Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
I’m running low on brain space for just about anything these days, so much so that my ability to write about popular culture — something I take seriously and enjoy immensely — feels like it’s withering away. I’m pretty much completely out of balance and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to find my way back. I’m profoundly frustrated about it.
What I’m not particularly frustrated about is how great Ahsoka has turned out to be. At this point, it’s hard not to say it’s my flat-out favorite of the Disney+ experiments thus far, and that’s quite a high bar coming from one of the few who thinks season three of The Mandalorian totally fucked when everyone else seems ready to slag it for no good reason. Yeah, yeah, Andor had the air of “peak TV” legitimacy, and I love Andor, too, but it always feels like a lot of the commentariat had found their “winning horse” with that show and wasn’t prepared to return to the pulpy goodness of Din Djarin and his beautiful, green son. The same thing seems to be the case with Ahsoka, at least in some realms of popular culture commentary, but here’s the thing: The show rocks! Every week is filled with good performances, gorgeous costume design, clever use of special effects and thoughtful character work that feels about as close to the soul of Star Wars as we’ve seen in quite a long time.
Shadow Warrior, the fifth episode of this first season (one of hopefully many more to come, but who knows these days), features the titular Togruta Jedi (Rosario Dawson) traveling into the netherworld of the Force after losing her battle with Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) in the last episode. Whether this is the World Between Worlds as seen in Star Wars: Rebels feels open to interpretation; whereas that was a particularly physical realm, this seems to be more spiritual. Regardless, she’s greeted by Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, finally given material to work with as this character), who immediately presents her with a choice: Live or die. True to form, that means a lightsaber duel between the two of them before he thrusts his former apprentice into a series of flashbacks to the moment that made her a warrior and wounded her soul.
I simply adore how writer-director Dave Filoni conveys the character of Anakin, a man who was the galaxy’s greatest hero and then its greatest villain. Within his spirit is the totality of that experience. Having passed into the Force, Anakin is enlightened. That doesn’t mean he’s zen. He is as kind, caring, harsh and unrelenting as he was when he was alive and training Ahsoka. His clear frustration with Ahsoka’s inability to move beyond what he became is beautiful and human. Anakin is not above who he was. He’s simply all of it, all at once.
One of the greatest questions fans of this series have had over the years is what the ghost of Anakin, as seen in Star Wars: Episode V — Return of the Jedi, would have to say to Ahsoka and his son, Luke Skywalker, when he returns to them. It has rarely been depicted in either sequel canon because it’s kind of an impossible question to answer. The fact that Filoni never includes a moment where he exposits on what he learned from the experience in a hokey way — never an “I’m sorry,” which would never cut it … it’s graceful.
Meanwhile, Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), her son, Jacen (Evan Whitten), and our old pal Republic pilot Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) are on Seatos, searching for Ahsoka and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). It’s only through Jacen’s latent abilities with the Force that they’re able to locate them. The best line in the episode comes when Huyang (voiced by David Tennant) explains to Teva that Jacen’s father was a Jedi named Kanan Jarrus — and Teva just sighs with an exasperated “OK.” It’s Filoni knowing that introducing yet another Rebels backstory into the mix is a step too far — particularly for the show’s general audience and especially when Jarrus is no longer a living presence in the galaxy.
Although the most exciting part of the episode is Christensen playing a version of Anakin that audiences might have actually mourned in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, this is really more of a two-part affair, with the latter portion showing us Ahsoka’s new post-enlightenment attitude and Gandalf-esque white garb. Once Ahsoka returns to the land of the living, she and Huyang hatch a plan to follow her foes to the new galaxy via Purrgil. It’s pretty much what I expected to happen, and I’m glad this episode resolved that plot movement as quickly as possible. We have three episodes left, and it feels like a lot of ground to cover with Ezra Bridger and Grand Admiral Thrawn returning and Ahsoka applying her lessons from Anakin to those present conflicts. I’m very excited to see how it wraps up, and I hope we get a good follow-up before 2026; I won’t hold my breath, of course.
- I love Huyang being sad about Ahsoka and Sabine splitting up during the fights in the last episode. “They never listen.” Tennant is so great in this role.
- Jacen is low-key my favorite element of this show — the rare child character who comes off perfectly. I hope we get a lot more of him in the future.
- Loved the reference to Senator Organa giving the Phoenix crew cover.
- Seeing Anakin in his Clone Wars armor is such a treat.
- Ditto with the special appearances by all of Ahsoka’s early lightsabers in a single episode. I own some of those!
- As someone who rewatches the duels from Revenge of the Sith quite frequently, watching Christensen fight away brought back a lot of feelings. His line readings aside, Christensen always understood the physicality of the role, and he just fights like nobody else. Strong, versatile, confident and dangerous, both as Anakin and Darth Vader. I wish the fights in Obi-Wan Kenobi had been anywhere close to as wonderful as the ones seen in this show. It deserved so much better.
- Loved hearing Vader’s voice coming out of human Anakin. The only truly great scene in the aforementioned Kenobi show was when we got to see Christensen within the Vader armor (and even that moment is sort of ruined by the fact that it doesn’t make much sense within the context of the overall series). So, I’m very glad to see this character truly shine in a way the movies never let him. I really, truly hope we get more of Christensen in the role. He’s just great now.
- I do wish we got to see Temuera Morrison play Rex without his helmet on, but I’d imagine that would require de-aging tech that was put to better use on Christensen (which may well be the best use I’ve seen of that technology). Maybe next season, we can see Morrison play the older, post-Return of the Jedi version of his character.
- I’ve written about Siege of Mandalore so many times that you can imagine how exciting it was to glimpse in live-action.
- If we got a short season of Clone Wars episodes just featuring Christensen and Ariana Greenblatt as the young Ahsoka, I wouldn’t be upset.
- As if I’m ever upset about more Star Wars.
- “Ahsoka, within you will be everything I am” is a great Jedi wisdom moment, immediately at the top of the list alongside Yoda’s “We are what they grow beyond” from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Coming from Anakin, that is particularly special. Ahsoka’s journey in this season is about her acceptance of what Anakin became and figuring out what it means that her own life was defined by his tutelage and friendship. I’m thrilled with how Filoni is resolving that question.
I passed a big exam, so I treated myself to the Black Series series of Clone Commander Jesse. He’s difficult to find because of how Walmart handles its exclusive figures and, as such, ended up running me more than I normally want to pay for one of these things. I’m still frustrated by the price even though I also sold a figure to justify it. I’d love to get their exclusive Clone Commander Fives, too, if I see him pop up for sale, but not for this price. In this case, I like Jesse’s unique helmet, face tattoo and role in the series itself enough that I swallowed the cost. He looks great with Rex and Echo.
My list of figures I look forward to buying on clearance continues to grow. As we enter the end of the year, I’m really counting on those peg-warming Andor characters to become reasonably priced. I’d also like to eventually grab the last Tales of the Jedi Epic Collection, but that series’ pending publication in omnibus form next year gives me pause.
Obviously, I’d like a new Anakin release. I own the Target-exclusive Clone Wars Anakin, the old Revenge of the Sith Anakin and the Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones Anakin already. We’re already getting a Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace version of the character (so ready for that). So, what other version do I need? Simple: I want a fully retooled version of the character from any era, as long as they give his body butterfly joints and an enhanced range of motion. He’s one of the most static figures I own, and it’s just about time we get a line of prequel Jedi who can actually hold their lightsabers out in front of them, especially the main man himself.
I probably don’t need another Rex, but I’d buy another. I’m already getting the Clone Wars version of Ahsoka they’re releasing this fall, but I guess we need one with face printing to match Greenblatt!
I know I’ve sworn off lightsabers (besides Baylan), but every episode makes me more and more thirsty for Ahsoka’s white sabers. Someday!