Voice News

CA News 2024


Tales of the Empire is a story of two very different halves

Two years ago, Star Wars entered a new animated format with Tales of the Jedi, which explored the stories of two characters excluded by the titular order in Dooku and Ahsoka Tano. Now, in honor of Star Wars Day this weekend, it’s being tried again, this time with a touch of the Dark Side. But while Tales of the Empire achieves more success than its predecessor, it manages to do so rather unevenly.

The big questions of Tales of the Empire mirror those of Tales of the Jedi – more about the personal reach of its central characters, than questions about the institutions that connect them. If Jedi were to ask its characters what it means to feel like the Jedi Order has left them behind, Empire asks Morgan Elsbeth and Barriss Offee (the returning Diana Lee Inosanto and Meredith Salenger, respectively) how they could possibly be an evil if the Empire can survive.

This is done largely by not really telling stories about the empire itself in the six episodes, but through stories about the need for survival that drives these two women in very different directions. While the idea of ​​the “good” Imperial was explored far more often in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe – from the political machinations of TIE Fighter to the novels’ exploration of the Imperial Remnant as an eventual galactic power to the New Republic – It Star Wars’ examination of Imperial figures leans more introspectively than on the logistics of the Empire as an entity, looking at how individual beings across the galaxy are pushed or drawn into the masquerades of its villainy. It is here that Tales finds grounding for both Morgan and Barriss – one trapped in a cycle of revenge, the other driven by survival in a world that has turned it upside down – by giving them both individual goals and desires in the interaction with the government and its structures.

Image: Lucasfilm

This individual response and approach to empire as a catalyst obviously means that the stories told through its lens can vary enormously in terms of satisfaction, even if they are all loosely connected by their relationship to the imperial structure. That’s certainly the case for Tales of the Empire, which is unfortunately clearly divided down the middle between one story that repeatedly hits a single note as it comes to a vague conclusion for the protagonist, and another, albeit equally vague, that has much more to offer. by directly challenging the anthology’s premise.

Unfortunately, it is Morgan Elsbeth’s story that really suffers from this. Because she feels limited by what we knew of the character when she was introduced in The Mandalorian and then further discussed in Ahsoka, Morgan’s arc in Tales feels less like an actual journey for her character and more like shuffling her to specific points on a chessboard – her time as a Nightsister, her time with Thrawn, her time as a magistrate on Corvus. While Inosanto gives a strong performance with the material she’s given here, there’s just not enough time spent on three 10-15 minute segments to really delve into what makes Morgan tick. All we get is her desire for revenge in the aftermath of the massacre of the Nightsisters during The Clone Wars, which leaves her characterization as angry and hurt feeling particularly one-note, especially as Tales never finds anything to really say that Morgan has carried that anger with him for decades. her life. Nothing learned here emotionally defines the figure we meet in Mandalorian and ultimately Ahsoka, and instead comes across as checking boxes on a wiki entry.

Image: Lucasfilm

But where Morgan’s side of Tales of the Empire stumbles, it soars in its exploration of Barriss Offee in a post-Order-66 world, faced with the gruesome decision of death at the hands of the new regime, or of surviving as part of its long shadow in the post-Order-66 world. the Imperial Inquisitorius.

While Morgan’s story in Tales is limited by what we already knew about the character’s future and her ending, Barriss’s is unleashed by the unprecedented potential it sees in her as a character. Barriss Offee is a rare character in the Star Wars arsenal: a figure who played a climactic role in a major turning point in continuity, the Padawan became architect of a bombing of the Jedi Temple that led directly to Ahsoka Tano’s departure from the Order in Clone Wars, but one that has remained completely untouched by ongoing storytelling for the past decade. We don’t know where Barriss’ journey into the clutches of the Inquisition will take her, giving her side of Tales a notable tension otherwise lacking in Morgan’s story. But Tales also uses Barriss and the limited time with her more effectively. While the three episodes are as vague as Morgan’s, in that the three episodes jump across broad moments in time rather than delving particularly deeply into any particular moment in Barriss’ post-Clone Wars life, the nature of the story is that Tales wants to tell about Barriss adapting to survive the existence of the Empire. lets her character grow and change over a much more satisfying arc.

Image: Lucasfilm

However, that aforementioned broadness is a more general problem with Tales of the Empire, and not something attributed to one half of the story or the other. Both stories here try to tackle ideas crammed into episodes that are too short and sharp to really spend the time worth digging into them. A lot is left on the table, for better or for worse: either because there wasn’t much to say for some characters in the first place, or because Tales needs to leave things open so future stories can pick up what it means. down. Tales of the Empire is clearly interested in trying to tell something deep and personal about these two characters and their relationship with the Empire, and what drives them beyond it, but while one side works much better than the other, it doesn’t. it does a good job of really doing justice to everything in the time that the format offers itself.

This was a problem that Tales of the Jedi also suffered from: Ahsoka and Dooku’s fates, like Morgan Elsbeth’s, were already known, and the bits of their stories that Tales explored were strongest when they retreated from that fateful fate to question the institution that bound them. Tales of the Empire isn’t interested in exploring the empire other than as a catalyst for these two disconnected characters, and struggles to find meat to chew on. While its greatest strength comes from playing with the unexpected in Barriss Offee’s story, that’s still only 30 minutes with a character that Tales clearly wanted to explore for much longer. The potential for more is there, but perhaps Tales of the Empire’s greatest success lies in proving that there will be better ways to tell these stories in the future.

Star Wars: Tales of the Empire begins streaming on Disney+ on May 4.