Is there a greater character to come out of the Clone Wars than Ahsoka Tano? I mean, for all of the bright stars that the Clone Wars brilliantly brought to the Star Wars Universe, is there a star that shines brighter than Ahsoka? Not only is she often considered one of the reasons for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, but she’s also the glue that held the entire series together.
Ahsoka is, for lack of a better description, is the reason the Clone Wars is memorable, the bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the most interesting character in the series, and the pulse behind the heartbeat of the show. I’d be a fool, however, if I said that it was always this way. In truth, her earliest appearances saw her do very little to win the affections of any Star Wars fan.
And justifiably so.
Within days of her first appearance, fans had already dubbed her the new Jar Jar Binks, a bratty nuisance, and a character unworthy of being Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice. She made viewers of the show question how and why she was even there. After all, before the Clone Wars, there was never any mention of her. Fans wondered how Anakin even had time to take on a Padawan and why Dave Filoni paired him up with someone as obnoxious as her.
The earliest adventures between the two didn’t do too much to change any opinion. Fans were quick to point out the unnecessary nicknames that they not so lovingly created for one another. Anakin’s reluctance to take on an apprentice and his love for danger caused her to affectionately call him “Skyguy”. Her quick to question everything and snippy disposition resulted in the name “Snips”.
Skyguy and Snips.
After three warmly received prequel movies, fans were begging for something more in tune with what they thought Star Wars was. They wanted something that was action-packed and story-driven. Instead, they got Skyguy and Snips. Even Anakin couldn’t understand why he was given an apprentice. He sternly stated to Obi-Wan (his master, father figure, and Jedi brother) that he didn’t want an apprentice because they’d only slow him down.
Their first mission together seemed to push this thought. He looked at her with annoyance, frustration, and disdain. She continually got in his way, caused him grief, and acted as a reminder that her, the greatest Jedi in history, didn’t need an apprentice. Remarkably, though he had doubts about taking on a Padawan, by the end of the mission he told her that she’d make it as his Padawan. She somehow convinced him that she was worthy of his teachings. Although at the time no viewer understood why he was right.
But before we get into why exactly this was…
The importance of Ahsoka Tano dates back to long before she was a Jedi. Ahsoka Tano is a Togruta from the planet Shili. She was discovered by Jedi Master Plo Koon at the young age of three. After discovery, he brought her to the Jedi Temple where was she trained. As a result of their early encounters and him giving her a home, Ahsoka developed an affinity for Plo Koon. While at the Temple, she proved herself to be an above-average student. Her abilities caught the eyes of Grand Master Yoda who promoted her to the rank of Padawan much earlier than students are normally promoted. From there, she was assigned to Anakin Skywalker as his Padawan apprentice.
Although he vehemently expressed not wanting a Padawan, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi did this for three very important reasons. First, they hoped that she would tone down Anakin’s often reckless approach as a Jedi. Second, she would provide him with a greater sense of responsibility. And third, she’d help him get over his sense of attachment. As Revenge of the Sith went on to illustrate, only one of these actually came to be.
In the beginning, only Dave Filoni knew the importance of Ahsoka Tano.
Simply put, Ahsoka Tano works because Dave Filoni and company spent a great deal of time carving out her character. Although Star Wars has been around for over four decades, there are very few characters not named Anakin Skywalker who have a history as developed as her. This was able to happen because the Clone Wars, aside from bridging the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, is a story about Ahsoka Tano.
Let me explain.
For as much as the Clone Wars follows the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists, it follows the development of Ahsoka Tano even more. Not Obi-Wan Kenobi who started and ended the series as a Jedi and General. Not Anakin Skywalker who started and ended the series as a Jedi and General. Ahsoka Tano, who started the series as a bratty teenager and ended the series as a woman capable of making galaxy-altering decisions. Ahsoka Tano, who bought into the Jedi way of thinking only to leave it all behind. And Ashoka Tano, who went from the most hated new character since Jar Jar Binks to arguably one of the most beloved characters in Star Wars history.
The importance of Ahsoka Tano and her subsequent rise is unprecedented. Very few characters in history, let alone Star Wars, managed to do what she did. And here’s how she did it.
The Clone Wars focussed heavily on humanizing her. Just as the viewers experienced the Clone Wars for the first time, so did she. We saw and learned exactly what she saw and learned. Simply put, we lived the Clone Wars because Ahsoka lived the Clone Wars. Each rush of adrenaline, each hard-fought victory, and each heartbreaking defeat that she felt, we also felt.
Ahsoka was doing what no person should have to do. She was studying to become a Jedi in a time of great political unrest. Because Ahsoka joined as Anakin’s Padawan in the middle of a war, she continually found herself questioning her decisions, wondering if she was doing the right thing, all-the-while trying to stay out of the way of her superiors. Ahsoka was learning what it meant to be a Jedi through trial by fire. The fact that she succeeded is nothing short of a miracle. It’s precisely this that gained her the affection of fans all over the world.
Through some very good writing, Ahsoka became the one thing that all good characters become…relatability. Ahsoka learned from her failures, was put into situations she had no hope of winning and struggled to understand not only what it takes to become a Jedi, but also what it means to live a life with meaning. These simple to understand but difficult to master tests put her in a category reserved for characters like Spider-Man.
Then, when we thought we knew who and what she was, everything changed. She began to question whether or not being a Jedi was right for her. For the first time in my life, Ahsoka made me believe that being a Jedi wasn’t everything I imagined it to be.
Let me explain.
After being framed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple by her longtime friend Barriss Offee, Ahsoka was forced on the run from the Jedi. Through a series of meetups, unlikely partnerships, and underground work, she proved her innocence. The problem was that the bombing caused more damage than only the Jedi Temple. Ahsoka lost faith in the Jedi and even though Anakin never doubted her, she did the unthinkable…
Anakin: “We’re asking you back Ahsoka. I’m asking you back (to the Jedi Order).”
Ahsoka: “I’m sorry Master but I’m not coming back.”
Ahsoka’s decision to leave the Jedi Order was based on two rational things. First, she realized that the Jedi had become exactly who they swore to never become. Instead of Peacekeepers, they were Generals of War. Second, while the Jedi Masters attributed the framing and subsequent path to innocence as the Will of the Force, she didn’t.
The importance of Ahsoka Tano is rooted in what she represented. She was that special someone that the original Star Wars trilogy had and the prequels lacked. She was a character who the audience could see themselves as. I remember being a young boy and watching A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi and wishing I could be Luke Skywalker. He was brave, had control over the Force and wielded arguably the coolest weapon in existence. My fascination and desire to be Luke gave me a greater understanding of his world. Ahsoka was the Luke Skywalker of the Clone Wars. She was a character that children (she was created for them) could see themselves as either being or going on an adventure with.
However, don’t take my word for it.
A quick search on the auction site eBay confirms what I’m saying. Anything collectible, Ahsoka, and from the Clone Wars era always sells for an inflated value. Fans loved and admire Ahsoka. However, it wasn’t only the audience that Ahsoka tattooed herself on.
Ahsoka and Anakin shared a bond that very few Master’s and Padawan’s could/should. Even though she was only his Padawan, Anakin cared deeply for her…a point all too familiar to the Anakin character.
Ahsoka was more than his Padawan. She was his friend, accomplice, and partner. The two of them were one and the same. Like Anakin, she was brash, reckless, and didn’t take too well to authority. She was him and their similarities caused an attachment to form…the same kind of attachment that led to his transformation to Darth Vader. It’s for this reason that watching her walk away from the Jedi Order and Anakin was so heart wrenching. Although neither of them knew it, everybody watching knew that at this moment his fate had been sealed.
The Clone Wars worked because Ahsoka and Anakin worked. We cared because Anakin cared. Anakin was responsible for Ahsoka in an almost identical fashion to the way he was responsible for Padme and his mother. When she walked away, he felt the same guilt that he felt over the death of his mother and being unable to save Padme. For Anakin, her walking away symbolized yet another failure…his failure to protect her. As he helplessly looked on, we the viewers could feel Anakin fill up with anger.
This was an important step in her development. By the time she appeared in Star Wars Rebels, Ahsoka was a fully-fledged Jedi, albeit without the Jedi label. She was strong, independent, cared for those around her, and had become the leader Anakin always thought she was.
Over the course of the first five seasons of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka became one of the most well-rounded and developed characters the Star Wars Universe had ever created. Almost like magic, she transformed from bratty and unlikable to a character who commanded the respect of all who watched her. Under the guidance of Anakin, Ahsoka became a leader of the Clone Wars and ironically someone who helped launch the Rebellion against him.
Ahsoka worked and continues to work because she allowed the viewers to live through her. We learned as she learned. We failed as she failed. And we felt the same emotions she felt. She is the reason the Clone Wars is so memorable and the link to Rebels. Without her, Star Wars may never have survived the prequel movies. At the end of the day, the importance of Ahsoka Tano is that the Clone Wars and everything that came after wouldn’t have worked without her.