Spoilers ahead for “Twilight of the Apprentice,” the Star Wars Rebels Season 2 finale!
The Star Wars universe is filled with unique and extraordinary characters. What started with the original trilogy films grew to include a wide range of other media that, for decades, continued to introduce fans to amazing new faces that left their mark on the universe. When you take a closer look at all of these characters, though, it becomes clear that few have been as influential or as important as Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, whose story came full circle on last night’s Star Wars Rebels Season 2 finale.
When I first saw the 14-year-old Togruta in 2008’s animated The Clone Wars movie, I didn’t instantly love her character. I didn’t dislike Ahsoka, but she didn’t win me over really, either. I was in college then, and out of the age range to which Ahsoka was clearly meant to appeal. She was immature, kind of annoying, and using dreaded nicknames like R-tooie and Skyguy. While Skywalker’s nickname for her, Snips, grew on me eventually, the nicknames she used never did. But while I may have questioned her attitude when I first saw her in the film, looking back, I’m now thankful for it, because it set the stage for Ahsoka to be able to noticeably grow throughout The Clone Wars in a way unlike any other character we’d seen in the franchise before.
Watching Ahsoka over the years, we see her change from an inexperienced, reckless kid to a more confident, competent Jedi, and then to a mature, skilled woman in Star Wars Rebels. Not many Star Wars characters are as well developed as Ahsoka. We may see Anakin go through growth spurts on screen in the prequels, but it hardly compares to his padawan and, for Ahsoka, it all starts with us as viewers experiencing the Clone Wars with her. Like Ahsoka in the movie, we’re thrown into the middle of this war with heroes we’re familiar with. She enters the scene right after Anakin tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that having an apprentice would just “slow him down,” and she spends much of the time trying to prove she’s not too young to be his padawan.
As the television show progressed, we continued to see Ahsoka trying to prove herself as a Jedi and handle the challenges that came with training during a war. She worked with many of the other masters and clones on various missions, often struggling to have confidence in herself. She was usually questioning her decisions, doubting her abilities, and trying to learn what it meant to be a leader with responsibility for lives other than her own. None of this was easy for Ahsoka, and the show doesn’t cheat her out of stumbling in her growth with easy fixes or jump to her suddenly being a confident Jedi. She fell along the way and struggled to understand, and it’s only over time and many different experiences that she begins to become surer of herself. Only then is she able to step up, take the lead in situations, and protect others. The war and its effect on her were never glossed over. What made The Clone Wars so fantastic were its dark elements, and how it took this period of turmoil in the galaxy seriously, from which Ahsoka benefited.
It all prepared her for her biggest decision yet in the Season 5 finale “The Wrong Jedi,” when Ahsoka realized she needed to stay out of the Jedi Order to figure things out on her own. After being on the run, abandoned by the Jedi, and betrayed by one of her closest colleagues, she cannot just accept that this was the will of the Force as the counsel insists. That young girl in Season 5 is so different from the one we met in The Clone Wars movie, and yet the same. That snippy Ahsoka is still there, but in that episode, it hit home how much she’s grown up.
Her development over the years has made her a well-rounded and complex character in every sense. There’s not just one thing notable about Ahsoka. She’s not just impatient, or an excellent fighter, and that’s even more clear by the time Ahsoka arrives on Rebels to be revealed as the mysterious Fulcrum. We might not know much about what happened to her between The Clone Wars and Rebels, yet — we'll learn more about that time in an Ahsoka book set for release this fall — but she’s become a confident, capable woman. She’s an essential part of the burgeoning young rebel movement, helping them organize against the Empire to help stop what Anakin helped create. Through her actions on Rebels, we see the Force is strong with her, her lightsaber skills are more than a match for the Inquisitors, and she is now a true leader. We also see that the Ahsoka we knew from The Clone Wars is still there too, as she happily hugs Rex when they’re reunited. As we’ve watched her become this woman, her journey was never boring. It was an interesting path that drew you in and I, like many other fans, could not help but become attached to her along the way.
The attachment fans have to Ahsoka is one shared by Anakin, who is clearly a great Jedi and hero in the Clone Wars animated series. We’ve all been told this over the years, but didn’t really see it on screen until The Clone Wars, and Ahsoka helps greatly to show this as we see how he works with her and trains her during the war. Without Ahsoka there, without him as a teacher, I don’t think this would be as successful. The decision to add her to the lore to get this across was the right one.
The two develop a close relationship over the course of the seasons, and continue to discover they’re very much alike. In the film, they found they shared a reckless nature, leading Anakin to tell her that she never would have made it as Obi-Wan’s apprentice but she might make it as his. They’re both strong-willed, impatient, dedicated, and caring. While Anakin teaches Ahsoka the ways of the Jedi, he doesn’t completely discourage the tendencies she shares with him and she learns from his example. When she’s inexperienced, this doesn’t lead to anything good, and her decisions cost lives. As time passes, she’s able to make use them to her advantage better than he does because she’s able to make a decision that Anakin cannot. She doesn’t doggedly stay with the Jedi Order. Instead, she leaves.
At the end of the 2008 film, Yoda says that he thinks the greatest challenge for Anakin will not be training Ahsoka, but letting go of her, which Anakin must master. Obviously, Anakin can’t do this so easily, often worrying about failing her, and we see him desperate for her to stay in “The Wrong Jedi." Her leaving has an important impact on Anakin, no doubt contributing to his descent to the dark side as he must wonder about failing her even if they meet again afterwards.
Ahsoka’s path gives us a moment as well to realize along with Anakin how much the Jedi have changed. We’re hurt by their decision as much as Ahsoka, not only because of how we feel about the character, but because this whole time, she’s succeeded in letting us experience things through her on a level unlike any other character. When Ahsoka appeared in the 2008 film, sure, she was kind of annoying, but she was a kid and, for viewers, especially kids, she acted as an entryway into the universe and someone we could experience this largely unexplored era with and grow with ,too. How many characters in Star Wars have we been able to watch grow from their teens to their thirties? I’ve already mentioned how seeing Anakin go from boy to man doesn’t compare. With Ahsoka, though, we’ve had eight years to feel like a part of her story and people of all ages have responded to it. Even looking at some of the characters in other Star Wars media who have been around for that much time or longer, I don't think any were developed as well as Ahsoka.
Of course, it all culminated with Ahsoka growing to the point where she must face what Anakin became on Rebels. Seeing her realization that Darth Vader is Anakin made me feel more emotional than anything else so far on the show, until they finally faced each other in “Twilight of the Apprentice.” The episode was a great callback to Ahsoka’s story arc, even referencing in the beginning her first conversation with Rex from the 2008 film. When she does meet Vader, the fated conversation is heavy with their past. Ahsoka with a snippy come back, Vader with an offer, and finally Ahsoka accepting Vader killed Anakin and giving us one of her best lines ever when she responds to him with “I am no Jedi.”
As we know from her journey, she isn’t a Jedi any more but with her skills and past training with Anakin, she can hold her own against him. Their meeting becomes even more personal when she slices off part of his mask and can see his face, hearing Anakin’s voice mixed with Vader’s. She calls him by his name and, after all these years, is finally ready to stay. His response, that she will then die, solidifies that the master she was so close to is gone, and the Anakin we knew in The Clone Wars is dead. It is an important piece of the puzzle in the whole Star Wars saga that we needed to see. In that moment, The Clone Wars and Rebels, the original trilogy and prequel trilogy, are tied together in a way they’ve never been before, and that’s all thanks to Ahsoka.
In this finale, Ahsoka doesn’t leave, giving her what some might call her Gandalf moment, and we’re left to once again wonder about her fate as the temple collapses as she fights Vader. While I would have liked an answer to her fate instead of the ambiguity we were left with (is that Ahsoka walking away at the end? Is she falling dead from a mortal wound?), I don’t really want to say goodbye to Ahsoka because, in addition to all the other reasons above, she has finally given fans, especially all the little girls out there, a female Jedi as one of the main characters in a story on screen.
Thanks to her, little girls could see someone like them holding a lightsaber and more easily imagine joining in Jedi adventures. We’d had strong women to look up to before in Princess Leia and Padmé Amidala, but when it came to Jedi, we only ever glimpsed women wielding their lightsabers in the prequels. By the time I met Ahsoka, I had already delved obsessively into the Expanded Universe and had my own favorite female Jedi in Mara Jade and Jaina Solo, but seeing one so prominently on the big screen still impacted me and, for those too young to read the books or other media, that impact was even larger. Now, we have Rey, but before The Force Awakens, Ahsoka made all the difference. This, and the fact that she was such a great character overall, resulted in a remarkable response from fans. Her leaving the Jedi evoked powerful emotions from viewers and, when she returned in Rebels, it inspired a whole Ahsoka Lives Day at Star Wars Celebration last year.
Is there any other character that fans have been able to go on such a journey with, have been able to learn so much more about the Star Wars world through, from Anakin’s fall to the fall of the Jedi to the eventual rise of hope? There are other important characters in Star Wars, don’t get me wrong. When it comes to breaking out of the established film characters, though, I don’t think there’s ever been one added to the universe that has had such a profound impact or been so essential to the Star Wars story as Ahsoka Tano.