Our previous two articles focused on some of the villains of The Clone Wars, both of whom originated elsewhere but received the lion’s share of their development within the 100-plus episodes of the TV show. There were many notable characters who were created specifically for the show as well, on both sides of the conflict. But none of them received the spotlight as much or as harshly as Ahsoka Tano.
Behind the scenes, Ahsoka was created as part of the initial outline of the show, which involved her and an elder Jedi Master, along with other more motley crew members, traveling the Outer Rim and involving themselves with various adventures. George Lucas saw the concept art and initial sketches of her and proposed that she be apprenticed to a more notable Jedi instead: Anakin Skywalker. Ahsoka, in his eyes, would be the ideal tool to help Anakin develop from the brash, undisciplined apprentice he was at the end of Attack of the Clones into a more mature, reserved Jedi Knight in Revenge of the Sith.
Like Asajj Ventress before her, however, Ahsoka would grow into a full-fledged character in her own right. Though apprenticed to Anakin, throughout the show’s run she often left Anakin’s side and joined other Jedi on adventures through many scopes of the war. This, along with her unorthodox lightsaber style and penchant for giving nicknames (and snark) to everyone she met rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way as she made her debut in the Clone Wars movie. On the other hand, she has become a favorite character for a large portion of fans for some of those same reasons, especially among young girls.
But we aren’t here to discuss arguments, we’re here to dissect the development she goes through from episode-to-episode and season-to-season. This will be a much broader sweep of material than the previous autopsies, because while Grievous and Ventress have a few over a dozen episodes featuring them, Ahsoka features in 60 episodes (not counting the movie) with more than one line of dialogue, giving her more appearances in the series than any character aside from Anakin, Obi-Wan and R2-D2.
In her debut in the movie, Ahsoka was assigned to Anakin by both Obi-Wan and Yoda, hoping that having an apprentice to shackle him would force Anakin to slow down and mature as he taught instead of being focused on fighting a war. That plan showed signs of strain early on when Ahsoka turned out to be just as, if not more aggressive and impetuous than her new Master, leading the pair to both bicker and bond as they defeated General Loathsom and later rescued Rotta the Hutt from both Ventress and Dooku. Ahsoka proved herself to be an adept and rather advanced student, often following Anakin stroke-for-stroke during battle, but her eagerness got her in over her head at times, as in a duel against General Grievous that nearly cost her her life; and her inexperience with the formalities of war led to many faux pas, including speaking out of turn at a meeting between Anakin, Mace Windu, Yoda and the Supreme Chancellor. Her concern for Plo Koon, the Jedi who brought her to the temple, during the Malevolence crisis spoke of her own struggles with attachment, struggles that Anakin would do little to help with.
Fortunate, then, for her own sake that Ahsoka had other teachers aside from her Master, as her impressive abilities and eagerness for combat led to her being assigned to a variety of Jedi in a variety of theaters. She worked with Luminara Unduli to help guard Nute Gunray, a mission pitting her against Asajj Ventress one-on-one, and Ahsoka again showed that despite her abilities, which allowed her to match blades with Ventress, her impetuousness and inexperience allowed the assassin to manipulate her and then free Gunray, with both the Viceroy and Ventress ultimately escaping. Ahsoka would later be paired with Aayla Secura after a rescue attempt gone awry resulted in a crash landing and Anakin being badly wounded. Both Secura and the extreme circumstances they found themselves in would teach Ahsoka about the dangerous nature of her attachment to her Master, and that sometimes the Jedi had to put the concerns of many above the fate of one. The battle to defend the Lurmen colony on Maridun, where she butted heads with the colony’s pacifist leader, taught her a lesson the headstrong apprentice appreciated: the necessity of courage when standing by one’s beliefs.
Ahsoka’s first major mission on her own was investigating the outbreak of the Blue Shadow Virus on Naboo. With the release of the virus through an underground Separatist facility, she, Padmé Amidala and the clone troops with them sealed themselves inside in order to destroy the remaining enemy droids and prevent the virus from escaping, cured in the nick of time by an antidote provided by Anakin. Ahsoka would again strike out on her own as she led a fighter mission against the Separatist blockade of Ryloth, disobeying direct orders from both Anakin and Admiral Yularen in her eagerness to smash the blockade and aid the planet below. The resulting fiasco lost half the pilots under her command and left Ahsoka badly shaken, both at the deaths of her pilots and her own mistakes and lack of command abilities. Rather than relieve her of command, Anakin devised a plan to both win the battle and give Ahsoka her confidence back: leaving her in command while he flew a damaged cruiser into the enemy blockade to serve as a battering ram. Despite her vehement protests against his plan, Ahsoka rose to the challenge, ultimately able to destroy the enemy, preserve her own forces and recover her master.
But Ahsoka did not learn her lesson as well as Anakin hoped; her confidence in her own abilities was restored, but she was no more inclined to obey the chain of command than she was previously. Thus, after again disobeying direct orders during a battle on Felucia, she was reassigned from her field command to a guard post at the Jedi Temple. The post made her one of the only lines of defense against Cade Bane and his Clawdite accomplice in their mission to steal a Jedi holocron and, while Ahsoka was able to subdue and arrest the shapeshifter, Bane escaped her. Ahsoka and Anakin continued their pursuit of the bounty hunter, setting a trap for him on Naboo, then backtracking his path to Mustafar to recover the Force-sensitive infants he had kidnapped.
Ahsoka would make a friend of some importance during the second invasion of Geonosis, where a mission into a Separatist facility paired her with Barriss Offee, Luminara’s Padawan, a far more orthodox and traditional student. Rather than forming a friendly rivalry as she had with Anakin, Ahsoka and Barriss clashed over the importance of rules and instructions, the differences in their teachers’ philosophies clear. The pair ultimately worked together and destroyed the facility, but not without trapping themselves inside, only being rescued because of Ahsoka’s hotwiring a power cell to send a signal. The two would be shipped off with the supplies meant for a medical station, having to fend off brain-worm infected clones and forcing Ahsoka to fight Barriss when the latter became infected herself. Barriss, unable to control her own actions, urged Ahsoka to kill her, but Ahsoka refused and sought a less permanent solution, successfully freezing the worms out and saving Barriss’ life once again.
Ahsoka would return to the temple and, while aiding in the arrest of a local arms dealer, lose her lightsaber. This led her to Tera Sinube, an elderly Master who helped Ahsoka reclaim her weapon while teaching her the value of patience and foresight to temper her energy and enthusiasm. She also began, at his urging, a mentoring role of her own as she taught a group of younglings the responsibility they had to their lightsabers. Later, when Anakin and Mace Windu lost their cruiser while on a training mission, Ahsoka paired with Plo Koon to hunt down their assailant, Boba Fett, and his accomplice Aurra Sing. Despite Ahsoka’s lack of subtlety, they tracked the bounty hunters to Florrum, subdued them and appeared to kill Sing. Ahsoka would further grow in experience through her ventures in the political world, as she escorted Senator Chuchi to negotiations with the Trade Federation, aided an investigation into corruption on Mandalore, and thwarted the not-quite-dead Sing’s assassination attempt on Padmé thanks to visions she received.
As the show moved from the second season into the third, transitioning from the middle of the war toward the end, Ahsoka changed her outfit to reflect her growing maturity and came to use a second, shorter lightsaber in addition to her old one, an unusual decision for most orthodox Jedi. She continued her political escapades by working with Padmé in an attempt to open negotiations with Separatist leaders, an attempt that brought her into contact with Lux Bonteri for the first time. Lux was the son of a prominent Separatist Senator who showed Ahsoka that not all under the CIS banner were droids or villains. When negotiations broke down after a terrorist attack on Coruscant, Anakin took Ahsoka aside and chided her for her willingness to deal with the enemy, but Ahsoka was growing to see that matters of war are not always that simple.
Ahsoka accompanied Anakin and Obi-Wan as they investigated a Jedi distress signal and found themselves on Mortis, a Force nexus where Ahsoka had a vision of her older self warning her that unless she left Skywalker’s tutelage, she would never see her own future. She was later kidnapped by the Son, who, when his efforts to convince her of Anakin’s failings as a teacher and friend failed, poisoned her and turned her into an aggressive, rage-filled creature of the dark side. While not of her own volition, her fall did bring out all of her frustrations and fears at her Master’s teachings, that she would never measure up to his standards and was too-often belittled and shuffled aside like a child. Ahsoka fought her Master and Obi-Wan while aiding the Son, stealing a mystical weapon for him, a deed which earned her a painful reward as he drained the life from her body. Ahsoka was resurrected by a dying Daughter’s life-force, but had no memory of her dark side escapades, and was thereafter assigned with repairing their shuttle so the three could leave the planet.
When a prison break on the Citadel was attempted, Ahsoka was there, against the wishes of her Master who deemed the mission too dangerous. Her presence was further denounced by Captain Tarkin, who considered her a child unfit for command, but proved vital when the death of Even Piell meant she had to memorize and carry half the information he had been tasked with. Ahsoka later accompanied Anakin and Plo Koon in an attack on a Separatist facility on Felucia, where she was kidnapped by Trandoshan hunters and released on a wild planetoid to be hunted for sport along with other young Jedi. Overcoming their hesitation to fight with her unrelenting determination for victory, Ahsoka led the others in striking back against their captors, teaming up with Chewbacca, whose Wookiee allies took the entire Trandoshan network down. She later aided the Prince of the Mon Cala people to retake his throne, went undercover to free Togruta slaves on Zygerria, and returned to Mandalore to serve as a guard at further peace talks between Republic Senators and Separatist representatives.
There she encountered a now-orphaned and embittered Lux Bonteri, who teamed with Death Watch in a scheme to get revenge for his murdered mother. Ahsoka posed as Lux’s betrothed until Pre Vizsla’s treachery necessitated their escape, and she and the young Senator again parted ways. Ahsoka next encountered Lux when the Jedi Council sent her, Anakin and Obi-Wan to Onderon to aid the resistance against the Separatist-backed regime. Though jealous of the attention Lux paid to the rebel leader Steela, Ahsoka helped train the rebels and then plan out their moves against the enemy’s droid forces. During the climactic battle, she saved Lux’s life but was unable to save Steela, a failing that ate at her. Re-assigned to temple duty in the aftermath, Ahsoka would aid Yoda in instructing a band of younglings as they crafted their lightsabers and strove to become Jedi, serving as their guardian against both Hondo’s pirate forces and General Grievous’ army.
Ahsoka’s arc (and the series) would come to a head in the four-part series broadcast finale. Following a terrorist attack on the Jedi Temple, Ahsoka and Anakin were appointed to lead the investigation, ultimately arresting the guilty party, a woman who protested the war and saw the Jedi as war-mongers. Later, she called Ahsoka to her cell, telling her that it was a Jedi who had given her the means to make a bomb. Before she could name her accomplice, she was strangled via the Force right in front of Ahsoka. The now-Admiral Tarkin, convinced Ahsoka had killed the bomber, had her arrested and imprisoned. Ahsoka escaped detention with the aid on an unseen benefactor, who then killed guards via lightsaber and further framed Ahsoka as a criminal. As she escaped, Anakin confronted her, urging her to come back and face the charges outlined against her. She refused and escaped into Coruscant’s depths, convinced that no one believed her and that only she could prove her own innocence. Now on the run, Ahsoka searched desperately for any evidence to exonerate herself, teaming up with Barriss Offee, who was still within the temple and offered to help her friend find the truth, and her old foe-turned bounty hunter Asajj Ventress, who agreed to work with Ahsoka in exchange for her help in gaining a political pardon.
The investigative efforts soon turned sour as someone impersonating Ventress knocked Ahsoka out and left her at the mercy of the Coruscant Security Force in the midst of the same materials used to create the bomb used at the temple. Faced with the prospect of the betrayal of one of their own and under pressure from both Tarkin and the Senate to charge her with both the bombing and the deaths of the clones in her escape from prison, the Jedi Council expelled Tano from the Order and allowed her to be put on military trial for treason and sedition. Dismayed and in tears at the betrayal of the ones she looked up to most, Ahsoka could only repeat that she had been framed, an argument the prosecution easily brushed aside. As the verdict was about to be read, however, Anakin entered the court, dragging the true guilty party, Ahsoka’s friend Barriss, with him. Barriss, disenchanted with the war and convinced that the Jedi were as corrupt as the Republic they served, had constructed the entire plot. When the Council offered to restore Ahsoka to her place among the Order, even proposing a promotion to Jedi Knight, she refused, disgusted and saddened by their lack of faith in her. Anakin, confused and angry, tried to convince her to stay, but Ahsoka’s mind was made up. She left the temple, her Master and her way of life without looking back.
Ahsoka Tano was, from the beginning, a headstrong and confident individual, traits that defined her through her entire career as a Jedi. Though she did respect the Masters she served under and the clones she fought with, her lack of patience and experience for the formalities of war and politics got her into trouble on multiple occasions and her pride in her own abilities meant that in the end, she trusted no one but herself to prove her innocence. While she may or may not have made a successful Jedi under another being’s teaching, making her Anakin’s student ultimately backfired spectacularly on the Order. Like Anakin, she struggled with attachments and emotions, unable to completely comply with the Jedi ideal of abandoning oneself to the Order’s ideals. Unlike Anakin, however, Ahsoka was able to let go of the thing that mattered the most to her, namely the Jedi Order, though helped along by the fact that they first let go of her. Teaching her may have caused Anakin to mature somewhat, but her departure left him confused and bitter about both the Council’s actions and his own role within the Order and helped set the stage for the events of Revenge of the Sith.
Like the show itself, Ahsoka was far from perfect and didn’t conform to everyone’s expectations. Her role within TCW, as close to a main character as the series had, rubbed those who found her abrasive and overly capable the wrong way. However, her development from an idealistic and headstrong young Padawan into a mature, more experienced Jedi mirrored the series as it left the more simplistic storytelling of the early seasons and moved into more serialized and serious multi-part plots. The creative decision for her to voluntarily leave the Order, rather than taking the easy road and have her die in the events of Revenge of the Sith along with the other Jedi, was one of the most daring of the show’s run, despite a rather compacted and rushed series of events leading to the conclusion. And as with Ventress, many fans wait in both dread and anticipation to see what role Ahsoka might play in future stories as the franchise moves forward.