Warning: This article contains spoilers for Ahsoka episode 5.


Is there anything more iconic in Star Wars lore than the lightsaber?

Ever since Alec Guinness’s Ben Kenobi faced off against David Prowse’s Darth Vader on the Death Star back in 1977, countless kids (and, let’s face it, adults) have pretended to be Jedi or Sith themselves, swinging sticks or bits of plastic around with reckless abandon.

However, in recent years, the emblematic weapons have been far from a key focus in the galaxy far, far away.

Disney Plus shows like Andor and The Book of Boba Fett have steered clear of their use entirely, and The Mandalorian has largely done likewise (aside from that season 2 finale) – even resisting the urge to give Grogu a little lightsaber of his own, after he abandoned his Jedi training.

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And the sequel trilogy was sorely lacking in extensive, noteworthy lightsaber duels. The Force Awakens only offers a brief bout right in its final moments – a short sequence that director JJ Abrams dubbed "primitive" and "aggressive", but that others could class as dull and forgettable – and The Rise of Skywalker… well, the less said about that, the better.

In short, it’s often felt like Star Wars has tried to move on from the sort of epic duels found in the George Lucas era of the franchise, which is something that Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy has alluded to herself.

Yet Ahsoka, the new Dave Filoni-led Disney Plus show following Rosario Dawson’s former Jedi, seems to have bucked the trend – and it’s a welcome return to form.

That is, rather than sidelining lightsabers and treating duels as something of an afterthought, Ahsoka has embraced them with open arms, making them a clear focal point of the series, with each episode so far boasting at least one extended, tense and creatively choreographed lightsaber battle.

And, each time, as characters go blade to blade in wintry forests or abandoned temples, there is a guarantee that pulses will be racing – in the way that past Star Wars projects have managed to in fascinating fashion.

For all the prequels’ faults, for example, there is no denying that the choreography and action in those three films is often spectacular, leading to some of the most memorable – and memeable – moments in Star Wars history.

From Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi slicing Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker apart after an epic, 12-minute-long duel on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, to Christopher Lee’s ice-cold Count Dooku going toe-to-green-toe with everyone’s second favourite Yoda in Attack of the Clones, there are plenty of breathtaking battles that helped to make the movies memorable despite relatively weak scripts.

Ahsoka wielding dual lightsabers at the bottom of a spaceship
Ahsoka wielding dual lightsabers. Disney/Lucasfilm

Ahsoka has channelled this penchant for fun throughout its fight scenes from pretty much minute one. Whether it is the lead character dispatching a gang of assassin droids on Arcana in episode 1 or outmanoeuvring Marrok with a deft flick of her blade in episode 4, Filoni and co have delivered the sort of fist-pumping scenes that have made so many fall in love with Star Wars over the years.

After The Mandalorian season 3 and The Book of Boba Fett were saddled with, erm, suboptimal action sequences, it’s refreshing to see a Star Wars show channel what has often made the franchise such a feast for fans of cool sci-fi combat – and it’s definitely needed after an underwhelming period for Lucasfilm.

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Yet, for all the enjoyment these battles have brought, what makes them particularly successful is the fact that they’re not merely thrown in for action’s sake.

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Rather, each duel is used to move forward the narrative, and to give the viewer a chance to properly understand each character’s psyche on a deeper level – all without the need for on-the-nose exposition or lengthy lines of dialogue.

Take episode 5: as Ahsoka and Anakin go head-to-head in the World Between Worlds, the audience is given a snapshot of the relationship between two characters who have a long, complicated history.

When Skywalker challenges Ahsoka, she is initially constrained by her hesitancy, going on the defensive as she shows a reluctance to attack someone she cares deeply about. It’s the first time Dawson’s character has looked flustered in a fight, demonstrating the inner turmoil she’s facing in that moment.

Behind the red 'saber, meanwhile, Anakin’s descent towards the dark side is laid bare. With each angry slash and aggressive strike, the viewer witnesses the character’s gradual transition from Anakin to Darth Vader, hero to villain, all without a word being said.

It’s subtly executed, and leads to an all-time classic scene that has had fans across the globe chatting extensively since the episode dropped.

Ben Kenobi with his hood up holding a blue lightsaber
Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. Lucas Films

This is evocative of the original trilogy’s use of lightsaber battles to add layers to its characters. When Luke faces a vision of Vader on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, for example, the audience witnesses his anxiety as he struggles to step up to the challenge of becoming a Jedi.

On the other hand, in A New Hope, as Vader outclasses Kenobi and strikes him down, Lucas uses the franchise’s first lightsaber duel to establish that this villain is not to be messed with, and that he is someone who is willing to kill even those closest to him to achieve his goals - laying the groundwork for one of the most iconic antagonists in sci-fi history.

Since its very beginning, Star Wars has relied on lightsabers to not only entertain audiences, but enhance its storytelling through the vein of action. In this way, Ahsoka marks a return to what makes the franchise so enjoyable, and uses a key tool to aid its gripping narrative.

Filoni's series has helped the franchise to fall in love with the lightsabers again, and the galaxy far, far away could be far, far better off for it.

Ahsoka is available to stream on Disney Plus. New episodes weekly. Sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year.

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