By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate
WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for Ahsoka – Part Five
The latest Star Wars Disney+ series Ahsoka has, thus far, focused primarily on the emerging threat of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return to the known galaxy. This plot reached a climax of sorts in Part Four, which concluded with the villains traveling to another galaxy to reach Thrawn, accompanied by Sabine, while Ahsoka was left gravely injured after her fight with Baylan Skoll. The end was what was most talked about, as Anakin Skywalker returned to greet his former apprentice in the World Between Worlds.
This week’s episode, titled “Shadow Warrior,” follows up on that ending, proving Ahsoka with a mystical training lesson from her master. Anakin attempts to teach Ahsoka, in part through duels and visions of their past together during the Clone Wars. This includes some very memorable live action Clone Wars scenes, equipped with Hayden Christensen sporting Anakin’s iconic battle armor from the animated series. Meanwhile, Hera and co. attempt to locate Ahsoka and find out what happened on the planet.
This is an episode that is sure to excite fans more than any other outing so far this season, hence why Disney opted to release “Shadow Warrior” in select movie theaters around the country. Hayden Christensen’s presence has a lot to do with that, but his appearance is genuinely well-earned and exists beyond just fan service. There is a clear and distinct purpose when it comes to Anakin’s role in the story and, more specifically, Ahsoka’s character arc. Anakin played such a huge role in Ahsoka becoming the person that she is at this moment in time, so it makes sense that he would return to guide his Padawan once again.
Despite that, the through line of Anakin’s training isn’t completely clear. What he’s attempting to teach Ahsoka makes sense only from a very broad perspective, but most of these scenes exist as vague master-apprentice learning sequences rather than anything more special or unique than that. What makes them special and unique is the fact that this is the first time these characters have been together on screen in live action, which appears to be what the vast majority of audiences will remember from this episode.
Dave Filoni returns to the director’s chair to helm this episode, and his work includes some incredibly beautiful and memorable shots throughout. The image of Anakin storming into battle, followed by his turn into Vader, is an exceptional piece of imagery that highlights the character’s complex nature. There’s a grandness that is clear to see in the two episodes Filoni has directed this season, adding to the size and scope of the story being told.
That being said, some of the flashback sequences are relatively bland visually, most likely due to budget limitations. The battles of the Clone Wars aren’t really shown, and instead there’s a lot of fog and smoke to cover the background. This would be serviceable for one sequence, but the fact that both the first battle and the siege of Mandalore both look this way visually feels like it’s not up to the high standards that the franchise has set for itself in the past.
Ahsoka‘s fifth episode is bound to go down as a fan favorite episode, particularly with the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Despite some subpar visuals and vague themes, the episode succeeds at furthering Ahsoka’s character arc and setting up the rest of the season ahead.