On Star Wars Rebels, Sabine Wren never gave off strong Jedi vibes. She occasionally used a lightsaber, and she was incredibly badass, but there was never any indication she was Force-sensitive. It was a piece of information that felt at odds with the revelation of her becoming the apprentice of Ahsoka Tano on Ahsoka. However, in this week’s episode, those divergent thoughts were explained in a way that cuts to the core of Ahsoka the character, and Star Wars as a franchise. That, along with one of the coolest Star Wars action scenes in recent memory, highlighted a solid but seemingly truncated episode.
The third episode of Ahsoka was called “Time to Fly,” which on the surface obviously refers to the awesome, extended aerial action sequence at the heart of the episode. However, it also could be talking about Sabine—who, now fully immersed in the lessons of her Jedi master, must metaphorically learn to fly. She needs to forget who she wants to be and embrace who she is.
That story began in the first scene with Sabine doing saber training with Huyang. She does a fair job, but not enough to impress the droid or her master, so Ahsoka suggests they try “Zatoichi.” Many film fans probably did a double take at this moment because “Zatoichi” is the name of a popular fictional character in both literature and film, best known for being a blind samurai. So Ahsoka referring to blind training as “Zatoichi” is about as on the nose as a reference can get. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it.
Apparently though, what Obi-Wan Kenobi made Luke Skywalker do in A New Hope was also “Zatoichi” because Sabine directly references that scene with the line “I can’t see, how am I supposed to fight?” It also brought to mind one of the Star Wars Rebels stars that has yet to be referenced directly, Kanan Jarrus, who himself was a blind Jedi. (Kanan does, however, get a few winks later in the episode.)
Sabine puts on her blinding helmet and at first, she’s very bad. Eventually though, with Ahsoka’s encouragement and tutelage, she improves quickly and is able to feel her master’s apprentice and block some of her attacks.
The story then shifts to the New Republic fleet where Hera Syndulla is attempting to get approval to use resources to chase the lead she and Ahsoka learned about on Corellia in the previous episode. Hera meets virtually with several high-ranking government officials including now Chancellor Mon Mothma (Genevive O’Reilly) and a prickly Senator named Xiono (Nelson Lee). Xiono, full name Hamoto Xiono, is the father of Kazuda Xiono, the star of the Dave Filoni-produced animated show Star Wars Resistance. On that show, you could tell he was a curmudgeon and here on Ahsoka, he’s the same.
Though Mon Mothma seems more interested in Hera’s family, including her son Jacen, than anything else, Hera hits the group with the Thrawn of it all. She explains she has reason to believe he’s out there but Senator Xiono isn’t having it. He believes this is another step in Hera’s quest to find her friend Ezra Bridger. It’s a statement that suggests, in the time between shows, Hera has done a lot to search for Ezra. She admits the two are kind of linked together, having disappeared at the same time, but that finding Thrawn is one of those moves that can prevent another war. The senators decide to discuss whether or not Hera will get her wish.
On the way out, there was a huge moment for Star Wars Rebels fans. It’s the first reappearance, and only the second-ever mention, of Jacen Syndulla (played here by Evan Whitten). He’s, of course, Hera’s son, but also the son of the late Jedi Kanan Jarrus. Jacen tells his mom Chopper told him “Aunt Sabine” was going to be a Jedi and that he wants to be a Jedi. Hera knows he does, probably because his dad was such a great one. All of this passed by in a blink during the episode but is rewarding in that Jacen’s existence was one of the biggest surprises coming out of Rebels. He’s a character that, not just on Ahsoka but in all Star Wars media, has the potential to be very, very important. And if that happens, you can point back at this scene as the start.
That conversation sends the story back to the T-6 where Ahsoka and Sabine are having a conversation. (Side note, how far are they going that they have all this time to train and chat and hang out? They’re traveling at the speed of light, right?) Sabine shares her frustrations and fears with Ahsoka, especially about the fact she can’t use, or feel, the Force. Not like a Jedi should. Ahsoka tells her that while talent is a factor, training and focus can play a huge part and that she should start small.
The sentiment carries over into the cockpit though for the episode’s most revelatory and crucial conversation. Huyang and Ahsoka discuss the fact that Sabine is not a normal candidate to be a Jedi. In fact, she never even would have been considered by the old Jedi ways. But Ahsoka has never followed those ways and, in fact, herself rejected them. She says that maybe Sabine doesn’t need to become a Jedi, she can just become herself, which is a radical way of thinking about these core Star Wars powers, though right in character for Ahsoka. Huyang then admits this might all make sense because Ahsoka comes from a long line of non-traditional Jedi and, well—yes. That’s an understatement. She was Anakin’s apprentice, who was Obi-Wan’s, who was Qui-Gon’s, who was Dooku’s, who was Yoda’s, and most of those guys had very very unconventional journies to say the least. Not to mention her recent run-ins with Luke and Grogu.
It seems as if Ahsoka has something else in mind for Sabine. Not a by-the-book Jedi. More a Force-using ally. Something Star Wars fans often refer to as a “Gray Jedi.” Not quite a full light-side Jedi and not quite a full dark-side Sith. Someone who can tip toe on that line, breaking all the old rules, because those rules all failed in the past. And if that’s what Ahsoka has in mind for Sabine Wren, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for what Star Wars could be in the future.
All of this and “Time to Fly” hadn’t even gotten to its big centerpiece yet. Hera sends word to Ahsoka and Sabine that the Senate won’t be approving any resources for the search for Thrawn. As she’s about to say more though, the signal cuts out. Ahsoka, Sabine, and Huyang have entered the Denab system, which is where they tracked the ship on Corellia to. All communications have been jammed and as they drop out of hyperspace to assess the situation, something is waiting for them.
It’s Shin Hati, Marrok, and several other disciples of Morgan Elsbeth. They’re flying brand new Star Wars ships, very much influenced by George Lucas’ love of World War II aircraft (see Red Tails.) Ahsoka and Sabine are outnumbered and despite the tension between them from the training, in a pressure-packed situation, the two fall back into a very comfortable, very capable partnership. Using a shorthand they’ve developed over the years, the master and apprentice work together to take out several of the ships as Huyang attempts to gain data on the huge ring they see ahead of them. When the ships fail to shoot them down, Morgan—standing aboard that massive ring—takes over. Sabine and Ahsoka work together incredibly, inching closer and closer to the ring, taking on all kinds of damage until at last, Huyang has all the data he needs. It took too long though. The T-6 takes one too many hits and shuts down in mid-air.
With the ship floating in space, unable to defend itself, Shin Hati and Marrok move in for the kill. Ahsoka tells Sabine to fix what she can and that she’s going out there. “Out where?” Sabine, and the audience, ask. We all know what she means but we aren’t quite sure how she’s going to do it. Which is why it was supremely satisfying to see Ahsoka, in a space suit, emerge on the outside of the ship.
What followed felt like something from Star Wars Visions: a scene that you just don’t get in the usually simpler, more grounded Star Wars. No one goes outside of a ship in space. And if they did, they don’t bring two lightsabers and use them to deflect blasts from incoming spacecraft. But Ahsoka does just that. It was a special, super fun moment and it bought Sabine enough time to fix the ship so the pair could escape down toward the planet where the chase continued.
Again, we’ve seen Star Wars chases in space and we’ve seen Star Wars chases on planets, but rarely one that goes so long it bridges the two. That’s when Ahsoka and Sabine detect more aircraft inbound. If it’s more fighters, they’re done for. The ship is in too bad of shape. But no, it’s the Purrgil, aka space whales, who are flying together. Ahsoka and Sabine use the welcome distraction to try and lose Shin and Marrok, which they do, and land on the planet’s surface.
Once again, Sabine and the audience are on nearly the same page at this moment: “I haven’t seen those creatures since the day Ezra disappeared.” (They also made a brief appearance in the third season of The Mandalorian.) And they signal a surefire clue that our heroes are getting closer and closer to Ezra, as well as Thrawn.
Huyang finally analyzes the data everyone nearly lost their lives for and reveals the hyperspace ring Morgan is building would, indeed, be capable of intergalactic travel. He also says the Jedi archives had information on intergalactic hyperspace lanes that followed the migration paths of the Purrgil. And since they just saw some Purrgil, the master and apprentice smile. The pieces are coming together. One small problem though: Baylan Skoll knows Ahsoka and Sabine are in the forest and he’s sending his minions out to get them.
And that’s where “Time to Fly” ends, seemingly in the middle of a scene, after only about 30 minutes. It was a short episode which, physically at least, barely moved the story at all. Ahsoka and Sabine left at the end of the last episode and arrived by the end of this episode. Not much there. Contextually though, so much was stuffed into the short run time. The true nature of Sabine’s training, more mistakes being made by the New Republic, the promise of Jacen Syndulla, the return of the Purrgil, the reveal of intergalactic travel, and an excellent representation of how and why Sabine and Ahsoka work so well together. It was an odd episode, but a fun one that’ll have big ramifications moving ahead.
Watch the third episode of Ahsoka, “Time to Fly,” right now on Disney+.
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