Why isn’t Ahsoka in Revenge of the Sith?
That’s been the unifying question around which all speculation and rumormongering related to Star Wars: The Clone Wars since its inception five years ago has revolved. In fact, you could argue that few shows have been more defined by eventually finding out the answer to a particular question than The Clone Wars. On Lost, it was “How will they get off the island?” On Battlestar Galactica it was, “What happens when they find Earth?” How I Met Your Mother is, well, pretty self-explanatory in terms of its unifying question. These shows could be unnecessarily slavish to their defining questions, however. The more interesting series, still, are those built around questions related to a character’s ultimate fate. What will happen to Walter White on Breaking Bad as he becomes more and more a monster? Will Don Draper, that emblem of style and taste on Mad Men, ultimately be rendered a dinosaur, left behind by a more progressive culture that has no use for him or his chauvinism? (He doesn't like "Tomorrow Never Knows" for God's sake!) Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I think, falls into this latter category, because its central question about Ahsoka’s fate is character driven and reflective of the general uncertainty and impending doom facing the Jedi going into Revenge of the Sith.
Well, now we have an answer. Ahsoka Tano did not die. Asajj Ventress did not plunge a crimson blade into her heart, as many had speculated five years ago at the start of the show. Rather, Ahsoka, decided to walk away. She left the Jedi Order and its terrible war behind to create a new life for herself. Kevin Kiner’s traditional fanfare gave way to a subdued, string-heavy cue as she walked out of the Temple and into the hazy sunset of Coruscant’s twilight. Little does she know that her actions have probably saved her life.
I can only imagine that Anakin’s despair over losing his Padawan means he will try to drown his sorrow via some hot-and-heavy babymaking with Padmé then promptly leaving for six months to fight the Separatists in the Outer Rim sieges. Revenge of the Sith is nigh, my friends, and the Dark Side’s slow process of stripping away everything Anakin holds dear—including his trust in the Jedi Order—has begun in earnest.
“The Wrong Jedi” began with Tarkin briefing the Council about how the Republic military wants Ahsoka tried for treason before a Senate tribunal. Any Jedi-led trial would be biased. In order to present her before the Republic’s governing body for judgment, however, she would have to expelled from the Order. Mace Windu, increasingly an unlikable hard-ass and the personification of how much the war has changed the Jedi, if you ask me, acquiesced immediately. Yoda seemed to have more misgivings, but he still agreed to summon Anakin and Ahsoka to the Chaber of Judgment. Anakin was bereft. On some level, his whole life has been devoted to bringing order from chaos, a preoccupation with control—and controlling outcomes—that’s essential for his ultimate fall to the Dark Side. He could only turn to impotent rage to protest his lack of control over his Padawan’s judgment at the hands of the Council.
Calling her “Snips” one last time, he stood with her on the platform that raised up into the Jedi’s Chamber of Judgment. A cylindrical cavern, much like the chamber where Jedi are proclaimed Knights, her platform hung suspended in a kind of limbo between Anakin below her and the Council above her, as her fate was decided by forces well beyond her control. It reminded me of Capt. Kirk and Dr. McCoy’s Klingon trial on Qo’nos in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and I hoped a bellicose Mace Windu would shout at Ahsoka, “Don’t wait for the translation, answer me now!” Ahsoka pleaded her case but admitted that her awareness of these events had become clouded. “Clouded by the Dark Side these things are, Padawan Tano,” Yoda said. “Dangerously clouded. But not just surrounding you, surrounding many things in these times.”
NEXT: Ahsoka is expelled from the Jedi Order.
It makes you realize once again how little control the Jedi possess, even when it comes to the Force. For a long time, I, like probably most Star Wars fans, assumed that the Force obeyed the will of Force Users, and that it was a Force User’s intent that determined whether his or her actions are part of the Dark Side. Actually, the Light Side and Dark Sides of the Force exist independent of a User’s actions. By doing certain things, a User can gain the assistance, even approval, of the Light or Dark Sides, but the Force has a curious autonomy. Perhaps it’s because the Celestials we saw in the Mortis arc secretly govern—or serve as a cosmic conduit—for its ebb and flow. It’s almost as if the Light and Dark Sides are diffuse, God-like entities that have to be cajoled into rendering assistance. Even Mace Windu himself at the end of “The Wrong Jedi” used the decidedly religious phrase “The Force works in mysterious ways.”
One thing is certain, the Sith are hellbent to master the Force, not just comply with its will. And to do that they needed to call upon the long-dormant Dark Side. Three generations before Darth Sidious, a Twi’Lek Sith Master broke through the Light Side bubble that had shrouded the Galaxy like a security blanket for a millennium and allowed the Dark Side to enter in once again—to the degree that its reemergence was felt even by the Jedi. His apprentice, the Bith scientist Rugess Nome, a.k.a., Darth Tenebrous, and then his Muun apprentice Hego Damask, Darth Plagueis, worked to widen this Dark Side rift until it could overwhelm the Light Side and engulf the Galaxy. The only way they would achieve ultimate victory is for the Jedi to become their servants, as well, which they finally achieved by getting them to give up their peacekeeper ways and fight this galaxy-spanning war for them. The sad truth is, Barriss Offee is right. And the wrongheadedness of the Order's Kafkaesque treatment of Ahsoka shows just how far the Jedi have fallen—they’re already doomed because they’ve strayed from the path of the Light. Order 66 is just a formality at this point. Just like how this ceremony to expel Ahsoka was merelt a formality. The Jedi weren’t going to listen to her testimony. They had already made up their minds. Anakin shouted “You can’t do this!” as they stripped her of her Padawan braid, and, with an extreme close-up of Ahsoka’s sad tennis-ball eyes as they read the verdict, told her she was expelled from the Order and would be served up to the Republic to face whatever justice they deem necessary to mete out.
NEXT: Anakin goes where the Tooka cats roam…to hunt down Ventress and get some answers.
Anakin brought in Padmé to represent Ahsoka before the Senate hearing. If his former Padawan didn’t already know about their relationship, the fact that Padmé was Anakin’s go-to choice for her defense council probably sealed it. Anakin, meanwhile, went down into the Underworld to find Ventress and figure out what had happened.
Down in Blade Runner-ville, where the Tooka cats roam, life was returning to normal after that fire at the warehouse where Ahsoka was captured. The night was sticky, and the neon lights of cantinas shone with a hazy blur. Ithorians were clustered here and there. And a saber-less Asajj Ventress was strolling along, only to sense a hooded Anakin Skywalker on a catwalk above her, ready to pounce. When Anakin has his hood raised, like he did as Darth Vader when executing the members of the Separatist council on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, you know he means business. Where Ventress caught Ahsoka unaware, now Anakin caught the ex-Sith assassin by surprise. He Force Choked her, then clutched her slender throat with his fist, as if he was about to break her neck the way he does Captain Antilles' at the start of A New Hope. But he let her speak. “When I heard your little rat was on the run, I thought she might bring a large bounty. I was going to catch your pet and turn her over to the authorities.” She was interested in money and revenge but then realized she and Ahsoka had a lot in common. They had both been abandoned by their masters and were now left alone and directionless. She was basically saying that Anakin is no better than Dooku, which is partly true, since Anakin will even take Dooku’s place at Darth Sidious’ side.
Ventress said that the hooded figure who snuck up on her and stole her mask and lightsabers must have been another Jedi. Not even Anakin was able to mask his Force signature around her as completely as this other person did. Then she realized Ahsoka had spoken to someone else at the Temple…Barriss. It was Barriss who sent them to that warehouse, knowing the explosive nanodroids would be there for the perfect frame-up. Anakin was convinced. But he left Ventress by notifying her that if she was lying, she was as good as dead. I loved Ventress’ reaction to that. “Such promises,” she snarled. Let’s face it, she did seem to go out of her way to antagonize him, though, by calling Ahsoka both a “rat” and a “pet” in the same breath.
Now for Ahsoka’s second trial in a span of 22 minutes. She was again on a platform hanging over an abyss, but this time stood in a cavernous chamber that looked much like the Death Star interior as revealed in the seminal game Star Wars: Battlefront II. Presiding over it was Palpatine himself. Yes, Tim Curry, Rocky Horror star and the one-time menacing concierge at New York’s Plaza Hotel, is now the voice of the Chancellor after the sad death of the great Ian Abercrombie. This Palpatine is a bit more snide because Curry is snide, though I thought all of the smoldering menace Abercrombie injected into the part was still there in this new interpretation. There’s just a little more growl in Curry’s Palpatine, a bit more emphatic rolling of the character’s R’s.
NEXT: Barriss Offee reveals her true nature, and Tarkin shows he’s a master of the sarcastic slow clap.
Tarkin, the prosecutor, said he would be seeking the death penalty on behalf of the state. As Ahsoka’s defense council, Padmé asked why the Padawan would kill someone using a method so easily traced back to her, i.e. Force choking the life out of Letta Turmond? When it came time for Tarkin’s rebuttal, he slow-clapped his mock approval of Padmé’s argument, the true mark of villainy, then brought up the valid point that Ahsoka had been seen fraternizing with known war criminal Asajj Ventress. I half expected him to follow that up with Chang’s “Sar-cas-tic claps” from Community.
Anakin was on the warpath. He showed up at the Temple and barged into Barriss’ dorm, where she was meditating, and grilled her about her last communication with Ahsoka. He picked up her lightsaber and inspected it, the way he does so many years later when he looks at Luke’s saber in Return of the Jedi. He decides there is only one way to find out the truth: to swing that saber at Barriss to see how she would react. If she didn’t raise another saber (or two) to defend herself and was struck down by his blow, then she would have been revealed to be innocent. And he would have killed her. If she withdrew Ventress’ twin sabers and defended herself, then she was guilty. Kind of a witch-trial scenario here. If she floats, she burns. If she drowns, she’s innocent, but still dead.
So obviously Barriss revealed her true nature, as almost all of us had deduced last week, and withdrew Ventress’ blades to parry Anakin’s attack. “I think they suit me,” she purred when Anakin asked why the hell she didn’t get rid of them. They ended up fighting all through the Temple, and even on its rooftop where a younglings lightsaber class was taking place, with hotheaded young Petro and Gungi in attendance. She yelled at one point that the only thing the Jedi Council believes in is violence, which is I guess why she decided to mock their priorities by bringing a major fight to the Temple itself. She dueled with such ferocity, using I believe the Jar’Kai technique employed also by Ventress and Darth Plagueis, that it seems extremely likely she’s turned to the Dark Side. But she was also saying that she found the Jedi to be warmongers, a point of view that fits her since she’s spent part of the war as a healer dealing with the casualties from one of the conflict's most terrible battlefields, Drongar. Maybe she just had enough. And I know I know, this doesn’t account for her previously canonical demise at the blaster of Commander Bly, being gunned down alongside Aayla Secura on Felucia. But come on, that was just in a one-off comic (“Reversal of Fortune,” I believe), and isn’t this more interesting?
Watching Anakin wield two blades (his and Barriss’ old saber) in a fight through the temple eerily foreshadowed his role in Operation Knightfall, taking place possibly just months after this. The fact that a Jedi could be a traitor capable of turning against the Republic—not to mention the ease with which the Council could fall into Barriss’ trap and turn against one of the good guys in Ahsoka—unquestionably results in Anakin doubting the Jedi and thinking they can be corrupted. The pivotal puzzle pieces that’ll allow Order 66 are very much being put into place.
NEXT: So what’s the Hitchcock connection this time? And does Barriss have a point about the Jedi?
Anakin burst in to the Senate tribunal right as the verdict was about to be read. He had Barriss with him, in chains. She offered up a full confession. After all, if she was trying to make a point by bombing the Temple, shouldn’t she let people know what that point is, rather than try to shift the blame onto someone else? She said the Jedi have become an army for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light they once held so dear. She has a point. Except that no true pacifist, if that’s what she thinks she is, would execute a bombing to get that pacifist statement across. Not to mention that it seems very much like she has turned to the Dark Side herself. And finally, it seems impossible she could have bombed the Temple and been smuggled into that Republic prison to kill Letta without assistance. Assistance from those wanting to discredit the Jedi. Who else could that be but the Sith and their allies? The Sith who are in fact in control of the Republic and who already have the Jedi doing their bidding in this war. No matter how you look at it, Barriss’ actions don’t align with her stated goals. She’s hopelessly misguided, or has been terribly used, or in fact was lying on the witness stand because she outright embraces serving the Dark Side. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turned up dead soon enough, so that whoever her collaborators are can keep her quiet.
All of this was devastating for Ahsoka, as you can well imagine. And it’s here that we have the Alfred Hitchcock connection writer Charles Murray intended for the episode to have when he titled it “The Wrong Jedi.” That’s an obvious reference to Hitchcock’s Neorealist-inflected The Wrong Man, the one time in his career that he rejected his mantra “My movies aren’t a slice of life, they’re a slice of cake” and made a movie that actually did hold up a mirror to society. To devastating effect. The Wrong Man starred Henry Fonda as a night club musician who is mistaken for an armed robber because of a striking resemblance and forced to stand trial. Whereas Hitch’s other “wrong man on the run” stories (The 39 Steps, Saboteur, North by Northwest) were stylish, sexy affairs of innocent men getting into adventures, meeting beautiful women, and not only clearing their name but saving the day by stopping some threat against the society that’s persecuting them, The Wrong Man shows the deeply felt, deeply disruptive, ultimately devastating effects of being wrongly accused. [SPOILER ALERT!!!] Though Fonda’s character is ultimately exonerated, his wife (Vera Miles) has lost her mind throughout the course of the trial and his incarceration and ultimately has to be confined to a sanitarium. This is what’s happened to Anakin and Ahsoka, but minus the romance and with the genders reversed. Ahsoka has been cleared, but she’ll forever be scarred, and Anakin may not have lost his mind, but it’s pushed him one step closer to embracing the Dark Side.
NEXT: Ahsoka proves she’s the Jedi the Order needs. Just not the one they deserve.
This ordeal was Ahsoka’s trial, the true test of whether she is no longer a Padawan but a full-fledged Jedi Knight. She passed. And the Order was ready to welcome her back as a Knight. But it was not meant to be. If the Council doesn’t trust Ahsoka, how could she trust herself? Not to mention that her experience of being on the run has given her a sense of the "shoot-first ask-questions-later" mentality the Republic has increasingly adopted. Could it be that Ahsoka actually agrees with Barriss’ assessment of the Republic and the Jedi? No matter what was fueling her decision, she realized the Order was no longer for her. At least until she had discovered more fully what she’s made of on her own. She’s been cloistered too long in the Jedi’s cradle of power. Now that she’s seen how so many of the Republic’s less fortunate citizens live, how could she stay there?
When Anakin offered her back her Padawan braid, she closed his hand and gently refused it. And she walked out. My favorite moment in this scene, was how, on the right edge of the frame, Obi-Wan was actually going to go after Ahsoka and Anakin, but Plo Koon softly put a hand on his shoulder to hold him back. This was not a matter Obi-Wan, nor the Council, nor Anakin himself could decide. Only Ahsoka could. The fact that she wanted to walk away from a life of power, privilege, material comfort, and military authority, means that Ahsoka is the Jedi the Order truly needs, someone capable of letting go, who isn't defined by status and attachment. However, she may not be the Jedi the Order deserves. Just think how different she is from Anakin, who will cling to power and authority above all else, whose world is shattered when he’s not promoted to “Master” when earning a seat on the Council. He will fight to preserve everything he’s attached himself to, even if it means destroying all of it in the end like a petulant child who’d rather ruin his playthings than let someone else get their hands on them.
What was a revelation, though perhaps with hindsight not a particularly startling one, is that Ahsoka seems to be aware of Anakin's secret marriage to the good senator from Naboo. When Anakin said he had also thought about leaving the Order, she said, "I know." Eventually, Anakin will walk away, much like Ahsoka. Except that unlike Ahsoka he will insist upon leaving the Order in rubble in his wake.
Ahsoka’s choice to walk the earth—or walk the galaxy if you will—is the best possible outcome for her. It proves she’s the kind of Jedi the Order needs most of all, the kind of Jedi who, like Luke Skywalker a generation after her, is willing to lay down her lightsaber. And because of that, it means she made herself a true ally of the Light Side and will probably survive the events of Order 66 to come, as all of her former comrades around her fall.
Will we see Ahsoka again? Who knows. Part of me hopes not, for the sake of the character. But if Lucasfilm Animation ever wanted to continue the storytelling of the Clone Wars series past the events of the Clone Wars itself, much like the way the Star Wars: Republic comics series became Star Wars: Dark Times after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and explore the era between Episode III and Episode IV, Ahsoka would be an extremely worthwhile character with whom to do that.
Until that day, if it ever comes, I feel like Ahsoka has reached full maturity as a character. The circle is now complete. And the Force is truly with her, perhaps more than ever before.
To face uncertainty is to face life. That’s what Ahsoka did. And that’s what we Clone Wars fans must now do, since another season has ended and we don’t know when or where we’ll next see our beloved show. All we know is that there will be more. And when that day comes, when we get to explore that Galaxy Far, Far Away in animated form once again, your recapper will be there ready to geek out with you once again.
May the Force be with you all.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]