Star Wars: Ahsoka Episode 5 wasn’t entirely based on the “world between worlds” as had been theorized, and neither do I think this episode successfully captures the mysticism of that dimension. What Filoni does smartly is extrapolate from the new viewers’ perception what this dimension could possibly be and proceeds from there. It is still very much a Filoni show, and the esoteric expansion of the Star Wars mythos is bound to be baffling to viewers only familiar with the movies. But there are enough visual cues and enough cues from superior installments of Star Wars (like The Empire Strikes Back), not to mention other fantasy stories like Lord of the Rings, that the episode ultimately feels very much like the science fiction-fantasy encapsulation of Dave Filoni’s vision, through a lens that could be accessible to hardcore fans as well as newcomers. This is definitely a very Star Wars Rebels-heavy episode, but there are enough moments when viewed through a live-action lens that both literally and figuratively give those entire timelines added weight.

Star Wars: Ahsoka Episode Episode 5 “The Shadow Warrior” Recap:

So, as the episode opens, we see live-action Ahsoka meeting live-action Anakin Skywalker for the first time, and as a fan who has been following Ahsoka ever since Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this meeting is nothing short of surreal. Objectively, though, it isn’t the animated voiceovers of Matt Lanter and Ashley Eckstein meeting, but Hayden Christensen and Rosario Dawson. Credit goes to these actors, especially Christensen, but they manage to evoke a camaraderie and bonding going back decades through their dialogue alone. As Anakin orders Ahsoka to fight him, and they battle, Ahsoka manages to defeat the specter of Anakin, voicing that maybe he has nothing left to teach. Anakin, in reply, laughs and states that he hasn’t taught her everything yet before using the lightsaber to break the platform on which Ahsoka had been standing.

Ahsoka falls and lands on a purple, smoky-filled battlefield, and as we see Ahsoka recover, we realize that this is the younger version of Ahsoka, played in live action by Ariana Greenblatt, and we, as the viewers along with Ahsoka, realize that we are smack dab in the middle of The Clone Wars, or at least one of the numerous ones between the Republic and the Separatists. It feels like the Battle of Ryloth, to be honest, but a delightful sight is the vision of Clone Troopers, and not CGI clone troopers, as well as the Anakin Skywalker of the Clone Wars, the inspirational, wisecracking, sarcastic leader, finally portrayed by Hayden Christensen. He sells it to perfection, and through this version, he tries to teach Ahsoka the difference in mentoring.

As Anakin states, in the hands of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, all he learned was to be a peacekeeper before adapting enough through tragedy and touching the dark side to be familiar with war. But what Ahsoka had always seen was war, and lest we forget, Ahsoka had been thrust upon Anakin, and as Anakin reminds her, teaching isn’t as glamorous as it seems. But in what Anakin promises to be his final lesson to Ahsoka, he tries to teach her how to move beyond what he has taught her. It is a very interesting mix of Eastern philosophy—how Ahsoka imbibes what Anakin had been, who imbibes what Obi-Wan had been, and so on and so forth. But what Anakin wants Ahsoka to do is deviate and choose her own path. The lesson progresses through two separate battles, as Ahsoka follows Anakin and as Dave Filoni skillfully shows Anakin transforming into Vader and back to Anakin again, just to reiterate that Ahsoka’s master became essentially a space Hitler.

As Ahsoka moves from one smoky battlefield into another, we witness a significantly older Ahsoka battling through a sea of Death Watch members far more skillfully than her younger version. As the battle nears its end, a younger Captain Rex calls for the commander to follow him. Anakin appears, now in his long hair and Revenge of the Sith look, and remarks that this isn’t a battle he is familiar with. Ahsoka states that this was the Siege of Mandalore, and this had been during the years when they had parted ways. But now, Ahsoka and Anakin finally face each other, and eagle-eyed fans notice the lighting around Anakin’s face as his eyes turn blood red. This is Anakin at Mustafar; the one turned by Palpatine, Vader in all but name and appearance, and with moments of fanservice sprinkled throughout, the battle between Ahsoka Tano in her prime and Anakin Skywalker in his prime is underway, with a stunning choreography through another bridge-like structure in “The World Between Worlds.”

Star Wars: Ahsoka Episode Episode 5 "The Shadow Warrior" Ending Explained
Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Part Five: Shadow Warrior (2023)

But as Filoni skillfully realizes and as this episode truly becomes a coda to the Mortis arc and to Ahsoka’s reconciliation as a whole—the kind-hearted master and the monster who became, her fear of continuing the legacy of death and bloodshed, which even Baylan foretold in the previous episode—it makes sense why she pushed Sabine away, or why she might have hesitated to contact Luke Skywalker until much later, because she is scared of the future that her master has fulfilled, succumbing to the darkness. But this is like Luke’s cave in Dagobah, Rey’s moment of reconciliation in Ach-to, the act of acknowledgment and letting go, and instead of cutting the head off of her master, she sheaves her lightsaber. We visibly see Anakin Skywalker become unscarred; his eyes return to normal, and as the world between worlds disintegrates, he calls out to her, “There’s hope for you yet.”

Back in the real world, Hera and her team are met by a distraught Huyang holding Sabine’s helmet. Unable to understand how to search for Ahsoka, Hera finally takes the help of her force-sensitive son Jacen, who can feel the fight between Ahsoka and Anakin and the clash of lightsaber duels amidst the waves. Hera somehow interprets that as Ahsoka being alive and asks the team to widen their search. A skeptical Carson Teva is given clarification by Huyang that Jacen is the son of Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi, and thus has abilities. It turns out that Jacen’s intuition is correct because the New Republic squadron finally manages to locate a floating Ahsoka Tano submerged in the bottom of the ocean as she finally returns to the land of the living from the World Between Worlds.

Once Ahsoka recovers, we realize that there is a change within her—a calm that had been missing, which Filoni visually chooses to depict by wrapping a white shawl around her. As she hugs Jacen and thanks him for saving her life, she takes the half-destroyed map and uses the force to perceive the events that had occurred. Both Hera and Ahsoka realize that Sabine is with Elsbeth and his team, and normal methods of following their path are impossible. However, as Ahsoka looks up in the sky, she sees a flock of purgills (space whales) floating away and realizes she knows what to do.

Star Wars: Ahsoka Episode Episode 5 “The Shadow Warrior” Ending Explained:

Filoni, through his animated shows, has expanded the mythology of the force such that there are creatures within the Star Wars universe who can harness the Force and feel the it naturally and can traverse through the length and breadth of the universe far better than most Force users. They could be the Loth-cats, the Loth-wolves, or even the Purgills. And Ahsoka’s choice to take the help of the purgills makes sense, considering that the hyperspace drive “The Eye of Sion” is built by tracking the path of the purgills. So, while the Ghost and the New Republic Squadron accompany Ahsoka’s starship, Ahsoka forcefully links with one of the larger space whales and convinces Huyang to navigate the spaceship inside its large jaw. This is a risky plan, and as Ahsoka states to a skeptical Huyang, she doesn’t know whether the Purgills will actually take them to their destination, but there is a zen outlook in Ahsoka now, as she has finally gained closure with her master, and she promises Hera that she will bring Sabine back as the Purgills finally enter hyperspace and disappear.

The pacing of any Dave Filoni-directed episode is horrendous, but live-action gave the Clone Wars flashback an added air of legitimacy. It truly drove home the cruelty of drafting children into war, as we see a young 14-year-old Ahsoka facing down a literal battlefield. Thus, the fact that she is hesitant to choose a padawan makes sense, but “The Shadow Warrior” serves as the final coda between the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, and the fact that Christensen returns to essay the character brings the story full circle. It also hammers home the perspective of “The World Between Worlds” as not being just a simple plot machine to change timelines via time travel or visit the multiverse. A perspective I share is that this could be the dimension where Force ghosts reside, and while time travel is theoretically and even practically possible, there must be costs to pay or paradoxes to deal with. But Filoni might use this dimension again, if not in “Ahsoka,” then definitely in the movie he is going to direct as the conclusion to his saga.

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Star Wars: Ahsoka Episode 5 Cast: Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Wes Chatham, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
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