How are we feeling, y’all? Devastated? Emotionally compromised? Blubbering into our coffee?
Hera lands on Seatos and finds the map remnants as well as Huyang, who is holding Sabine’s helmet and lamenting the fact that Ahsoka and Sabine didn’t do as he asked. In the World Between Worlds, Ahsoka is confronted by Anakin Skywalker. He tells her that she lost a fight and that he still has more to teach her. She remembers the fight, which he says is a good thing—it means that she still has a chance to live. They begin to duel and Ahsoka gets dropped into her memories of the Clone Wars, one of their first battles together. She remembers telling Anakin that she didn’t want to be trained as a warrior, and how he dismissed that concern because she was growing up in wartime.
Carson Teva tells Hera and Senator Organa is trying to cover for her, but the New Republic will soon catch on that her mission was unauthorized. Jacen can hear the duel occurring between Ahsoka and Anakin, and tells his mother. She listens and hears it too, prompting her to make her team sweep the ocean again. Ahsoka finds herself in memories of the Siege of Mandalore at the end of the war. She tells Anakin that her legacy is only of death and combat, but he insists that she’s more than that—because he is also more than that. Ahsoka counters that Anakin was more dark and dangerous than anyone knew. Anakin is disappointed and tells her she’s learned nothing. They duel again, but this time Ahsoka beats him and takes his lightsaber… only to cast it aside. Anakin is pleased that Ahsoka has chosen to live. She wakes in the water as she’s rescued by Hera’s team.
Ahsoka wakes again one day later on the Ghost and goes out to the site on Seatos to see if she can figure out where Sabine is now that the map is destroyed. She learns that Sabine is on the ship, and realizes that the best way to follow her is to commune with the purgill. She and Huyang take their ship up into the pod while Carson stalls an incoming New Republic fleet on Hera’s behalf. Ahsoka communes with the largest purgill and it opens its mouth; she tells Huyang to fly inside. Hera finally tells fleet command to move aside as the purgill pod leaves the planet. The whales brush the large ships aside with ease as Ahsoka promises Hera that she’ll find Sabine and Ezra. Hera wishes them well before the purgill jump into hyperspace.
That ending. Absolutely gorgeous.
It’s not the first time fans have seen purgill overtake a fleet of ships, but it’s certainly the most powerful. Watching the New Republic ships scatter, nothing but specks in a current, as the purgill follow their own inexorable path. The music, the slow exit, the lack of violence, Ahsoka’s beatific smile and Hera’s tearful farewell. (Hera, who used to be afraid and distrustful of the purgill for how they sometimes knocked starships off course, now trusting them to lead Ahsoka to her family, my whole damn heart.)
That’s that good Star Wars. I don’t mean it facetiously, this is literally what Star Wars is designed for, when it’s working right. Massive visuals, operatic themes, pathos and a little bit of wonder and a sprinkling of incredulity. (Thanks for that, Carson.) That’s the feeling I’m looking for.
But now I have to jump back to the beginning of the episode because it was an assault (maybe just on me personally) the way they employed Huyang’s grief at Ahsoka and Sabine’s separation. David Tennant’s trembling voice—he is a master at portraying those sorts of emotions—when droids can’t even physically sob, the way Huyang cradles Sabine’s helmet in his hands, his woeful cry of “They never listen” being the reflection of thousands of years of service and centuries of untold knowledge and the loss of the entire Jedi Order. All those children he taught, all those knights he knew and befriended and advised, and now the only two he has left might also be dead. Because he had one single request, a reasonable and wise one, and they still wouldn’t listen to him. They never listen to him.
I almost had to stop the episode right there and go scream into a pillow for the rest of the evening. We hadn’t even gotten to the main event.
Looks like the World Between Worlds can serve as a bridge between the living and the dead, which… is a little weird, but I’ll go with it, I guess. My real thought for this section revolves around Force ghosts, which is probably something I should reserve for a long conversation elsewhere…. Namely the implicit idea with Star Wars (because the Force is mostly just Westerners poorly interpreting and blending a set of Eastern religions and philosophies) that someone gets absorbed into the Force when they die, making Force ghosts not entirely the person themselves. Because to me, this version of Anakin very rightly reads as him and also not as him. It feels like the Force reconstructing him as a way of communicating to Ahsoka, and it’s one of the strongest aspects of the episode to my mind.
We get flashbacks to the Clone Wars, which serve as a helpful way of reminding the audience that Ahsoka was a literal child when she was trained by Anakin in the midst of a terrible war that she was commanded to participate in. (He was also a child, by the way—Anakin is only about five years older than his Padawan, a fact that should regularly rear up to slap you with its absurdity, as it often does me.)
These flashbacks are working on multiple levels, and I’m interested to find out what Ahsoka’s ultimate takeaway winds up being from the whole experience. We get a conversation that never appeared in the Clone Wars series that has always needed to show up to my mind: Ahsoka telling Anakin that she never intended to become a soldier, and Anakin’s relative lack of concern over that problem. It’s important for two particular reasons, the first being that Anakin absolutely flourished during the Clone Wars, as the constant combat made it easy for him to “prove” himself and duck Jedi procedures in favor of his own instincts. The second is that Anakin’s approach to Ahsoka’s training always stemmed from the very practical desire to simply keep his Padawan alive.
But these themes also interplay with the difficulties between Ashoka and Sabine. The pair have very similar backgrounds, both of them raised in war and accustomed to fighting their way out of every conflict. Both of them seem desperate to carve out a new path for themselves, but afraid that they’re incapable of following it. Part of Ahsoka’s journey here is confronting her desire to be a different kind of Jedi, a different sort of master, and fearing that she can’t because of the training she received.
Anakin tells her that this is not this case because he was more than that. And I find myself coming back to this line because it could (and likely does) mean so many things. Anakin was more than a commander in war, certainly, but he’s also one with the Force, and so are all the Jedi who taught Ahsoka: Obi-Wan, and Plo Koon, and Yoda, and so many other names in a long line of tutelage. They are all more than that. The Force is more than that. And so is Anakin, in many ways by virtue of her. Ahsoka is his legacy, far more than his own children can be.
I don’t think Ahsoka is entirely done parsing out what all of that means, but I do love that she takes on his red lightsaber, the specter of his darkness, and realizes that she can just as easily discard it. The dark side never held much interest for Ahsoka, and that’s important for her, being Anakin’s student and exposed to all of the darkness in him without much filter.
There’s a thread in this series that is equally exciting to me, being the moment where Jacen tells his mother to listen at the water’s edge, to hear the lightsabers. And Hera does. So we’ve got yet another example of a person with no innate Force sensitivity still managing to connect to the Force. Hera has been closer to it than many for a long time, between Kanan and Ezra, and now her own child. But it’s also important that between Hera and Sabine (and also Huyang), we’re getting multiple examples of people who would never be selected by the Jedi Order being folded into that understanding. It gives the story a much deeper resonance, and I hope we’ll see more of it.
Ahsoka dons brighter colors after her fall, which is very Gandalf the Grey-to-White. What’s more interesting is that Filoni clearly always intended to do this with her: The end of Rebels actually shows us the moment where Ahsoka reunites with Sabine on Lothal, but in the animated version, Ahsoka is similarly attired in that bright gray. He’s now retconned it to starting here, a rebirth for Ahsoka following this meeting with her former master.
Now all that remains is to get the kids and go home. Though it’s obviously going to be anything but that simple.
Bits and Asides
- When Ahsoka says that she won’t fight Anakin and he claims he’s heard that before, he’s referring to both her and his son, Luke: Ahsoka came up against Vader in the season two finale of Rebels and didn’t want to fight him, but was forced to in order to defend her life. This heartbreaking parallel was first seen in Return of the Jedi when Luke Skywalker refuses to fight Vader and is repeatedly punished for it by his father and the Emperor.
- The trooper who addresses Ahsoka directly in the Siege of Mandalore section gives you the live-action introduction of Captain Rex(!), one of the most beloved clone troopers, uh, ever. He’s a regular character throughout Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch, and he and Ahsoka are still in contact, by the way. Or they were by the end of Rebels, at least. Rex was Anakin’s favorite officer during the Clone Wars, and he sent the captain to aid Ahsoka in the Siege of Mandalore because he couldn’t be there with her.
- Super clever how they used the environment to prevent us from needing to see the clone’s faces; Ahsoka is holding the dying trooper’s hand and his face is shrouded either because he was assumed dead, or because they’re on a world full of sand and some sharp medic realized that maybe they shouldn’t be letting injured men breathe in all that particulate. Either way, it prevents us from needing to uncanny de-age Temuera Morrison. (Though it worked well for Christensen overall here, a combination of the choice of shots and them not overdoing it.)
- Love that Carson keeps coming over and telling Hera that Leia is on the line and she’s deflecting as much as she can, but you gotta throw her a bone here. Just the acknowledgement that even without the ability to show her to us, Leia is still in there doing the good work.
- Okay, but Hera asks Huyang what Anakin was like—reminder that Huyang showed all Jedi Padawans how to assemble their lightsabers—and his one-word reply to that loaded question is “…Intense.” Buddy. What did he put you through. You were concerned, weren’t you. I bet you tried to buy Obi-Wan a very large drink afterward.
- The way that Hayden Christensen delivers the line “Is that what this is about?” when Ahsoka brings up his fall to the dark side is just so perfectly petulant, so fundamentally Anakin, I could arrrgh… We get a few moments like that, and I could just throttle/slap/kiss the guy.
- Jacen playing Keep Away with Chopper added years onto my life, thanks for that, Filoni.
- Sorry to be like this, but the purgill opened its mouth to show the funny whale teeth that our own whales do, in fact, possess, and I immediately shouted “Where are the space krill??” at my television. Also love the fact that they’re reversing the trope of trying to avoid the whale mouth here.
Next week… maybe we’ll finally see Thrawn?