(A version of this article was published for Pirates & Princesses on September 13, 2023.)
(SPOILER WARNING: plot points from the Ahsoka series are discussed below.)
We are a little over halfway through Ahsoka, and the newest Star Wars show has really hit its stride here in Part Five. Part One and Part Two of the series set the table, Part Three slowed the pace while giving Ahsoka and Sabine some time to reconnect. Part Four brought almost nonstop action and energy, and memorably left us on the edges of our seats with a glimpse of Anakin Skywalker. Now, let’s dive into Part Five (just don’t forget your helmet like Sabine).
Part Five – Shadow Warrior – was directed by series creator Dave Filoni. The 52-minute episode length (roughly 46 minutes without credits) is the longest since the series premiere, and it offered a comfortable amount of time to explore the story of Ahsoka’s Jedi past. The overall pace of the series slowed after last week’s rip roaring adventure, but what it lacked in action, it made up for with lore, love, and emotional intensity.[mailerlite_form form_id=1]
Last we saw Ahsoka, she had seemingly perished after being knocked off the henge cliff of Seatos, into the rough, rocky waters below, then awoke in a completely different place, which fans of Star Wars: Rebels recognized as the “World Between Worlds.” It is here and now that Ahsoka meets her former Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker, as the episode cut to black.
Most fans expected Part Five to begin right there, with what promised to be a very fruitful and intriguing conversation between the former Jedi team. Instead, Dave Filoni eased us into the episode, opting to start with Hera, who we last saw reeling in space in the aftermath of the hyperspace ring jump which tore right around her small squadron, destroying two X-wing fighters. Hera and company (including her son Jacen and droid Chopper) have located the henge, and are scanning the area for signs of Ahsoka or Sabine.
Hera is coming up blank, until she hears a sound. After a moment of baiting fans as to what may rise from beyond the cliff, Hera instead finds Huyang holding Sabine’s helmet, seemingly grieving over the potential loss of her and Ahsoka. In yet another moment of Huyang’s unending wisdom, he gives Hera the ultimate “I told you so” in stating that he told them to stay together, but lamenting “They never listen.”
Now some may debate the validity of a droid’s heart, emotions, or feelings. But let’s call it what it is. Huyang is not just any other centuries-old droid. He carries with him memories, wisdom, knowledge, and even love. Huyang’s despair is evident in his metallic posture (and in his words expertly delivered by actor David Tennant). Huyang, like other notable droids in Star Wars (C-3PO, R2-D2, Chopper, and Andor’s B2EMO, to name a few), has feelings. They may be smugly disguised under brutally honest verbal barbs, but his heart is always there, and that heart is clearly hurting here.
Ok – now back to Ahsoka and Anakin. We pick up this scene where we left off. Ahsoka is clearly encouraged to see her former master, though she is confused as to where she is. Longing for the Anakin she loved as a Padawan, Ahsoka reassuredly observes that to Anakin that “you look the same”, to which Anakin wryly quips “you look older”, instructing viewers that time stands still – yet is somehow ever-changing – in the World Between Worlds. I could mull over and pontificate all day long on the ensuing conversation, but suffice to say that Ahsoka’s memory of her fight with Baylan convinces Anakin that she still has a chance (to survive) and that he (Anakin) is there to “finish your training.” “What is the lesson?” Ahsoka asks, to which Anakin responds “live or die.” A brief lightsaber duel ensues, in which Ahsoka easily holds her own. She chides Anakin that he doesn’t have much left to offer, to which he responds by swiping out the bridge beneath them, transporting them to a sandy, outdoor battleground.
When Ahsoka pulls herself up, we stunningly see her as a much younger Padawan, in the heat of battle during the Clone Wars, joined by Anakin. Clone troopers (still “good guys” at this point) are scattered. Some running, some helping, some dead, and some dying. Here in this moment, Ahsoka is immersed in one of her earliest training missions (likely the Battle of Ryloth) with the sensibilities of an adult, and the wisdom of her older years. Her heart breaks for the clones who have died fighting by her side, yet Anakin coldly reminds her that such is the consequence of war.
When young Ahsoka challenges Anakin about not wanting to teach a Padawan how to fight, he briskly responds “Do you even want a Padawan?” This moment of introspection is crucial to Ahsoka. She has demonstrated thus far with Sabine that she may not be the most reliable master for training a Padawan. This stings, and has to resonate some serious doubt within her. Doubts that she seems to have been carrying for quite some time, stated so bluntly by the man who spent years of his life training her.
Ahsoka gathers herself and then pushes back harder, asking “What if I want to stop fighting?” Anakin answers, quite frankly “Then you’ll die.” As he exits the scene, his figure flickers back and forth between the Anakin who Ahsoka loved, to the hateful figure of Darth Vader he eventually became.
This scene was full of introspection, where Anakin serves a Dickens-like role of a “Ghost from Christmas Past”, taking Ahsoka on a tour of some of her youth. We see the confident, yet grounded younger version of Anakin, tainted with a hint of the dark future he will eventually embrace. In this same scene, Ahsoka gains a new perspective on the time she spent in war, learning with Anakin, growing older (and maybe a little bit colder).
Back on the cliffs, Hera and her wingman Carson Teva fruitlessly ponder their next move, while Teva warns her that the New Republic is demanding a check-in regarding Hera’s unauthorized mission. However, Hera’s son Jacen – staring out over the water – is hearing something. He insists that his mom listen with him, and after a long moment he tells her he can hear lightsabers clashing underwater. Trusting her son’s Force potential, Hera orders the remainder of her squadron to do some intense recon over the water. Teva’s confusion is assuaged by Huyang when the droid explains to him (and to audiences not familiar with Star Wars: Rebels) that Jacen has “abilities” as the son of Jedi Master Kanan Jarrus (who since perished saving his Rebel family) and Hera.
Back in the World Between Worlds, Ahsoka and Anakin drop into another battle. Ahsoka’s maturity is evident here, as this battle took place several years after she first became Anakin’s Padawan. She appears more confident, and she clearly has more skills. In another nod to the love her clone fighters had for her, we received a very brief moment with Captain Rex, voiced by Temuera Morrison, who played the clones in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. When Anakin doesn’t recognize the place, Ahsoka explains that it is the Siege of Mandalor, which occurred after the pair had parted ways (in fact, this battle occurred at the time when Anakin was battling Obi-Wan, serving the Emperor in his journey to the Dark Side).
Continuing to be troubled by the idea of fighting, Ahsoka doubles down and challenges Anakin on the subject of her legacy. She fears it is one of death and war. Anakin tragically responds to her, saying “it’s more than that, because I’m more than that.” Let’s digest this – Ahsoka is concerned about her legacy of death and war, LEARNED FROM Anakin. In what may be a moment of post-Dark Side clarity, Anakin insists that he’s more than that. The death and destruction will be what most remember him for, while many of the heroic duties of his earlier days may go overshadowed. This is an absolute tragedy – one that Anakin will have to live with for the rest of time. So devastating.
Reminding Ahsoka that “I gave you a choice. Live or die”, Ankain’s eyes turn red and he ignites his red lightsaber. Ashoka – while visibly shocked – simply states “no”, to which Anakin responds “incorrect.” Another lightsaber battle ensues, and the pair end up again in the World Between Worlds. With Ahsoka on the ropes, Anakin warns her “time to die.” But Ahsoka turns the table, disarms him, and confidently responds “I choose to live.” The “Vader” Anakin pauses a moment, before reverting to his “pre-Vader” self, and assures his former Padawan “there’s hope for you yet.” That is the last we see of Anakin, yet the weight of his final lesson lingers with Ahsoka, as the faint sounds of fighters echo from the edge of the world.
As the World Between Worlds fills with water, we transition to a rescue effort at the water’s surface. Hera’s team has located Ahsoka and pulled her – still alive and barely conscious – from the water. After a “rotation” (otherwise known as a day) of recovery, Ahsoka emerges from Hera’s ship – the Ghost – to help the crew fill in some gaps in the story. She pieces together the fate of Sabine by channeling the memories still imprinted on the destroyed orb map (thank you Baylan for conveniently leaving it there to be found). Ahsoka concludes that Sabine gave Baylan the map to finish plotting the directions, then joined him on the trip to Peridia after he destroyed the map.
After a pensive moment looking into the distant sky (which is now swimming with Purrgil), Ahsoka seems to figure out what Rebels fans have been trying to tell her all season. Perhaps the Purrgil could help her get to Sabine, the way they helped Ezra take Thrawn away from Lothal all those years ago.
In a last ditch effort to help Ahsoka, Hera and crew delay the occupation of a small New Republic fleet, which has now arrived to intervene in Hera’s mission. One of the series’ most beautiful moments comes next. Ahsoka, with Huyang piloting her ship, gently steps out onto the wing of her ship, as the ship joins the Purrgil pod in the outer atmosphere of Seatos. Ahsoka selects what appears to be the senior (or at least the largest) Purrgil, and communicates with it. We don’t need to know what exactly was “said”, as the resolution was crystal clear. The Purrgil invites Ahsoka’s ship to stow inside in preparation for a long trip to Peridia.
Elated by the possibility of going on an adventure which could lead to Sabine, Ezra, and Thrawn, Ahsoka finally exhibits some significant positive emotion, which she has been sorely missing all season. Perhaps it’s the hope of finding Ezra and Sabine, or perhaps it’s a renewed faith and confidence in her path following her “last lesson” with Anakin. But the hope with which Ahsoka is brimming is infectious, and I can’t wait to follow her to Peridia.
The episode ends with an emotional parting moment, with Hera offering Ahsoka the longtime favorite phrase “May the Force be with you.” With that Ahsoka and her pod of Purrgil set off into space. Will the quest for Ezra and Thrawn (and now Sabine) conclude next week in Peridia? Or will Morgan, Baylan, and Shin sneak away once again? Only time (and hyperspace) will tell.
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