Previously on Ahsoka: In a desperate race to stop Morgan Elsbeth from learning the location of Ezra Bridger and Grand Admiral Thrawn, Ahsoka and Sabine clash lightsabers with Marrok and Shin Hati after the two Dark Jedi stand between our heroes and Baylan Skoll. Easily besting Marrok, Ahsoka makes her way to Baylan, who fails to convince Ahsoka that his plan to better the galaxy is worth hearing. However, Baylan proves to be a formidable foe, who quickly gains the upper hand. Despite Sabine holding the star map to Thrawn hostage, Baylan knocks Ahsoka off a cliff into the raging waters below. Believing her master dead, Sabine agrees to hand the map over to Baylan, who promises he’ll reunite her with Ezra. Except Ahsoka isn’t dead. Instead, she’s somehow entered the World Between Worlds where she’s greeted by an unexpected visitor: Anakin Skywalker.
OK, let’s get the gushing out of the way: Yes, the live-action Clone Wars scenes absolutely ripped. Holy sh*t. I have very significant qualms about this franchise spamming the nostalgia button for cheap and easy thrills, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I grinned from ear to ear when Ariana Greenblatt’s Padawan Ahsoka entered the screen. She f*cking killed it.
Week after week I’ve voiced my frustration with how Ahsoka has failed to capture the kinetic energy of the title character, who again, is one of the best Star Wars creation of the past two decades. The young Ahsoka scenes are exactly what I’m talking about. They were lightning in a bottle, and Lucasfilm are fools if this is the last we’ve seen of Greenblatt whipping ass. In fact, I get mad just thinking about how the whole show could’ve been this instead of boring us to death with Rebels Season 5: Attack of the Pause.
Which brings us to the Hayden of it all.
As much as I enjoyed the young Ahsoka scenes, one of my biggest questions is how such a huge lean into The Clone Wars is playing with people who haven’t watched those cartoons. Because what’s really happening here is a forced melding of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin and the animated version voiced by Matt Lanter. The Clone Wars pulled a rabbit out of the hat by basically doing everything the prequels failed to do: Show Anakin Skywalker as a heroic, likable Jedi instead of a cocky, petulant weirdo. Not content with that impressive accomplishment, Ahsoka has apparently decided to staple that rabbit to Hayden Christensen’s head and pretend like it’s always been there.
Setting aside my issues with Hayden wearing the cartoon Anakin’s armor (I hate it.), his presence highlighted another glaring issue with Ahsoka: What made her character fascinating is that she was basically trained by Darth Vader. There’s a huge amount of dramatic tension in watching her learn from a guy who would become Star Wars most iconic villain, and Ahsoka grappling with that fact is the entire thesis of this episode. Unfortunately, the answer it chose is: “Wait, you’re worried about that? Idiot.”
The crux of Anakin’s appearance is that Ahsoka has been living in constant fear that she’ll turn to the Dark Side like him. This development is pretty surprising considering just last week she confidently told Baylan Skoll that she’s not concerned with her past, and I believed her because the lady has been boringly stoic this whole time. Turns out, making Ahoska a dull, gray pillar of yawn for over half the season was a deliberate choice. She wasn’t an emotionless robot in a misguided attempt to make her seem like a grizzled badass. She was an emotionless robot because she hasn’t been living her best life and with the style to go with it?
I’ll give Episode 5 credit for one thing (besides Ariana Greenblatt, who again, slapped so hard): This was the first time in a long time where I spent a chunk of time reading Star Wars theories. Is it because Dave Filoni delivered a deep, multi-layered lesson from master to apprentice? Maybe. Or is it because he play-acted at profundity by just straight-up being vague as shit? Also, maybe.
In a nutshell, Ahsoka has deep and justifiable concerns about her entire Jedi training starting with the fact that she was literally a child soldier. The scenes with her younger version brought that home more than any Clone Wars episodes because you’re watching a literal child on the battlefield. Anakin is making Ahsoka relive these memories so she can make peace with her past and not let it define her. Only this is where things go off the rails because not only does Anakin tell Ahsoka that she’s more than her past, he also says that he’s more than just his turn to the Dark Side. Gonna stop you right there, bud.
When Obi-Wan Kenobi came out, I devoted an entire recap to my issues with Darth Vader and how Star Wars has always been remarkably glib about forgiving Anakin for becoming a walking genocide machine in a cape. Had George Lucas just stuck to having him turn against his fellow Jedi for being blinded by their arrogance, not to mention their refusal to free his mom from slavery, that would be one thing.
Unfortunately, George Lucas did not do that. He kicked off Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side by having him mow down a room full of toddlers, which is why it hits real weird when Anakin says to Ahsoka, “So that’s what this is about,” when she brings up his turn to Vader. Call me old-fashioned, but yeah dude, it’s kind of a big deal to kill all of your co-workers starting with the daycare. It’s a creative decision that, again, makes it strange how easily this franchise just waves away a school shooting by way of a laser sword and expects us to feel awesome about seeing the guy who did it.
That said, yes, admittedly, some of the lightsaber fights with Anakin were neat, particularly when he switches into Vader mode against young Ahsoka. I literally screamed no when he kicked her and she transformed back into Rosario Dawson. Why, goddammit?! However, I couldn’t have rolled my eyes harder when Anakin kept switching back and forth between his Vader costume to the sound of literal thunderclaps. Subtlety went right out the window, so naturally, Star Wars fans on Twitter ate it up.
Nope. No, it wasn’t.
Anyway, after getting over her fear of ending up like Anakin — which in case I haven’t made this clear, is a good fear to have — Ahsoka is rescued by Hera and her son Jacen, who used the Force to sense she’s been floating in the water. Baptized, if you will, because again, subtlety went bye-bye. Case in point: Ahsoka Gandalf-ing her way into a glow-up.
Unburdened by her concerns of becoming a child killer thanks to a childhood full of killing, Ahsoka gets a whole new outfit, which is honestly an improvement. I haven’t mentioned this until now, but I did not love the gray outfit they stuck poor Rosario Dawson in. It just was not working, and now that you’ve seen the Clone Wars Ahsoka scenes, you hopefully get what I’m talking about. That said, it’s seriously one heck of a choice to deliberately make your main character as boring as possible with only three episodes left to go. That’s a helluva gamble, particularly when the last half of this episode is everyone just ooh-ing and aah-ing at space whales. I wish to God I was joking, and my condolences to the suckers who paid money to watch this episode in a theater.
Long story short, Ahsoka pilots her ship inside a giant Purgill and then admits to Huyang that she has no idea if the whale will actually take them to Sabine. That’s just the kind of wacky and crazy Jedi she is now. Maybe they’ll get lost in space, maybe they won’t. Live, laugh, lightsaber, you know?
— Ariana Greenblatt slapped all of the ass. That’s it. That’s the only thing worth caring about. See you next week.