Say Goodbye to Hayden Christensen, Dave Filoni Hints at the End of the Skywalker Saga

in Entertainment, Star Wars

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) Force Ghost in 'Ahsoka'

Credit: Lucasfilm

After playing the central figure in over 40 years of Star Wars storytelling, it might finally be the end of the line for Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, according to Lucasfilm’s newly-appointed Chief Creative Officer, Dave Filoni.

Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side
Credit: Lucasfilm

Related: Controversial Director Put in Charge of ‘Star Wars’ by Kathleen Kennedy

There Is No ‘Star Wars’ Without Anakin Skywalker

When Star Wars comes to mind, you might automatically think of Mark Hamill’s heroic farmboy-turned-Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher’s quick-witted princess, Leia Organa, or Harrison Ford’s reckless smuggler, Han Solo. But perhaps no one is as important to the franchise as the Chosen One himself, Darth Vader.

Destined to bring balance to the Force by whatever means possible, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) becomes the unknowing pawn in Chancellor Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) plot to eradicate the Republic and Jedi Order, setting forth his plan to create a new Galactic Empire. Despite Anakin’s wife, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), and loyal Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan McGregor) best efforts to save him from the Dark Side, the once-mighty Jedi Knight falls, becoming Darth Sidious’ leashed servant.

Hayden Christensen Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars Series
Credit: Lucasfilm

Related: Dave Filoni Reveals ‘Ahsoka’ Star Will Be Officially Removed or Recast

As the story goes, Vader is ultimately redeemed in the final moments of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) by Luke, sacrificing his own life to destroy Sidious. It’s here that he’s reborn as his Light Side-self, appearing in full 2004 DVD edition Force Ghost glory as he looks knowingly at his son, accompanied by his former Master (Alec Guinness) and Yoda (Frank Oz).

While the George Lucas-helmed Prequel Trilogy wasn’t exactly met with the same warm reception as its predecessor — with critics taking aim at Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of a young Anakin Skywalker, in particular — the movies have experienced a sort of renaissance in recent years thanks to stellar film and TV entries like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and more recently, Ahsoka.

Dark Side Anakin vs Ahsoka on Mandalore
Credit: Lucasfilm

 Hayden Christensen’s Post-Prequel Trilogy Appearances 

Much of the Prequel Trilogy’s newfound success is due to George Lucas’ protégé, Dave Filoni, who’s steadily climbed the corporate ladder at Lucasfilm since directing the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie in 2008. Although much of his initial experience was in animation, Filoni worked closely with Jon Favreau to conceptualize and create the first live-action Disney+ Star Wars show, The Mandalorian.

Needless to say, the series was an instant hit upon its release on the streaming platform in 2019, incentivizing Lucasfilm to pump out additional Disney+ entries, including The Book of Boba Fett, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, and the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries.

The latter, while somewhat of a mixed bag with audiences, managed to not only bring back Ewan McGregor as the titular Jedi-in-hiding but also saw the long-awaited return of Hayden Christensen, who played a digitally de-aged version of Padawan Anakin Skywalker, on top of putting on the suit to play a scarred, broken Vader in the former master-apprentice duo’s climactic showdown.

darth vader broken mask obi-wan season 1 finale
Credit: Lucasfilm

Many would agree that Christensen’s return to Star Wars was an unquestionable highlight of the show, and luckily for fans, his comeback didn’t end there. Ahsoka, a spinoff of The Clone Wars, arrived on Disney+ earlier this year and centered around the eponymous ex-Jedi (played in live-action by Rosario Dawson) as she grappled with her dark past, all while gearing up to face off against a familiar threat: Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen).

Along with Ahsoka, who made her live-action debut in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the first season brought many beloved characters from animation into the mix, including New Republic General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Mandalorian troublemaker Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and missing Jedi Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi), who disappeared into the Unknown Regions following his confrontation with Thrawn in the Rebels finale.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in her own solo series
Credit: Lucasfilm

But perhaps most notably of all, Ahsoka also featured what many consider to be the best live-action piece of Star Wars content since Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005): the reunion between Anakin Skywalker and his former Padawan.

Ahsoka and Anakin’s friendship ended on a bit of a rocky note in The Clone Wars, with Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Temple on Coruscant after she was accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Later, after Anakin’s transformation into Lord Vader, the two meet again on the forbidden planet of Malachor in the Rebels episode “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Although Ahsoka is ultimately defeated by her former Master, she’s cast into a mysterious plane within the Force known as the World Between Worlds — a plot thread that’s picked up in Ahsoka.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in 'Star Wars: Ahsoka'
Credit: Lucasfilm

Throughout the episode, titled “Part Five: Shadow Warrior,” Anakin attempts to teach his former Padawan one final lesson: “Live…or die.” Feeling understandably guilty for what’s happened to her mentor and struggling with what it means to have a student of her own, Ahsoka journeys back in time to the Clone Wars, where Anakin reassures her that she can’t change the past and that it’s crucial to know when it’s time to let something go.

After — literally — fighting with her inner demons, Ahsoka manages to defeat Anakin’s Dark Side manifestation, with Vader leaving her with some promising parting words: “There’s hope for you yet.” After being pulled from the World Between Worlds and back to reality, Ahsoka is reborn as “Ahsoka the White,” with a newfound confidence to pursue Thrawn and restart Sabine’s Jedi training.

Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) fighting in 'Ahsoka'
Credit: Lucasfilm

So far, there’s been no word on whether or not Christensen will reprise his role down the line, but given just how much of a perfect send-off his final moments in Ahsoka are, there’s no denying that his last scene on Peridia feels like a goodbye. And as Disney still has yet to officially greenlight a second season, there’s no telling when — or if — we can expect to see Anakin in future Star Wars projects.

Dave Filoni Promoted, Opens Up About Anakin Skywalker’s Role in ‘Ahsoka’

Now that the SAG-AFTRA strike is resolved and Hollywood productions are back up and running, the Ahsoka cast and newly-promoted Chief Creative Officer Dave Filoni recently spoke to Vanity Fair about his aspirations for this next chapter of Star Wars stories, and in doing so, might’ve confirmed his plans to bury the “Skywalker Saga” once and for all.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Ahsoka Tano (Ariana Greenblatt) in 'Ahsoka' 1.05
Credit: Lucasfilm

Speaking on the World Between Worlds sequences, Christensen opened up about the chance to revisit the character of Anakin post-redemption for Ahsoka, admitting that he played it with a deliberate sense of uncertainty, as it’s hard to say whether or not this was really the same brash, Jedi Knight we know from the Prequel Trilogy or just a figment of Ahsoka’s imagination.

“That’s the beauty of how the episode is constructed, in my opinion,” the actor said, adding, “Inevitably, the audience has to question what it is they’re watching. Is this really the World Between Worlds? What is the World Between Worlds? Is this actually the spirit of Anakin Skywalker, or is this all in Ahsoka’s subconscious, and we’re just going down the yellow brick road as she’s drowning and fighting for her life? I think that the episode provides a few really good clues, but it doesn’t spell it out for you.”

Ahsoka vs Anakin Skywalker
Credit: Lucasfilm

As for Filoni, he prefers to leave the mystery open to interpretation, deferring to Lucas as the definitive storyteller on all things Vader. Speaking on George Lucas’ vision for the cautionary tale of Anakin, the director explained that Lucas “resolved everything about Anakin” over the Original and Prequel Trilogies and that he’s “not trying to add anything” to his full circle journey, hinting that he could be burying the character post-Ahsoka:

My feeling about Anakin is that George resolved everything about Anakin. I don’t think I have anything to do there. I’m not trying to add anything to that. Everything Anakin’s involved with is about her. It’s about her point of view on Anakin. It’s about what Anakin taught her. He’s there in more of an Obi-Wan role that we saw in the old movies.

It’s interesting to hear Filoni’s perspective on Anakin’s transformation into a mentor that more closely resembles Obi-Wan, wisely tying back to the themes of fatherhood, friendship, and redemption that defined George Lucas’ original Star Wars movies. More importantly, Filoni also describes Anakin’s character arc on a seemingly final note, alluding to the fact that there might not be anything to “add” to his arc beyond Ahsoka, and that much of the only reason he was present in the Disney+ show in the first place was to further serve Ahsoka’s character development.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as a Force ghost in 'Return of the Jedi'
Credit: Lucasfilm

For years now, Lucasfilm has been clear about their intentions to ditch the Skywalker Saga in favor of adding new characters and stories to the galaxy far, far away, but seems to fall back on the same kinds of tricks time and time again to generate interest in their Disney+ catalog. Legacy characters like Boba Fett, Han Solo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi can only be explored so far before Lucasfilm execs have to admit that there’s simply no more story left to tell — if they don’t decide just to retcon preexisting material entirely.

Making space for new Star Wars characters is essential to the franchise’s survival and might mean casting aside Anakin and Vader in favor of introducing new heroes that have nothing to do with the Skywalker name — and that could be a good thing, if handled properly.

Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker in Ahsoka
Credit: Lucasfilm

Still, Filoni’s remarks are vague enough to suggest that Anakin could return somewhere down the line, perhaps in another live-action Clone Wars flashback sequence or alongside his former Master in the upcoming “Mando-Verse” crossover event to shed a little wisdom on Ahsoka during her inevitable rematch with Thrawn.

As reiterated by Anakin himself, it’s important to know when to hold on and when to let go. Although it’s disappointing to think that we might not see Hayden Christensen pick up a lightsaber again for future Star Wars projects, there’s no denying that “Shadow Warrior” is a touching and fitting goodbye to the beloved character. If it indeed does mark the end of Christensen’s Star Wars journey, at least he’s going out on a high note — or, rather, the high ground.

All episodes of Ahsoka are now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

How did you interpret Dave Filoni’s comments about Anakin Skywalker’s journey already being “resolved” by George Lucas? Would you like to see Hayden Christensen return for more? Let us know in the comments below!

View Comment (1)