Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
The following contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Star Wars: Ahsoka
hen we learned that this episode of Ahsoka would be screened in select theaters in the US, fans knew they were in for something special. Episodes of modern Star Wars television don’t just play in venues for the heck of it; fans had a good feeling about this.
And that feeling was well validated. Just in the brief time that the episode has been out as of the time of writing, many fans have been lauding it as one of the best pieces of Star Wars storytelling ever.
We just witnessed a perfect Star War. What a time to be alive.
Picking Up the Pieces
The episode begins on Seatos, where Hera attempts to find Ahsoka and Sabine. Once she deemed the area safe, Jacen and Chopper disembarked from the Ghost to join her on the surface.
Unsuccessful in finding any trace of the duo, she finds Huyang near the edge of the cliff where Ahsoka fell. He doesn’t quite know what happened, either, and is clearly distraught at the situation. Huyang laments that Sabine and Ahsoka never listen despite his advice to stay together.
Hera and Huyang look around some more and find the two map pieces on the ground. Huyang determines it is beyond repair, and there isn’t any way for him to glean any navigational information from it. Whoever jumped to the other galaxy has done so without anyone being able to follow.
Looking out over the ocean with Chopper at his side, Jacen begs Hera to join him and listen to the ocean. Simultaneously, Carson Teva warns Hera that the New Republic is hailing her, and they don’t seem pleased. But then, Jacen says that he hears lightsabers in the ocean's waves. This grabs Hera's attention, and they listen together. Jacen says that they need to recheck the ocean.
Despite protests from Teva, who reminds Hera that they’ve already flown over the ocean without any signs of life, Hera orders the pilots back in the air. Teva asks Huyang if Jacen has “powers” too. Huyang responds that he does, thanks to his father, Kanan Jarrus, who was a Jedi himself. Hearing Kanan’s name made me so happy because he deserves acknowledgment in this show as much as anyone else.
Hera and Huyang head up in the Ghost while Jacen and Chopper stay behind to continue listening. Jacen continues to hear lightsabers in the waves. This is no coincidence, nor is this a trick of the Force. Lightsabers are clashing, just not in this world.
A World Between Worlds
After a long week of theorizing and speculation, we finally return to the World Between Worlds. What ensues from here is something fans have been dreaming of ever since The Clone Wars began and the moment the Chosen One met his new Padawan. I cannot overstate how everything that happens in the World Between Worlds in this episode is, at its core, a love letter to the fans, particularly fans of the animated shows.
It would be easy to do fan service just for fan service, especially since virtually anything and everything is on the table in the World Between Worlds. There are no rules or precedents for restrictions on what can happen in the World Between Worlds. Virtually everything is on the table. That could lend itself to fan service for the sake of fan service, but Dave Filoni - who both wrote and directed the episode - didn’t fall into that trap.
Rather, he took elements from The Clone Wars (of which he was the supervising director, executive producer, and writer), Rebels (of which he was the creator and executive producer), and the Prequels to weave a tapestry of interconnected moments that serve to facilitate and inspire a great deal of growth and reflection in Ahsoka herself.
This wasn’t fan service for fan service’s sake; it was the trigger that led to a major shift in Ahsoka’s character development. It was incredibly executed and delivered something many fans have wanted to see for a long time.
One Last Lesson
The sequence begins right where we left off with Anakin and Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds. He informs her that he’s there to finish her training. Confused as to what this means, Ahsoka asks what the lesson is. Anakin responds: “To live, or to die.”
The pair begin to duel, which Jacen hears on the surface. The lightsaber choreography throughout this part of the episode is spectacular. The choreography references several famous lightsaber moves, including Anakin’s spinning move from Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. Both Rosario Dawson and Hayden Christensen, who reprises his role of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader once again, wield their lightsabers effortlessly; you can tell they’ve both been working hard on their skills.
The fight goes on for a bit, the two evenly matched throughout. Then, Anakin cuts through the walkway, causing Ahsoka to fall a considerable distance. She lands in a hazy orange area; initially, we cannot see her. Then, the haze slowly clears away, and we see Phase I clone troopers running toward the camera. We gradually realize this is not the Ahsoka we’ve watched for the past four episodes.
Instead, we see Clone Wars-era Ahsoka—a younger Ahsoka brilliantly portrayed by Ariana Greenblatt.
Visually, the entire sequence is brilliant. With the transition from the color scheme of the World Between Worlds, with its blacks and blues, to the Clone Wars battlefield, with its browns and oranges, and the actual physical transition to a younger appearance as Ahsoka falls through to the flashback, the cinematography is perfect. At the same time, the reveal starts as a slow burn: we don't realize who we're watching until all the puzzle pieces come together, and we come to a thrilling jump-out-of-your-seat realization.
Ahsoka is disoriented, but we hear Anakin's voice giving commands on the battlefield. A blue streak of light suddenly appears next to Ahsoka: Anakin has ignited his saber and is running into battle, dressed in his Clone Wars armor and with the iconic short hair he had for most of the series. Ahsoka comes into focus, and we see her with shorter lekku, her classic burgundy top, and Padawan beads.
She asks him why they are at one of their first-ever missions together, to which Anakin prompts her to tell him. Ahsoka tells him she doesn’t understand, and Anakin replies that that’s her problem. This interaction is the first hint at what this final lesson is about.
Ahsoka ignites one of her green sabers and follows Anakin into battle. They head towards a barrage of laserfire, blocking bolts as they go. Explosions are going off all over the battlefield, and clones fall fast. Ahsoka asks about her training, to which Anakin reminds her that this, meaning the battle and greater war around her, is her training.
A creative transition using the surrounding haze brings us to the next scene, in a clone encampment after the battle. Ahsoka kneels down to hold the hand of an injured clone. She is emotional as she looks across the rows of injured clones. Ahsoka laments that they died following her orders and that she’s responsible for their loss. This isn’t what she trained for. Stepping away from speaking with Captain Rex (yes, Captain Rex!) and a couple of Twi’Leks, Anakin tries comforting her in the best way he knows how by telling her that the times call for the Jedi to be soldiers rather than peacekeepers. Ahsoka asks what will happen if she stops fighting, to which Anakin informs her that she will die. Anakin walks away with his blue lightsaber ignited, ready for round two of the battle. As he walks away, the light flashes from laser fire, and the image of Anakin shifts into a silhouette of Vader with his red lightsaber. It was an utterly chilling sequence.
The interaction between Anakin and Ahsoka in these two scenes was perfectly executed. The chemistry between Christensen and Greenblatt was strong. It was also clear that Christensen studied The Clone Wars: his mannerisms, the armor that we finally get to see realized in live action, the way his vocal tone and cadence evoked Matt Lanter's voice acting, and his banter with Ahsoka all combine into a perfect hybrid performance of Prequel trilogy Anakin and Clone Wars Anakin.
Greenblatt, on the other hand, had an interesting task on her hands: she had to balance between playing the scenes as if she were living them while also acknowledging that they are a flashback she is experiencing as present-day Ahsoka. And I think she handled it fantastically. The way she questioned Anakin clued the audience into the fact that she’s still not quite sure what is going on, but her ability to stick up for the injured clones and question why they were fighting at all is the classic Ahsoka we know and love from The Clone Wars. Her costume and makeup looked fantastic as well. While canonically, she would be wearing her tube top-type outfit at this time, I’m so relieved they went with something closer to her Clone Wars season 5 look. The lekku and montrals were perfect as well.
The clone troopers looked fantastic. This is the first time we've seen Phase I troopers in live-action since they were all CGI in the Prequels. The haze and smoke provide a very ethereal look that obscures their location, which I suspect is the intention since this takes place in the World Between Worlds. These are, in a way, Ahsoka’s memories, which would understandably be obscured by time and trauma.
These scenes felt like The Clone Wars come to life, and it was just about the greatest thing I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Luckily, we get even more later in the episode.
The Search Continues
Back on the surface of Seatos, Hera, Carson Teva, and the X-Wing squadron skim above the ocean to look for Ahsoka and Sabine. Hera and Huyang discuss how it would be nice to have the New Republic’s help with this mission, but Hera is already going against orders as it is.
Hera is disappointed in herself and thinks the senators are right. Huyang reminds her that people like her because she does things for people because she cares. It was really refreshing to see Hera being vulnerable and Huyang not being so sarcastic.
In fact, the whole sequence with Hera and Huyang in the cockpit of the Ghost was delightful. You get the sense from Hera’s questions about Ahsoka that she truly cares about her as a person, not just someone who can get her to where she needs to go.
Jacen lets Hera know over the comm that Chopper might have something on his scanners and that she must get the ship very low to the ocean to pick anything up. It’s obvious that Hera trusts both Chopper and Jacen implicitly because she pulls off the relatively dangerous and challenging maneuver without another thought. They are certainly a dynamic trio, and I hope we see more of them working together in the future.
Becoming a Warrior
Back in the World Between Worlds, we get a new flashback: this time at the end of the Clone Wars. Ahsoka is slightly older now and more experienced in combat. The battle in this flashback is the Siege of Mandalore: Ahsoka is dual-wielding her two blue lightsabers (thanks to Anakin’s modifications) and is wearing her blue outfit from that arc. There are “Mauldalorians” on the battlefield, and Ahsoka easily takes them out. Around her, also joining in the battle, are troopers from the 332nd battalion (the ones under Captain Rex’s command, who paint their helmets in the style of the pattern on Ahsoka’s head).
Once the immediate area is clear, Captain Rex (voiced by Temuera Morrison) praises Ahsoka and tells his men to press on ahead. Ahsoka disengages her lightsabers and looks on at the battle ahead. Anakin appears behind Ahsoka in his Revenge of the Sith attire, saying he doesn’t remember this battle. This makes sense because the Siege of Mandalore occurs when Anakin and Obi-Wan rescue Chancellor Palpatine. It also helps the uninitiated realize that this all is a vision.
Anakin is proud of Ahsoka and how she has become the warrior he trained her to be. He tells Ahsoka that everything he is is within her, including all of his knowledge, and that she is part of the legacy that spans from him and his master and his master’s master, and so on. She laments that the mark she left on the legacy is of death and war, and Anakin insists that she is more than that because he is more than that.
Everything in this sequence was so Clone Wars and a near-perfect live-action recreation of one of the most iconic battles in the show's seven seasons. Seeing young Ahsoka dual-wielding lightsabers was so satisfying, and the attention to detail with her costume, appearance, and the lightsabers themselves evoked that version of Ahsoka. Even the more minor details, like the 332nd troopers in the background, the “Mauldalorians” fighting Ahsoka and her troops, and Captain Rex’s brief appearance, brought the essence of the Siege of Mandalore arc to life.
However, tension rises between Ahsoka and Anakin, as if he is getting frustrated with her constantly questioning him and their purpose. She mentions how Anakin turned out to be more dangerous than anyone ever thought, and if she’s part of his legacy, what’s to stop her from having the same fate?
This question obviously sets Anakin off, and he tells her she’s learned nothing. She had a choice: live or die. He turns around to face her, igniting a red saber. You can see his yellow Sith eyes. They start to duel, and it’s clear that this version of Anakin, Vader, is much more powerful than before. He does a Luke Skywalker-esque Force kick to Ahsoka, which sends her back to the present day in the World Between Worlds.
You can hear Vader’s breathing and see his red lightsaber through the haze. He emerges with lightning behind him, and each time it flashes, the silhouette of Vader’s suit becomes visible. Ahsoka gets up and fights him again, at this point just defending herself rather than attacking. She loses her sabers, and Anakin slashes down toward her, but she scoots out of the way and grabs the hilt of his saber instead. She holds it up to his neck, and when she does this, her eyes glow yellow, too.
This haunting visual may give us a clue about her true fear: becoming a version of Vader herself. But she resists the dark temptation and instead deactivates the lightsaber and tosses it over the side of the walkway. She tells Anakin: “I choose to live.”
Anakin steps back, lowers his head, closes his eyes, and then looks back up. His eyes are back to normal, and his smile has returned to his face. He’s no longer Vader in the body of Anakin; he is the Anakin that Ahsoka prefers to remember.
Her former master parts ways with her by telling her: “There’s hope for you yet.” He disappears, and the World Between Worlds disintegrates around her. She sinks into the water and floats lifeless in the ocean on Seatos.
The Ghost hovers just above the ocean's surface with its lights on. One of the pilots dives into the water while tethered to the ship to retrieve Ahsoka. She lays on the loading ramp with only one thing on her mind: “Anakin.”
This sequence is perhaps the most impactful moment for Ahsoka’s character since learning that Darth Vader is actually Anakin in season two of Star Wars Rebels. We finally see what had been holding Ahsoka back in her training of Sabine: she’s afraid she’ll turn to the dark side just like Anakin did and pass that on to Sabine. It’s also clear that she’s long been bothered by the fact that her training revolved around war and becoming a soldier.
So, was it all just fan service? At face value, all of these flashback sequences certainly meet the criteria to count as such. However, these scenes are the basis for significant character growth. Ahsoka realizes what exactly she’s afraid of and why. She even has an opportunity to see that fear realized: if Ahsoka had killed Anakin when given the chance, she would’ve become the very thing she was afraid of. Ahsoka instead chooses to live. She does not give in, does not take an easy way out, and avoids her master's fate. She proves to herself that she is not her past, nor do her predecessor's failures define her.
When done poorly, fan service can feel like pointless pandering to the audience. But when it enhances the story and moves the plot forward, as it does here, it’s an exciting, memorable, and emotional way for the audience to experience character development. While these scenes served as moving homage to some of the best parts of The Clone Wars, their primary purpose was to provide Ahsoka's character with a significant pivot point and the opportunity to choose her fate.
Getting the Pod Back Together
Ahsoka wakes up in one of the bunks on her ship. Notably, she’s without the crown-like ornamentation on her head, which is incredibly startling given that her “hairline” is a stark dividing line between the orange of her face and the white of the rest of her head. While perhaps a bit startling to us and definitely not her best look, it shows she’s injured: injured people don’t tend to wake up with their jewelry on. And honestly, it probably looks weird to us because we’re just not used to seeing her without a headpiece.
Draped in a white wrap over gray clothes, Ahsoka exits her ship to find Huyang, Hera, Jacen, and Chopper. Jacen tells Ahsoka that he heard her fighting with someone, which impresses Ahsoka. Hera asks Huyang to show Jacen Ahsoka’s ship. Huyang and Jacen have a hilarious interaction about training and building lightsabers while walking away, providing a bit of comic relief to an episode that has a lot of gravitas.
Hera asks Ahsoka where Sabine is. Ahsoka is holding half of the broken map sphere and seems comforted that Sabine had held it while she was out. She walks over to the center of the main circle, around where Sabine had stood. Ahsoka meditates with the object in her hand and can hear the events that had unfolded, discovering that Sabine was taken by Baylan on the hyperspace ring, meaning she is alive. The scene is interesting because Ahsoka uses a method we have rarely seen. It suggests psychometry, or sense echo, as used by Cal Kestis in the video games Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Quinlan Vos in The Clone Wars.
Carson Teva interrupts the conversation to let Hera know that the New Republic fleet is en route, and it doesn't sound like they're coming to help. Teva mentions that Senator Organa can only cover them for so long, a fun reference to Leia, who serves as New Republic Senator at this point. Even though it's not a surprise, it brings a smile to hear that she's already known for supporting Hera in standing up for what's right.
Hera and Teva head back to the Ghost while Ahsoka turns to face the ocean. She’s still holding the sphere half, takes a deep breath, and hears loud moaning sounds. She looks up to see purrgil.
Back on the Ghost, Hera talks with Mon Mothma via holo. Mothma asks Hera many questions, including whether or not they have evidence of Thrawn’s return or if they have Morgan Elsbeth in custody. Hera says no to all of her questions, which gives Mothma no choice: Hera and Ahsoka must return with the fleet to Coruscant to testify in front of the Senate oversight committee that will determine whether to suspend Hera's command.
Ahsoka enters the cockpit of the Ghost and announces that she knows how to find Sabine. Ahsoka and Huyang take off in her T-6 shuttle, and Hera, Jacen, and Chopper take off in the Ghost. Notably, Ahsoka now has an entirely white outfit: a cloak, top, pants, and braces on her arms and legs. It’s incredibly reminiscent of her look in the epilogue of Rebels: Ahsoka The White has finally come to fruition.
It’s not just a cool outfit change; it’s symbolic of the transformation she has just undergone. There’s symbolism all throughout this episode, so much so that it could be an article all on its own. Still, two that I will mention here are that water tends to represent baptism and rebirth and that the color white often represents new beginnings. These subtle motifs sprinkled throughout the episode provide constant cues to the audience about what is going on with Ahsoka’s character.
As they climb into the atmosphere, they fly into a pod of purrgil. It’s a very magical scene. Ahsoka and Huyang approach a very large one, and she exits to the ship's exterior to look at it face-to-face. She attempts to connect with it, which requires much focus. The New Republic fleet arrives, threatening to ruin said focus if not for Carson Teva. He comms the lead ship to delay them by citing rules and regulations. The cruiser's captain isn’t playing around, though, and threatens Teva with loss of rank if he doesn’t tell her what is happening with Ahsoka and Hera. So he caves but warns the captain that she won’t believe him.
Back in the atmosphere, Ahsoka is still trying to commune with the purrgil. Jacen says it’s just like Hera's stories of the whales taking “Ezra and the bad guys far, far away.” Ahsoka digs deep into the Force, and the purrgil in front of her opens its mouth, revealing what appears to be baleen, like the whale in Finding Nemo (which doesn't make a lot of sense since the purrgil appear to be modeled on sperm whales, which have actual teeth, but I digress).
Ahsoka tells Huyang to fly into its mouth, which makes him nervous, of course. She returns to the flight deck and sits back down, where Hyuang asks if they know where Sabine went. To Huyang’s dismay, Ahsoka has no idea and suggests they see where it goes. When Huyang tells Ahsoka that it could go anywhere, Ahsoka sits back with a smile, crosses her arms, and says, “I know. But it’s better than going nowhere.” The different vibe Ahsoka exudes compared to before her encounter with Anakin is impossible to miss.
The Ghost, which stays outside of any space whales, follows the pod out of Seatos’s atmosphere. The New Republic fleet is warned to move their ships. Everyone looks at the purrgil in awe. The tails of the Purrgil start to glow and flash blue, and Hera comms Ahsoka while she still can. She quips that Jacen is too old to travel between galaxies, and Ahsoka promises her that she’ll "find them." The episode ends with Hera saying, “May the Force be with you,” to Ahsoka, as the purrgil jump to hyperspace.
The way this episode ended was so fitting for how it progressed. The confidence with which Ahsoka makes her decisions and the sense of peace she now has shows just how impactful her experience in the World Between Worlds was for her. And for it all to come back around to the purrgil, just like it did in Rebels, is poetry in motion. It takes a strong connection to the Force to commune with them, which Ahsoka now has because of her growth in the episode. It’s really a beautiful progression.
The acting in this episode is just superb from absolutely everyone involved. In particular, Rosario Dawson's portrayal of Ahsoka after her experience in the World Between Worlds is brilliant. Her performance gives a sense of lightness and ease that Ahsoka didn’t have before that moment. Some of her humor and happiness peek through, reminiscent of her way of being when we first met her in The Clone Wars, and it’s so beautiful and satisfying to see. Dawson has made some very specific acting choices to get us to this point, and she’s absolutely impressed me throughout.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the spectacular music from Kevin Kiner. It’s been so solid and memorable throughout, but this episode, in particular, really showcases the range of the work he’s done in the Star Wars universe. With the flashbacks, he had an opportunity to incorporate a little of his Clone Wars style. And, as with the previous episodes, he uses themes established in Rebels to great effect. Given the characters that appeared and the situations they were in, Kiner mixed in some classic themes and did so in a satisfying way without overusing them or making it so obvious as to say, “Hey, audience, hear that? It’s the Force theme!” It’s just solid work throughout from Kiner, and I can’t wait to listen to the soundtrack on repeat and get emotional all over again.
We all had this episode starred on our calendars when we discovered Dave Filoni was directing. He has a knack for directing some of the most memorable episodes in live-action Star Wars, and this one was no different. I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled off all the flashbacks and character development as well as he did. His experience with these characters and this material from his work on The Clone Wars and Rebels shines through. It’s clear that he loves these characters and all the stories he’s worked on in the past, and he paid homage to them in the best, most satisfying and emotional way possible. All I have to say with respect to this episode, and ultimately to the series as a whole, is: Thank you, Dave.
So, now that we’ve all had a borderline religious experience with this episode, the question remains: what are we in for in the next episode? One thing is for sure: we’ve now seen every shot in the trailers except Thrawn. But I think that will change after episode six. With Ahsoka en route to the new galaxy and Sabine, Elsbeth, Shin, and Baylan presumably there already, it only makes sense to find Thrawn next. And possibly Ezra, too, but only time will tell. Either way, I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s in store for us next.
Ahsoka is streaming now on Disney+, with new episodes releasing every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST.