Ahsoka: S1E5: Shadow Warrior
"Shadow Warrior" is a love letter from Dave Filoni to Star Wars fans everywhere.
The fifth installment of the "Ahsoka" series titled "Shadow Warrior" is the best episode of Star Wars television that we've seen so far and it's not even close. Series creator Dave Filoni wrote and directed the episode and once again shows why he should be the person in charge of everything Star Wars.
This episode is filled with so many incredible moments I will be spoiling the hell out of it, so if you haven't seen it, hop over to Disney+ and watch it. If you're still with me at this point, then sit back and hold onto your seats because this episode is fantastic.
It begins with Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), her son Jacen (Evan Whitten), Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and the rest of their team, who are on an unauthorized mission to find Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). While they don't find either of the duo, they find Huyang (David Tennant) clutching Sabine's helmet in shock and disappointment – "I told them to stay together, but they never listen. They never listen." It's the most human reaction from any of the characters at the hedge and comes from a droid.
Now we're thrust back into the World Between Worlds, where we meet with Ahsoka and her former master, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). She's unsure how she got there, but when Anakin tells her she lost the fight, Ahsoka recalls her battle with Baylan Skool (Ray Stevenson). Asking her former master why he's there, he informs her that he's there to finish her training. She asks what the lesson is, and he responds with three words: "Live… or die."
The lightsaber battle that ensues is unbelievable and features "Revenge of the Sith" era moves fans will enjoy. But it's only the beginning. As Ahsoka gets the upper hand, Anakin cuts the walkway in half, sending her plummeting into the abyss. When she awakens, she finds herself back in the Clone Wars as a teenager (played by Ariana Greenblatt) with her master leading the clone army into battle.
When this series was announced, I asked for a few things: Christensen to return as Anakin, show up in the Clone War era armor, and call Ahsoka "Snips," I got all three in this episode. I love that after 48 years of living, Star Wars can still hit me on an emotional level. I won't apologize for it, and if you're like me, you shouldn't either.
We start off at the Battle of Teth (I’m pretty sure) from “The Clone Wars” film, from there we experience The Battle of Ryloth from season one of "The Clone Wars" and find Ahsoka as a young padawan struggling with the new role of the Jedi. They once were guardians of peace, and now they must be soldiers for the Republic. Later, we're at the Siege of Mandalore from the final season of "The Clone Wars," with Ahsoka no longer a Jedi but still willing to lead. Each step of the way, Anakin is trying to will her to find the strength to say she wants to live and save herself.
At one point, she asks him, "What If I want to stop fighting?" to which he responds, "Then you'll die." During the Siege of Mandalore scenes, Anakin explains Ashoka's role in the legacy of master and apprentice, but she still does not learn the lesson he's been trying to teach her – keep fighting and stay alive.
With time running out, Anakin must become what he once was to push his former apprentice in the right direction. Igniting a red lightsaber, they duel until Ahsoka gets the upper hand and finally realizes what her former master has been trying to get her to accept – her legacy, future, and the will to live.
During all this, Hera and the squad of ships continue to search for Ahsoka as Jacen has heard her and Anakin's battle on the waves. I'll be honest; I wish the entire episode was nothing but Ahsoka and Anakin, for each time their scenes are interrupted by the other searching, I grew increasingly irritated.
The crew locates Ahsoka, rescues her, and we see her transition to Ahsoka the White. This basically signifies that new beginning, a rebirth of sorts for her. What's obvious is the Ahsoka we saw at the beginning of the series is not the Ahsoka we see now. She's lighter in spirit as in wardrobe and we finally see a glimpse of the Jedi we saw in "The Clone Wars."
The episode closes with Ahsoka realizing their only chance of locating Sabine and, in turn, Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) is by following the Purrgils. Using the force, she communicates with them and then begins the next part of her journey with just Huyang by her side.
Saying "Shadow Warrior" is a can't miss episode is underselling it. It has everything that fans could want and more. I've tried to defend the series by saying that you don't need to have knowledge of the animated series "The Clone Wars" or "Rebels," but it's not accurate. You could enjoy it, but you won't savor it like fans familiar with the animated shows will.
I'll repeat it – DISNEY, PUT DAVE FILONI IN CHARGE OF EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING STAR WARS RELATED. With fandom scattered, to put it mildly, having someone who understands what makes Star Wars tick could help get it back on track. The people in charge at the moment are obviously not what the series needs and it's time to cut your losses, make the right decision, and give Filoni the reins.
The Clone Wars stuff was so surreal to watch in live-action and only strengthens my desire to see a live-action series set in the Clone Wars era. After the reaction of my friends and family, you can't tell me there's not a market for it and there is so much fertile ground to explore.
What shocked me the most was seeing young Ahsoka and finally realizing the Jedi were using kids as soldiers. In the animated series, it just didn't sink in for me, and seeing it in live-action was a kick to the gut. As much as I love the Jedi and defend the order's decision on most things, they truly had lost their way at this point.
Greenblatt is unbelievable as young Ahsoka. She completely blew me away with how well she embodied the essence of the character. The interplay between her and Christensen was fantastic, and they were able captured the complex character dynamic that oice actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) created in the animated series.
Now we on to Hayden Christensen. His performance in this episode is the definition of perfection. We get to see a seasoned actor revisit a character he helped create more than two decades ago and bring to it the weight it deserves. To those comparing this performance to his performances in "Attack of the Clones" or "Revenge of the Sith," you're comparing apples to oranges. Christensen couldn't have given the character this weighty of a performance back then because this isn't the same Anakin Skywalker we saw in those films.
This is a character that's able to look in retrospect at the life he chose and how his decisions rippled and affected everyone that he loved. He may have been redeemed by his son in "Return of the Jedi," but it's obvious he's still trying to make amends from the Netherworld. Christensen is so damn good in this episode that I can't stop thinking about it. The subtle nuances he uses in this performance are superb and shows us an Anakin Skywalker we've been dying to see for years.
This episode is filled with so many great moments and visuals that it's difficult to remember how we got here, and I don't care. I'm just happy we're finally where we're at. We get to see live-action Clone Wars content, live-action Captain/Commander Rex (voiced by Temuera Morrison), "Revenge of the Sith" lightsaber moves, and the list goes on and on.
Some of my favorite scenes were transitions from Anakin to Vader, especially the scenes toward the end when he and Ahsoka are battling. The way he emerges from the smoke is breathtakingly beautiful.
"Shadow Warrior" is a love letter from Dave Filoni to Star Wars fans everywhere that features a powerhouse performance from Hayden Christensen. Be sure to catch this episode!