WARNING: SPOILERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE SEASON TWO FINALE OF STAR WARS REBELS INSIDE!
When Ahsoka Tano first appeared in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, very few people would”ve believed this annoying child would eventually become one of the most complex, interesting characters in the Star Wars universe. Assigned to Anakin Skywalker as his Padawan, Ahsoka was just another bratty teenager in a galaxy full of whiny youths. But as The Clone Wars animated film fed into The Clones Wars cartoon, something wonderful happened: character growth.
Over the course of five seasons, fans watched as Anakin and Ahsoka grew up together. Ahsoka became an important foil for Anakin, helping him mature from Obi-Wan”s moody apprentice into the best general in the Jedi Army, albeit a Jedi still ruled by his emotions. It was Anakin”s knee-jerk reactions to both battle situations and Jedi Council decisions that in turn would shape Ahsoka into a Jedi willing to bend the rules. Though Yoda had assigned Ahsoka to Anakin in the hopes it would ease Skywalker”s fear of losing loved ones – becoming the teacher to a student he knew would one day leave – that plan backfired. Instead of a distant-yet-affable bond, Anakin and Ahsoka became a family. This bond culminated in Anakin siding with Ahsoka when she was framed for bombing the Jedi Temple and expelled from the Order in the final season of The Clone Wars. Ultimately, Skywalker sacrificed many of the Jedi morals to clear his Padawan”s name. However, Ahsoka was disillusioned with the Order, seeing how they”d drifted from their duty to serve the Force in order to serve the Republic and declined to become a Jedi Knight.
The loss of Ahsoka helped drive Anakin to his suspicion and hatred of the Jedi Order, an emotion Palpatine would manipulate very effectively, turning Anakin to the Dark Side.
Skip forward fourteen years. The Galactic Empire rules with an iron fist, and Darth Vader strikes terror into the hearts of the galaxy. That is the backdrop of Lucasfilm”s news series, Star Wars Rebels. As in The Clone Wars before it, Ahsoka Tano plays a crucial role in Rebels. Now one of the premiere leaders of the nascent Rebellion, an adult Ahsoka has come to grips with her place in the galaxy. No longer a Jedi, but trained in their ways and armed with dual (white-bladed) lightsabers, one could argue Ahsoka is the first true Grey Jedi in the new Star Wars canon. But with Ahsoka rejoining the fight, and Darth Vader playing a pivotal role in Rebels, the question of Ahsoka”s fate became inevitable.
Many fans believe that eventually, Vader will kill his former apprentice, as she is not in A New Hope or any piece of Star Wars lore beyond Rebels. Last year, I was one of those people. But no longer. After the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels, I don”t think Vader is capable of killing the last link to his past. Everything Anakin did on his path to becoming Vader was an attempt to save someone he loved from death. Failing Padme was a massive blow. If Vader couldn”t kill Ahsoka during their final confrontation at the Sith Temple, I seriously doubt he ever will.
So if the master doesn”t kill the apprentice to sever the last link to the man he once was, what is the fate of Ahsoka Tano?
My new theory lies with Emperor Palpatine. At the beginning of Season 2, Darth Vader reveals Ahsoka”s existence to his master. Palpatine wants Ahsoka alive, ostensibly to help ferret out other Jedi that escaped the purge. But Palpatine always has ulterior motives and as Ahsoka said herself, ‘I am no Jedi.” The Emperor could easily believe he could turn the powerful Force-wielder to the Dark Side. If that”s the case, there will come a showdown. This could go down in many ways, but what would be the most poignant? One where Vader presents Ahsoka to the Emperor. One where Ahsoka refuses to fight her former mentor and friend. One where the Emperor loses his temper. One where Ahsoka is killed by force lightning, while Vader stands by and does nothing.
As much as I love Return of the Jedi, Vader giving up his life”s work for his son always felt like an abrupt heel-turn. But movies have a finite amount of time to explore character arcs, so I didn”t dwell on it. The joy of the new official Star Wars Expanded Universe is that it gives depth to Vader”s relationships. The comic explores his feelings about his son, and Rebels has done the same for his bond with Ahsoka. Watching the Emperor play out his sadistic game on Luke after living through it with Ahsoka would add an interesting dimension to Vader snapping. After losing so much – his mother, his mentor, his wife, his apprentice – seeing Palpatine taking another connection to him seems like a fantastic reason (and foil) for Anakin Skywalker to finally snap.