What, you were expecting the climax?
Last week, Episode 6 of Ahsoka ended with Grand Admiral Thrawn bracing for Ahsoka Tano’s arrival at Peridea. This week, in Episode 7, she shows up. Yes, a few fights, laughs, callbacks, and semi-revealing exchanges unfold along the way, but the season’s penultimate installment is, first and foremost, an exercise in getting the rest of the gang back together for a future climactic confrontation. “Dreams and Madness,” written by Dave Filoni and directed by Geeta Vasant Patel, is a classic setup episode that saves the series’ powder for the big finish, in traditional TV fashion. Hey, even Andor wasn’t above some low-stakes chess-piece-pushing right before its finale. And no character is more committed to figurative chess-playing than Thrawn.
In some respects, then, this week was a letdown. If you’ve been waiting to find out what Baylan Skoll’s scheme is, you’re still in suspense. If you expected to see Sabine come clean to Ezra about how she got to this galaxy—nah, not this time. Why do the Great Mothers serve Thrawn? What’s in the box—make that many boxes—that Thrawn has ordered to be transferred to the Chimaera’s cargo hold? Who’s going to get back to the main galaxy, and how? Hold your howlers: Filoni isn’t ready to divulge those answers yet. As Baylan tells Shin Hati, “Impatience for victory will guarantee defeat.”
Of course, patience doesn’t guarantee victory, and a satisfying finale is far from assured. But for a fairly inconsequential episode on a plot level—toward the end of a season that still has a lot to resolve—“Dreams and Madness” is a fast-moving, mostly entertaining trip.
All the intrigue in Ahsoka is centered on Peridea. Naturally, Episode 7 starts on Coruscant, where Hera is facing a court-martial hearing sparked by her recent defiance of orders when she went AWOL to aid Ahsoka and Sabine. Mon Mothma oversees the proceedings, aided by an unidentified human, a Sullustan, an officer who looks a lot like Admiral Ackbar (not that I’m suggesting all Mon Calamari look alike!), and, less happily for Hera, the sneering Senator Xiono, who’s doing a great impression of an Imperial plant. (Xiono’s manner—and his Wuher-esque droid discrimination, which the very vindictive Chopper resents—makes his objections seem less reasonable than they are. Put some respect on C-3PO’s name!) Hera’s report, Xiono complains, “Reads like a child’s fairy tale. Jedi, false Jedi, star maps, star whales, distant galaxies. Honestly, are we to believe any of it?” (The senator sounds like he’d rather be on Andor.) We know the situation is serious because the accused isn’t sporting her usual goggles, leather jacket, and flight suit, though her dress slacks are no less form-fitting than the orange ones that gave some Ahsoka viewers the hots for Hera.
Patel previously directed “The Lord of the Tides,” probably the best episode of House of the Dragon’s first season. That episode also featured a fraught hearing, which played out much more dramatically (and violently) than Hera’s. The less scintillating Ahsoka scene at court contains two main items of interest, the latest in a litany of examples of the New Republic underestimating the threat of the Imperial Remnant. (“Such a sensational term,” Xiono scoffs.) The first is Captain Teva’s Ki-Adi-Mundi-esque interjection, “What about the conflict on Mandalore?” Although there’s a nearly endless list of past conflicts on Mandalore, he’s clearly referring to the latest one: the Mandalorians’ secret-base showdown with Gideon, whom Xiono dismisses as “a warlord acting on his own.” That would seem to settle the uncertainty about when Ahsoka takes place: after the third season of The Mandalorian. So yes, it did indeed take almost a dozen years for Ezra’s pals to try to take the same means of transportation to Peridea that he did.
Speaking of sensations: Just as Hera seems destined for a decrease in rank, she’s bailed out by deus ex droid as C-3PO appears, marking the latest live-action appearance for prolific Threepio performer Anthony Daniels. “I do not need to show you identification,” the protocol droid boldly declares at the door, sounding like a Jedi mind trickster. Threepio doesn’t need ID because he’s representing a princess and senator: Leia Organa. In Episode 5, Captain Teva invoked Leia for the first time in a Mandoverse series when he told Hera, “Senator Organa says she can only give us cover for so long.” Evidently, that cover extends for quite some time, because Threepio’s claim that Leia sanctioned Hera’s mission—backed up by what must be a fabricated or at least slightly doctored transcript—assuages/cows even the sputtering Xiono. Later, we know, the New Republic’s myopia concerning the First Order will prompt Leia to form the Resistance, but for now, she’s still working within the system as the Defense Council’s leader.
(Obviously, it’s slightly odd that Leia doesn’t attend or dial into the hearing herself, but hey, senators and Defense Council leaders must be busy. I’ll take a kinda-contrived Threepio appearance over a CGI resurrection of Carrie Fisher any day, though this no-show highlights one of the hurdles inherent in telling Republic-and-Jedi-adjacent Star Wars stories set in a period when, theoretically, Leia and Luke should be in the thick of the action.)
Meanwhile, en route to another galaxy, Ahsoka is going through some slow-motion lightsaber exercises, instructed by a hologram of C-3PO’s creator, Anakin Skywalker (who name-checks Asajj Ventress, in a live-action first). This isn’t the first time Ahsoka has been seen viewing Anakin’s combat tutorials: In the Rebels Season 2 episode “Shroud of Darkness,” she and Ezra watch a less personalized clip together. A few episodes later, Ahsoka comes face to face with Anakin again, as she learns that her former master has transformed into the Sith Lord Darth Vader. This scene in “Dreams and Madness” could well be the first time Ahsoka has mustered the strength to view one of these holograms since that devastating discovery. “He was a good master,” she tells Huyang, a conclusion she can vocalize thanks to the closure she got from her World Between Worlds encounter with Anakin in Episode 5.
This exercise, reminiscent of training sessions with a flesh-and-blood Anakin in The Clone Wars and Tales of the Jedi, comes to an end shortly before the purrgil drop out of hyperspace and receive a rude greeting. The last leg of the Path to Peridea is littered with mines, a precaution taken by Thrawn to prevent any purrgil from approaching the planet. Poor purrgil: They do a total stranger a favor by giving her a lift to another galaxy, and their reward is running right into a minefield (readymade for a Star Tours ride). Fortunately, star whales have thick skins, and they escape mostly unscathed into hyperspace, leaving Ahsoka and Huyang behind to evade pursuit from starfighters in the purrgil ossuary surrounding the planet. “We’re going to get pulverized if we stay out here much longer,” Huyang frets, a verbatim repetition of a Leia line from The Empire Strikes Back. (In another Empire homage, Huyang references the “astronomically terrible” odds of getting where they’re going, as part of a teasing exchange with a newly jocular Ahsoka.)
Thanks to some intel from the old Inquisitorial database, Thrawn ascertains that Ahsoka was once Anakin’s apprentice, which ostensibly informs how he handles her. (Thrawn has firsthand experience with Anakin, and he also seems to know that Anakin became Darth Vader.) She’s “unpredictable and quite dangerous,” Thrawn says, which means he must take extra pains to control her. It’s not totally clear that Thrawn’s knowledge meaningfully affects his tactics this week—he was plenty wary of Ahsoka before he was aware of who her master was—but it will probably lead to a juicy exchange when the two tangle directly.
On the planet’s surface, the Noti have taken their trailers on the road, which gives Ezra and Sabine time to catch up during the drive. Although we weren’t privy to their initial “previously on Star Wars” recap conversation, they recap the recap here, which includes one amusing back-and-forth: “The Emperor died?” Ezra asks, which causes Sabine to respond, “That’s what people say.” Maybe Sabine was a Palpatine truther long before he somehow returned! We also get the briefest of shout-outs to Zeb, the first indication that any of the protagonists of this series remember that their former crewmate exists.
Another amusing moment occurs when Sabine reveals that Ahsoka took her on as an apprentice. “She what? Why?” Ezra reflexively responds, before trying to dig himself out of a self-created hole: “No, no, that’s great. Makes sense, of course.” (Smooth save.) Ezra’s reaction mirrors that of many Rebels fans when they learned that the seemingly Force-insensitive Sabine was training to be a Jedi, which makes sense in terms of the show’s efforts to reframe the Force but could still stand to be explained a tad more fully from Sabine’s and Ahsoka’s perspectives.
Soon enough, though, that training pays off. As Ahsoka’s shuttle shelters in the purrgil graveyard, Huyang tries and fails to detect Sabine with the ship’s sensors. Huyang’s scan comes up empty, so Ahsoka reaches out to Sabine through the Force, much like Luke does to an untrained Leia at Cloud City toward the end of Empire. I don’t know if this counts as Sabine wielding the Force—we’re still waiting on her first successful telekinesis attempt—but it is, at least, evidence that she’s open to it, no longer blocked by her preoccupation with failing to find Ezra. It’s also a sign that she shares a bond with Ahsoka, despite each of them having deeply disappointed the other.
Unfortunately for our heroes, Ahsoka isn’t the only Force user in the neighborhood who’s capable of pinpointing people from afar. Thrawn enlists the Great Mothers to Force-triangulate Ahsoka’s location, and ensuing turbolaser blasts from the Eye of Sion flush her shuttle out of hiding and down to the surface. Ahsoka heads for Sabine’s location, while Thrawn congratulates himself, Palpatine-style, for his foresight in sending her away. (Is it just me, or is Morgan a little quick to question Thrawn’s strategy this week, considering she just traveled between galaxies to bring him home? I find her lack of faith disturbing. Then again, continually suffering setbacks while insisting they were all part of the plan was a pattern with Thrawn on Rebels, and look how that worked out for him.)
At almost the same time, Baylan, Shin, and their bandit allies spot the Noti caravan, and Shin reports its coordinates. Now we have a hot pursuit in the making, as the bandits on howlerback set off after the Noti like the warg-riding orcs of Isengard in a different trilogy’s middle movie.
As one master-apprentice pair comes closer to reuniting, another splits up, at least temporarily. Baylan tells Shin to kill Sabine and Ezra—which seems like a tall order considering she’s twice failed to kill Sabine alone—and take her place in Thrawn’s resurgent Empire. “Your ambition drives you in one direction, my path lies in another,” Skoll says. He still hasn’t told Shin (or, by extension, Ahsoka’s feverishly speculating audience) precisely where his path leads—he’s not the only character keeping things close to the vest—but wherever it is, he senses that she won’t want to follow. It’s a bit of an abrupt ending to their partnership, if the two have been together for as long as it seems, but at least it gives Shin a chance to survive Baylan’s likely demise. Notice the similarity of Baylan’s breakup with Shin to Obi-Wan’s words to Luke shortly before Obi became one with the Force: “Your destiny lies along a different path than mine.”
(The origin of Shin’s apprenticeship with Baylan is one of many bits of backstory I’d love for Filoni—or some other Star Wars storyteller—to fill in, but I’m not holding out much hope for enlightenment on that topic next week. One thing I’m not stressing as much as some Ahsoka viewers seem to be is what Thrawn and Ezra have been up to since they were mutually marooned. I’ve seen some exasperation about why Thrawn didn’t know where Ezra was in Episode 6, but to me it tracks that they would’ve lost touch with each other. Neither man is needlessly violent, and once they were stranded in a new galaxy, neither posed an immediate threat to the other’s plans. Enough time has passed that it makes some sense for them to have agreed to live and let live. Plus, for all we know, Ezra had something to do with the dwindling number of Thrawn’s troops, back before he became an honorary Noti. If so, Thrawn may have decided that trying to hunt him down wasn’t worth the cost.)
The episode culminates in a multi-part set piece. First, there’s a good, old-fashioned Western-style chase, which segues into a similarly Western-style circling of the wagons. (A technique the clone troopers employed in the Second Battle of Geonosis on The Clone Wars Season 2.) Endearingly, the Notis’ mobile pods function a lot like their shells, sealing up to provide protection. Even more endearingly, Ezra has taught them to use slingshots, which hearkens back to his choice of weapon as a teen on Lothal.
These days, Ezra opts to go without a weapon, leaving his lightsaber in Sabine’s hands. “The Force is my ally,” he says, and as Yoda might add, “a powerful ally it is.” (Granted, Ezra eventually acquiesces to carrying a blaster at his side.) A Force fight where one party goes lightsaberless is always a good time—see Vader vs. Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka vs. the Inquisitor in Tales of the Jedi, the end of Ahsoka vs. Maul in The Clone Wars Season 7, the end of Anakin vs. Obi-Wan in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s flashback scene, the beginning of Kylo vs. Rey in the Death Star’s wreckage, and Grogu vs. guards in The Mandalorian Season 3—and the distortion of Shin’s saber when Ezra Force-repels it is a flashy effect. Shin singes his hair with her first stroke, but he avoids more serious injury, thanks in part to the timely arrival of Ahsoka, who survives her own rematch with Baylan with an assist from Huyang. (This time, Ahsoka uses both of her sabers to fight Baylan to a standstill—which she now knows is all she needs to do—instead of the one she used during her defeat on Seatos.) Behold the White Rider! Ahsoka is come again!
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Star Wars property with so many engaging but inconclusive saber battles. (The Clone Wars qualifies, but the combat is more concentrated on Ahsoka.) In video game boss battles, the third duel is often decisive. Maybe next week, someone will actually succumb to a saber wound—or maybe the Jedi-curious Shin, cast loose by her master, will respond to Ahsoka’s offer of aid and turn toward the light. While we wait for resolution on that score, we do have one upset from Episode 7 to consider: The night troopers who were slashed or blasted didn’t appear to turn into Marrok-like mist, a blow to the “reanimated army” theory. But the kingdom of dreams and madness isn’t just the title of a documentary about Studio Ghibli; it’s also Baylan’s label for the Night Sisters’ ancestral home. One way or another, some witchy shit is sure to go down next time.
“Well, they’re all back together,” Huyang says as he circles the battlefield. “I hope I survive long enough to see the outcome.” I hope he does too; if anything happens to Huyang, I’ll lodge a formal complaint. For now, we can celebrate too: Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra are together again. After Ahsoka hugs Ezra (who continues to be portrayed perfectly by Eman Esfandi), she laughs aloud, which she wouldn’t have done at the start of the season. And it seems as if Ahsoka and Sabine don’t harbor hard feelings about their old differences, though their reunion might have hit harder if we’d seen Sabine be more upset about Ahsoka’s apparent death. It does strain credulity that Sabine still hasn’t told Ezra how she got to his galaxy or that they don’t have a way to get back without hitchhiking with Thrawn—if he could order another purrgil pickup, he presumably would have already—so it’ll be past time for Ahsoka or Sabine to clue him in when Episode 8 picks up after this week’s closing lines: “Guys, I’m getting a feeling. I think I might be going home after all!” I’m getting the feeling that more than one of the good guys may get the chance to see more of the sights on Peridea.
“Ahsoka Tano has lost the one thing she could not afford to lose today,” Thrawn intones to Morgan. “Time.” Time may be on Thrawn’s side, but with one episode left in the season, it’s not on Ahsoka’s. And so we find ourselves with a familiar feeling on the eve of a Disney+ finale: fear that all the loose ends can’t possibly be tied up. Filoni doesn’t have to solve the series’ many remaining mysteries next week: He can, and almost certainly will, continue the story of Ahsoka and Co. in a second season, another Mandoverse series, and/or his upcoming crossover film. But it would be a bummer if the ending of Ahsoka Season 1 doesn’t feel fulfilling on its own—like the ending of a chapter, if not of an entire tale. We won’t be graced with Ray Stevenson’s screen presence again, so it’s imperative that Baylan, at least, gets a fitting farewell.
Hera says to Xiono, “I don’t know what frightens me more. The possibility of what might happen or your unwillingness to see it.” Anyone who’s gone along for the mostly rewarding ride through the first seven episodes of Ahsoka is almost certainly willing to see how the season ends, which means what might (or might not happen) is the greater reason for fright. “Something’s coming,” Ahsoka said in a still-unused line from the trailer. “Something dark.” Yes, something wicked this way comes, possibly bidden by Baylan. And like Hera, we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.