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Star Wars: Tales of the Empire Review


Star Wars: Tales of the Empire Review


Summary

  • Barriss Offee’s storyline explores dark side training in a compelling way.
  • Morgan Elsbeth’s arc feels rushed, leaving key details unexplored.
  • Perfect for die-hard fans invested in Star Wars lore and character development.



Star Wars: Tales of the Empire is the second installment of what is now being dubbed the Tales anthology series. The first part, Tales of the Jedi, premiered in October 2022 and told two parallel stories of Count Dooku and Ahsoka Tano and how both fell out of favor with the Jedi Order and what contrasting paths they eventually went down. Tales of the Empire, premiering on Disney+ for the Star Wars May the Fourth drop, looks to follow a similar format, exploring two separate characters on similar parallel tracks.


This time, the stories follow Morgan Elsbeth, the Nightsister of Dathomir who was first introduced in The Mandalorian before getting a bigger part in Ahoska, with the second storyline following former Jedi turned traitor Barriss Offee as she trains to become a Sith Inquisitor. Tales of the Empire is split evenly, with the first three episodes focused on Morgan Elsbeth and the latter three on Barriss Offee. While an enjoyable entry in the franchise that provides deeper exploration into particular characters, the second half is far more interesting, helping overcome the first half feeling rushed while overall feeling like a serviceable entry in the Star Wars franchise aimed squarely at the most dedicated fans.

Star Wars Tales of the Empire Poster Showing Grand Admiral Thrawn, Ahsoka, Darth Vader, General Grievous, and Various Other Characters Inside the Imperial Logo

Tales of the Empire (2024)

3/5

Release Date
May 4, 2024

Seasons
1

Streaming Service(s)
Disney+

Pros

  • Barriss Offee’s story works well with the shorter format
  • Interesting exploration of the dark side of The Force
  • Great, fan-favorite characters chosen for these stories
Cons

  • Morgan Elsbeth’s story is rushed by the short episodes
  • Will only appeal to hardcore Star Wars fans



Morgan Elsbeth’s Storyline Is Rushed

The first three episodes of Tales of the Empire focus on Morgan Elsbeth. Introduced in The Mandalorian and played by Diana Lee Inosanto (who returns to voice the character), not much is known about her, as she seems like just another warlord with ties to the more popular Star Wars villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Ahsoka then delved deeper, revealing she was a Nightsister of Dathomoir but left her origin surrounded in mystery.

Fans were left with many questions on why Morgan Elsberth didn’t resemble the previous depictions of the Nightsisters or her connection to Grand Admiral Thrawn. Her three-episode arc seems to be designed to answer only those questions, with episode one even including a brief explanation of why she appears different from the past depictions.


The rushed nature of Tales ends up doing a real disservice to Morgan Elsbeth’s arc. If Andor has proven anything, it is that any character in the franchise, no matter how recent, can be used to explore a variety of interesting themes. But, unfortunately, the short-form nature of these episodes doesn’t allow Morgan Elsbeth to develop as a character.

Each episode averages between 11 and 15 minutes, meaning the three episodes combined tend to equal the same amount of time as one episode of The Mandalorian. Therefore, Morgan’s journey is skimmed over quickly, and the audience only gets the highlights of major milestones while also skipping over vital key details. Her three episodes each span a particular period in the Star Wars timeline of about 30 years, from The Clone Wars to the Reign of the Empire to finally the beginning of the New Republic, which would suggest major changes for her the audience is never privy to but only talked about.


The first episode in her arc is the strongest, where she is a young girl who watches her family and culture being destroyed. While most of the time this is shown through Order 66, here it is at the hands of the droid army, which not only provides an interesting contrast to the rest of the franchise but has a chance to make her a contrast to the countless young Jedi that witnessed people they love die by Clone Troopers. It sets up an interesting arc, and the first episode shows how her quest for revenge blinds her, and she ends up hurting others who would have helped her.

Due to the nature of the series, instead of seeing how she went from being alone to eventually being the Imperial Magistrate of the city of Calodan, the next episode skips over what could have been an interesting journey by what appears to be 10 years. It feels like chunks of this story are missing, and what could have been an interesting exploration of a new villain boils down to a checklist that, by the end, leaves the viewer knowing very little more about her than before they watched.


Star Wars Picks up Barriss Offee’s Story after 12 Years

For all the issues that the first half of Tales of the Empire has, it must be said the second half picks up and recovers in a major way. Barriss Offee, voiced by Meredith Salenger, was introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars as an apprentice alongside Ahsoka Tano. Barriss served as a nice contrast to Ahsoka. Where Ahsoka was brash and tended to break the rules thanks to the teachings of her master, Anakin Skywalker, Barriss was very much a rule follower and believed strongly in the way of the Jedi.

So much so that she eventually became disillusioned with what the Jedi had become and their wartime politics. The great tragedy of her story is that she certainly was wrong to frame her friend Ahsoka Tano; her commentary on how the Jedi Order had been corrupted was not wrong, as they had become the pawns of Darth Sidious without their knowledge.


Barriss’s story had long-reaching consequences on the franchise, as despite Ahsoka Tano being cleared of all charges, the way the Jedi Council distrusted her made her walk away from the Jedi Order. Barriss herself was arrested and taken into galactic custody, which was the last fans had seen or heard of her. That episode aired in 2012, so fans have been waiting for 12 years for a resolution to her story. In those 12 years, many fan theories popped up, particularly that Barriss Offee would become one of the Sith Inquistors introduced into the franchise in Star Wars: Rebels from 2014 and would be expanded upon the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi and the video game Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order.


Tales of the Empire grapples with the contradiction of Barriss Offee being a Sith Inquisitor head-on. She attacked the Jedi because she felt they had lost their way to the dark side, a monument to protecting an order that was unjust, so why would she now serve the Empire and embrace the dark side? Her first episode is a trial by combat as she is taken to be trained as a Sith Inquisitor, and audiences are given a first-hand look at what dark side training is like. We’ve seen plenty of Jedi training, but the Sith approach has never truly been shown since most Star Wars media tends to show wielders of the dark side operating in their prime. Through Barriss, we get an understanding of what the likes of a young Darth Maul went through or what Ben Solo had to undergo to become Kylo Ren.

The overriding theme of Barriss Offee’s storyline is the question of whether you can be good if you’ve done bad things. Can you find redemption? While this has been at the heart of Star Wars before with characters like Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. Barriss Offee’s three episodes take a closer look, showcasing her journey to adjusting to the new rule of the Empire and what her place is in it. Can she redeem what she did in the past? If she lost herself before, is it possible to find oneself, and if you do, what does one do with the time they have left?


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The only major issue is that the conclusion of the arc feels slightly rushed. It leaves the door open for more stories in comic books or other live-action material at the expense of providing a fully realized ending. Certainly not a dealbreaker, but the ending being so open-ended after what appears to be a natural resolution will likely leave some viewers like Woody in Toy Story 2, asking where the next episode is.

Tales of the Empire Is Perfect for Die-Hard Fans


The short-form nature of these stories can be either hit or miss. With Morgan Elsbeth, it certainly feels like a hindrance, while Barriss Offee’s storyline feels perfectly suited to it. If Lucasfilm wants to continue with this format, then it likely needs to expand the runtime of each episode or increase the number of episodes per season to give each storyline the proper breathing room to flesh out its characters and concepts truly.

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Star Wars: Tales of the Empire certainly won’t win anyone over to the franchise who isn’t already on board, and even then, it is more likely made for the hardcore Star Wars fans who are heavily invested in the lore of the franchise as opposed to enjoying watching the movies and the occasional Disney+ live-action series. While Morgan Elsbeth’s storyline will give audiences a slightly more detailed understanding of her origin, it feels like it offers very little than what audiences already know about her. Meanwhile, the Barriss Offee storyline certainly will be a fan-favorite among audiences who waited patiently to see her story continue, and it will likely leave fans clamoring for more.


All six episodes of Star Wars: Tales of the Empire premiere on Disney on May 4th, 2024. Watch the trailer below.

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