I thought it would be hard to top the last episode, but Ahsoka Season 1, Episode 5: Shadow Warrior pulled it off. And series creator and writer Dave Filoni, who also directed this episode, did so without the new baddies, whom I love, or all that much plot progression.

Yes, Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) and Huyang (David Tennant) are on their way to another galaxy in the mouth of a purrgil, which I figured would be their route, while Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Carson (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), and company are in for a bit of trouble with the New Republic. Plus Jacen Syndulla (Evan Whitten) clearly has the Force, which I think we all already figured. But the crux of this episode was clearly Ahsoka’s character development, represented visually, at the end, by her switch from a grey to a white cloak (very Gandalf).

Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) fight in the World Between Worlds – Ahsoka Episode 5 – Shadow Warrior (Lucasfilm)

Long story short, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) completed her training in the World Between Worlds. He did so by sending her back to the Ryloth Campaign, one of their first missions together, and then to the Siege of Mandalore, Ahsoka’s final battle in the Clone Wars. It was amazing seeing these battles, and era, in live action for the first time. Christensen really brought Clone Wars Anakin to life, a version of his most famous character that he played for the first time here. The costume, makeup, and VFX work was on point too.

We also get young Ahsoka, which Ariana Greenblatt felt natural in for her short time on screen. When watching the Clone Wars animated series, it doesn’t really sink in that Ahsoka was only 14 years old at Ryloth and 16 at Mandalore. In live action, though, it does. Oh yeah, the Jedi used child soldiers in the Clone Wars, and Ahsoka Tano was one of them. Filoni gave us the nostalgia and fan service, and the flashback sequences were beautiful and sad. But they also painted the franchise’s history with a different brush, and let us see it through the eyes of characters who knew what was to come.

Young Ahsoka Tano (Ariana Greenblatt) comforts a clone trooper – Ahsoka Episode 5 – Shadow Warrior (Lucasfilm)

This wasn’t a redemption of Anakin Skywalker, that happened in Return of the Jedi. He also didn’t ask Ahsoka for forgiveness, and she didn’t provide any. The flashes of Vader were creepy and poignant, and Anakin’s brief turn to the darkside, complete with a red lightsaber and red Sith eyes, made it clear that no one was pretending that part of him didn’t exist, or should be forgotten.

This wasn’t about Anakin, he was completing a job he never got to before, Ahsoka’s training. He kept giving her a choice to live or die. Or, in other words, to live, rather than to just survive. To live for something, for the future. She defeated her greatest enemy, her connection to, and fixation on, Vader’s legacy. She was free to live, not as Snips, but as Ahsoka, with her former positive and emotional outlook restored.

Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) among the purrgil – Ahsoka Episode 5 – Shadow Warrior (Lucasfilm)

Some online had been complaining about Dawson’s mellow, almost wooden, performance in the first few episodes. But now that character choice is completely justified. She needed to break free from her past to reconnect with her present, and the future. Just like she seemed to genuinely enjoy connecting with the giant purgil. That was also a great way to bring us back into, and progress the overall series story.

This was an excellent and much-needed episode. Stellar performances from both Dawson and Christensen, and Filon’s writing and directing, refocused the story on Ahsoka, as she refocused on her role in the present. This was some of the best of the Disney-era Star Wars content.

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