Everyone who grew up during the prequel era has every right to be on Cloud 9 right now. Ahsoka Part 5, “Shadow Warrior,” delivers and how! This episode is an absolute dream come true for fans of Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, and it allows Hayden his first proper opportunity to reprise his role as Anakin since Episode III: Revenge of Sith.
Hayden returned to Star Wars last year as Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, he was used sparingly in the series, appearing primarily as Vader. Only one flashback scene of a training session between Master and Padawan gives Hayden screen-time as Anakin, and even though Darth Vader is perhaps the greatest villain of all time, there’s no denying that so many of us who grew up with the prequels have been itching to see Hayden getting to play the character for an extended period, especially after seven seasons of The Clone Wars added so much depth to the character.
Ahsoka Part 5 fulfills every Anakin fan’s hopes and dreams and does the utmost justice to Hayden Christensen as an actor. It’s a joy to see a version of Anakin who is free from anxiety, fear, pain, and anger. Hayden looks at home portraying the character again, establishing, for the first time, chemistry with his Padawan Ahsoka Tano in live action. Anakin is back, and even if this is just a projection of him through Ahsoka’s unconscious mind or some kind of a Force-vision, he steals every scene he’s in, and the main reason for it is that for the first time since the prequels, Hayden Christensen gets to portray the character without the burden of Anakin’s emotions.
Anakin’s emotional turmoil during the Prequel Trilogy makes complete sense, but it also shackled Hayden as a performer to have to carry the load of Anakin’s emotions in every scene. The lighter moments were very few and far between, so seeing this Anakin, wiser, more present, and less concerned with anything besides guiding his Padawan, is refreshing, and Hayden completely nails the part. Anakin, whether he’s there or is a reflection of Ahsoka’s inner conflict, has one final lesson to pass on to his Padawan, and he does it skillfully.
But while he behaves much like the Anakin that Ahsoka looks up to, he switches back and forth between Anakin and Vader, something which is a little unsettling and a great way to show how his fall to the Dark Side weighs on Ahsoka’s memories of him. She has memories of Anakin, a great teacher and friend, but she’s completely aware of the mass murders he committed and the terror he unleashed on the galaxy when he turned to the Dark Side. Anakin is aware too.
This self-awareness adds more depth to his and Hayden’s performance and makes him seem wise instead of the confused and unbalanced Anakin of the Prequel Trilogy. Here, Anakin isn’t frustrated, confused, or sad, he’s free and at ease, and it’s a glimpse into the Jedi he would have become if he never turned to the Dark Side and lived long enough to become a Jedi Master.
This Anakin is somewhere in the middle, between the Light and the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin has always had a little bit of light and a little bit of darkness in him, and in Ahsoka Part 5, the two sides add balance to his personality. Dark and light exist side by side; you can’t have one without the other. Without his emotions clouding him, Anakin is finally able to achieve perfect balance and give his Padawan her last lesson, and this lesson allows her to move on in life without the weight of her past holding her back.
Ahsoka Part Five, “Shadow Warrior,” is streaming on Disney+. Stay up to date with all things Star Wars here at Dork Side of the Force.