Plus, 'Reservation Dogs' goes back to the Seventies, 'And Just Like That' wraps Season Two, and more
Somehow, the second season of AJLT managed to be more of a flailing mess than the first. I masochistically rewatched the first season, and I think viewers were so thrown by the endless cringe, the tone deaf if noble stabs at diversifying the show, and the side characters on top of side characters on top of side characters, that we couldn't quite see that "the Carrie show" hidden underneath all that mess was actually pretty solid and affecting.
"Carrie loses the love of her life and has to navigate single life in her 50s" is a fitting story for a SEX AND THE CITY follow-up, and when looked at in a vacuum, was reasonably well executed. Season 2, on the other hand, didn't have anything resembling a raison d'etre, so all we were really left with was the mess.
I think we're all stultified by how a franchise that was once defined by its preternatural ability to have its finger on the pulse of the culture could now somehow feel so lame. But of all the show's missteps, I think the writers have really underestimated how important Carrie's voice over and the "Carrie investigates a question and writes her way through it" conceit of the original series was essential to the show's success. I think viewers might forgive some of the new show's awkward detours (or perhaps not even notice them) if we felt like we were in more steady narrative hands. Perhaps if the writers of the new show had to work within the confines of the OG series' structure, they'd be forced into writing a more cohesive and economical story, as well.
The show remains compulsively watchable, and the cast is, as always, incredibly game and winning as they try to muscle their way through dreadful material. But if Carrie Bradshaw isn't asking questions, she isn't really Carrie Bradshaw -- and the show she's stuck in isn't an actual story. It's a just wall with beyond random, batshit crazy antics thrown-up against it.
Allow me to provide a third response - neither my wife or I have seen the animated shows (but have seen all the live action shows) and we thoroughly enjoyed those two episodes of Ahsoka. It's clear that there is backstory, but it's just background to us. The same as there was background in the original Star Wars when there's some Empire and some Rebels and some long-forgotten (or not so long, thank you prequels) Jedi order. We might be missing some nods to what's been in Rebels, but we did not (as of 2 episodes) feel like we were missing out on anything notable relevant to our enjoyment of this story.
I mostly thought (spoilers to Just Like That):
This whole "I can't see you for 5 years" situation as such BS. "I'll come to you!" "No babe, you can't!"
Kinda belittling to think that hi kid needs 5 years. Like what if he gets help and gets better sooner? That's such a random number. And what are even the rules? Are they allowed to talk on the phone? Date other people?
In a season full of, overall, interesting dynamics and self-reflections (and breaking Che and Miranda was smart to let Che become their own character and really show a deeper struggle that is less token-y) this finish chord was very very bizarre.
I never watched Rebels or Clone Wars. I gave them a shot, but they didn't grab me and I found the animation style off-putting.
I watched the first two episodes of Ahsoka and I just felt lost. There's obviously a ton of back story I'm missing and I'm not going to watch dozens of episodes of another show just so I can understand what's happening in this one.
At the very least Disney could have given us a quick recap to catch us up and let us know who all the players are. Plenty of shows do this when they start a new season. Even for people who watched all of Rebels, that show ended over five years ago. If there are plot points and characters that viewers need to be aware of, they should have a refresher.
The only reason I could think of not to do this is that the recap would be animated while the show is live action, but if you're making a live action sequel to an animated show, you need to own that. You can't use all that back story and then pretend the show isn't a sequel to a cartoon.
"Sarah, we thought of a way to get Kim back on the show."
"Will I have to talk to her?"
"Will I have to see her?"
"No. We will tape the whole thing separately."
Some context: have not watched Ahsoka yet. I never saw the Clone Wars series and tried watching Rebels when it first came out, but it felt slow to me and I gave up on it somewhere in the first or second season.
I am definitely fatigued by the MCU and Star Wars content. I originally was all-in on the MCU, and I felt like the interconnected universe was a lot of fun all the way through Endgame. Each film felt like an event. Same with the Star Wars movies. I enjoyed Force Awakens, was excited by Last Jedi, and then disappointed with Rise of Skywalker. But the films still seemed like events, not to be missed.
Now, both franchises requite a huge investment to keep up. Disney went all-in on streaming and the need for content made the amount of material you need to watch in order to keep up so much greater. Both really do feel like homework now.
On top of that, both universes feel very aimless. There's no sense that either is building to anything important anytime soon. So each series struggles to give a reason as to why it should exist, and why I should be watching. Secret Invasion was so boring I gave up after 2 episodes. I loved Mandalorian to start, but that's fallen off a bit and the other series, like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan, again felt like there was no reason for them to exist. So I'm struggling to generate enthusiasm for Ahsoka, especially since I didn't finish Rebels.
As a fan of both Clone Wars and Rebels, I really enjoyed the first two episodes of Ahsoka, so I’m a sense accessibility isn’t “my problem” (in the sense that it won’t be a barrier to my own enjoyment). But I have found myself wondering how it works as a jumping on point for people unfamiliar other those stories, and I think it’s mixed.
They had an opening crawl that set up Ahsoka’s search for Thrawn, but they could have used just a couple sentences to recap in broad strokes the Rebels finale, since those events are the catalyst for what’s happening now. I think for new viewers, “Imperial Grand Admiral went missing and his return would threaten the Republic” is easy enough to accept in the same way the original Star Wars throws you right into the story in media res.
The bigger obstacle, I think, is getting people invested in everyone’s relationship to a character who isn’t even present (Ezra). Sabine, and to a lesser extent Hera, are both primarily motivated by their desire to find Ezra, and I think that’s harder to get into if you don’t already know and care about that. I assume we’ll get some kind of flashback to the Liberation of Lothal to at least fill in the gaps in knowledge for new viewers, but emotional investment is harder to come by, and arguably more important. It will be interesting to see if they can thread that needle over the course of the series.
I really don't get why so many Ahsoka reviewers have taken up this framing. Ahsoka is a character that has existed for 15 years now, about as long as Darth Vader existed when the prequels were announced, with something like 30 times the amount of screentime as he'd had. It'd be weird if a show built around her *didn't* follow from her history and relationships.
I myself didn't really know who she was when I first watched Rebels, which I only watched because Greg Weisman was involved. Didn't stop me from enjoying the hell out of "Twilight Of The Apprentice", though of course I enjoyed it even more once I finally got around to watching TCW and then watched Rebels again.
But more generally, not everything has to be for everybody. If there are people who just "don't watch kids stuff" or whatever, fine, they're missing the best of modern Star Wars (far from "homework"), but that's on them. No one's forcing anyone to watch the new show based on characters from those.
I had almost the exact same reaction to “Ahsoka” as you. I never watched “Clone Wars“ but I watched all of “Rebels” with my daughters, so I was familiar with that story. But at multiple points during this new show, I found myself thinking that if I hadn’t seen “Rebels,” I would almost certainly be lost narratively , and probably wouldn’t be hugely invested in the journey of Ahsoka and Sabine. Ezra and Thrawn are interesting to me, but not because of anything “Ahsoka” did in the first two episodes.
In regard to sentiments about Ahsoka,
Totally get where people are coming from. In this world of interconnected stories, it can feel like a maze sometimes. Skip one episode or miss a movie, and suddenly, they're out of the loop, right?
But here's the thing: it's not really anyone's fault. These stories are designed to be part of a bigger picture. They're like chapters in a book, and if you skip a few, you're going to miss some plot twists.
They are spin-offs, born from a shared universe that enriches the experience for those invested in it.
Now, I'm all for embracing the latest buzz, like "Ahsoka" or whatever's hot. But here's the chill perspective: if you didn't put in the time to follow the storyline from the get-go, it's not on the creators or anyone else. It's on you. You can't blame a jigsaw puzzle for having missing pieces if you never bothered to collect them.
Life's hectic, no doubt. We've got jobs, family stuff, and hobbies, so time can be tight. But here's the deal – if you truly dig these tales, you find a way to keep up. You'll make time because these stories matter to you.. If you're a casual viewer you can't be upset when you have a casual understanding of what's going on.
So, yeah, it's a bit like having "homework" sometimes, I get it. But guess what? It's homework you assigned to yourself because you're a fan, right? And that's pretty cool, isn't it?
Hot tip: don't sweat the small stuff. You don't have to be a walking encyclopedia of lore to enjoy it. Just kick back, take in the moment, and enjoy the characters and their antics.
AJLT: i also find it irresistible to watch but at the same time am so frustrated by so many of the writing and character decisions. First of all, Che is a terrible character. I want them gone yesterday. The way Carrie handled the Che-Miranda fallout was awful and for Miranda to not get to confront Carrie about being a terrible friend the way Carrie herself confronted Miranda in s1 when Miranda was supposed to be taking care of her and instead had sex with Che...I'm just really disappointed at how they've handled Miranda. And Carrie gives Che a seat right next to her in the finale?? Bad, bad friending by Carrie.
I did really love Charlotte's comeup in the last few episodes of the season - she's now prob my favorite of the three.
I hated the way they ended things with Carrie and Aiden because his dumb rule makes no damn sense in the real world so it felt very bizarre.
I will likely keep watching because I can't quit the show but I really hope the writers do better by Miranda next season.
No Julia Selden this week?
I think a lot of the comments about the Rebels/Ahsoka show come from a weird place of misplaced expectations. For example (if I may post a very tiny "spoiler" for the first few minutes of episode 1) Clancy Brown showing up is the sort of thing that seems like it might be confusing because you might not remember who this character is (I didn't and I've watched all of the SW content), but in a normal show, there's no real reason that you should need to know who this person is. People just go into Star Wars now assuming every side character should have some massive backstory, which is partly the fault of Marvel/SW/etc. setting up these expectaions with endless cameos, but also a weird trend on the parts of viewers long before that (remember the Don Draper is secretly DB Cooper "mystery"?)
I think if you take the show as it is, most of the setup is pretty simple if you didn't know Rebels existed: Thrawn is a big bad guy MacGuffin the bad guys want, Ezra is their lost friend they're looking for, Ahsoka/Sabine/Hera have a history but things are strained because bad stuff happened between them, these are all the standard tropes that start off any action show. Especially because the main character conflict between Ahsoka and Sabine is a bit out of nowhere and probably more confusing if you did watch Rebels than if you didn't.
Also, I think people overstate the SW content problem compared to the MCU issue, because they're both owned by Disney. The "Mando-verse" (Mando prime, Boba Fett and now Ahsoka) shows come out at most one a year so far. It's weird they have different names, but it's not that different from a regular show. There's been 51 episodes of all the D+ SW shows so far over five years, which is a slower pace than say Breaking Bad, and no one rended their clothes over how hard it would be for someone to get into Better Call Saul. Marvel is on a whole other level and honestly has this issue, but I feel the two get conflated.
I keep returning to Alan's commentary about the overuse of the "flash forward" sequence to open a season or a show. In "Billions", this season opens with a sequence and then takes us to "two months early" (or five, I don't remember). In ep. 2 we were lead one way and I thought "maybe they will do [this]" except the flash forward already told me that they don't do "this".
How many episodes of Ahsoka have you seen, Alan? Just the first two episodes? I have a feeling we'll be seeing flashbacks in future episodes that will also help bridge the gap for non-CW & Rebels viewers.
This is a lot like making a series of live-action movies based on characters and narrative history from a bunch of various comic books and just assuming people who have never read those will willingly go out of their way to fill in the many blanks that appear in the movies. But that was actually annoying and fairly exhausting then and its still annoying and exhausting now. I haven't really enjoyed a new Disney show for quite some time and I don't like doing homework, so I'll probably just skip this (skipping Secret Invasion worked out fine).