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Shadow Warrior (Ahsoka - S01E05) - Live Action Series

Series: Ahsoka

Title: Fallen Jedi

Season: One

Episode: 5

Original Air Date: September 12th, 2023

Runtime: 48 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Discuss the latest Chapter! (Discussion)

"What's the lesson, master? Live!" SPOILERS.

Hera and the others search for Ahsoka and Sabine

Ahsoka's most recent episode is another solid offering, certainly greatly improved over the first three episodes, and about on the same level as the previous episode. But this time the focus is not so much on the action, of course there are lightsaber duels though, but the emphasis is put on Ahsoka's real or imagined inner struggle against her own insecurities and doubts, as she meets Anakin in Jedi limbo or maybe the World Between Worlds. And as it turns out Anakin, whether he's actually the real Anakin or just a figment of Ahsoka's brain, has yet another lesson for his former padawan.

Anakin's teaching methods have reached pretty extreme levels in the World Between Worlds

When we are not in the World Between Worlds - although it is never made entirely clear if Ahoka's is just hallucinating the entire thing - the episode has us follow Hera who has finally reached the old temple with her son and Chopper, there they team up with Huyang who is visibly stricken by the loss of both Sabine and Ahsoka who both vanished without a trace. But fret not, because Jacen, the son of a Jedi, has magic space powers as well of course, and he can hear Ahsoka fighting Anakin Skywalker through the sound of waves. So Hera sends her squadron out to search for lifesigns in the ocean. Just accept it and don't ask too many questions.  

Listening to waves.... and admiring the view

In the World Between Worlds we find that Ahsoka is at first somewhat confused, as she doesn't remember how she even got there or what happened before. But Anakin tells her she remembers... and then Ahsoka recalls her lost duel against Baylan. But there is not much time for long talks, because Anakin, or whatever this apparation is (I still feel it could be just Ahsoka hallucinating while drowning) has a final lesson for Ahsoka: to live. And so he ignites his lightsaber and fights his former padawan. Ahsoka does not want to duel Anakin, but since he attacks her anyway, she has to defend herself. And so the two clash with their lightsabers.

The much better Ahsoka: Arianna Greenblatt

Anakin wins this first round by cutting the energy floor, so Ahsoka falls down... and after the scene transition Ahsoka is suddenly Snips again, young Ahsoka from the Clone Wars era. And we meet Anakin again too, this time as his younger Clone Wars self.

The first live action The Clone Wars footage ever - Hayden Christensen as young Anakin wearing his armour

What follows is a somewhat lengthy sequence where we follow Ahsoka and Anakin through various battles, among them against Mandalorians. But much is always obscured by a thick fog, either a way to save on CGI budget or it's meant to further emphasize the dreamlike, unreal nature of the sequence. Like in a dream time has no rules here, we skip forward in time without warning.

And the scenery changes all the time, here we see Anakin and Ahsoka much later into the campaign

At first I thought those Clone Wars scenes primarily exist so you can be nostalgic about The Clone Wars and squee at the sight of Hayden Christensen as young Anakin with a teenage Snips by his side. And while this is certainly one of the major reasons we spend so much time in this fugue like dreamstate, a good friend also pointed out how the scenes symbolize Ahsoka's own inner struggle and war, Baylan's words about the legacy of the Jedi and the destruction left behind clearly rattled Ahsoka, so now she reflects on all the violence and destruction and how Jedi became instruments of war instead of being monk-like spiritual peacekeepers.

And Anakin suddenly changes into Darth Vader

We get a touching scene where Ahsoka tries to comfort a wounded clone trooper, he reaches for her hands and she holds it. However, in those scenes you can also tell that budgets were tight, even though the shows often cost north of 200 million dollars... but they still didn't have the budget to de-age Temuera Morrison, all troopers wore either helmets or face bandages. We also get to see Captain Rex, briefly, but he never removes his helmet. Anyway, eventually Anakin - or maybe  Ahsoka's subconscious - decides the time to reminisce and reflect is over and Anakin turns into Darth Vader (only without the suit really) and the duel continues.

You get to see Darth Vader in his suit in a split second flash, all hail the freeze frame!

We leave the Clone Wars scenario behind and are back in the World Between Worlds. Anakin, who is now in Vader mode, tries to finish Ahsoka. They duel a bit more until Ahsoka finally gains the upper hand. But then she decides not to finish off Anakin.

For some reason some of the scenes look entirely computer generated

Instead Ahsoka reaches a decision. She wants to live. No destruction, no death. She refuses to strike down Anakin aka Darth Vader... and he closes his eyes and becomes his true self again. Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader.

Horrible looking contact lenses: The Series

Meanwhile Jacen informs Hera and the X-Wings that they must fly even lower, almost touching the water surface, to find life signs. And find them they do. One female X-Wing pilot jumps into the water and rescues Ahsoka, who is floating underwater. Her either real or imagined trial in the World Between Worlds is finally over.

Mon Mothma in true politician mode informs Hera that her career may actually be over because of going AWOL

Hera meanwhile may have to face the consequences for disobeying direct orders. Mon Mothma contacts her and informs her that she may be in serious trouble and that the higher brass is considering stripping Hera of her rank, basically ending her career, she must return for a hearing, or else.

Have we reached peak space whale yet?

Since this episode is almost 50 minutes long there is still time left this week and Ahsoka, who has changed her wardrobe into an all white outfit, uses her Jedi senses to feel the echoes of the destroyed map wayfinder. So Ahsoka learns how Sabine gave the map to Baylan and how the took her with him. So Ahsoka comes up with a plan: she will become the Space Whale Whisperer and directly commune with one. And so they fly to the location of giant herd (flock?) of space whales flying through the atmosphere. Meanwhile the New Republic fleet, well, three ships, has arrived and Hera asks Carson Treva to stall for time. But at least he doesn't tell "Yo Momma" jokes like Poe Dameron when he stalls for time as he approaches the ships in his X-Wing. An improvement!

The Space Whale Whisperer

Ahsoka meanwhile reaches out to one of the biggest whales with her mind and she can convince the creature to help them. And while Ahsoka does not know if the whales will really get them to their destination (they could fly elsewhere, in theory, only they won't, of course) it is still their best chance. So Ahsoka asks Huyang to fly their ship into the mouth of the whale, so he can transport them to another galaxy, yes this really happens... now Star Wars is using the Bible or maybe Pinocchio (whatever you prefer) as inspiration. Getting swallowed whole by a whale to travel to a distant galaxy is now a thing in Star Wars! And with that the episode ends. Hera said her goodbyes before, so yes, Star Wars has once again a real aversion against properly reuniting teams in a sequel. Hera has to face the music and needs to save her career, so she and the Ghost stay behind. And there is still no mention of Zeb, even in passing.

I would assume that fans of The Clone Wars had a blast in this episode. It was for a good amount of time a live action glimpse into that era we have thus far only seen in animation, whereas the movies only showed us the initial and final stages of the war. And even very cynical people will probably feel that sweet pain of nostalgia deep inside when they see young Anakin and Snips on the screen for the first time in live action. So yes, Star Wars once again unabashedly resorts to using nostalgia to get to you. And while the scenes here were all pretty good and very emotional my overall feeling is that Star Wars relies entirely too much on the effect of nostalgia. The next question is what people who didn't watch 200+ episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels feel about all this, does it even make sense to them? Do they care? The downside of nostalgia is that it requires you to be familiar with the source material and even in best of times, early seasons of The Clone Wars were maybe watched by 4-5 million people, much fewer in later seasons, Rebels even less so. So chances are a good number of people watching Ahsoka are not very familiar with the backstory. And the series still hasn't even properly explained who Jacen is.

And of course it is always good to see Hayden Christensen again and his scenes here were a lot better than his cameo in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Hayden had substantial screentime and we saw various versions of him. Early Clone Wars short hair Anakin, late period Clone Wars with long hair and even his Darth Vader alter ego with terrible looking contacts, it may not have been as obvious in the prequels, but in 4K high def in close-ups it just looks horrible. They really should use CGI in the future. Hayden still radiates this boyish charm and I truly hope Lucasfilm finds more ways to bring Anakin back. But maybe not just in flashbacks or in hallucinations. I feel a Clone Wars era series could work.

I want to give very special praise to 15-year-old Arianna Greenblatt who was an excellent "Snips" Ahsoka, it pains me to say this, but her Ahsoka actually felt like Ahsoka and she was so much better than adult Ahsoka. I do not blame Rosario Dawson for this, since this is almost certainly a decision by the showrunner Dave Filoni, albeit one that seriously hurts the character, because adult Ahsoka is still the weakest link in her own series. At least Ahsoka is shown smiling more after her experience in the World Between Worlds, but she still lacks charisma and charm. Arianna Greenblatt was a dead ringer for young Ahsoka though. And while I still feel it is a missed opportunity they didn't have Ashley Eckstein at least voice the flashback scenes, Arianna captured the spirit of the character pretty perfectly. I wish we would have seen more of her. But if this episode is a proof of concept or backdoor pilot for a potential live action The Clone Wars it was a success, even if the Stagecraft aka Volume used for all the scenes was blatantly obvious, they tried to hide the fact by shrouding every scene in smoke or fog, but it was still very obvious. And while the Volume may be a technical marvel I feel the overreliance on this tech seriously hurts the look of the various Star Wars shows. Everything just feels and looks ever so slightly "unreal" and the Stagecraft itself is often quite empty, since you can't really construct huge sets in it, so the scene all around is computer generated and the actors are mostly in a hollow LED cube with some props here and there. And you can tell.

I am not sure what to think of Filoni doubling down on space whales. I still feel they are among the top five silliest ideas in Star Wars and I do not like them at all. Your mileage may vary of course, but I simply cannot take any of this seriously and getting swallowed whole by a whale so they can fly to another galaxy is nothing I ever want to see in Star Wars again.

Ultimately "Shadow Warrior" was a better Ahsoka episode, it was a nostalgia party, but at least the scenes served a greater purpose as they symbolized Ahsoka's own inner struggles and insecurities, especially following Baylan's words to her. But she wants to live. I hope that also means Ahsoka will rediscover the art of putting emotion and feeling into her dialogue. She smiles a bit more again. Baby steps.

Seeing Hayden was great, I still hope these appearances will put him back on the radar again. But the real MVP in this episode is Arianna Greenblatt whose "Snips" was spot on and a delight to see (and hear). She and Hayden looked so much like live action versions of the animated Clone Wars characters that I wish Lucasfilm is at least contemplating a live action Clone Wars project. Maybe a movie for Disney+, not necessarily a show.

So chances are most people, especially fans of The Clone Wars, enjoyed this episode immensely. But the ultimate question is what the people who never followed The Clone Wars felt. Also, while nostalgia works - all the time, more or less - Star Wars should find other ways to get the audience to feel something again. When cameos by the original cast or callbacks to old movies or shows are the most powerful moments in modern Star Wars something is very wrong. There is nothing wrong with nostalgia itself, but when it's the only gimmick you rely on it's not good. Apart from that "Shadow Warrior" was certainly a good episode and a must watch for any fan of The Clone Wars. Nielsen ratings will tell us in about four weeks from now how all the other people who rarely or never watched any of the animated shows felt about it all. Early reports by Samba TV suggests Ahsoka may at best have similar numbers as Andor, which is not good at all for a series that is supposed to be the big setup for the eventual movie. But this is bound to happen when you make a direct sequel to an animated series in live action and never really bother to properly introduce your characters to the audience and assume only hardcore fans are watching.

Added: September 13, 2023
Category: Ahsoka
Reviewer: Thomas
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