The enigma that is Anakin Skywalker has been both a magnetic force and a quagmire for Star Wars fans. From his precocious podracing days to the dark shroud of Darth Vader, Anakin's transformation has fueled endless debates and fervent discussions. However, Episode 5 of Ahsoka has set its sights on a daring mission: celebrating the Chosen One’s complexity and, in the process, giving his character arc a fresh coat of paint, albeit with the help of a familiar face.
In the vast and intricate galaxy of Star Wars storytelling, few characters have elicited as much fascination and emotional investment as Anakin Skywalker. The latest episode of Ahsoka, titled "Shadow Warrior," undertakes the delicate task of bringing his character’s arc to a remarkable fruition.
Star Wars has always grappled with the challenge of portraying Anakin Skywalker as a multi-dimensional character. The Prequels, while shedding light on the events leading to his fall to the Dark Side, often left viewers yearning for a more complete understanding of the man behind the mask.
Our beloved Dave Filoni, who wrote and directed the episode, takes the bold step of presenting Anakin in a refreshingly new light, allowing audiences to glimpse the facets of his character that were overshadowed in the Prequels.
Central to this exploration is the convergence of animated and live-action portrayals. Throughout the animated series The Clone Wars, Anakin was voiced by Matt Lanter, whose rendition sometimes portrayed a version of the character with a slightly different continuity. Here, we see Anakin with a brighter disposition, more humor, and less brooding than his prequel film counterpart.
Anakin in The Clone Wars was, at times, more straightforwardly heroic than the brooding figure depicted in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. In contrast, Hayden Christensen's portrayal in the prequel films highlighted Anakin's darkest days, marked by inner turmoil and his eventual descent into the Sith.
The episode's narrative device transports Ahsoka Tano, Anakin's former Padawan, and Anakin himself into the enigmatic "World Between Worlds," a mystical dimension within the Force that transcends time and space.
This mystical dimension plays with time and space, allowing for a literal blast from the past. Anakin's charming, humble, and charismatic side takes center stage. Forget the guy who couldn't stop complaining about sand or his hush-hush marriage. Instead, we see him as a beacon of light in his flashback scenes, a stark contrast to his more tormented portrayal in the prequels.
A pivotal moment arrives when Ahsoka and Anakin engage in a lightsaber duel amidst their time-traveling escapades. This duel is a chronological rollercoaster, offering glimpses into key moments of their shared history, a journey that serves to "finish [her] training." The opportunity to witness Hayden Christensen reprising his role as Anakin in these situations is nothing short of revelatory.
What sets Christensen’s portrayal apart this time is that Anakin’s demeanor is not weighed down by inner conflict or burdened by the impending doom of the Jedi Order. Instead, Anakin is portrayed as a hero, one who showcases charm and humility, embodying the qualities that initially endeared him to fans. It's a poignant reminder of the Anakin that could have been, free from the shadow of Darth Vader.
Ahsoka's journey in this episode is also a tribute to Anakin's role as her mentor. Anakin didn't merely fail her as a teacher, nor did he complete her training entirely. This forms the crux of their reunion here, where Anakin returns to offer Ahsoka one final test through lightsaber combat. In classic Anakin fashion, he imparts wisdom through action rather than words.
PEAK LIGHTSABER FLIGHTS!— Nathan Messer (@N8Mess) September 13, 2023
The choreography was fantastic. Ahsoka holds true to her clone wars fighting style, while Anakin is a menace and even gave us the famous Ani spin. #Ahsoka #Anakin pic.twitter.com/YN95FDPAEg
As Anakin begins to exhibit more signs of his transformation into Darth Vader, the episode underscores the temptation of the Dark Side. As the battle unfolds, Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader becomes evident. His eyes turn Sith-red, his face is scarred, and his lightsaber emits an ominous glow.
The episode deftly teases the Dark Side's seductive power, as Ahsoka briefly flirts with its crimson allure. However, she swiftly swats aside her anger unlike her former master and chooses life over the path to darkness. She proves that, while Anakin's training methods may have made her strong, they never hardened her heart.
Anakin's redemption, oddly enough, emerges from this battle. He recognizes Ahsoka's strength in rejecting the Dark Side's pull, and he beams with pride. In a saga rife with Anakin's failures, it's a rare moment of triumph for the fallen Jedi. Anakin may have fallen from grace, but as a mentor, he excelled.
“Shadow Warrior” manages to do the seemingly impossible: make us feel sympathy for Anakin Skywalker again. Before the Prequels, Anakin's catharsis was largely emblematic. He was more of a myth than a man, more of an idea than a character. With this episode, we are invited to see Anakin through the adoring eyes of his Padawan.
Christensen's gleaming eyes in the end, grant us a glimpse of the hero that could have been in the Prequels but rarely emerged.
In retrospect, George Lucas took a giant gamble with the prequel trilogy, tracing Anakin's descent into darkness. While these films explained why Anakin became Darth Vader, they seldom let him shine as a hero. "Shadow Warrior" briefly rights this cosmic ship by showing us the Anakin that Ahsoka revered - a Chosen One filled with boundless potential for greatness.
As Ahsoka's transformation culminates in her donning white robes, it signifies not only her growth but also Anakin's enduring legacy. It celebrates his complexity, rediscovers his heroic side, and reaffirms his legacy beyond the veneer of Darth Vader - one of hope, inspiration, and the unwavering power of redemption.
Filoni reminds us that even in a galaxy filled with darkness, the light of a hero can shine through once more, and encapsulates the essence of the Star Wars saga - a story of hope, redemption, and the enduring power of the Force.