Was this the most dramatic 50 minutes or so in the history of Star Wars? No, right? So then why was this episode so convinced that it was? Early on, when Hera and Jacen arrive to try and figure out what happened to Ahsoka and Sabine, they find Huyang standing on the edge of the cliff where Ahsoka disappeared, holding Sabine’s helmet and making sad eyes. He mournfully says that he told them to stay together, “but they never listen. They never listen.” (I can’t resist noting at this point that the show is only telling us they never listen, because Sabine’s entire Jedi training in which she and Ahsoka developed this contentious relationship happened offscreen.)
Huyang thinks his buddies are dead, but we know they’re not. Sabine is off in another galaxy with the bad guys, and Ahsoka is in a mystical Jedi limbo, but they’re both alive, so this all felt overly melodramatic for a show that hasn’t heard this kind of “all is lost” moment. And it probably wouldn’t have even stuck out to me so much if the episode hadn’t ended with the exact reverse, where a straightforward plot development is treated with the reverence of Luke Skywalker’s return at the end of The Last Jedi. It’s another example of the kind of weird choice that I think has been consistently dragging this show down, because I generally liked everything that happened in between these two moments—at least in terms of it being entertaining television, because I do have some questions about the point of it all.
But anyway, Ahsoka is trapped in (what I assume is) the World Between Worlds, a sort of void in the universe that some Jedi are able to access, and I think the concept was used much better here than when it was introduced in Rebels as a series of magic time-travel doorways that allowed Ezra Bridger to go into his own past and pull Ahsoka out of a fight with Darth Vader before she could be killed. In this big empty dimension, as revealed at the end of last week’s episode, Ahsoka meets a younger version of her old master Anakin Skywalker, who tells her that she’s there for one final lesson: “Live or die.”
He takes out his old blue lightsaber and forces Ahsoka to fight him, and she pretty clearly has his number and could easily win…until he drops her into a pit and sends her into a flashback of one of their first battles together during the Clone Wars. She’s even a kid again! I like that this was all pretty moody, with Clone Troopers charging out of the ever-present mist, and it was cool that Hayden Christensen got a chance to play the quippier, more easy-going version of Anakin who was on The Clone Wars, but also all of this just looked like shit.
I complained about the generic forest in last week’s episode, which made already-straightforward lightsaber battles feel even more boring, and while I appreciate there’s some aesthetic creativity to all of this (like I said, it’s moody), it does mean that a good chunk of this episode happened in endless voids. Once the moodiness wore off, it was just looking at nothing; and since this is a show that has already had a lot of looking at nothing (some of these performances are very stiff), it all felt very bland very quickly. Say what you will about the cartoony CG sets of the prequel movies, but there was stuff in them to look at.
In between all of the nothing, Anakin pushes young Ahsoka into battle, and when the fighting is done and a bunch of clones are dead, he tries to get her to stop crying about it by explaining that the duties of the Jedi have to change with the time: When he was first trained, they were keepers of the peace. Now they must be soldiers. So, in order to survive, he says Ahsoka has to become a warrior. She asks what will happen if she chooses not to fight, and he says she’ll die, at which point he marches into the mist and briefly turns into Darth Vader.
Meanwhile, Hera is searching for her friends, and her son, Jacen, starts picking up some trace of Ahsoka in the Force. He can hear her and Anakin swinging their lightsabers around. There’s a nice bit where Hera asks Huyang about Ahsoka’s Jedi master, who he says was “intense,” with some actual earned gravity.
Back in the flashback zone, Ahsoka is older, fighting Darth Maul’s Deathwatch soldiers on Mandalore. She’s using two lightsabers and generally kicking ass, and she even does the “look how serious I am” arms-crossed pose that adult Ahsoka constantly does. Anakin appears, praising her for becoming a warrior and explaining that she’s part of a Jedi legacy that goes through him and his master and his master, with all of them passing everything they know down the line to her. But Ahsoka says that her only part in that legacy is death. Anakin says she has to be more than that, because if she’s not then he’s not, and she says that’s true. He’s not.
So they jump back to the original black void, with Ahsoka as an adult again, but now Anakin has gone full Revenge Of The Sith. His eyes are crazy, his lightsaber is red (he didn’t make a red lightsaber until later, but he’s a dream ghost so it’s okay), and he’s fully trying to murder Ahsoka. She fights back, with the two of them briefly locked together as the red lightsaber makes her eyes look crazy as well, but she stops and decides that, no, she’d rather not fight him. He accepts her choice and stands down, looking normal again. “There’s hope for you yet,” he says before disappearing.
Now, what was the lesson here? Ahsoka comes out of this experience visibly changed, with super-chillaxed The Dude vibes replacing her usual hard-edged stoicism, and after a moment of contemplation, she’s able to come up with a plan to reach the other galaxy. Is the idea that she was supposed to reject Anakin’s teachings and grow beyond the soldier he wanted her to be? That she’s supposed to look past his darkness and the mistakes he made to accept that people are often more complicated than she might think?
I think both could be right, since she seems to tap into some kind of zen-like Force-enabled calmness in order to “communicate” with the Purrgil after she wakes up from her death dream and is rescued by Hera. And perhaps she’ll now be a little more understanding with Sabine and her obvious lack of interest in learning the ways of the Jedi. After all, what was she doing if not forcing her reluctant student to become a soldier? (Sabine already was a soldier, but I think it tracks.)
I like that there’s not a clean answer to this, and I wished the show had sat with it a little more rather than treating the Purrgil scene like the most exciting and important thing ever, but whatever. Ahsoka attempts to reach out to the pod of Purrgil flying above the planet, and the biggest one opens its mouth and allows her and Huyang to fly their ship inside. Purrgil, as you may recall, are space-whales that can travel through hyperspace, and as Hera goes back to the New Republic fleet, Huyang asks Ahsoka how she knows that the Purrgil will take them to where Ezra and Sabine are. It turns out she doesn’t. She has no idea where they’re going, but she now seems to have the faith to accept that moving forward is “better than going nowhere.”
- I don’t have any issues with the specific plot points here, it’s just that Ahsoka and Sabine’s disappearance at the beginning is treated with such drama that it feels silly, and the big swelling music during all of the Purrgil scenes did as well. I think it’s because you know that this is where it’s going from the moment Ahsoka sees them flying above the planet, and you know it’s all going to work out because this is a TV show and things work out on TV. This show just can’t resist being almost pretty good before pulling the rug out from under itself.
- Y’know, it’s weird that there’s a kid hanging around with obvious Jedi abilities and an obvious interest in Jedi stuff whose mom is friends with Ahsoka, and yet it apparently never occurred to her to train him as a Jedi? You’re supposed to indoctrinate them as kids anyway, not grown-ass adults like Sabine. So why has Ahsoka spent so much time forcing someone who doesn’t want to be a Jedi to be a Jedi when she couldn’t be teaching Jacen?
- I liked Hayden Christensen in this episode! I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of him at some point. Maybe the next TV series could be about Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda hanging out as ghosts? Qui-Gon could even be there. Maybe they’re all ghost roommates.
- Little cameo from Captain Rex during the flashbacks. He popped up on Rebels as an old man, and I believe that show mentioned that he fought in the Battle Of Yavin (Return Of The Jedi), but he’s gotta be dead by now, right? That’s kind of a bummer. Excuse me while I hold an old Clone Trooper helmet and stare off into the distance on the side of a cliff….