‘Shadow Warrior’: Ahsoka’s Astral Angst and a Whale of a Tale…

Now an unapologetic live-action 'Rebels' sequel, Ahsoka shines visually but relies on deep canon-fodder...

Baylon Skoll and the Imperial force have now gone through the portal they made  – taking Sabine with them – and Ahsoka’s remaining friends are busy searching Seatos and the temple rubble for clues as to the fate of their friends and enemies. Jacen insists that despite evidence to the contrary, he can feel Ahsoka still alive – perhaps even hearing the sound of distant lightsabers…

… and in a realm that may be her dying mind or a World between Worlds, Ahsoka’s astral form encounters some of the people, places and challenges that formed her life and mission. The form of Anakin Skywalker challenges her perceptions asking her if she is happy as to where she has ended up. Experiencing battles of the Clone Wars and the conflicts on Mandalore, a younger version of Ahsoka must find answers. But to do that she must face both her regrets and the darker side to her previous master’s memory… and even if she can triumph, how can she possibly follow her lost friends?



The latest episode, Shadow Warrior, is largely split into two parts – events taking place on Seatos as Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), Huyang (voiced by David Tennant) and Jacen (Evan Whitten) try to figure out what happened to Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka… and the other half being, well… what happened to Ahsoka.

Long term fans of the Star Wars franchise – in particular the animated era involving Clone Wars and Rebels – will likely be ecstatic at the connective tissue on show as we deep dive beneath the ocean and through a World Between Worlds (or our heroine’s last fight of post-battle consciousness, depending on what is dreamt of in your philosophy). In a Gamora/Infinity Stone type situation, the episode pulls back from asking that on-the-nose, seminal and spiritual ‘What did it cost you?/ Everything!‘ moment but embraces it fully in vision and context as Ahsoka walks the astral plane and talks with a version of Anakin Skywalker – the Jedi who trained her and who (as we know) becomes/became Darth Vader. He challenges her emotionally and physically – to decide what her life and training should ultimately mean and it’s punctuated by a series of (wonderfully-choreographed) light-saber battles between them. These are also intercut with re-experiences of Clone Wars battles as the younger  Ahsoka, still a padawan (the time-shift being another echo of the MCU‘s Young Gamora-type situation and – wait for it –  also played by Ariana Greenblatt, rapidly cornering the market in mini-me’s). It’s a delight to see Hayden Christensen’s reprisal of the key Skywalker character – capturing the joy of the younger man in his fighting prime and the shadows of the older and compromised version… and while last week’s brief glimpse was clearly an uncanny-valley baiting experience, here any CGI de-aging is far more subtle and speaks to the talents and behind-the-scenes techniques that have been refined in recent years.

…That’s always a tricky tightrope – playing to the casual audience AND the loyal party-faithful alike… and Ahsoka has now clearly pitched its tent to the latter and is expecting you to simply phone a friend if necessary….

Visually, there’s an extraordinary effort and attention to detail to match up all the elements and even if you’re a not a fully-fledged acolyte of the earlier shows, there’s enough to infer and enjoy from the broader strokes to the minutiae.  Again, one cannot fault the production values (okay, a couple of minor scenes felt they could have had a second-pass, but a majority are as epic as we’ve come to expect). Yet even with the level of enjoyment riding high – on a narrative level, I still often feel I’m clearly missing huge chunks of information or relevancies… the frustrating feeling that some people I know will be ‘ooooohing’ and ‘ahhhhing’ at a reverential reference or enigmatic easter-egg and that I’ll be left thinking ‘Wait, I know that must have significant, but I’ve no idea why?’ That’s always a tricky tightrope – playing to the casual audience and the loyal party-faithful alike and Ahsoka has now clearly pitched its tent to the latter and is expecting you to simply phone a friend if necessary.

Though the episode, directed by showrunner Dave Filoni, is clearly Ahsoka-centric in how the story actually develops, it’s good that the supporting cast aren’t just mere decoration. Hera and Teva make it clear they’re both quite tired of the Republic’s meandering priorities (even if they acknowledge the reasons for it) and Jacen, though that stereotypical plot-device of a kid being more instinctively intuitive and savvy than his elders, contributes to the mission to save Ahsoka (thanks to some fledgling Force-awareness inherited from his late father. The final act sees a revived Ahsoka, almost literally ‘baptised’ and now dressed in grey (a Gandalfian/Lord of the Rings nod, anyone?) working out a way to follow Skoll and Sabina and that comes courtesy of those Purrgil/star-whales that assists them in onwards transit.

This first season of Ahsoka – now undeniably the most overtly Star Warsy series to date – runs to eight episodes, but this fifth entry almost feels like a season-ender as we head off to another galaxy, far, far and further away and literally voyaging inside that star-whale (take that, Jonah). I suspect that some of the immediate ‘local’ aftermath will be left off-screen for Hera and Co. to clean up in Ahsoka’s wake as we pivot to the other side of that ‘hyper-gate’ and we’re definitely going to see the appearance of Lars Mikkelsen’s Admiral Thrawnn.

But quite what waits us beyond that is also a week far, far away…

'Ahsoka S01 EP05  - Shadow Warrior'  (Disney+ review)
'Ahsoka S01 EP05 - Shadow Warrior' (Disney+ review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX