Fair warning, here there be Spoilers, and this is going to get a bit emotional.
I came into Star Wars: The Clone Wars a little late, jumping in when there were about a season and a half of episodes. I hadn't been very into Star Wars as a whole in some time, but when I finally jumped in at the suggestion of many, I found myself utterly entranced. Here was everything I loved about the films of my childhood. Sweeping scores, characters struggling with morality, the balance of the light and dark, incredible happiness and the painful reality of death and failure.
It was a nearly Jedi-less episode, S1E5 "Rookies" that actually made me love the show. I am former military, and the brotherhood shown amongst the clone troopers was just so well done. Seeing the breadth of performances from Dee Bradley Baker, who plays every last clone, was incredible, as well, making me fall in love with the show, the clones, and voice acting all at once.
Then, as the season rolled on and I got to know the characters, there was of course one major standout: Ahsoka Tano. The padawan of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka was new to the program, offering viewers a "way in" to the Jedi order and the Star Wars galaxy. She was spunky - and impetuous, fitting to Anakin - she was hopeful and nervous, she was dedicated and capable, and she cared... the last of which of course sets off warning signs to anyone with knowledge of Star Wars lore - a Jedi isn't supposed to do that, at least not this way or this much.
Ahsoka grew quickly. Over five seasons, she became a powerful Jedi, but so much more than that - she became a powerful friend and confidant to Anakin, to Padmé; she even showed great wisdom, occasionally counseling Jedi much her senior in power, experience, and age. She occasionally exhibited the rare force power of foresight: being able to see possible futures, she held Anakin to the light as an anchor, and she got out of some major scrapes all on her own.
This was the best female character I had come across in all of Star Wars, and really became one of the best, period.
But there was one, major, problem: Ahsoka Tano was not in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. The Clone Wars took place entirely between Episodes II and III, and that meant if she was not in the movie, something big had to happen to keep her out of it. As I began attending conventions and panels for Clone Wars, I quickly found I wasn't the only one thinking about this. At every panel, someone - usually a child - would ask Supervising Producer Dave Filoni what was going to happen to Ahsoka. And every time, he told them they'd have to watch but it was something everyone on the show thought about a lot, and that they all love Ahsoka, too.
Over the years, I've found myself lucky, thanks to my career, to interact with many of the cast and crew of Clone Wars, even becoming friends with some of the cast members, including the voice of Ahsoka, Ashley Eckstein. Ashley and castmate James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) were incredibly welcoming to me, bringing me into the fold of Clone Wars and giving me insight on everything from Jedi policy to behind-the-scenes voice acting ins-and-outs. They also both happen to be even better people than they are talents, and that's saying a lot, but I digress. With that friendship, I've been priveleged to talk about the show with them many times, and we've talked about Ahsoka's fate, and what might become of her. Leading into Season 5, I spoke with virtually the entire cast, as well as Mr. Filoni, and everyone said the same thing: this season is about consequences, and yes, big things will happen. When I pushed for more on my favorite padawan, Mr. Filoni's trademark look of consternation washed over his face as he would just say, "Yes, this is a big season for Ahsoka."
And so, let the conflicted feelings begin. It was so utterly heart-breaking to be betrayed by Barriss, by the Jedi Council (to say nothing of my utter hatred for Tarkin), that we had no time to recover before Ahsoka deciding to leave it all behind. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that at least for now, it didn't have to come to her death. Of course, again being a huge Star Wars fan I'm no concerned about the Jedi Purge, but that's neither here nor there. Ultimately, she had to go away somehow, and I'm glad it wasn't through death. Indeed, her choosing to go probably has a greater impact on Anakin than her simple death would. In the end, Anakin has to choose to leave the Jedi way behind and become Sith, and now there's greater personal prevalance of that in his life than there was before Ahsoka walked into it.
I will miss Ahsoka so much, though. Who knew the somewhat annoying brat would sneak her way into our hearts so deeply? And what is to come of her now? There will be another season of The Clone Wars, but is Ahsoka's story there just finished? It seems likely - this was a nice, neat(ish) way to get her off the show without having to destroy children everywhere with her death, and bringing her back now would open too many fresh wounds.
Not enough could possibly be said of Ashley Eckstein's performance in this episode. We heard humble, indignant, scared, all in one episode. And those last lines, first the deeper tone that carried a true finality to it when speaking to the Jedi Council, then the way she spoke, addressing her former master as "Anakin" and again, that last "I know;" Eckstein made Ahsoka a real, living character with incredible growth - and most of all in this episode.
Ahsoka Tano's story on The Clone Wars coming to a close really means that Anakin's descent into the Dark Side is now just around the corner. Ahsoka wasn't just our way in to the story, she was what kept Anakin out of his fate. The Jedi Council themselves say the Dark Side is working in this matter, but fail to see that it is working to turn them against her, and to lead Anakin to his final choice.
And now The Clone Wars must continues and it will speed toward Episode III that much faster. It's nice to think that somehow, thanks to her new status, Ahsoka grows old, escapes the Purge, and maybe even winds up meeting Luke and/or Leia in some far-off future, happening upon them in a Cantina in the Outer Rim. But the show is darker without her, the drums of war beat harder without her, and the Jedi Order and Republic are doomed without her (something that Darth Sidious could clearly sense, hence needing to dispose of her one way or another).
So, Dave Filoni's promise of "consequences" has come to fruition. Darth Maul's power base is destroyed and Savage Oppress is dead. Asajj Ventress is a glorified force-sensitive bounty hunter. Ahsoka Tano is gone from the Jedi Order, cutting another tether of Anakin's to the Light. Barriss Offee has shown dissent in the Order, and may have unintentionally fueled the public opinion that will be the downside. The military might has increased, Tarkin is more powerful, and Sidious has managed it all while still remaining hidden. Yes, there are consequences to this season, and while I'm sad to see Ahsoka go, I'm also very happy that this show, this cartoon has the integrity and respect for its story and its characters to move in directions like this.
Ahsoka Tano and The Clone Wars brought me back into Star Wars fandom and served as a launchpad for a stronger love of the property than I'd ever had before. Since getting into the show, I've now read about 20-30 novels in the Star Wars universe, hundreds if not thousands of comics, and engrossed myself in its mythos more than any one property in my lifetime. Thank you, Ahsoka, for bringing me closer to The Force than ever before. We will miss you.
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