This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the episode being covered here wouldn’t exist.
For a show that had its titular character say she wasn’t interested in discussing her past last episode, the fifth episode of Ahsoka certainly doubles, or even triples, down on the trend of Star Wars Disney+ shows looking backward.
Much of the first half of the episode is devoted to Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) in the World Between Worlds (a plane of existence outside of time and space that goes unexplained in this show) with a de-aged Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, including a series of flashbacks to the Clone Wars that feature a young Ahsoka (Ariana Greenblatt).
What makes that focus on the past even more frustrating is that the latter half of the episode is devoted to driving this story and Star Wars lore into its next chapter.
Please Let the Past Die
Just because Ahsoka takes place before the sequel trilogy of films does not mean that the show has to deliver things we’ve seen before. Nothing stops the show from telling a new story with characters introduced in other movies and shows that take place before other media in the franchise. Ahsoka’s characters have grown since their introduction in the animated shows. They can go on new adventures that don’t require a comprehensive knowledge of every other piece of Star Wars history.
But that’s not what Ahsoka does in its fifth episode. Picking up at the reveal of Anakin in the World Between Worlds at the end of episode four, episode five sees Ahsoka talk and spar with her old master before dropping them into Clone Wars flashbacks. The first of these scenes, set in the mystical world outside of space and time, looks beautiful, with wide shots that allow the audience to feel the limitlessness of the expanse. The sparring between Ahsoka and Anakin also delivers better lightsaber duel action than we’ve seen thus far from the show, courtesy of show creator/writer and director of this episode, Dave Filoni.
But that beauty and excitement are weighed down by a feeling that we shouldn’t be here with a character who’s had more than their fair share of screen time. That feeling only grows when Ahsoka finds herself in the Clone Wars. These flashbacks aren’t just blatantly drawing on nostalgia as Anakin’s appearance does, but literally pulling us from the present to set the action in these characters’ pasts.
In significant contrast to the images of Ahsoka and Anakin in the wide-open World Between Worlds, these flashbacks occur on battlefields contained by an overwhelming fog that limits how much we can see. When a stunning screen covering bright pink fog first covers the screen, it feels magical. But when that haze never gives way to the massive battlefields we’ve come to expect for scenes of the Clone Wars, it ends up feeling more like a very conspicuous tool for hiding budgetary restrictions.
Plot Focus Draws Away From Characters But Sparks Excitement
The latter half of the episode picks up steam as Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and a small crew of Rebel Alliance pilots retrieve Ahsoka’s body and nurse her back to health before turning their attention to where Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), her accompanying Sith, and Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) may have disappeared to.
Episode five is perhaps the most plot-heavy episode of Ahsoka so far, as it follows several characters all up to different things. Sadly, that plot focus means we get to spend less time conversing with the characters; a brief scene between Ahsoka and Hera is a highlight. But it’s the most the show has developed a sense of beginning a new adventure, even if that adventure will start next episode, and once again separates Hera and Ahsoka.
As many think pieces have already discussed, that adventure is changing Star Wars canon by moving the action to a different galaxy than the one far, far away (though one assumes this other galaxy is also nowhere near ours). It’s a thrilling concept and something that fans have never seen before.
If only the entirety of Ahsoka were thrillingly new.