The Star Wars universe is a vast, beautiful, and diverse place. A galaxy far, far away full of planets–some lush, some desolate–and characters and communities waiting to be discovered. No matter how you access the fictional galaxy, there’s a character for you. If you’re obsessed with the original trilogy, you may find your allegiance tied most to Luke, Han, and Leia. Or maybe you grew up with the prequels, and adore Anakin and Padmé. Maybe you found Star Wars during the sequel trilogy and find power in the stories of Rey, Finn, and Poe.
Or maybe you came to Star Wars during its most transient period, before Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney, when the future of galactic storytelling was a giant question mark. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series created by George Lucas, and developed by Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy. The show premiered on the Cartoon Network in 2008 and slowly amassed a strong fan following. Set during the titular wars of the prequel films, it told the little stories that never made it to the big screen; stories of the heroes who fought for the galaxy turning a time of great chaos and political dysfunction.
The Clone Wars also introduced audiences to a new character: Ahsoka Tano. Voiced by Ashley Eckstein, Ahsoka was Anakin’s Padawan, a Togruta female powerful in the Force. Fans were initially suspicious and somewhat judgmental of her; she brought out new shades of Anakin, asked too many questions, didn’t fit with what people liked about their Star Wars. But over time, that changed. As The Clone Wars progressed, Ahsoka soon became a powerful fan favorite, a female character that bucked tradition and came into her own in a beautiful, empowering, and just way.
The Clone Wars returns for a seventh and final season this week, and to celebrate, we’re honoring Ahsoka Tano: the greatest character in the Star Wars universe.
She’s a different kind of Star Wars character.
Ahsoka Tano first appeared in The Clone Wars film that preceded the TV series, where she meets Anakin for the first time. At just 14 years old, she behaved the way many young teen girls do: She was headstrong and combative with Anakin (who she called “Skyguy,” while he called her “Snips”); she called R2-D2 “Artooey”. In general she got on the nerves of our hero and, at times, the audience. But she was always something special; a strong character unafraid to challenge the galaxy around her and the ethos of the Jedi. Her relationship with Anakin blossomed into a beautiful bond. Our hearts swelled as they learned to love and respect each other during the stressful Clone Wars.
In a story that can only be told in black and white moralism, Ahsoka is a character who sees through the cracks. During the Clone Wars, she learned to question every perception. The war between the Republic and the Separatists was an ugly one, but through her enormous empathy, she came to see the division as more than just an “us vs. them” battle. She protected herself when she was abducted by Trandoshans and saved a group of Younglings during a trip to Ilum to make their first lightsabers.
But her tremendous growth came with unprecedented challenges. She was erroneously blamed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and stripped off her Padawan title. But when the truth came out–that Bariss Offee was behind the attack–Ahsoka rejected an offer to return to the Jedi Order. She was disillusioned with the whole thing, and stood her ground. Instead, she chose to forge her own unique path as a Force user free of Jedi demands. She was absent for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, but she would later confront him when he was Darth Vader and she was a white double-saber-wielding grown woman. A hero unlike anyone else in Star Wars.
She’s had time to evolve.
Ahsoka has a luxury rarely afforded to Star Wars characters, in that she’s been able to grow and develop over time in a long format. She matured during The Clone Wars and returned for the next animated series, Star Wars Rebels, where she joined the rebellious Ghost crew on several missions, becoming a vital member of the Rebel Alliance. She was seemingly killed by Vader during their confrontation on Malachor; Later, Ezra Bridger saved her, rescuing her via a mysterious plane known as the World Between Worlds. She fled through another portal and disappeared until the final moments of Rebels, dressed in white robes with a lifetime of stories we don’t yet know.
Watching Ahsoka grow from bossy teenager to a mystical, powerful emblem of the Force (often represented as the convor, Morai) is one of the purest joys as a Star Wars fan. We’re so lucky Filoni loved her enough to never back down, and to use his series to grow her into a hero so many of us need. Someone who stands her ground, clings fiercely to her beliefs, and loves and protects unconditionally. That Ahsoka defies so many qualifiers is exactly why we love her. She’s a true rebel, in every sense of the word.
She inspired a new generation of Star Wars fans.
Ahsoka’s impact on the fandom has been monumental. She’s a hugely popular character when it comes to cosplay and merchandise. Head to any Star Wars Celebration and you’ll see countless takes on Ahsoka Tano. She’s so important, that she’s inspired whole movements. When her character seemingly died at the hands of Vader, fans wouldn’t let it rest. Shirts with the words “Ahsoka Lives” appeared, gatherings we had, and even Dave Filoni got in on the fun. At Celebration, fans gather annually for “Ahsoka Lives Day,” a giant fan appreciation for the character who’s come to mean so much to so many. Ahsoka voice actress Ashley Eckstein and Filoni always attend the event.
Speaking of Eckstein, her impact on the fandom has been nothing short of extraordinary. Her love for the character and endless positivity created so many beautiful things in the world of Star Wars. She founded the company Her Universe, a clothing brand that creates fandom-themed clothes targeted at women and girls. When the return of The Clone Wars was announced at San Diego Comic-Con, her tears were our tears: She helped bring this amazing character to life, and we’re finally about to get her back–something we all get to experience together.
We couldn’t be more thrilled that The Clone Wars returns this week on Disney+. If, for no other reason, than because we get to spend more time with Ahsoka Tano. The most interesting, fleshed out, empowering, and important character in the new Star Wars canon and one we’ll love forever.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm