Fans have been waiting to know when they’d see her take on The Clone Wars hero ever since the rumours kicked off in March that Rosario Dawson will be playing a live-action version of a favorite animated Star Wars character. A few weeks ago, when Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) told Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) that he could search for a Force user called Ahsoka Tano who could assist him with his very special babysitting gig, the Mandalorian viewers had new cause to hope. This iconic character may be new to Star Wars live-action audiences, but animated series enthusiasts like The Clone Wars and Rebels understand her well. Now is the best time to brush up on your Ahsoka Tano lore and think what the future of The Mandalorian and the potential return of Admiral Thrawn, Ezra Bridger, and more would mean for her re-appearance.
Ahsoka Tano has never turned up at a live-action Star Wars property until her presence on The Mandalorian Thursday. But Ashley Eckstein’s animated character premiered twelve years ago and is incredibly important to a generation of fans of Star Wars who grew up on her animated adventures. Her tale is cleverly tucked between the spaces of the main film series, and while moviegoers do not yet know her name, she is an important part of the Skywalker clan’s rise and fall. She may also be a gateway to Star Wars’ future, along with Ezra Bridger and Admiral Thrawn, but let’s begin with a brief overview of the fundamentals before we get to future speculation.
She’s who? To fans of The Clone Wars animated series, this will be familiar stuff, but we’ll get through it fast. Ahsoka Tano a.k.a. Ashla a.k.a. Snips a.k.a. Sohka a.k.a. Little One a.k.a. Fulcrum is a Togruta that represents its orange-ish complexion, white face marks and distinctive tails of blue and white fur. When she was very young and like many young Force-sensitive children before her, Jedi Master Plo Koon noticed her ability with the Force and she was sent to the Jedi Temple to learn. Yoda himself chose Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker when it came time to pair young Padawan Ahsoka with a master. This is after Attack of the Clones, the second prequel film, and before Revenge of the Sith. In other words, the Master of Ahsoka was only a little older than that.
Why will Yoda send Anakin, a promising and unpredictable young Jedi, a student to train who he considers poses a threat to the Order? Really it’s a pretty thoughtful move that really succeeds. Yoda hopes that in Ahsoka, Anakin will see some of his own reckless actions that will teach him to be more careful. Yoda also hopes that through his friendship with Ahsoka, Anakin, who is forever frightened by his mother’s death and plagued by anxiety that he will lose his secret lover, Amidala, will try not to cling too fast to the things and people he loves. And, as you might know, terror brings rage… anger brings hatred… you get the idea.
Why does She Matter? Before he co-created The Mandalorian with Jon Favreau, Filoni, who was the mastermind behind the animated shows, told Vanity Fair that Ahsoka Tano was one of the first characters he ever drew. He still speaks about her fondly, almost as if she were a daughter of literature. The adolescent Ahsoka was conceived to give children an entrance point for adventure as a young character at the beginning of her quest in The Clone Wars. Yet she became something more and, ultimately, helped shape the interpretation of Anakin Skywalker’s fanbase. Skywalker’s parental friendship with Ahsoka and valiant behavior as a General in The Clone Wars did a lot of work to endear him to viewers if Anakin’s plunge to the Dark Side in the prequel trilogy did not reach exactly the way George Lucas expected it to.
Still of course, outside of her friendship with the man who taught her, we should remember Ahsoka. She’s just as important to the continuing growth of the fanbase in that sense. In The Force Awakens, some Star Wars viewers may have been surprised to see Daisy Ridley’s Rey swinging a lightsaber. Before then all the lead characters were men with lightsabers. But for a generation growing up in The Clone Wars, the old hat was a girl with a lightsaber. Lightsaber one? Just try two. She also resides beyond the limits of the Jedi Order in a very complex, non-regimented space.
Why isn’t she in the movies if she’s so important? Fantastic query. Throughout the Clone Wars, Ahsoka, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Mace Windu, and more had many adventures and you can and can see all of them on, yeah, The Clone Wars! But here’s something that makes it much more fun for Ahsoka to fly than the average Skywalker. Her adventures in the cosmos teach her to challenge some of the decisions of the Order and in particular, their role in an eternal battle that appears increasingly corrupt to her. (She’s correct.)
She is framed for a crime she didn’t commit at one point in The Clone Wars, and the Order, still making the right decisions, turns it around on her. In reality, everyone does it, except Anakin and Amidala. By the time the name of Ahsoka is clear, it’s too late. The Command is refused by Anakin’s Padawan and turns to a Ronin-esque life as an unaffiliated Power User. Her decision to leave was instrumental in the demise of Anakin. He’s more susceptible than ever to Palpatine’s manipulations without her there. Her absence is why she doesn’t feature in the third installment of the Vengeance of the Sith prequel trilogy, and it may help to understand her unwillingness to train the little green kid of Din Djarin.
Ahsoka is still out there in the galaxy doing good during the Sith Vengeance operation, even though she is not affiliated with the Jedi Order. But as things go sideways for the Jedi, her denial of the title doesn’t exactly rescue her. When Palpatine had all the Jedi (yes, including the younglings!) routinely eliminated, you can or may not recall anything called Order 66. In one of the most upsetting scenes in Vengeance of the Sith, the Clones, with whom the Jedi had fought side by side, abruptly turned on the Jedi. To find out how she survived, Ahsoka viewers had to wait until the long-delayed seventh season of The Clone Wars.
Well, for one thing, if we haven’t already discussed that with those sabers, she’s a badass. One unique clone, her old war buddy Rex, also aided Ahsoka, who was able to resolve the programming that ordered him to kill her. Instead, he helped her escape and kept her life a secret. Understandably, she found her master’s assumed death, Anakin, very hard and went into hiding under the alias Ashla. As we discover in the Rebels, under the codename Fulcrum, Ahsoka served as a spymaster for the Rebel Coalition. She’s not in the original trilogy, despite her instrumental role in the Uprising, helping Luke Skywalker take on Palpatine while Ahsoka was conveniently off in a magical location called the Realm Between Worlds. More in a little on that.
Ahsoka had a chance to see her old master Anakin one more time before she disappeared into the Realm Between Dimensions, and if you thought scenes between Luke Skywalker and the father he never met were emotional, consider how destroyed long-time Ahsoka and Anakin fans were as they saw her discover what had become of her old master. Completely crushing stuff, to be blunt. The impassioned speech she gives Din Djarin about training the frightened Baby Grogu is informed by her heartbreak over Anakin. This last confrontation between Vader and Tano occurred before the launch of the original film trilogy. In other words, Luke Skywalker is now just a modest farmer with humidity.
That brings us up to date, nearly. In reality, Ahsoka did not leave Anakin/Vader happily until she actually saw him again. For a while, fans thought she may have died standing against him. But Ahsoka was forcefully yanked out of the climax of her battle with Vader by a young Jedi Padawan named Ezra Bridger due to a little portal/timeline/World Between Worlds trickery (don’t you love sci-fi?), and here’s where things can get really exciting for the Mandalorian fans. In the company of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Bridger was last seen, and that is just who Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano is looking for.
Just like Ahsoka Tano was The Clone Wars’ young, Force-using Padawan, Ezra Bridger was the young, Force-using Padawan from the Rebels follow-up series that took place just before the A New Hope events. Ezra attracted the wrath of the Sith, like many strong Force users before him. With the exception of the droid Chopper, who had a cameo in Rogue One and their ship (possibly including the crew), who made a fleeting appearance in The Rise of Skywalker, Ezra and his pals also lived only in the realm of animation. Anyway in the back half of Rebels, Ezra and Ahsoka share a good bond. Perhaps the experienced Force user sees in him something of herself.