Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about the fifth episode of “Ahsoka,” “Shadow Warrior.”
Having brought a “Star Wars” fan’s instincts to the animated “The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels,” writer-director Dave Filoni transferred that sensibility to live-action series. Clunky at times, at its best that unapologetic approach has yielded lump-in-the-throat moments, and it was on full display in the fifth episode of “Ahsoka,” which reunited the titular character with Anakin Skywalker, creating another opportunity for Hayden Christensen to reprise the role.
Christensen’s de-aged Anakin appeared to Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) as she hovered between life and death, a Force ghost there to teach her one last lesson. The small touches – down to him calling her “Snips,” his nickname for her, or the fleeting glimpses of Darth Vader – reinforced how the animated shows in some respects eclipsed the movies, and at the very least stoked those fires during the extended lapses between them.
The Master-Padawan relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka became a high point of the animated series, making Ahsoka one of the franchise’s most beloved characters long before Dawson brought her to flesh-and-blood life.
In “Shadow Warrior,” Filoni (who wrote and directed this latest episode) found multiple ways to scratch that itch, not only advancing the plot involving its larger story – finding Ezra Bridger, and thwarting the return of the Imperial leader Thrawn – but laying intriguing groundwork regarding Jacen Syndulla, the Force-sensitive young son of Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), having no doubt inherited those talents from his father, the late Jedi Kanan Jarrus.
For Christensen, who previously returned as Anakin in “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the live-action Disney+ series have served as a gateway back into the “Star Wars” galaxy. After his two movies in the prequel trilogy – which didn’t always serve him particularly well in terms of George Lucas’ writing of the character – the actor has embraced the franchise, saying in an interview last year it was “heartwarming” to see the reaction evolve over time, and that “those films had a gestation period, where they needed a little time to ferment in the public psyche.”
Whatever one thinks of the prequels, Christensen’s involvement has added to the resonance of these shows and strengthened that bond. And while Filioni and company have three more episodes to complete this story, they seem to be doing plenty of spadework in terms of setting up possibilities for a future “Star Wars” movie from Filoni and Jon Favreau that would take some combination of the Disney+ characters to the big screen.
Itself middle-aged, “Star Wars” needs to expand its horizons to develop new generations of fans. For many, though, tapping into the rich vein of mythology within the existing canon can be plenty rewarding.
“Ahsoka” started slow, but the latest chapters have more than delivered on that level.
“You look old,” Anakin joked when he saw the grown-up Ahsoka.
Actually, after the last two episodes, she looks pretty darn good.