The swan song of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is in full swing. With the previous arc and this final one, the series has increasingly focused on Ahsoka Tano as its point of view character. With good reason, of course. We’re now officially overlapping Revenge of the Sith in the timeline. While many Clone Wars fans might be happy with a quite literal reanimation of the events of that film, it makes sense to focus on characters whose actions we haven’t yet seen during that time.
In the most recent Clone Wars episode, “The Phantom Apprentice,” fan favorites Darth Maul and Ahsoka share a series of confrontations, both of the verbal and lightsaber variety. It’s just before the last of these, a lightsaber duel that will likely get high placement in the saga’s all-time rankings, that we get a pretty intense conversation between the two. Maul reveals what he knows about Darth Sidious, and he attempts to enlist Ahsoka’s help in bringing the Sith Lord down.
This offer is reminiscent of several such offers in the Star Wars saga. Darth Vader asks Luke to join forces and take on the Emperor together. Kylo Ren asks the same of Rey. It’s a move from a dark side user to lure someone to embrace the dark side and become their apprentice. Maul himself has taken on an apprentice previously on The Clone Wars, his brother Savage Opress. He’ll attempt to do so again with Ezra Bridger on Star Wars Rebels. Here and now, he has his sights on Ahsoka. And for the faintest glimmer of a moment, she considers his offer.
There are two ways to read what happens next. When Maul holds out his hand and offers Ahsoka her first steps down a potential path towards the dark side, she says she will help him. It could be a ruse on her part. It could be that she is simply saying what she knows Maul wants to hear to give herself leverage to ask her next question. She may be working Maul to find out what he wants with Anakin Skywalker. But perhaps it truly isn’t. Perhaps her initial acceptance of Maul’s offer to take down Darth Sidious is legitimate.
An aspect of Ahsoka that I find fascinating is that while many want to consider her a “Grey Jedi,” this feels like a mistake. Despite her independence from the Jedi Order, she remains firmly rooted in the light side of the Force. She’s a ronin but a noble one. Despite her issues with the Jedi Order, despite bearing witness to the fall of the Republic and the Jedi and the rise of the Empire and Sith, she never falls.
But there is rarely anything interesting about perfection. It’s not enough for Ahsoka to merely never encounter the temptation to fall and thus avoid it. It is far more interesting for Dave Filoni and the Clone Wars team to orchestrate a moment like this, to put a path before her that she could legitimately take, and surprise us by showing her actually consider doing it. We see what it would take to get Ahsoka to fall, a path to hell paved with the grandest of intentions.
Taking the interpretation that Ahsoka is legitimately tempted by Maul, that for that half-second she almost followed him down his path, really ramps up what happens next. She asks Maul about Anakin and he lays her former Master’s fate, the fate we as the audience know to be true, out for her. He then states his plan to kill Anakin and foil Sidious’ plot. It’s this threat to Anakin that snaps Ahsoka out of it, that allows her to see Maul’s plan for what it really is, not an attempt to foil Sidious but simply to overtake him. To replace him. Using the death of Anakin to do it.
This episode makes great use of Ahsoka’s attachment to Anakin. First, Obi-Wan presents her with the Jedi plot to have Anakin spy on Chancellor Palpatine—something Obi-Wan tacitly agrees with her is the wrong move. Now, her concern for Anakin is what pulls her from the edge. It foreshadows “Twilight of the Apprentice” on Star Wars Rebels. In that story, Darth Vader himself declaring the death of Anakin Skywalker is what draws Ahsoka into combat with him. Then, the tiniest ray of hope, the oh so quick re-emergence of Anakin from beneath the helmet before being overtaken again by Vader’s rage, is what draws her compassion. In both cases, it’s what saves her.
It is exactly these kinds of moments that show why a character can still surprise us, even when her past and future are extremely well documented. This is why it’s so amazing that The Clone Wars got to come back to finish out their tale. Seeing her slip and regain her footing at this moment gives a new angle on Ahsoka as a character that still feels organic to the trajectory of her story. Episodes like this are exactly what we were hoping for with this return. It has made the sometimes impatient journey through the previous two arcs completely worth it. And there are still two episodes left! And… oh no, there are only two episodes left.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm