With launch of the new High Republic series, we get our first look at what the Jedi Order was like when it actually functioned the way it’s supposed to.
Compare this to the Prequel trilogy, and the decadent organization lost in its own traditions, too blind to see the rise of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious in plain sight. This same organization also failed the two most promising members of the Order in generations – with devastating consequences for the galaxy.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars and depth of character
We have The Clone Wars TV series to thank for most of this drama, and Dave Filoni built up what George Lucas hinted at in the movies. Anakin Skywalker is the central figure in the destruction of the Jedi and rise of the Sith, but no-one exists in a vacuum and Anakin’s poor relationship with the Jedi Order is a primary reason for his downfall.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars also introduced us to Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, who grew into a fan favorite and a character with depth and nuance. Anakin and Ahsoka were both Jedi of tremendous skill, and they could have been the greatest Force-wielders in the Republic. But the Order failed them both.
Anakin Skywalker: The Little Kid Nobody Believed In
Anakin was always viewed poorly by the Jedi. You’d think the Council would have some interest in seeing whether this kid really was the Chosen One of prophecy, and that perhaps a senior Jedi would have been assigned to train him.
But no. Anakin was made apprentice to Obi Wan Kenobi, a young man barely out of training himself. No offense to Obi Wan, but surely a padawan as important as Anakin deserved the attention of a wise master like Shaak Ti or Plo Koon?
In each film, it’s obvious that senior Jedi like Mace Windu and Ki Adi Mundi never respected Anakin. This contempt is even clearer in The Clone Wars, where Anakin’s performance in leading the war effort fails to change the Council’s view that he’s still just a reckless kid.
Yoda correctly recognizes the greatest danger in Anakin, his likelihood to develop emotional attachments, and believes that this might lead to the Dark Side. But somehow he concludes that giving Anakin a padawan will solve this problem.
And so, in the middle of the Battle of Christophsis, 14-year-old Ahsoka Tano shows up, reporting to Anakin as his new apprentice.
A relationship based on emotion
Much has been made of how Anakin related to his padawan, and throughout the Clone Wars stories we see him react emotionally toward her. In the early days he’s mostly frustrated, with many sarcastic comments, but as Ahsoka begins to prove herself their relationship grows into one of mutual respect and affection. When Ahsoka goes missing or is trapped, Anakin stops at nothing to save her, unwilling to leave her behind or walk away. Anakin is even admonished by Luminari Unduli in the episode “Weapons Factory” for his unwillingness to let his padawan go.
Anakin’s emotions often give him strength when he needs it. It’s a shame the Jedi never share this view.
Does Anakin love Ahsoka?
Some fans like to read more into the Anakin and Ahsoka relationship, including the idea that they’re romantically involved. But we have to remember that throughout the series Anakin is married to Padme, and no matter how strongly he might have felt for Ahsoka, he always thought of her as a friend, or perhaps a little sister.
This doesn’t mean that Anakin doesn’t love Ahsoka, though. He was devastated when she left the Jedi Order (more on that next), and his joy at seeing his former padawan again in Season 7 of Clone Wars is obvious.
But the Jedi forbid it
Anakin Skywalker is driven by his emotions, and this isn’t always a good thing. But if the Jedi Order had ever valued him, they could have actively directed his emotions toward good purposes. Instead, they clung to their old stories of Jedi tradition and never tried to think of new ways to explore the Force. In the end, the Order left Anakin with nowhere to turn as he agonized over his Force visions of Padme’s death. Are we really surprised at how his journey ended?
Ahsoka Tano: The Last Chance to End Things Well
Ahsoka is a great character, having had five and half seasons of Clone Wars plus a significant role in Star Wars: Rebels to develop her story. We see her grow from brash young padawan into a powerful, independent woman who is more than a Jedi.
Ahsoka and Anakin share a lot of qualities. They’re both tempestuous, in-the-moment kind of people, eager to engage in battle and ask questions later. Obi Wan probably cringed when he realized just how much this master and apprentice fed off each other, and I seriously wonder if he ever said anything to Yoda. Still, Ahsoka and Anakin performed admirably together when they learned to stop bickering.
Ahsoka’s upbringing was much more traditional, although the war swept away any sense of normalcy for her generation of students. She tried her best to be a Jedi, but as the war dragged on she admitted that things weren’t as black and white as she’d once thought.
Even so, she remained loyal, risking her life countless times and remaining true to her vows. It was thus a shock, after she was framed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple, just how quickly the Council abandoned her and threw her to a military tribunal. Even Obi Wan Kenobi lacked the courage to save her, and Ahsoka experienced the overt rejection of the Order that Anakin had felt emotionally for years.
In the end, it was Anakin who uncovered the true criminal and saw Ahsoka freed. The Council invited Ahsoka to return, but by now her eyes were truly open and she turned her back on them. Seeing Ahsoka leave the Order was the last straw in Anakin’s already shaky allegiance to the Jedi, leaving him vulnerable to Chancellor Palpatine and his Dark Side purposes.
It could be said that this incident is the first time either Anakin or Ahsoka believe that they might have a path outside the Order. The sadness on their faces as they share goodbyes is tragic, each knowing that they can’t save the other.
Who is Ahsoka in love with?
Ahsoka’s emotions were always kept in check while she served in the Order, although Lux Bonteri and Barriss Offee are each a possible romantic interest.
Ahsoka loved Anakin as much as he loved her, but it was a sibling affection, not romantic. They’re reunited in the final season of Clone Wars and they share a nice moment together, but it’s a testament to Ahsoka’s character that she holds back during their interaction. Whereas once she might have thrown her arms around Anakin in a hug, here we see a a more mature, independent Ahsoka.
Fans can only hope that Ahsoka one day finds someone special to share her feelings with.
A Galaxy Weakened
The final season of Clone Wars does a nice job of wrapping up Ahsoka’s story and tying in the events related to Revenge of the Sith with the greater storyline. (Yes, I consider Clone Wars to be the greater storyline than the Prequel movies.)
Anakin Skywalker succumbs to his emotions and, in order to save Padme, accepts the offer from Palpatine to turn to the Dark Side as Darth Vader. He is truly alone at this moment, having battled Obi Wan, Force-choked Padme and lost Ahsoka. Anyone who might have been able to save him from himself was now gone from his life.
If ever the Jedi published an article on how to save emotional members from temptation, it clearly wasn’t widely read. Better to save the old traditions, prestige and related perks, I guess, than save the galaxy.
Does Anakin ever see Ahsoka again?
Darth Vader believed for many years that Ahsoka was dead, but Dave Filoni and Disney had a surprise for everyone when Ahsoka was re-introduced in Star Wars: Rebels. A major player in the second season, Ahsoka eventually squares off against her former master.
They share the stage together one more time, but as opponents rather than allies. Seeing these two old friends facing off against each other is far more powerful than the Vader-Kenobi rematch in A New Hope, because this time we’ve been along for the entire emotional journey.
Their final confrontation is one of the greatest moments in Star Wars, and classic Filoni. But it can also be read as the ultimate failure of the Jedi Order, with its two greatest members locked in deadly combat at the top of a Sith temple amidst a crumbling galactic order.
Anakin and Ahsoka could have been the greatest asset the Jedi ever had – but the Order, in its stubborn blindness, lost them both. Luke Skywalker was right when he declared, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”