past, but Star Wars fans know history is always on the horizon just as the future is always in motion. And considering Baylan’s (Ray Stevenson) unique perception of the future, it is worthwhile to take a look at some of the story points as they have evolved so far.

While part 3, “Time to Fly,” concerned itself with the bond between Ahsoka and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and General Hera Syndulla’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) problems with the New Republic senate, part 4, “Fallen Jedi,” offered a lot more of the fighting and portentous dialogue many expected from the series.

Better Together?

Rosario Dawson and Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

One such bit of dialogue, though its portent may lead in a surprising direction, is Huyang’s (David Tennant) proclamation that Ahsoka and Sabine fare better when together. Curiously, the series seems to counter the droid’s appraisal of master and apprentice at every turn. The pair rarely seem in sync, as Ahsoka’s aim in training Sabine is expressly not to produce a Jedi, and they split up almost immediately despite handily dispatching of a bunch of assassin droids as a team.

And then there’s the backstory Baylan helpfully offers us while also supporting his cause: Sabine’s whole family, Clan Wren, perished on Mandalore sometime between the end of Star Wars Rebels and the conclusion of the Galactic Civil War.

Presumably, they were victims of Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) Night of a Thousand Tears, the Imperial purge of Mandalorians following Bo-Katan Kryze’s (Katee Sackhoff) attempt to liberate Mandalore in the early part of the Civil War, as outlined over in The Mandalorian. But Baylan further twists the knife by suggesting Sabine might have been able to save some of her family had Ahsoka trusted her. It is a curious and portentous line as it relates to the past Ahsoka refuses to discuss and the future, as he also declares Sabine will see Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi, voiced by Taylor Gray on Rebels) again.

Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Rosario Dawson as Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

For the unfolding current drama, it is another wedge between Sabine and her master – probably the one that led to Ahsoka abandoning her. But for those connecting the dots between Rebels, The Mandalorian, and Ahsoka, it is doubly tragic as Sabine gave Bo-Katan the Darksaber prior to her attempt to liberate the planet. In some way Baylan has yet to touch upon, she must blame herself for the purge of her people.

In the moment, though, it was enough just to call Ezra her only remaining family and vow no harm would come to her while searching for Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) and Ezra for her to hand Baylan the star map, which we’re convinced is really a chart of purrgil space whale migration rather than the direct location of the grand admiral.

Her ultimate willingness to hand him the map, though, also speaks to the distance between Sabine and Ahsoka, as she repeatedly asked Sabine if she was up to leaving Ezra lost in space if it prevented Thrawn’s return. Are they better together or not?

Echoes Of Heir to the Empire

Senator Mawood (Maurice Irvin), Senator Rodrigo (Jacqueline Antaramian), Chancellor Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), Senator Xiono (Nelson Lee) and Gran Senator (Erica Duke) in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

While that question may become the focus of the next episode and the discussion between Ahsoka and her master, we’d like to push the clock back to part 3 and take a look at the scene between the Senate delegation and Hera. The moment is as strong an echo of Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel, Heir to the Empire, as Ahsoka name-checking Thrawn’s first literary appearance in part 4.

As in the novel, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is the Chancellor of the New Republic Senate. But she is besieged by the contradictory wants of the various former rebel factions who now occupy positions of authority in the government, like Hera and Senator Hamato Xiono (Nelson Lee). The way Xiono talks Mothma out of authorizing Hera’s mission to stop Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) is, we think, an echo of a similar situation in the novel featuring an ambitious Bothan politician named Borsk Fey’lya.

Of course, that conflict centered more on his aim to demilitarize the New Republic as a whole and push Admiral Ackbar out of any authority. But Xiono seems to share some of Fey’lya’s ambitions, and Hera appears to be taking Ackbar’s place in the subplot. As evidence, Home One is and was the name of the ship Ackbar took to Endor in Return of the Jedi and, according to current lore, the ship he commanded during the Battle of Jakku. It is Hera’s flagship now, and though it’s unclear where Ackbar is at the moment — the lore claims he retired after Jakku — abdicating command of Home One to Hera puts her in his place for any broad adaptation of Zahn’s initial Thrawn saga.

Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Granted, it is unclear if series writer and executive producer Dave Filoni is actually building to an adaptation of Heir to the Empire despite the echoes of its conflicts, Thrawn’s importance in this part of the timeline, or Ahsoka’s use of the term. Meanwhile, one piece of evidence against Xiono taking over Fey’lya’s role is his own future as the father of Star Wars Resistance character Kazuda Xiono (voiced by Christopher Sean on that series), Ahsoka‘s first clear future echo to the Sequel Era.

There are also other echoes to consider, like Captain Carson Teva’s (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) appearance as part of Phoenix Squadron. Teva is, of course, the New Republic official Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) trusts the most. His duties include patrolling the Outer Rim, offering people the chance to become Republic Marshals, and building a relationship with a curious bounty hunter looking to deliver the Imperial Remnant a deadly blow. Going by his beard in this episode, it would seem Ahsoka is taking place after The Mandalorian‘s third season. His appearances in seasons 2 and 3 of that series featured somewhat shorter follicles adorning his face, a suggestion that we are in the most recent part of the New Republic yet charted.

Sometimes, you wish Star Wars shows were as precise as Andor with their calendars.

Phoenix Squadron itself hearkens back to Rebels, during which Hera first became the unit’s commander. And just in case you needed more Rebels in this series, she leaves Home One aboard the Ghost, her ship throughout Rebels. Also, her exit, we should add, is something Ackbar would not have done under similar circumstances. He would’ve sent word to Han Solo (Harrison Ford) somehow to solve the problem for him.

The Identity Of Marrok

Paul Darnell as Marrok in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Marrok (Paul Darnell), the masked Inquisitor who seemed poised to become the next Star Wars mystery, was, in fact, just an Inquisitor named Marrok. And now, he’s a dead Inquisitor, as Ahsoka has a knack for dispatching them. The red herring status of the character seems purposeful, though.

Many online spotted actor Sam Witwer — who played Galen Marek, Darth Vader’s apprentice, in the two Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video games — in the “additional voices” cast for part 2. Some began to believe his name was buried there to hide the reveal that Marrok was, in fact, Marek, aka Starkiller. Besides the similarities in their names, the growing hypothesis that Marrok was Starkiller had an irresistible idea embedded in it: an eventual fight between Anakin Skywalker’s (Hayden Christensen) padawan, Ahsoka, and Vader’s apprentice.

Rosario Dawson and Paul Darnell as Ahsoka Tano and Marrok in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

But as seen in part 4, Marrok was no such apprentice and, after a pretty good fight shot by director Peter Ramsey of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse fame, was dispatched in a manner befitting his inconsequential status. Granted, the way he exploded out of his Inquisitor garb was a unique spin and, perhaps, a last clue to him meaning more than he appears here in Ahsoka. Or was he just something Filoni added to obscure the true mystery? Perhaps he was also an object lesson for those of us who can’t resist looking to uncover mysterious Star Wars characters: sometimes, a masked man is not a riddle to be solved.

Meanwhile, we’ll mourn another lost opportunity to bring Mara Jade back into current canon.

Destroy In Order To Create

Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

As we mentioned earlier, part 4 is filled with portent, and the most portentous of the lot is Baylan’s obscure reference to his true ambition. Just before the fight, he tells Ahsoka that he has no true allegiance to Thrawn or the Empire, but considers another war necessary so he can “create.” What does he want to create? Something for “the greater good.” Frankly, we were hoping for a little more here as Baylan becomes a more distinct character in our minds from Joruus C’Baoth, the Heir to the Empire character he vaguely resembles. Both enjoyed power, but Baylan seems to have more of a galactic dimension than his book antecedent – and that’s still presuming they have anything in common beyond a single word.

Besides the presumed Extended Universe dimension, Baylan’s true ambition is now the most compelling mystery. His regret at the mere thought of killing Ahsoka, his knowledge of Anakin’s fall, and his own testimony about having no faith all point to an unexpected nuance. As we’ve known since Star Wars Celebration back in April, he is neither Jedi nor Sith, but what is he? Our suggestion that he is some sort of EU-inspired Dark Jedi seems insufficient now, but perhaps the episode title is a good term for him and his design: Fallen Jedi.

Back In The World Between Worlds

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Ahsoka (2023)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The episode 4 title is also literal, with Ahsoka falling off the side of the cliff toward the end and reuniting with the most fallen of fallen, Anakin Skywalker. The “how” comes courtesy of the World Between Worlds, a dimension (for lack of better terms) where time can be traversed like distance and the means by which Ezra saved Ahsoka from her confrontation with Vader in Rebels.

It is also the place Ezra left Ahsoka as he rushed off to combat Thrawn and finally push the Empire off of Lothal. As we mentioned last time, Ahsoka spent some time there after Ezra departed, but it is unclear how long she was there or what else she learned. From the scene in part 4 of Ahsoka, it would seem she never encountered Anakin or Vader until now. But from the computer de-aging on Christensen – and his use of her old nickname, “Snips” – this is an Anakin prior to his fall. How he got there is anyone’s guess, but we imagine by the time this posts, many online will try to fit the scene into the Mortis arc from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a key set of episodes that established a lot of Force lore.

Another alternative: this is Anakin after the events of the Original Trilogy adopting a visage that would put his old padawan at ease. But how can a Force ghost make its way to the World Between Worlds?

But perhaps more important than the how and why of Anakin’s appearance is the way Ahsoka herself wound up there. This is the second time landing in that nether realm prevented her death. Is The Force itself interested in keeping her alive? And if that’s the case, was she reaching out to Rey (Daisy Ridley) from there in their moment of connection during the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?

Ahsoka lives, after all.

86% Star Wars: Ahsoka: Season 1 (2023) new episodes premiere on Wednesdays on Disney+.

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