This was it. The Anakin Skywalker episode. After the legendary character—Ahsoka Tano’s former Jedi master—showed up at the end of the previous episode, hype and expectations were at an all-time high. This episode of Ahsoka was even playing on the big screen in certain cities. What did series creator Dave Filoni possibly have in store? Was Anakin coming back to life? How would his appearance impact Ahsoka’s life? And what might we learn about Star Wars mythology that we didn’t know before?
In pure Filoni fashion, the real answers to Anakin’s mystery went in another direction. Finally, after four episodes, he gave us some deeper insight into who exactly Ahsoka Tano is and wants to be. The scenes were the highlight of a very beautiful, very uneven episode of Ahsoka that set the stage for the first season’s final arc.
Holding those secrets for just a few minutes longer, episode five of Ahsoka, called “Shadow Warrior,” didn’t start with Ahsoka and Anakin. It started on Seatos. Hera lands the Ghost and begins her search for her missing friends, Ahsoka and Sabine. Scans by her fleet of X-Wings keep coming up negative. She instead finds Huyang, holding Sabine’s helmet, lamenting that he told them to stay together, but they never listen.
After the title reveal, we’re back in the mysterious World Between Worlds, a portal between all space and time. Anakin explains to Ahsoka that the only way she could be there is if she lost a fight—and though she doesn’t remember it initally, she quickly recalls her battle with Baylan Skoll. Anakin says it’s good that she remembers because it means she still has a chance to live. So yes, it seems that technically, Ahsoka is dead.
Anakin says he’s there to finish her training which Ahsoka finds amusing. “It’s a little too late for that,” she says, but Anakin says you’re never too old to learn. The lesson is “Live or die” and Anakin lights his lightsaber. Ahsoka doesn’t want to fight him, but she’s forced to, and the two begin to duel.
Snap back to reality (whoa, there goes gravity), and Hera, Jacen, and Huyang are beginning to lose hope. Carson Teva arrives and says that Senator Organa (RIP Leia) can only cover for them for so long. It seems the New Republic fleet is not happy that Hera disobeyed orders to come out here looking for her friends and she might have to pay the price for it. As this is happening, her son Jacen tells his mom he hears something. There’s something about the water, he says. He can feel it.
Jacen asks his mom to listen. Not for the waves. But for the lightsabers. And as the John Williams score slowly rose up on the soundtrack three things became apparent. One, this Jacen kid has something. Two, Ahsoka is still out there. And three, Hera can hear it too. It’s a powerful, memorable moment that completely baffles the down-to-earth Carson Teva. But, Huyang explains, Jacen has “abilities” because his father, Kanan Jarrus, was a Jedi. And in that moment I cheered because it took four and a quarter episodes but, finally, another star of Rebels finally gets his due. (Though, if you read the site, you may have seen that this was teased last week.)
Ahsoka and Anakin continue their battle and Ahsoka even gives her master a run for his money. But Anakin, as always, has a few tricks up his sleeve and destroys the platform they’re on. Ahsoka falls and lands... somewhere. Is it a desert? Is it a cloud of smoke? Then a clone trooper runs by. And another. And then Anakin screams “Forward!” wearing a new outfit. “Come on Snips,” he calls as we now realize Ahsoka is a kid again (played by Ariana Greenblatt, who is having quite the summer; she was the daughter in Barbie and also played young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War. She crushes the role here.)
Ahsoka might look young, but it seems as if she’s got the same mind as her present self. She can tell they are, yes, in the Clone Wars and that, yes, this is one of the first battles she and Anakin were ever in together. (There’s no definite confirmation of which battle it is, specifically, but the battle of Teth seems like a good bet.)
“Why are we here?” she asks, and Anakin responds, “You tell me.” The implication being this is where Ahsoka’s mind needs her to be to continue Anakin’s lesson about life and death. The battle ends, Anakin talks to a few people (including Captain Rex!) as Ahsoka keeps an injured trooper company. She’s sad about the losses and says this isn’t what she trained for. War is not why she wanted to be a Jedi. Anakin explains that being a Jedi changes with the times. When he was being trained, it was about keeping the peace. During a war, he had to train her to be a warrior. “What if I want to stop fighting?” she asks. “Then you’ll die,” he says. As he walks away, Ahsoka sees Anakin phase from his normal self into Darth Vader. A reminder that her master not have all the answers.
The search on Seatos continues but isn’t looking promising. There’s a glimmer of hope though in the fact Huyang explains to Hera that a normal person wouldn’t vanish, but Ahsoka isn’t a normal person. He tells Hera a bit about Ahsoka’s master when a call comes in. Chopper has picked up something on his scans, so Hera and the X-Wings head that way.
We’re back to the Clone Wars and a very self-aware Anakin mentions that “I don’t know this battle.” That’s because, as the now double lightsaber-wielding Ahsoka explains, it happened after she left the Order. It’s the Siege of Mandalore, seen in the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars. Ahsoka is now a leader and, according to Anakin, the warrior he trained her to be.
That doesn’t sit right with Ahsoka. She didn’t want to just be a warrior. And yet Anakin explains that she’s more than that. She’s part of a legacy going back through history (this also felt like Dave Filoni telling people just how important Ahsoka is by screaming something like “She has a direct line back to Yoda!”). She agrees but begins to turn the tables on him. She explains that his legacy isn’t what he thinks it is. It’s more violent. “Is that what this is about?” he says, mad that she’s acknowledging the giant Darth Vader in the room. It is what it’s about and the thought changes him. “Back to the beginning,” he says. “Live or die,” as he ignites his now red lightsaber. He’s become the evil Sith version of himself and the two begin fighting again.
Anakin kicks her out of the past, back to the present, where she hears Vader’s breathing. She’s battling not just Anakin her master, but Anakin the fallen Jedi and Sith Lord too. It’s not easy but, eventually, she bests him. “I choose to live,” Ahsoka says, finally answering Anakin’s question which is when he turns back to his light side self. “There’s hope for you yet,” he says, and disappears.
Now, if you’re a long-time Star Wars fan, you probably needed to light a cigarette or have a stiff drink after all that. There was so much to digest, from the Easter eggs and callbacks to the casting, implications, and so much more. But ultimately all of it had to serve a purpose, right? What did Ahsoka learn here? Is it just that she wants to live? Who doesn’t? There’s no explicit answer, which is certainly on purpose and maybe not the best decision by Filoni. Implicitly though, Ahsoka manifesting Anakin and these major wars in her life revealed what she thinks of herself. She sees herself as that warrior, not as a master. Not someone who can help others without violence. But Anakin’s perspective on the Jedi overall, that they adapt to the times, feels like the key takeaway. The galaxy is no longer at war. Ahsoka doesn’t need to be a warrior. She needs to be the peacekeeper that Anakin was as a young child. Or, maybe, something else entirely.
Did that come across in the episode? Was it a lesson worthy of Filoni dipping back into his Star Wars past? Time will tell. But, after Hera and her team rescue Ahsoka, you do get the sense from her performance that Rosario Dawson now feels more comfortable in Ahsoka’s skin. (And not just because we saw more of it as she took her headpiece off.) No, Ahsoka now feels more at peace. Calmer. And, in true Star Wars fashion, the show portrayed that with a new, more comfy outfit that I like to call Pajama Ahsoka.
Ahsoka sleeps off her near-death experience and everyone is curious about what everyone else has been up to. Mainly, though, the question is: where’s Sabine? Ahsoka takes the broken map pieces that Hera found and starts to use her previously established power of sensing memories through objects. It takes some time but she realizes that Sabine is alive and that she herself handed the map to Baylan.
Hera is encouraged that at least Sabine is alive and wants to go after her. The problem is they’re in another galaxy which isn’t some simple jump to lightspeed. Ahsoka is left to figure that out as Hera has to deal with the rising issue of the New Republic being super mad at her. With no real evidence to speak of Thrawn or Morgan, Mon Mothma orders Hera and Ahsoka to return to Coruscant for questioning with the notion that Hera may be permanently suspended from her duties. Plus, they’re sending a fleet to come get them. It’s bad news for Hera but good news comes in from the form of Ahsoka. She’s got a plan.
No one likes the plan though. The plan, we quickly learn, is for Ahsoka to pull off her best Ezra Bridger impression and to communicate with the Purrgil in the area and see if they can bring her across the galaxy to Sabine. The X-Wings head toward the incoming fleet, while Hera and Ahsoka’s ships go toward the Purrgil. Jacen in particular is fascinated by this plan because Hera has told him the stories of how Ezra saved the day by doing this. Ahsoka and Huyang fly close to the biggest Purrgil they can find and she gets out of the ship and does her best to communicate with it. Meanwhile, the New Republic ships have arrived and while Carson Teva tries to stall by lying, he finds that telling the absolutely mad truth works even better.
Ahsoka connects with the Purrgil and in a full Pinocchio moment, she and Huyang land inside its mouth. They don’t know if this is going to work, or where they are going, but thanks to Ahsoka’s more confident, calm demeanor it certainly seems like it’s the right move. The Purrgil pass dangerously close to the New Republic ships, Ahsoka apologizes to Hera for not being able to bring her, and they make the jump.
“Shadow Warrior” was filled with big, beautiful Star Wars moments. It also finally gave Ahsoka Tano some much-needed character development and backstory, on a show with her name in the title. The biggest issue I had upon a first watch though was that the Anakin stuff happens so quickly and is so densely packed with information, it makes the rest of the episode—Hera, Jacen, the Purrgil—feel like a whole other show. Obviously, one story is set in an unexplainable universe, and the other is in their reality, so a difference is to be expected. The pacing difference between the two was hugely noticeable though and forced me to go back and watch just the Ahsoka-Anakin bits to really comb them for a thematic throughline.
If that’s the worst problem, though—that I had to go back and re-watch part of a Star Wars show that is specifically made for home viewing—maybe it’s not all that bad. Plus, Ahsoka is hopefully about to come face to face with the evil Grand Admiral Thrawn and fans might finally get an answer to the mystery of Ezra Bridger. For the first time since the start, it feels like Ahsoka’s story has real propulsion again as well as a new outlook on life.
Stream the first five episodes of Ahsoka on Disney Plus here.
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