Ahsoka Tano’s in-universe and out-universe character arcs are among the longest in Star Wars. The unidentified Padawan of Anakin Skywalker was a death trap when she was introduced in The Clone Wars. (She was absent during Revenge of the Sith, which likely hampered her survival.) This filler character was met with scepticism and plain heinousness by Star Wars fans, a portent of things to come for future female characters. However, she became one of the most complex and beloved characters in the franchise, surviving Order 66, becoming an important part of Rebels, and even appearing in The Rise of Skywalker before making her live-action debut in season two of The Mandalorian.

Dave Filoni made Ahsoka the first cartoon Star Wars character to headline a live-action programme, but she has more baggage than the other Star Wars series. The eponymous character has 15 years of backstory and growth. If the new series ignored all this for simplification and universal appeal, it would alienate many fans and ignore much of the canon. However, novices to The Clone Wars season eight cannot watch nearly 200 episodes to prepare for this newest hour.

It is a massive challenge, but Ahsoka strikes the appropriate balance between familiar and fresh, and it uses an excellent approach to catch newbies up to the tale, a Star Wars solution not employed since Episode IX. The opening crawl, Crawly, is back! Ahsoka’s usage of the legendary movie beginning makes this show a bridge between the Skywalker Saga and the franchise’s TV universe, as The Clone Wars didn’t have a crawl. The crawl discusses Ahsoka and the galaxy in all post–Return of the Jedi Mando-Verse shows, which haven’t done a good job explaining their context, particularly Thrawn and why his return would cause issues. Does Rebels knowledge increase the experience and character development? Absolutely. The episode works without that knowledge? And that’s impressive.

In the first episode, Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) goes on a treasure expedition to find a map in an old tomb that will take her to Thrawn. No matter the Rebels setting, the plot is easy to grasp and get involved in—a massive imperial danger must be resisted or there will be another war. The premiere also feels like a continuation of Rebels and its biggest lingering question—where Ezra Bridger went? The Jedi Padawan turned freedom fighter ended the cartoon by sacrificing himself by sending the ship he and Thrawn were on into deep uncharted hyperspace. Rebels’ focus on family, the main crew, and balancing that with the galactic background made the war against the Empire a personal drama about restoring Ezra’s home of Lothal. Ahsoka is juggling Thrawn’s galactic menace with Ezra’s personal search.

Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a New Republic general, hopes Ezra will survive to reconcile Ahsoka with Sabine, her former pupil. Mandalorian Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) appears to be a loner on Lothal, which is skillfully recreated in live-action. The former rebel and Lothal hero feeds a cute Loth-cat and reminisces in Ezra’s bunker, surrounded by his stormtrooper helmets.

Even without knowing Sabine’s history in uniting Mandalore, the shot of her armour in a random box, the Mandalorian’s destiny, and her seemingly watching Ezra’s good-bye message on repeat demonstrate that she’s been carrying a weight for years. In the years since Rebels, Ahsoka seemingly became Sabine’s apprentice, despite Sabine never demonstrating Force sensitivity and walking away from her. This could change Star Wars lore, but we’ll have to wait.

Ahsoka and Sabine must battle a phantom peril before finding Ezra or restore their bond. The episode begins with a master and apprentice brandishing orange lightsabers, an intentional choice. Master Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson), a former Jedi who vanished during the Clone Wars, and apprentice Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno). Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), a former magistrate and Thrawn ally, is rescued. Stevenson, a new Force-wielding villain with Count Dooku’s grace but more military and vicious, makes a memorable first impression.

They should be worried because Hati goes to Lothal, finds Sabine, steals the map, and stabs her with her lightsaber after a brief duel. Unfortunately, this happened after Sabine opened the map, giving them an even bigger edge.

The map appears to lead to a separate galaxy. The non-canon expanded universe has long featured this premise, although the franchise has never actually explored the known galaxy. Furthermore, the Star Wars franchise’s actual title in Spanish is La Guerra de las Galaxias, or “The War of the Galaxies,” making this an exciting full circle event. Dave Filoni and his colleagues have always experimented with Star Wars’ tone, ideas, and narrative. Ahsoka is a fascinating and crucial new chapter in Star Wars since she may be the largest addition yet.