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The Necessity of Detours: How Ahsoka Taught Me that Separation and Self-Discovery are Healthy

“I have to sort this out on my own, without the Council, and without you.”

– Ahsoka Tano

There comes a time in your life when the views and beliefs you were raised with are stripped down, shaken, or even uprooted at their very core. It took me submerging myself in Star Wars, its fandom, commentaries, critiques, costumes, and new friends to understand what had taken place since I moved out on my own. Similar to how Ahsoka Tano left the Jedi Order and the hypocritical structures of their religion in order to discover who she was in the Force, I left a conservative upbringing that prioritized strong social adherence to tertiary aspects of Christianity rather than the overarching values the religion preached. I’ve been on my own “detour” arc ever since then. In this article I will highlight why I relate so strongly to Ahsoka’s character development throughout the seventh season of The Clone Wars and what her relationship with the Jedi could evolve into beyond what we saw in Star Wars Rebels.

At Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019, I ended up doing a mad dash through the convention center and across the street (in the snow!) to catch the Clone Wars panel so I could see the sneak preview. I shed quite a few tears as I watched the scene of Ahsoka seeing Rex and the clone troopers with their helmets painted to show tribute to her. Their respect for her reminded me of how much my own opinion of Ahsoka had changed from finding her annoying in the first season to becoming one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters.

I was ecstatic when Ahsoka made her triumphant return in season seven. Many of my fellow fans gushed over the Bad Batch and Siege of Mandalore arcs; sandwiched in between those bookend arcs is the arc of episodes five through eight, featuring Trace and Rafa Martez. A good number of my Star Wars acquaintances wrote off this group of episodes as boring, full of bad storytelling, pandering to SJWs, and unnecessary in the grand scheme of the season. They were impatient to get to the Siege of Mandalore arc and saw these episodes, which shaped Ahsoka prior to her participation in the siege, as nothing more than a distraction from what they wanted to see. This, to me, could not be further from the truth. 

It was clear when I saw the preview of Clone Wars at Celebration that Ahsoka’s departure from the Jedi Order had given her time to rethink her position in the galaxy as a Force-user unattached to a specific religious code. In a recent interview with Star Wars author and Nerdist Managing Editor Amy Ratcliffe, Dave Filoni discussed the final season of The Clone Wars and gave more background as to why he chose these three particular arcs to air. To me, the most poignant part of this interview was when he discussed why, out of all the storylines floating around when the show was canceled in 2012, the Ahsoka detour arc was selected for airing. According to Filoni, it “helps frame what was underlying all the things that, frankly, Barriss Offee was bringing up, and all the things that episode arc was bringing up. If you look at the episode arc where she leaves, there are protesters outside the Jedi Temple. Letta Turmond [the activist who helped Barriss Offee bomb the Jedi Temple and frame Ahsoka] is saying that the Jedi aren’t what you think they are anymore. And so you’re actually getting that point of view shored up more.”

That quote helped me connect the dots between Ahsoka’s doubts about the Jedi Order as a religious structure and my own doubts about my evangelical Christian upbringing, particularly regarding Letta’s line to Ahsoka that “the Jedi aren’t what you think they are” and Ahsoka’s comprehension of the Council’s betrayal and hypocrisy during the Clone Wars.  The Jedi were supposed to be peacekeepers, yet there they were leading troops into battle. Their very leadership of the clones in the Clone Wars shows how embroiled the Jedi have become in the politics of the Republic through Chancellor Palpatine’s manipulations. 

The first time we see Ahsoka, she is walking down the ramp into a world that flies in the face of what she has spent the last decade learning in the Jedi Temple. She has discussions about the confusing nature of the Jedi’s involvement in the war with her then-friend and fellow Padawan, Barriss Offee, who ends up falling to the dark side because she can’t reconcile the war with Jedi teachings (and frankly, some of my old friends would probably equate me more with Barriss than Ahsoka if they read this opinion piece). With Anakin Skywalker as her master and his increasing tendency to do whatever it took to win a battle, and ultimately the war, it must have been difficult for her to voice any growing doubts about the incongruences between his methods and the Jedi way. This runs parallel to how it was growing up in my conservative Christian house all the way through high school and into college.

While I could write pages and pages about how the Jedi Order and American evangelical Christianity are basically the same structures, Eleven-ThirtyEight staff writer Abigail Dillon put it in words perfectly in this article. My gradual “walking away” from evangelical Christianity became an all-out sprint leading up to the 2016 election. Hearing the vast majority of white evangelicals deem voting for progressive beliefs as anti-Christian set me on my own path away from the only structure I’d known growing up. And that is why I so strongly identified with Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order after it turned its back on her. The detour arc showed Ahsoka beginning to comprehend that the way the Jedi fought for “peace” and held to their values had the practical consequence of devastating the lives of citizens like the Martez sisters. I began to understand the political marriage of evangelical Christianity and right-wing politicians similarly to how Ahsoka discovered the political machinations influencing the Jedi’s role in the war.

Ahsoka’s conversation with Yoda and Mace Windu after she reported Maul’s capture to them has lingered in my mind. When she states that her service on Mandalore was conducted as a “citizen”, Yoda asks her, “But not as a Jedi?” She responds with “No, not yet.” The sadness in Yoda’s eyes is clear over what the actions of the Jedi during her trial had led her to do. Yet Ahsoka’s voice could be heard at the end of The Rise of Skywalker while the Jedi were speaking to Rey, which signaled to me she might have returned to the Jedi religion during its restructuring under Luke. We don’t know much about what the tenets of this new Jedi Order were, but I can’t see Ahsoka declaring herself a Jedi again if their role was the same as it was in the Galactic Republic. And I can’t see myself returning to evangelical American Christianity due its close ties with right-wing, conservative politics. However, this separation wasn’t unhealthy. In fact, it’s the healthiest move I have made in my whole life. And I didn’t realize that until I saw Ahsoka’s character development in The Clone Wars and Rebels.

I would be thrilled to see more stories about Ahsoka and her journey in the Force (and we’d better get a Rebels follow-up!). Her rumored appearance in The Mandalorian leads me to hope that during the five years between that series and Return of the Jedi a new idea was created for what the Jedi Order should be. Those five years are also the time period where Ahsoka and Sabine Wren go looking for Ezra Bridger, my favorite missing-Jedi legend ever.

Ahsoka’s departure from the Jedi religion in The Clone Wars, her declaration of “I am no Jedi” in Rebels, and hearing her voice in The Rise of Skywalker among the other Jedi leaves room for a fully fleshed-out story arc where she reconciles herself and becomes a Jedi again. And there’s a little Ahsoka in all of us, as the amazing Ashley Eckstein loves to point out, so maybe I can use that piece of Ahsoka to keep me going on my own arc.

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