This evening saw the debut of the fifth episode of Lucasfilm’s live-action series Star Wars: Ahsoka, entitled “Shadow Warrior,” which was both written and directed by series creator Dave Filoni. Below are my recap and thoughts on this installment.
Each week lately I’ve been telling myself that I’ve come to accept the idea that Ahsoka is not a plot-heavy show. And each week I keep finding myself frustrated by the lack of forward momentum– a problem that will likely not be as much of an issue once we have the complete picture to go back and rewatch. If one were to list the plot-centric things that actually happen in this week’s new installment… well, it wouldn’t be a very long list: “Ahsoka figures out a way to follow Sabine, and Hera gets in trouble with the New Republic military for disobeying orders.” That’s pretty much it, if you’re looking for a synopsis. But obviously so much else happened, and it’s all just really well put together. The episode opens with General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) having landed on the planet Seatos as she searches for Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Along with Hera for the ride are her son Jacen (Evan Whitten) and their cantankerous astromech droid Chopper (voiced by Filoni), both of whom immediately volunteer to pitch in on the search effort, alongside the ancient professor droid Huyang (David Tennant). Meanwhile, Ahsoka herself wakes up in a void we in the Star Wars fan community have come to know as the World Between Worlds, which was introduced in a multi-part arc of Star Wars Rebels’ final season.
There, Tano encounters her old master– Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (guest star Hayden Christensen, who made his return to Star Wars last year in the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series), who offers Ahsoka the opportunity to complete her training, which she walked away from– for some pretty good reasons, by the way– in the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This begins a waking dream sequence in which Ahsoka relives parts of her younger life– here I thought for sure her more youthful self would be played by voice actress Ashley Eckstein, but instead it’s Ariana Greenblatt, who played young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War (she may be getting typecast as younger versions of alien ladies in Disney properties)– fighting alongside Anakin in the aforementioned Clone Wars. So the design of all this, on Anakin’s part, seems to be to teach Ahsoka some sort of lesson, but what exactly that lesson is has been a heated topic of discussion between my wife and I since the moment we walked out of the movie theater hosting the Fan Event screening of “Shadow Warrior.” The best we can figure is that Skywalker is trying to get across that the Jedi are more than the warmongers that Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) made them out to be, and that Anakin himself is more than what he would become– namely the Sith Lord Darth Vader. What we’re not quite sure about is how exactly he demonstrated those ideas. Maybe I’ll pick that up on a second viewing.
Regardless, it’s a nice trip down memory lane (that also features a very brief voice cameo by Temuera Morrison as Clone Captain Rex) with some extremely cool visuals, mostly whenever Ahsoka’s vision of Anakin mutates into Vader’s black-cloaked visage, or vice versa. It’s also neat how much further this episode goes in bridging the gap between the prequel era and the Original Trilogy, or at least the “Mandoverse” period set a handful of years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Back in the real world, Jacen and Chopper use their respective abilities (yes, it’s confirmed here that the young son of Kanan Jarrus has the Force) to sense Ahsoka’s presence out there in the Seatos ocean, and a New Republic pilot manages to scoop the (now-enlightened?) Jedi(?) from the depths. Then the last ten-to-fifteen minutes of this episode is spent with Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) trying to keep the New Republic fleet off our heroes’ backs while Ahsoka makes contact with the Purrgil flying around in Seatos’s atmosphere. It was an easy enough solution to predict for anyone paying attention, but again the real star here is the visual effects created by Industrial Light & Magic– space whales have never looked cooler in live-action, animation, or otherwise.
So there’s still no Thrawn, and the story has once again taken a very tiny step forward, with more promises of big things next week. But I can’t really complain otherwise because everything just looks and sounds so cool. Fun details abound here as well– Senator Leia Organa gets a name-drop, and Ahsoka makes use of the “Sense Echo” Force ability that pops up so often in the Star Wars: Jedi – Fallen Order video game series. But thematically, I probably still need someone to explain what the point of Anakin’s presence here was other than giving Christensen something to do. I also have some questions about the white poncho that Ahsoka dons here after her experience in the World Between Worlds– the one that we saw her wearing in the final scene of Rebels… or did we? There’s a lot more to talk about in this episode than one might gather at first glance, and I may be looking forward to the discussion to be had on my podcast about it tomorrow more than I have any other previous week. All that said, it’s clear that Filoni knows what he’s doing behind the live-action camera now, just as he did in the world of animation, even if I’m not sure that I quite understand it all.
Star Wars: Ahsoka episodes 1-5 are now streaming, exclusively via Disney+.