Ahsoka: The Bigger Picture

Ahsoka Tano’s recent steps into the Star Wars spotlight have taken many fans by surprise. Others have been following Ahsoka’s journey for fifteen years. Getting to see her own spin-off show was not a curveball, but an entirely new kind of payoff. It’s becoming clear now that Ahsoka’s story is likely to serve as the major connective tissue between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy. It’ll bridge the gap between the fallen Empire and their return as the First Order.

Ahsoka, if nothing else, had a lot going on, maybe even too much. While reviews were mostly positive, the show is not without its detractors, haters, and viewers who simply felt lost through much of the journey. With plotlines spilling over from The Clone Wars and Rebels and more, to say there’s a lot to unpack is an understatement. Strap in, because it’s time to dive into the life and times of Ahsoka, in order to better understand the events of her live action show.

(Spoilers ahead for The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Ahsoka!)


Ahsoka’s Jedi journey: part 1

In The Clone Wars animated film, audiences were introduced to Anakin Skywalker’s new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. For the first chunk of her appearances in The Clone Wars show, Ahsoka’s ‘snippiness’ garnered a lot of hate. Before long though, her somewhat annoying, childish demeanor came up against the harsh realities of galactic war.

An overconfident decision in The Clone Wars season one episode, “Storm Over Ryloth,” caused many soldiers to die under Ahsoka’s command. Her guilt made her more contemplative. This is the flashback ground assault seen in Ahsoka, episode 5, “Shadow Warrior.” The point here was not just to give fans live-action snapshots of The Clone Wars, but to succinctly reiterate Ahsoka’s inner conflict: her opposition to what the Jedi were becoming. She says near the very end of The Clone Wars, “I was taught that Jedi were keepers of the peace, but all I’ve ever been is a soldier.”

It became clear that Ahsoka’s rambunctiousness wasn’t the result of poor writing, but a conscious decision to show how a teenager pushed into a war is forced to grow up extremely quickly. Remember, this was a kid’s show. Her intense life as the chosen one’s apprentice let her see the Jedi order crumbling before even Yoda could. By the end of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka left Anakin and the Jedi order behind. This was arguably the most ‘True Jedi’ move she could’ve made because we know how Anakin and the Jedi turned out.


Fulcrum

Ahsoka believed Anakin had died during Order 66. In the early days of the Empire’s reign, she became a shadowy informant and rebel agent, codenamed Fulcrum. Acting as a sort of rogue Jedi, she teamed up with the main cast of Rebels. Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla, and Ezra Bridger (members of the Ghost crew), became central characters in Ahsoka.

Ahsoka learned in the Rebels episode “Twilight of the Apprentice” that not only did Anakin help carry out Order 66, he became the dreaded apprentice of the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. She faced off against Vader inside a Sith temple. If you haven’t seen it, the whole episode is top-notch Star Wars.

Rather than die fighting Vader, she’s pulled into ‘The World Between Worlds.’ Many regard this place as a backdoor through time and space, or even a way to retcon the sequel trilogy. Creator Dave Filoni says, “It’s not about time travel… it’s really more about knowledge.” Similar to the ‘Mortis’ episodes of The Clone Wars, these places are more metaphorical than physical, like the Dagobah cave in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a place to learn, to hear, and connect, not to change history.

After leaving The World Between Worlds, Ahsoka is not seen again until after the rebellion against the Empire. It’s fairly clear that learning of Anakin’s fall from grace annihilated her emotionally, and sent her into exile, like Obi-Wan. Yoda and Luke went into exile for similar reasons! This time in her life serves as a pivot point (a fulcrum, if you will) for her journey in the Force.

This sentiment informs her later decision to train Sabine, rather than Grogu (baby Yoda). Grogu is an innocent “kid” with strong powers. Sabine is an adult who’s weak in the force, but a good soldier. As we’ll see, though, Ahsoka’s fear of power, attachment, and corruption caused her to abandon training Sabine before the events of the Ahsoka show.


Hollow rebel victory?

In the final moments of Rebels, Ahsoka appears transformed, and beckons Sabine to join her in what was assumed (wrongly) to be the search for Ezra. Turns out, it was likely to begin Sabine’s training. Ahsoka’s white-cloaked entrance at the end of Rebels, though, was changed by the Ahsoka show. The moment is recreated, but when she appears to Sabine, she’s not clad in white. Yes, the color of her outfit will actually become important soon.

In the wake of the Empire’s fall, it seemed Ahsoka had undergone a change for the worse. Clad in gray, off on her own and slightly less powerful, she refused to train Grogu. “I’ve seen what attachment can do to a fully trained Jedi Knight.” This is a major clue to her mental state in Ahsoka, which takes place soon after season 3 of The Mandalorian. She’s still hung up on the corruption of Anakin. Her only goal seems to be to find and kill Grand Admiral Thrawn. The fact that he’s still a threat was a major twist, pulling from ‘Legends’ book Heir to the Empire.


Never too dark to shine

Getting to know the main cast of characters in the more kid-friendly animations gave some fans whiplash to see them in live action. The main complaint? Everyone seems kinda lifeless and sad… so stoic. At first, many fans and critics watching the show pointed this out. However, similar to Ahsoka’s initial childishness, this stoicism was a conscious choice with meaning and justification. Ahsoka has lost faith in not only the Jedi Order, but in herself. It’s shown in Rebels and The Mandalorian that she is plagued by guilt over Anakin’s fall.

The spunky, Mandalorian rebel (and artist) is also plagued by her own tragedy: the death of her family during ‘the purge of Mandalore’ by the Empire. This is on top of losing Ezra, Kanan (Ezra’s Master), and losing her sense of purpose after the war. Hera feels about the same (Kanan was her baby daddy). Hera fits perfectly into the ‘soldier in peacetime’ trope. All these quippy, up-beat characters, in spite of major victory, seem drearier than ever. While it may feel lackluster or even plain bad, there’s clear justification for their ‘lack of emotion.’ Further, none of them stayed that way, further proving that their dreariness had purpose.

The fact that we know Vader gets redeemed allowed the prequels to end with some extremely dark stuff. Similarly, knowing that the First Order rises and Rey ultimately (and finally) defeats Palpatine allows this post victory era to feel unfulfilling for Ahsoka’s main cast. This echoes the reality of war and politics. Happily ever after is hard to come by, even in the galaxy far, far away. But, like all things Star Wars, everything ends with hope, be it knowing Sabine and Ahsoka can resume their relationship as master and apprentice despite knowing of Thrawn’s return, or feeling the hope of Luke and Leia’s birth despite the destruction of the Jedi Order.


Master and Apprentice

At first, Sabine becoming force sensitive, being trained and then abandoned by Ahsoka, all off screen, felt like a terrible mistake… but again, this is Star Wars. There’s not enough money in the world to show every part of every storyline on screen. For better or worse, some things have to be left to exposition.

Many Rebels fans likely felt somewhat like Ezra when they learned of Sabine’s Jedi training: “What?! Why? I mean– that’s great.” However, George Lucas himself said, “Anyone can tap into the Force, but it requires discipline and dedication to become a Jedi. The Force is an energy field surrounding all living things, not just Jedi. Natural talent is helpful, but without training and discipline, it means nothing.”

The saving grace of this creative decision is that, as previously touched upon, this is all about Ahsoka’s view of the Jedi. She prioritizes the soldier over the Force user- due to her fear of Anakin’s power. These two major hurdles are ultimately why Anakin reappears to her on the brink of death, in The World Between Worlds. She has hidden from the truth and stifled herself to the point of nearly dying, rather than get past this emotional blockage. It was time to, as Anakin said himself, teach her her final lesson.


Ahsoka’s Jedi journey: part 2

Ahsoka’s spiritual test in “Shadow Warrior” is the defining moment in Ahsoka’s return to the true path of a Jedi. It’s the moment she becomes a master. She comes to the very precipice of death and the dark side (you can see her eyes turn reddish-yellow as she holds Anakin’s red blade to his throat). But then, like Luke in Return of the Jedi, she throws away the lightsaber, resolved that her strength as a Jedi lies in trusting the Force, in letting go, in choosing love- choosing “to live.” This sequence also gives Anakin the power he always wanted, saving his loved ones from death.

This is why she’s suddenly wearing white. It’s why she’s more happier and stronger when she comes out of the World Between Worlds. As Rosario Dawson and Dave Filoni discussed, Ahsoka’s journey is very similar to Gandlaf in The Lord of the Rings, going from Gandalf the gray to Gandalf the White. In the first half of the show, we mainly see Ahsoka use the Force to fight. After emerging from her test, she uses Psychometry- to use an object to see into the past. She also uses the Force to communicate with the Purgil, another obscure power.

With Ashoka essentially a Master now, the rest of the show is able to focus more on the people around her, and the larger context of everything going on. Thrawn has teamed up with the Nightsisters, the New Republic is fractured and struggling, and Sabine is stuck on the very edge of what it is to be a Jedi. Now, Ahsoka can show her the way.


What’s next?

Ahsoka ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, so it’s safe to say that in one way or another, the story will continue. Obviously, we have to see what Thrawn has in store, whether Sabine and Ahsoka will return to the main galaxy, and what will become of Baylan and Shin. What’s less obvious, though, is the implications of Baylan’s final scene (RIP Ray Stevenson).

In Ahsoka’s final moments, Baylan stands on the pointing hand of a giant statue. To the left and right are two other statues. One looks destroyed. These three are ‘The Mortis Gods’ seen in the Mortis arc in The Clone Wars. The Father (center) represents balance and control. The Son (screen right) represents the dark side. The Daughter (screen left) represents the light side.

In the Mortis arc, Ahsoka actually dies, alongside The Daughter. But as her last act, The Daughter transfers her life essence to Ahsoka. This is why in Rebels and at the end of Ahsoka, there’s a green and white owl that follows her. One leading theory is that Baylan will become The Son. Ahsoka will become The Daughter, and Anakin will take his place as The Father, keeping the Force in balance.

Star Wars is rarely considered ‘peak cinema,’ but its fantasy storytelling has captured imaginations for generations. It doesn’t seem like that’s slowing down any time soon. Despite some of its flaws in pacing and the like, Ahsoka delivered what may be the most expansive and fresh chapter of Star Wars since the prequel trilogy. It seems Ahsoka is the character that binds the trilogies together.


What did you think of Ahsoka? Did you enjoy the series? What could happen in the second season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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