Ever since “The Mandalorian” first arrived on Disney+ in Nov. 2019, Lucasfilm has strived to bring the world of “Star Wars” to streaming in a way that would satisfy lifelong fans without alienating anyone who has never before traveled to a galaxy far, far away. In many ways, that mission faces its greatest challenge with the newest “Star Wars” show, “Ahsoka.”
Technically a spin-off of Rosario Dawson’s performance as former Jedi Ahsoka Tano on “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett,” the show is really a sequel to two “Star Wars” animated shows: “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.” Taken together, these shows, which ran from 2008 to 2020, span 208 episodes of TV, and roughly cover the events between “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (on “Clone Wars”) and “Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: A New Hope” (on “Rebels”). It’s a sprawling and intricate narrative foundation that can be intimidating to consider even for “Star Wars” fans who’ve seen all 11 “Star Wars” live-action feature films multiple times.
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Based on the first two episodes, “Ahsoka” creator and executive producer Dave Filoni — who directed “The Clone Wars” and co-created “Rebels” — has kept “Ahsoka” accessible to audiences who’ve never seen the animated shows. But only just. “Ahsoka” teems with references to characters and events that only fans of “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” could fully appreciate — that is, unless you’ve read Variety‘s guide to everything you need to know to enjoy “Ahsoka.”
We meet Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) as a 14-year-old Padawan apprentice assigned to Anakin Skywalker by Yoda. She’s Togruta, from the planet Shili; the blue and white tendrils that emanate from her head are called lekku.
Neither Ahsoka nor Anakin is exactly thrilled at first to be paired together, but they develop a strong connection; Ahsoka calls Anakin “Skyguy” (for obvious reasons), while he calls her “Snips” (for her snippy personality). When Ahsoka is framed for murder and expelled from the Jedi Order, Anakin works tirelessly, and successfully, to clear her name. But Ahsoka is so disillusioned by the experience that she forsakes the Jedi and thereby leaves Anakin.
Late into the Clone Wars, Ahsoka meets Mandalorian warrior Bo-Katan Kryze (voiced by Katee Sackhoff, who also plays her on “The Mandalorian”) and agrees to help her quest to win back the planet of Mandalore from Darth Maul (yep, he survived dying in “The Phantom Menace,” it’s a long story, just go with it). During their confrontation, Maul warns Ahsoka that Darth Sidious wants to make Anakin his new apprentice; she doesn’t believe him.
After Order 66 — which wipes out almost all of the Jedi — Ahsoka goes into hiding, and eventually begins working under a codename, Fulcrum, to aid the crew of the Rebel ship, Ghost (named for its ability to sneak under Imperial detection). Inside a Sith temple, with the Ghost crew in danger, Ahsoka finally duels with Darth Vader in the Season 2 finale of “Rebels.” Vader escapes, but Ahsoka’s fate isn’t revealed until Season 4, when Ghost crew member and budding Jedi Ezra Bridger — who has entered a liminal space between life and death and beyond time (again, just go with it) — rescues Ahsoka before Vader can kill her. They part ways, with Ahsoka returning to her earlier time period.
In the series finale of “Rebels,” with the Empire destroyed at the Battle of Endor, Ahsoka partners with a young Mandalorian named Sabine Wren to find the missing Ezra.
Many years later, Ahsoka and Sabine have parted ways, and Ahsoka is a lone warrior on the hunt for the missing Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn. On that quest, she partners with Mandalorian bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) to capture an Imperial warlord named Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto).
Born on Mandalore, Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar, and played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo on “Ahsoka”) at first was a cadet in the Imperial Academy, known for her skill for creating weapons. When the Empire uses those weapons against her people, she abandons the Empire — and with it, her family on Mandalore. At first living as a bounty hunter, Sabine is recruited to join the Rebellion by Hera Syndulla. She joins the crew of the Ghost as the engineering and weapons specialist, often wearing Mandalorian armor adorned with Sabine’s own artwork. In fact, Sabine’s prolific artistry — including a penchant for graffiti — winds up inspiring the symbol of the Rebellion itself.
During the Ghost’s search for Darth Maul, Sabine discovers the Darksaber, the mysterious blade tied to the mythos of Mandalore. At first, Sabine wants nothing to do with it, but she’s convinced to wield it to convince her home planet to expel the Empire. Ezra and his Jedi master Kanan Jarrus train Sabine to fight with a lightsaber, and ultimately, she gives the Darksaber to Bo-Katan, believing her to be the rightful ruler of Mandalore. (Sabine was not aware at the time that Bo-Katan had to win the Darksaber in combat in order to be considered the rightful ruler.)
In “Ahsoka,” we learn that following the fall of the Empire, Sabine attempted to become a Jedi as Ahsoka’s Padawan, but the partnership didn’t take, and they ultimately parted ways.
Played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Hera is one of the most talented pilots in the Rebellion and was a caring, parental figure to Sabine and Ezra during “Rebels.” Her father was General Cham Syndulla, who fought against the Separatists during the Clone Wars on the Twi’lek home planet, Ryloth. Growing up, Hera dreamed of becoming a pilot and flying across the galaxy. She finally got her chance after leaving Ryloth and working for Ahsoka Tano and Senator Bail Organa.
With her ill-tempered astromech droid Chopper, Hera piloted the freighter ship Ghost. Hera and her crew of Spectres completed important missions for the Rebellion and kept the “Rebels” family together through every obstacle and loss. Ghost can even be seen during the Battle of Scarif in “Rogue One” and the Battle of Exegol in “Rise of Skywalker.” In the series finale of “Rebels,” it’s revealed that Hera has a young son, Jacen, with late Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the greatest evil masterminds in the “Star Wars” universe, and he got his start in a series of novels before making his debut in “Rebels.” He’s a cunning tactical genius who worked his way up to the rank of Grand Admiral, as high as one can climb below Emperor Palpatine.
Lars Mikkelsen voiced Thrawn on “Rebels” and returns to portray him in live-action on “Ahsoka.” Thrawn is a member of the Chiss species, aliens from the Unknown Regions who have blue skin and piercing red eyes. He faced off against the “Rebels” crew numerous times, with the heroes always escaping by the skin of their teeth. Like Ezra Bridger, Thrawn was lost in space in the series finale of “Rebels,” and now Ahsoka Tano is on the hunt for both of them. “The Mandalorian” teased Thrawn’s return, but “Ahsoka” will finally see his live-action debut. He’ll also be featured as the villain in Dave Filoni’s upcoming Mando-verse feature film.
Where is Ezra Bridger? That’s the question on everyone’s mind in “Ahsoka,” but non-“Rebels” viewers might be wondering: Who is Ezra Bridger?
A Force-sensitive orphan from the planet Lothal, Ezra stowed away on Ghost and trained as a padawan under Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus. During his training, Ezra deepened his connection to the Force, mastered lightsaber combat and became a well-respected leader in the Rebellion. However, Ezra has been missing since the finale of “Rebels,” when he stopped Grand Admiral Thrawn’s plot to destroy Lothal. After sneaking aboard Thrawn’s ship, Ezra summoned a hyperspace-hopping space whale called a Purrgil to latch onto the ship and shoot them both into deep space. It’s unknown where Ezra and Thrawn ended up, but Ahsoka Tano vowed to find them.
During “Rebels,” Ezra and Sabine Wren developed a close relationship that that borderlined on something more romantic (having started as Ezra’s one-sided crush on Sabine). Sabine also held onto Ezra’s lightsaber and wields it in “Ahsoka.” Eman Esfandi plays Ezra in the new series.
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