Though there are no guarantees of anything in the highly secretive world of The Mandalorian, longtime Star Wars fans had new reason to hope a few weeks back when the character of Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) told Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) that he should seek out a Force user named Ahsoka Tano who might help him with his very special babysitting gig. This beloved character may be new to fans of live-action Star Wars, but lovers of the animated series like The Clone Wars and Rebels know her well. With actress Rosario Dawson strongly implying she will be the one to play the fan favorite, and her creator Dave Filoni credited as the director of this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, now might be the perfect time to brush up on your Tano lore and consider what her re-appearance might mean for the future of The Mandalorian and Star Wars on TV.
Before her anticipated arrival on The Mandalorian, Ahsoka Tano has never appeared in a live-action Star Wars property. But the animated character voiced by Ashley Eckstein debuted twelve years ago and is massively important to a generation of Star Wars fans who grew up on her animated adventures. Her story is cleverly tucked in between the spaces of the major film franchise and even though moviegoers may not even know her name, she is integral to the rise and fall of the Skywalker clan. She may also be a key to the future of Star Wars but let’s start with a quick review of the basics before we get to some speculation.
Who Is She? This will be familiar stuff to fans of The Clone Wars animated series, but we’ll get through it quickly. 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 which accounts for her orange-ish complexion, white face markings, and distinctive blue and white hair tails. Jedi Master Plo Koon discovered her talent with the Force when she was very young and like many young Force sensitive kids before her, she was taken to the Jedi Temple to train. When it came time to match young Padawan Ahsoka with a master, Yoda himself picked Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. This is after the second prequel film, Attack of the Clones, and before Revenge of the Sith. In other words, Ahsoka’s master was just a little older than this.
Why would Yoda give Anakin, a talented yet unpredictable young Jedi whom he thinks poses a danger to the Order, a student to train? It’s actually a pretty smart move that nearly works. Yoda is hoping that Anakin will see some of his own careless behavior in Ahsoka which would teach him to be more cautious. Yoda is also hoping that Anakin, who is forever scarred by the loss of his mother and plagued with fear that he will lose his secret wife Amidala, will learn through Ahsoka to not hold so tightly to the things and people he loves. Because, as you might recall, fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…you get the point.
Why Does She Matter? Filoni, who was a mastermind behind the animated shows before he co-created The Mandalorian with Jon Favreau, told Vanity Fair that Ahsoka Tano was one of the first characters he ever drew. He always talks of her fondly, almost as if she were his fictional daughter. As a young character at the beginning of her journey in The Clone Wars, the teenaged Ahsoka was conceived to give kids an entry point for adventure. But she became much more and helped shape the fandom’s crucial understanding of Anakin Skywalker. If Anakin’s descent to the dark side in the prequel trilogy didn’t hit quite the way George Lucas wanted it to, Skywalker’s paternal relationship with Ahsoka and brave actions as a General in The Clone Wars did a lot of work to endear him to fans.
But of course we should consider Ahsoka outside of her relationship to the man who trained her. In that way she’s equally crucial to the ongoing development of the fandom. Some Star Wars fans may have been shocked to see Daisy Ridley’s Rey swing a lightsaber in The Force Awakens. Until then, all the main characters with lightsabers had been men. But for the generation brought up on The Clone Wars, a girl with a lightsaber was old hat. One lightsaber? Try two. She also exists in a very complicated, non-regimented space outside the constraints of the Jedi Order.
If She’s So Important, Why Isn’t She in the Movies? Great question. Ahsoka, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Mace Windu, and more had many adventures throughout the Clone Wars and you can and should watch them all on, well, The Clone Wars! But here’s something that makes Ahsoka’s journey even more interesting than your average Skywalker. Her adventures in the galaxy teach her to doubt some of the Order’s choices and specifically their involvement in an unending war that seems, to her, increasingly corrupt. At one point in The Clone Wars she is framed for a crime she didn’t commit and the Order, forever making the best choices, briefly turns it back on her. Everyone does, in fact, except Anakin and Amidala. By the time Ahsoka’s name is cleared it’s too late. Anakin’s Padawan rejects the Order and turns to a Ronin-esque existence as an unaffiliated Force User. Her decision to leave is instrumental in Anakin’s downfall. Without her there, he’s more vulnerable than ever to Palpatine’s manipulations. And that is why she doesn’t appear in the third installment of the prequel trilogy.
During the action of Revenge of the Sith, Ahsoka is still out there in the galaxy doing good, even if she’s not affiliated with the Jedi Order. But her rejection of that title doesn’t exactly save her when things go sideways for the Jedi. You may or may not remember something called Order 66 when Palpatine had all the Jedi (yes, including the younglings!) systematically eradicated. The Clones, whom the Jedi had fought side by side with, suddenly turned on the Jedi in one of the more disturbing sequences in Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka fans had to wait until the long-delayed seventh season of The Clone Wars to find out how she survived.
Well for one thing, if we haven’t mentioned it already, she’s a badass with those sabers. Ahsoka was also helped by one particular Clone, her old war buddy Rex, who was able to overcome his programed order to kill her and help keep her alive instead. He kept her survival a secret. She understandably took the presumed death of her master, Anakin, very hard and went into hiding under the pseudonym Ashla. As we find out in the series Rebels, Ahsoka was acting as spymaster for the Rebellion under the codename Fulcrum. But she’s not in the original trilogy helping Luke Skywalker take on Palpatine because she was conveniently off in a mystical place called the World Between Worlds. More on that in a bit.
Before she slipped into the World Between Worlds, Ahsoka did have a chance to see her old master Anakin one last time and if you think scenes between Luke Skywalker and the father he never knew were emotional, imagine how destroyed longtime Ahsoka and Anakin fans were when they had to watch her realize what her old master had become. Absolutely crushing stuff, to be honest. All of this happens before the original trilogy kicks off when Luke Skywalker is still just a humble moisture farmer.
Which Brings Us Almost Up to Date. Ahsoka did not, in fact, willingly leave Anakin/Vader once she finally saw him again. For a time fans thought perhaps she died fighting him. But thanks to a little portal/timeline/World Between Worlds trickery (don’t you love sci-fi?), Ahsoka was forcibly yanked out of the climax of her fight with Vader by a young Jedi Padawan named Ezra Bridger and here’s where things may get very interesting for The Mandalorian fans.
Just as Ahsoka Tano was the young, Force-using Padawan of The Clone Wars, Ezra Bridger was the young, Force-using Padawan of the follow-up series Rebels which took place just before the events of A New Hope. Like many powerful Force users before him, Ezra was of major interest to the Sith. Ezra and his pals also exist solely in the world of animation though the droid Chopper did cameo in Rogue One and their ship (possibly containing the crew) did make a brief appearance in The Rise of Skywalker. Anyway, Ezra and Ahsoka share a nice connection in the back half of Rebels. Possibly the seasoned Force user sees something of herself in him.
Ezra is the reason Ahsoka finds herself facing down Vader. She was protecting him.
After Bridger in the future reaches back through time to yank Ahsoka free from her fight with Vader and into the World Between Worlds, he extracts a promise from her.
But Ahsoka takes her time coming through on that promise as she slips away into the World Between Worlds for the duration of the original trilogy which is why it was up to Luke, and not Ahsoka, to save/redeem Anakin Skywalker and (sigh, temporarily) defeat Palpatine. While Ahsoka was away, Ezra Bridger went missing when he sacrificed himself and disappeared into an unknown section of the galaxy with his nemesis: the blue-skinned Admiral Thrawn.
Like Ahsoka, Ezra conveniently missed all of the original trilogy. But after the Empire fell and the Battle of Endor was won, Ahsoka herself emerged from the World Between Worlds to make good on her promise. She has a whole Gandalf the White moment in Rebels and it’s pretty great. Safe to say she has leveled up considerably since she’s been gone.
It’s presumed, then, that Ahsoka and possibly Ezra’s closest pal, a Mandalorian named Sabine Wren, are on the hunt for both Thrawn and Bridger which would take them to the Outer Rim of the galaxy and, presumably, on a collision course with both Din Djarin and The Child.
Bonus Content: Those are really the main beats that The Mandalorian fans need to know about Ahsoka, but a little extra info never hurt, did it?
What’s Mandalore Got to Do With It? Ahsoka Tano is drawn into the drama of The Mandalorian by Mandalorian leader Bo-Katan who, like Tano, plays a role in both The Clone Wars and Rebels. Tano first met Bo-Katan during one of her earliest missions undercover on Mandalore. Bo-Katan was, at that time, rather on the wrong side of history. In the final season of The Clone Wars, a reformed Bo-Katan returns to ask Ahsoka help her find Darth Maul. Ahsoka also spent time with the Mandalorian Sabine Wren who, like Bo Katan, once possessed the Darksaber that everyone is so excited about in The Mandalorian.
Speaking of Weapons… Surely you know by now how important Jedi weapons are in Star Wars. When Ahsoka started out, she had the classic green blade favored by many Jedi. Eventually she makes herself a short “shoto” lightsaber to match and trains in a fighting style known as Jar’Kai. As a result, her two-bladed approach to fighting looks very different from what we’re used to seeing in live-action Star Wars.
After Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order, Anakin tinkers when her weapons and when she returns, briefly, to work with (though not for) the Order, Anakin greets her with her twin blades that now shine blue to match his.
These matching weapons represent Anakin’s hope that Ahsoka will re-join the order and follow in his footsteps. She takes the weapons and they definitely come in handy when the Clones attack her during Order 66, but she abandons them again when she learns that Anakin is presumed dead and the Jedi Order has fallen to the dark side.
Ahsoka eventually constructed herself a new pair of lightsabers. She got the crystals from a Darksider by calling the Force into her hands and pushing back his red blades into the hilt. She then purged his corrupted red crystals until they shone white.
I’m Sorry She Did What? Okay, yeah we should mention that Ahsoka may have better access to the Light Side of the Force than anyone else in the galaxy. We’re almost at the end of this Ahsoka article but we’d be remiss if we failed to mention this one time in The Clone Wars when Ahsoka was dying and was brought back to life by absorbing the remnants of the physical embodiment of the Light Side of the Force known as The Daughter. I’d like to see a Skywalker do that.
Like Ahsoka, the Daughter’s Father, who represents the ideal balance of the Force, is able to handle lightsaber blades. So that little extra Daughter juice is probably where Ahsoka got some of her more advanced tricks.
If you’re sitting there scratching your head about Fathers and Daughters and physical embodiments of the Force, don’t worry too much about it. All you really need to know is that Ahsoka has some extra Lightside juice in her and that may be why she was able to slip away into the World Between Worlds long enough to miss all the original trilogy fun with Yoda, Luke, Leia, Han, her pal Chewbacca, and the rest.
Will Ahsoka find Thrawn and Ezra Bridger with Sabine Wren? Will they get involved in Bo-Katan’s campaign to reclaim Mandalore? Will Ahsoka Tano get her own show? Who can say. But after Ahsoka Tano returned from being presumed dead for the third time, I stopped underestimating just how much Dave Filoni wants to see one of his favorite creations live on in the Star Wars universe.
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The Mandalorian: Everything to Know for Ahsoka Tano’s Return The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Vanity Fair.