At the start of the series, there was some initial concern about Ahsoka’s overall demeanor. In the first four episodes, she’s guarded and cold – the veil starts to come down at the end of ‘Fallen Jedi.’ It’s all because she’s still dealing with all the complex feelings revolving around Anakin, what he became, and if things would have been different if she had stayed by his side as a padawan.
However, we know from watching the prequel trilogy that it was more about the manipulation of Sidious, the restrictive nature of the Jedi order, and Anakin’s own emotional instability in trying to save the person he loves that contributed to his downfall and Darth Vader’s rise. “Shadow Warrior” provides a poignant cap on Ahsoka’s training and broadens more of Anakin’s story that is both engaging and fresh. In Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Anakin, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” in their fight on Mustafar. The central theme of Ahsoka’s final lesson in The World Between Worlds follows this throughline – “live or die.”
I noticed the dualistic nature of how Dave Filoni plays with the dialogue. It’s not only Ahsoka or the younger version of her (played excellently by Ariana Greenblatt) reasoning in how wrong this endless cycle of war the “peacekeeping Jedi” are involved in; Anakin almost plays into that. When he tells Ahsoka, “One is never too old to learn, Snips,” in how “Shadow Warrior” plays out, one could guess this version of Anakin may see the error of his ways in how his life played out. In memories, they retrace the steps of The Clone Wars (specifically the Battles of Teth and Ryloth), where they are surrounded by carnage and battles.
Seeing this in live-action provides the added context of how young padawans are and the craziness of them getting thrown into the mix of dangerous battles. Ahsoka considers the cost of being essentially a mercenary and questions it. Anakin tells her that he’s training her to be a soldier, and that it’s their job to lead. Returning to The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon tells Padme, “I can only protect you; I cannot fight a war for you.” With this context, it’s interesting to pair it with the legacy aspect of this episode - the thing that keeps Ahsoka up at night. Will she be doomed to repeat the cycle of death and war as other Jedi have done? Filoni also expertly encapsulates Ahsoka’s fears with the flashes of Vader, the colors of red, and their last lightsaber battle – where Anakin’s eyes are reflected in hers. Now, you can see why stopping Thrawn from coming into power takes precedence over everything else.
Anakin tells Ahsoka, “You’re a warrior as a trained you to be. Within you will be everything I am.” It’s important to note that Anakin and Ahsoka are not your conventional Jedi – that’s their bond. They question many things about the Jedi order itself. Unfortunately, this leads Anakin down the path to the dark side, but it provides the answer Ahsoka is desperately seeking. Anakin’s tragic fall was ultimately his cross to bear, not hers. The fact that she’s questioning is all I have to pass down to my padawan (Sabine), and choosing to live is going with what she knows in her heart is right. When she ultimately returns to Setos, Ahsoka feels the impression of the orb, and you can see her grimace knowing Sabine’s choice.
This feels like a course correction in Ahsoka’s worldview to distill her stoicism and see where Sabine is coming from trying to save Ezra. There will always be wars to fight, and the impending return of Thrawns is looming, but Ahsoka is special because she can always question the ways previous Jedi could not.
Hera and co. also have a sidebar throughout this episode; the more thrilling parts are what’s happening with Jacen. He is wholly tapped into the force to the point where he tells his mother to listen to the waves. The fact that Hera could hear the lightsaber battle leads to the show’s theme of everybody being able to locate the force as long as they are open to it. Otherwise, it was a ping-pong of a search-and-rescue mission and the combination of Captain Carson and Mothma telling Hera they are about to be in big trouble with the Senate. Somebody had to do it.
A part of “Shadow Warrior” that makes me happy is seeing Hayden Christensen get to play more of the Anakin role and provide more direction in that character. Specifically, in how he plays things, you can feel the ways where lineage failed him. In his warnings and actions, he’s indirectly teaching Ahsoka to heal and follow the road she was meant to go. Now, she’s with the Purrgil and Huyang hot on the trail to find Sabine and perhaps Ezra and Thrawn.