Star Wars: Tales of the Empire TV Review

Another great animated outing adds depth to secondary characters in the Disney era of Star Wars mythology.

Star Wars: Tales of the Empire Review

PLOT: A six-episode journey into the fearsome Galactic Empire through the eyes of two warriors on divergent paths, set during different eras. After losing everything, young Morgan Elsbeth navigates the expanding Imperial world toward a path of vengeance, while former Jedi Barriss Offee does what she must to survive a rapidly changing galaxy. The choices they make will define their destinies.

REVIEW: While fans have been somewhat divided over the live-action offerings in the Disney era of Star Wars, we can all agree that the animated projects have been fantastic. From the revival of The Clone Wars to the spin-off The Bad Batch and the unique anthology Visions, animated Star Wars is stronger than ever. Following the 2022 series Tales of the Jedi, the latest series again gives us a bite-sized limited series focusing on secondary characters in the Star Wars canon. Tales of the Empire sounds like it would focus on stormtroopers and Sith but instead gives us a look at two characters whose journeys are impacted by the titular group. Fitting nicely into the expanding world of Star Wars mythology, Tales of the Empire is a quick watch with some cool moments fans will definitely enjoy.

In Tales of the Jedi, the six episodes present glimpses into the lives of Count Dooku and Ahsoka Tano. Opening with a story about Ahsoka’s birth, the series shifted to three episodes about Dooku before concluding with two Clone Wars-era entries. In Tales of the Empire, the six episodes are split evenly, with two sets of three episodes, each chronicling a particular character’s tale. With each entry clocking in at no more than fifteen minutes each, Tales of the Empire is structured like two mini-movies cut into bit-size segments. While this formula could work for seasons to come, it makes the release format of these tales somewhat underwhelming. This series may have felt more robust if we had six hour-long episodes focused on a single character or story. Still, Disney and Lucasfilm aim for a format that will appeal to adult fans of the expanding Star Wars universe while also allowing younger viewers with limited attention spans to engage.

The first trio of episodes centers on Morgan Elspeth, who recently played a key role in the live-action series Ahsoka. Once again, played by Diana Lee Inosanto, this tale shows us how the former Nightsister became associated with the Empire, specifically Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen). Over her three episodes, we see Morgan at important moments in her past that inform her transformation into the villain she would become. The trailer footage showing General Grievous comes from one of these episodes. The short format of the fifteen-minute glimpses keeps the pace moving quickly but also limits how much we actually delve into the character, whom some Star Wars fans may not be all that interested to know about. The story ends fairly abruptly, with an ending to the third chapter that left me wondering if there would be a fourth episode to wrap things up. There are several deep-cut moments that hardcore fans will be familiar with, while the casual viewer will be left somewhat confused.

Star Wars: Tales of the Empire TV Review

The second story arc centers on Jedi warrior Barriss Offee. Meredith Salenger reprises her voice role from The Clone Wars as one of the few survivors of Order 66 from The Revenge of the Sith. Having previously been a key ally to Ahsoka Tano, this arc also feels like another Dave Filoni-centric return to the prequel era designed to expand on Ahsoka and what is to come from that series in seasons to come. Here, Barriss’ fate is shown as being connected to the Grand Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) and the brutal Fourth Sister (Rya Kihlstedt). There is a cameo appearance from none other than Darth Vader, which is a nice nod but unnecessary. This arc is stronger than the Morgan Elsbeth episodes, mostly due to the lightsaber action. Two key scenes are some of the darkest in any Star Wars animated series I have seen before and build to a solid showdown to wrap the final episode.

Like the previous episodes, the back half of Tales of the Empire ends with something of a cliffhanger. Dave Filoni, who serves as producer, writer, director, and now godfather of Star Wars for Lucasfilm, seems to want to whet audiences’ appetite with this anthology but fails to ignite a consistency in the limited screen time allotted here. Yes, the animation is as good as any other Star Wars, but the stories are weaker than the more polished Tales of the Jedi. At least those stories had something of an ending, whereas these are incomplete. I will say that the maturity of these episodes is much higher than that of the preceding series, with blood, death, and violence that may actually scare some younger viewers. It is nothing on screen we have not seen before, but the implication of some action hinted at off-camera is enough to scare some younglings.

Tales of the Empire is an odd title for this entry in the animated anthology as the stories, while connected to the Empire, are not directly about it. Tales of Ahsoka Tano may have been too on the nose, but that is more akin to what this season is centered on. Both storylines here are worth telling but could have been expanded far more to give audiences a satisfying and full story. As they stand, Tales of the Empire feels incomplete and would have benefitted from at least one more episode for each half of the season. The voice work is very good, as it always is with Star Wars animation, but this feels anticlimactic as the new chapter in Star Wars arrives for the franchise’s de facto holiday. Hardcore fans will be pleased, casual viewers will be underwhelmed, and everyone else will be left wanting a little more closure.

Star Wars: Tales of the Empire premieres on May 4th on Disney+.

Source: JoBlo.com

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.