REVIEW: Tales of the Empire

I founded FANgirl Blog with a specific set of goals: to see better representation, particularly of women, in the Star Wars franchise; to talk specifically about the Star Wars Expanded Universe books; and to explore mythic themes found in stories about the galaxy far, far away. On a wish list of Things I Hoped To See in a Star Wars show, a new animated show arriving on Disney+ on May the Fourth, Tales of the Empire, checks off every box. A series of six vignettes centered around events in the lives of two women enlisted by Palpatine’s Empire, the show explores core themes specifically used by George Lucas as he fleshed out his mega-franchise. While it is true to Lucas’ myth, the stories about Nightsister Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) and Jedi turned Inquisitor Barriss Offee (Meredith Salenger) lean strongly into elements of the Expanded Universe in a way that finally feels like some of the better ideas out of the books are getting their due.

On first watch, the trilogy of episodes about each character may seem disconnected. How could two characters from very different backgrounds find a harmonious through-line? But on second watch, the circular nature of Morgan’s and Barriss’ journeys hits you like the gong that ushers in each episode. In “Path of Fear,” the Nightsister loses her mother (voiced by Inosanto in the first episode) to the vicious attack on her clan by General Grievous during the Clone Wars. Left without a mother and the rest of her people, she is rescued by members of the Mountain Clan, a nod to the Singing Mountain Clan in the book The Courtship of Princess Leia. The dichotomy of the slaughtered Nightsister Clan versus the surviving Mountain Clan parallels in many ways the Sith as compared to the Jedi, but on a planetary scale.

Morgan Elsbeth greet a New Republic Ambassador in Tales of the Empire
Image: Disney | Lucasfilm

The Mountain Clan Mother tries to offer the young woman solace and advice, which Morgan isn’t able to heed in the wake of her trauma. The wisdom of the Mountain Clan Mother distills the teachings of Yoda, and this is borne out across Morgan’s trilogy as each title calls back to Yoda’s warnings about the path of the dark side: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Suffering may not make it into any of the episode titles, but Morgan’s story ends with her inflicting upon others the same suffering she had known. Fire rages around her and the scorched body of a New Republic ambassador lays at her feet some time shortly before The Mandalorian Season 2’s “Chapter 13: The Jedi,” an episode written and directed by Tales of the Empire creator Dave Filoni.

Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth destroys a New Republic ship
Image Disney | Lucasfilm

We find suffering, too, in the opening shot of the fourth episode, “Devotion,” as Bariss awakens in her prison cell to the slaughter of the Jedi Order during Order 66. The fallen Jedi is offered a new life as an Inquisitor, or Jedi hunter, of the Empire. Barriss’ empathy as a driver to her life choices is central to her tales, and I want to tread lightly on where her story actually goes in this review. But if you’re a fan of the books and particularly the Medstar duology, a pair of books written by Michael Reeves and Steve Perry, some of her choices will feel familiar. Filoni isn’t mining the Expanded Universe directly, but he’s doing what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has refined, which is taking good ideas from print stories and reworking them to fit in the current timeline. We see this also with his use of Thrawn, Pellaeon, and the Noghri assassin Rukh in Morgan’s stories. Thrawn, in particular, is revealed to have motivations very much in line with his characterization in the fan-favorite Thrawn series, starting with Heir to the Empire that catapulted the Chiss into supervillain status.

(If you haven’t read Medstar: Jedi Healer, I am going to tell you that it’s worth the read, especially if you enjoyed Barriss’ arc in Tales of the Empire.)

Barriss Offee joins the Inquisitor ranks in Tales of the Empire
Image Disney | Lucasfilm

How could two characters from very different backgrounds find a harmonious through-line? It’s actually in the archetype of the mother, something Star Wars has fumbled quite a bit. It’s not surprising because Filoni used Ahsoka’s mother as a pivotal character in the opening episode of Tales of the Jedi, the sister series to Tales of the Empire. The topic is discussed at great length on our new episode of Fangirls Going Rogue. If you love the SWEU, want to experience Star Wars stories with complex, vulnerable, yet immensely strong characters, and appreciate George Lucas’ core values laid out in the original trilogy, prequel trilogy, and The Clone Wars, then Tales of the Empire is the story you are looking for this May the Fourth.

For interviews with Meredith Salenger (Barriss Offee) and Diana Lee Inosanto (Morgan Elsbeth) tune in to Fangirls Going Rogue podcast, where I join my fellow fan sites in a roundtable interview.

For an in-depth discussion of the characters, music, and storytelling of Tales of the Empire, check out our May the Fourth episode of Fangirls Going Rogue.



Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to