The Star Wars franchise has featured no shortage of beloved heroes and villains over the decades — the likes of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine have become some of the most heroes and villains in pop culture. Even more recent additions to the series have already cemented a place for themselves among the galaxy’s greatest legends.
While the Sequel Trilogy proved to be controversial for many reasons, characters like Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren nevertheless found no shortage of fans who found them to be compelling and likable characters, despite the much-loathed ending to their story. And of course, The Mandalorian has quickly become one of the most popular entries in the entire Star Wars canon, with the titular bounty hunter and his companion Grogu — better known as Baby Yoda — already becoming massive fan favorites. But of course, they’re far from the only Star Wars icons that the series has featured.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian saw the return of several beloved characters, from Boba Fett to Luke Skywalker. But one of the most highly anticipated guest stars was none other than Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson. To casual viewers, Ahsoka was simply a mysterious Jedi Knight who aided the Mandalorian in battle against the Empire. But to die-hard Star Wars fans, her appearance marked the live-action debut of one of the most beloved characters in the history of the franchise — one whose story is intertwined with some of the series’ biggest legends.
Ahsoka Tano first appeared, voiced by Ashley Eckstein, in the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film, which was theatrically released as a feature-length pilot to the TV series of the same name that premiered on Cartoon Network later that same year. She was introduced as a Jedi Padawan assigned by Yoda to be Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice — a surprising decision to fans, considering that Anakin had only just become a fully-fledged Jedi Knight. And more importantly, the existence of Anakin’s own Padawan was never even hinted at in Revenge of the Sith, making Ahsoka’s entire character a massive retcon to the series’ story. Not helping matters was Ahsoka’s impulsive and immature personality, which lacked depth compared to the other well-established characters of the series.
But while Ahsoka was initially unpopular with fans, that slowly changed over the course of The Clone Wars’ run. With every passing season, Ahsoka grew out of her childish, cocky behavior and became a seasoned, level-headed warrior. And with her newfound maturity, she also found a newfound skepticism towards the Clone War itself. As her understanding of the conflict deepens, Ahsoka stops seeing the Republic and the Separatists as clear-cut good and evil. She even joins Padmé in her attempt to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict — an attempt that is ultimately in vain.
Ahsoka’s character arc in The Clone Wars reaches its climax with the final arc of Season 5, in which she is framed for murder and is forced to become a fugitive of the Republic. Though Ahsoka ultimately clears her name, she becomes jaded after witnessing how quickly her former allies turned on her, and decides to leave the Jedi Order behind. But even so, Ahsoka continues to serve as a Jedi by deed if not by title, traveling the streets of Coruscant and helping those in need. She even joined forces with her old Clone unit one last time in the final days of the war, defeating Darth Maul on Mandalore before being betrayed by her own squad during Order 66. Years later, in the Star Wars: Rebels animated series, Ahsoka served as a major ally to the Rebellion during its early days. Her battles against the Empire even brought her into conflict with her former mentor, now reborn as the dark lord Darth Vader.
Though she spent most of her life as an exile from the Jedi Order, there are few heroes in the Star Wars franchise who exemplify everything a Jedi should be quite like Ahsoka Tano. She’s selfless, courageous, compassionate, and determined, living a life devoted to helping everyone she can and defeating evil wherever she finds it. She’s a hero of the Republic and the Rebellion alike, and continued fighting even after the end of the Galactic Civil War. Star Wars has had no shortage of iconic heroes over the years, but out of all of them, Ahsoka is perhaps the most dedicated to fighting the good fight.
Ironically, it’s her status as an exile that arguably brings Ahsoka closest to fulfilling the Jedi ideal. One major recurring theme of the Star Wars series is the idea that the traditional Jedi teachings are ultimately flawed — that rejecting emotion in favor of discipline is the wrong way to live, and that it’s better to be driven by love for others. In fact, every protagonist of the Star Wars films rejects the Jedi Order’s teachings in some way. Qui-Gon Jinn is a rebel and a trickster who puts his faith in Anakin despite the council’s wishes. Anakin becomes so constricted by the Order’s rules against attachment that he lashes out and betrays his allies under Palpatine’s manipulation. Luke held on to the hope that his father could be redeemed when Obi-Wan and Yoda told him otherwise, and he saved the galaxy because of it. He even tells Rey in The Last Jedi that the Jedi Order was ultimately hypocritical and overconfident.
But more than any other character in Star Wars, Ahsoka Tano is living proof that being a great Jedi doesn’t mean following the Jedi Order and its teachings. She rejected the Order to find her own path, and in doing so, she finally came into her own as a true hero. Ahsoka lives by the Jedi ideals of protecting life and keeping peace, but she does so without being held back by the flawed code that led to the Jedi Order’s eventual downfall. She makes every decision based on what’s right and wrong, not by whether something is against the Jedi code. And despite her disregard for the Jedi’s teachings — or perhaps even because of it — she’s arguably one of the greatest Jedi to ever live.
It could be argued that much of Ahsoka’s character, from her rebellious impulsiveness to her strong sense of compassion, is derived from Luke Skywalker, right down to their rejection of the traditional Jedi teachings. But because her story plays out over several multi-season TV shows rather than a trilogy of films, Ahsoka’s character arc feels much more in-depth and nuanced. She changes so much from The Clone Wars to Rebels to The Mandalorian that she’s arguably the single most multidimensional, fleshed-out character in the entire Star Wars franchise — and arguably the greatest Jedi as well. But wherever Ahsoka Tano ranks on your list of favorite characters, she certainly won’t be leaving the spotlight anytime soon. And with a spin-off series of her own in development for Disney Plus, it’s clear that Ahsoka Tano’s story is still only just beginning.