A trip to The World Between Worlds forces Ahsoka to confront her traumatic past.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the works being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Hello friends and welcome to Part 5 of Ahsoka, “Shadow Warrior.” Written and directed by Dave Filoni, this week’s installment is full of Clone Wars references, purrgil, and pain. So much pain. A lot happens this week! So, for the flow of the recap, we’ll cover the Hera/Seatos stuff first, then Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds. Let’s get into it!
On Seatos, Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) checks the ruins for any sign of Ahsoka or Sabine. Alas, she only finds a forlorn Huyang (David Tennant) holding Sabine’s helmet. “I told them to stay together,” he muses sadly.
Later, while Huyang attempts to fix the broken star map, a frustrated Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) arrives to tell Hera they must get moving. Senator Organa can’t cover for their little misadventure forever. Hera starts to agree when Jacen (Evan Whitten) tells her that he senses something about the ocean below them, namely that he can hear the sounds of two lightsabers dueling. In response, Hera directs Teva to send the X-wings on another sweep of the oceans. This confuses Teva until Huyang explains that Jacen inherited Force abilities from his Jedi father, Kanan Jarrus. It is name-drop city in these ruins right now!
Jacen and Chopper watch the Ghost and X-wings do their sweeps from the edge of the ruins. Hera asks Huyang what Ahsoka’s master was like. He diplomatically says, “Intense,” before Jacen comms them a reading from Chopper with the coordinates.
In The World Between Worlds, Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) marvels that Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) looks the same. Class act as always, he replies that Ahsoka “looks old.” Sir, you recently spent the better part of twenty years looking like a hard-boiled egg. Ahsoka doesn’t initially remember the fight that sent her here, but when her memory returns, Anakin suggests he can now continue her training. The lesson is “Live or die.” Succinct! Ahsoka refuses to fight him (“I’ve heard that before,” says Anakin), but eventually, they begin to duel.
Anakin smashes the blue pathway beneath them, sending Ahsoka falling through clouds of pink smoke before landing in a foggy battleground. There, the sounds of battle and running Clone Troopers suddenly surround her. And not just any Clone Troopers, the 501st Legion! Anakin runs by, younger, short-haired, and in armor. Ahsoka calls out to him, but not Dawson edition. She’s tiny little brand-new padawan Ahsoka (Ariana Greenblatt). “This is the Clone Wars!” a baffled Ahsoka exclaims. “Yeah, no kidding,” smirks Anakin. Christensen’s capturing a much lighter Anakin than we’ve had the privilege of seeing in live-action for some time.
Shifting forward to the end of the battle (or this phase, anyway), a devastated Ahsoka walks amongst wounded and dead Clones. She demands of Anakin how they’re supposed to deal with the responsibility of leadership. Ahsoka made bad decisions, and people died. This isn’t what she trained for.
We have to adjust to the times, Anakin responds. Obi-Wan taught him how to keep the peace, but he has to teach Ahsoka to fight. What if she wants to stop fighting? his traumatized teenage student asks him, and Anakin can only tell her that then she’ll die. Anakin turns and marches into battle with his troops. As he vanishes into the fog, a horrified Ahsoka watches his outline shift to Darth Vader’s, complete with red lightsaber, and then back again.
The war swirls around Ahsoka, the shot pulling out to show how absolutely small she is against this background of horror. It’s easy to understand that Ahsoka is meant to be 14 years old when she becomes Anakin’s padawan and a Commander in the Clone Wars. Still, seeing her as a real child is a complete punch in the gut. She stands so short next to Anakin, himself only 21 at the time. And yet, her role made her responsible for the lives of thousands of others.
It is name-drop city in these ruins right now!
The Clone Wars does a lot of heavy lifting to emphasize that the Jedi are 100% training and using child soldiers in this war. It has become a touchstone for other Star Wars series, too. For instance, see the pilot episode of The Bad Batch where child Kanan Jarrus fights in the wars. I won’t rehash it, but you can clearly see the echoes of it here, too.
It’s a wallop to see Ahsoka so young and immediately dropped into battle, especially when faced with Anakin’s cloak of joviality and propensity for announcing when the fun is about to begin. It’s not hard to imagine that she might have wanted just a touch more stability than her early master (but still a Knight!) Anakin was able to provide. You know how Ahsoka keeps noting that she isn’t a Jedi? That’s because she left. It’s hard to blame her.
Shifting forward again, Ahsoka is now older (but still maybe 17), cutting her way through droids much to the approval of nearby Commander Rex (Temuera Morrison). As the Clones head out, Anakin approaches her. Ahsoka laments that her part in their Jedi legacy will be that of death and war, much like Baylan told her during their duel. When Anakin tries to assure her that she’s more than that, just like he was, she points out that, uh, he doesn’t have the best track record either. “Is that what this is about?” a frustrated Anakin spits out, then draws his saber on Ahsoka. It’s now red.
They duel with Anakin kicking Ahsoka back into The World Between Worlds and adulthood. Anakin, red-eyed, storms towards Ahsoka, flashing in and out of Vader, and they fight. Ahsoka manages to get the drop on Anakin and throws his saber off of the pathway, declaring that she chooses to live. Anakin’s eyes revert to their natural color, and he tells her there’s hope for her yet. He disappears as they hear rumbling noises all around them. The pathways vanish as Ahsoka begins to sink into a pool of water that slowly shifts into the ocean. Then, finally, the Ghost locates her.
Ahsoka awakens on her ship sans headband, giving everyone a possibly too-personal look at the place on her head that fades into the montrals. Huyang shows her the broken map. Now dressed in white and light grey and looking emotionally lighter, she joins the Syndullas outside. There, Jacen eagerly tells her that he could hear her fighting. This intrigues Ahsoka, but she and Hera get Huyang to whisk Jacen away so they can talk. Ahsoka receives an impression of Sabine from the remains of the map, hearing last week’s showdown between Sabine and Baylan. She’s telling Hera that it’s not as simple as following them when Teva enters. He explains the New Republic fleet is on its way, and they’re all in trouble.
Ahsoka looks thoughtfully up at a passing pod of purrgil as Hera and Teva head off to deal with that situation. Via holo, tiny Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) tells Hera that since she’s found neither Morgan Elsbeth nor any concrete evidence of Thrawn’s return she and Ahsoka need to accompany the fleet back to Coruscant. Once they arrive, there’s a very real chance the council may strip Hera of her command. I’m not entirely clear why they think they get to boss Ahsoka around. Mothma signs off just as Ahsoka enters, telling Teva and Hera she knows how to follow Sabine.
“Shadow Warrior” was the best episode of Ahsoka yet.
The ships head out, with the X-wings splitting off as Hera and Ahsoka make their way to the pod. Ahsoka finds the largest purrgil and steps outside her ship to commune with the creature. Watching, Hera tells Teva to keep the fleet at bay since their approach will scare the pod. Teva tries to avoid revealing the arriving Captain Girard too much of the truth at first. Reluctantly, though, he eventually spills the beans. Ahsoka finishes her conversation with the purrgil and re-enters the ship, telling Huyang to park them right inside the purrgil’s mouth. She admits she has no idea if it knows how to find Sabine. Then she cheerfully informs a horrified Hyuang that it could take them anywhere! She’s so excited! Snips is back, baby. The fleet leaves the planet’s atmosphere, hastily avoiding the purrgils just before they jump into hyperspace.
Bringing the Clone Wars into stark live-action and showcasing a little piece of Ahsoka’s backstory for those who maybe don’t know much about it, “Shadow Warrior” was the best episode of Ahsoka yet. There, I said it.
No, we didn’t get movement from Sabine’s side, and we’ve yet to see Thrawn or Ezra, but Episode 5 was a gorgeous and glorious love letter to the animated stories that came before it and the saga they tell. There’s been some chatter about what, exactly, Anakin’s lesson for Ahsoka was. While I don’t think it was as simple as a “let me go,” it was definitely along the lines of “you can’t keep shutting yourself off for fear of becoming me.”
Since we’ve seen Ahsoka in the live-action canon, she’s been dark and closed-off, sticking to traveling alone. She’s refused to train Grogu because of his attachments, didn’t stick around when (arguably) Luke could use her help, and abandoned Sabine. The Ahsoka we see at the end of the episode has accepted her past, embraced what it taught her, and is heading out to save her friends with a sparkle in her eye. We’ve missed that sparkle.
- If Anakin’s reference to having heard someone refuse to fight him before refers to Luke Skywalker, then Ahsoka is definitely fighting Force Ghost Anakin and not her memories.
- All thanks to the folks who, while making this episode, discussed its roots and said, definitively, “We are not dressing Little Ahsoka in a tube top.”
- Huyang refuses to train Jacen or help him build a lightsaber, which is likely just, “I’m not doing anything until your mom says it’s okay.” However, let’s get this kid trained, but do NOT send him to Luke Skywalker.
- Speaking of people we shouldn’t send to Luke Skywalker, Senator Organa is probably too busy to cover for the Ghost gang because she has a four-year-old at home.
- This week’s Thrawn fact: We don’t know much about Chiss biology or how they age, but he’s doing pretty well for guy in his late 60s, as he was born c. 59 BBY.