… visually, at least.
But even though the creators were given free rein, they remain saddled by Star Wars‘ strict and limited narrative conventions. Jedis are good, Sith are evil. They fight. Rather a lot. Lather, rinse, repeat.
One can be turned from one side to the other, sure—a couple episodes deal with this—but mostly, the vast Star Wars galaxy is black and white (or if we’re talking lightsabers, red and blue), and if you come to it looking for anything more than tidy morality plays, you’ll spend it wandering the Tatooine deserts until you get eaten by a krayt.
There’s an argument to be made that by establishing characters outside the established timeline, yet having them enact very familiar, nay, achingly familiar conflicts, the series is gesturing towards some kind of universal cycle of Sith-Jedi clashes—a kind of Ragnarok or Yuga Cycle, only with robes and rat-tails. Maybe. The simpler answer, of course, is that the franchise’s simplistic moral worldview is impossible to get out from under.
To be fair, animated Star Wars series like Rebels and The Clone Wars managed to find some shades of space-gray in the reductively Manichean Star Wars universe, but then, they each had several seasons to do so. Most episodes of Star Wars: Visions, on the other hand, clock in somewhere around the 20-minute mark.
Which points up another limitation of the series: Though marketed as a succession of discrete “animated short films,” no episode feels dramatically complete. Instead, they resolve their immediate storylines and conclude by gesturing towards larger, unresolved conflicts—the villain escapes, a war begins, a mystery whose answer awaits our heroes somewhere out among the stars beckons.
The inevitable result, of course, is for each episode to feel like a carefully wrought and promising pitch for an ongoing series—just so many pilot episodes, elbowing each other for pickup.
Whether or not that’s how it’s intended, that’s how it plays out. For the record, I’d be on board for series based on episodes 5 (“The Ninth Jedi”), 7 (“The Elder”) or 9 (“Akakiri”).