When STAR WARS REBELS first started airing, I have to admit I was dismissive. Sure it pushed several nostalgia buttons, but it was a kids show. Over time, however, REBELS has evolved and become a more nuanced program, in much the same way that AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER did. Nothing better captures how far this show has come than one small scene in the recent episode, “Shroud of Darkness.”
The scene, of course, is where Ahsoka Tano, former padawan of Anakin Skywalker, comes to terms with what her master and friend has become. It’s a secret that has weighed heavily on her since the beginning of the season, when our band of heroes first encountered Darth Vader. A few people I know have questioned whether or not Ahsoka realized Vader’s identity, but given their connection, I can’t believe that she didn’t recognize his Force presence.
In the scene in question, Ahsoka is meditating in a Jedi temple, and is visited by the spirit of Anakin.
Anakin: “Ahsoka, why did you leave? Where were you when I needed you?”
Ahsoka: “I made a choice. I couldn’t stay!”
Anakin: “You were selfish.”
Anakin: “You abandoned me! You failed me! Do you know what I’ve become?”
And then the image of Anakin is replaced by the image of Vader, causing Ahsoka to lash out in fear.
This in and of itself is a heartbreaking scene, and my hat is off to the animators, as well as to voice actress Ashley Eckstein for her performance. Watching Ahsoka deal with the secret burden of what her close friend has become was enough for me to keep the episode in my DVR so I could rewatch at my leisure. But the scene became even more meaningful to me when, while debating some points of the episode with a friend, we turned on Ahsoka’s last appearance in THE CLONE WARS tv series.
In this episode, Ahsoka has gone through the upheaval of being cast out of the Jedi Order after being framed for treason. When her name is cleared, she refuses to rejoin the Order, despite Anakin’s pleas that she come back. “I understand. More than you realize, I understand wanting to walk away from the Order,” he tells her.
“I know,” she replies — the last two words she will speak in the series. And even more revealing, is how shocked Anakin looks at her response.
Given that this was their last exchange,* re-examine Ahsoka’s vision in REBELS. I believe we have the evidence from CLONE WARS that Ahsoka knew that Anakin was on a troubled path. Her guilt stems from her belief that she walked away knowing full well that he wasn’t stable and that she wasn’t there to stop him from falling. At the time, she needed space from the Order, to redefine herself after years serving a group that turned its back on her. But deep down, she wonders if she hadn’t been so “selfish,” if she’d paid more attention to the signs, if she could have saved the galaxy–but more importantly, her friend–from a world of pain and suffering.
You don’t need to have seen CLONE WARS to appreciate this scene. REBELS has continuously rewarded viewers who watched the previous series, however, and in this instance, it brings the emotion even further home. I’m very intrigued to see where Ahsoka’s journey goes this season, especially since deep down, I do not think there will be a happy ending.
*Earlier in “Shroud of Darkness,” Ahsoka tells Ezra the last she saw of Anakin, he was running off to defend the Chancellor, clearly referencing events from Episode III. Story Department, please tell me you have an explanation for this sentence! I am disregarding it as fact for now.