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
art 5 of Ahsoka delivered an emotional and thought-provoking story marking the culmination of 15 years of storytelling. Filled with deep symbolism, imagery, and many rousing callbacks to the franchise’s history, it offered a lot for fans to delve into and discuss.
Star Wars is no stranger to philosophical – even theological – conversations. Whether it be “the cave” on Dagobah, Anakin and the prophecy of “The Chosen One,” or the “The Force” and its omniscient power, Star Wars has always been up for interpretation. With that in mind, let’s discuss Part 5 of Ahsoka, “Shadow Warrior,” the symbols and messages of the episode, and what it could all possibly mean for the series going forward.
While we can interpret the episode in several ways, I think Anakin’s lesson for Ahsoka is twofold: 1) there’s more to being a Jedi than just fighting, and 2) there’s a difference between surviving and actually “living.” Both lessons go hand-in-hand. Both lessons reinforce one another. And Anakin and Ahsoka’s dialogue supports these ideas.
Early on in the sequence, Anakin and Ahsoka have an interesting dialogue exchange. Anakin continually drills into Ahsoka the need to fight. But Ahsoka pushes back against this idea, referring to how Jedi are meant to be peacekeepers, not soldiers. This notion comes to a point when Ahsoka asks, “Is that all I’ll have to teach my Padawan one day? How to fight?” To which Anakin replies, “Do you even want a Padawan?” Considering what we've seen regarding Ahsoka and Sabine so far in the series, it's a pointed question.
A little later, Anakin tells Ahsoka, “I’m teaching you how to lead—how to survive. And to do that, you’re going to have to fight.” Ahsoka asks, “What if I want to stop fighting?” Anakin replies and says, “Then you’ll die.” While Anakin’s statement may be true, it’s important to note the shot immediately after. As Anakin walks into the fog of war, Anakin flashes into Darth Vader. This shows how Anakin and the Jedi’s focus on fighting and the slow trudge toward war led to Anakin becoming Darth Vader.
Anakin is actually testing Ahsoka. As shown at the very end of the sequence, Ahsoka is right in her thinking and in questioning Anakin. But Anakin wants to test her resolve and see if she truly believes what her questions imply: will she do what her master says and fight, or will she stand firm and reject the warrior mentality?
Jumping forward to the final confrontation, when Ahsoka has an opportunity to kill Vader, she throws away the lightsaber. It’s a repeat of the same situation in Return of the Jedi when Luke threw away his lightsaber when he had the chance to kill Vader as well. And when she does so, Ahsoka says, “I choose to live.” Ahsoka remained steadfast in her beliefs as Anakin reinforced two lessons: there’s more to a Jedi than just fighting, and surviving is not the same as “living.”
She was right all along.
Notice the choice of words as well. Throughout the episode, Anakin says phrases like “fight or die.” It’s a binary choice. But Ahsoka answers back with a third choice unique to her, “I choose to live.” Ahsoka rejecting violence could suggest that she will be in a more tranquil state and more reliant on the Force as her journey continues.
Ahsoka’s White Robes and the Biblical Comparisons to Jonah
Dave Filoni and the rest of the cast of Ahsoka have been very upfront about the comparisons between Ahsoka Tano and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Filoni has repeatedly stated that Ahsoka is inspired partly by the fantastical wizard Gandalf. Nowhere is that clearer than in Ahsoka’s robe colors after her encounter in the World Between Worlds.
In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf starts off wearing grey robes and is referred to as Gandalf the Grey. But over the events of the series, Gandalf transforms into Gandalf the White, wearing white robes, after Saruman the White’s corruption and going through an afterlife experience. It’s a similar situation for Ahsoka, as she starts off the series wearing grey robes but transitions to white after her experience in the World Between Worlds.
However, the other less-talked-about comparison is between Ahsoka and the biblical figure of Jonah. In the Book of Jonah, God commissions Jonah to prophesy to the city of Nineveh about its coming destruction. Afraid to do so, he runs away from his commission. Jonah flees out to the sea but gets swallowed up by a giant fish (usually interpreted to be a whale). Jonah spends three days and three nights in the belly of the beast before he finally repents, answers his commission, and is spewed out.
In Ahsoka, the titular character goes into the mouth of a whale so that she and her ship can have safe passage to another galaxy. It’s important to note the timing as Ahsoka does so after going through a repentance of herself. Ahsoka ventures into the mouth of a purrgil after she dons her white robes and changes her perspective on her commission. If that doesn’t make the point clear, consider the last thing that happens to Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds. After she overcomes her trial with Anakin, the World Between Worlds collapses in on her and she becomes immersed in water. Ahsoka gets baptized, another symbolic action in Christianity that represents repentance and change.
A Turning Point for Ahsoka and Star Wars
There are many more interpretations and comparisons one can make about the episode. And that’s the fun of Star Wars as the franchise has always been ambiguous and never truly explicit about its themes and messages, but rather, left open for the audience to draw their own meanings.
My reading suggests that Ahsoka and the Star Wars franchise are entering new, uncharted territory (literally). Anakin’s lesson and the comparisons to Gandalf and the Biblical figure of Jonah could mean fans may see a different take on the Jedi. We could see a Jedi less reliant on lightsabers and more reliant on the Force. Part 5 already hints at that with Ahsoka using the Force for psychometry and communication with the purrgil. Perhaps the wizard comparison will go even further as we may see Ahsoka use her staff, shown at the end of Star Wars: Rebels, further embracing the “magic” of the Force.
Further, the paralells to the story of Jonah invite an additional avenue of speculation. In Christian tradition, Jonah’s three days in the whale’s belly foreshadow the three days Jesus spends in the tomb before the resurrection. If the parallels are deliberate, what might Ahsoka’s journey with the purgill suggest about her role in forthcoming Star Wars storytelling? Where might we find her by the time the “Mandoverse” storylines culminate in the film announced at Star Wars Celebration 2023?
Either way, “Shadow Warrior” leaves much for fans to discuss and philosophize. Youtini will be here, continuing our coverage of the Ahsoka series as it rolls toward the season finale. Be sure to check back on our site for reviews of each episode every week, and check out our podcasts “The Living Force” and “Legends Lookback” for more discussions on the show.