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This week it finally happened. After months of speculation and gossip, and without so much as an official sneeze from anybody at Lucasfilm or Disney+, Rosario Dawson debuted as Ahsoka Tano on The Mandalorian. And for some die-hard Star Wars fans this was a huge moment, serving as the fulfillment of some long-held dreams and the entrance of a beloved character into the more accessible main thoroughfare of the franchise. But if you are one of the viewers who were wondering, wait, who is this character? Or, perhaps more importantly, why is her showing up such a big deal? Well, we’ve got you covered.

Who Is She?

The character (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) first appeared in 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a prequel film that would serve as the kick-off to George Lucas and Dave Filoni’s The Clone Wars animated series, introduced as Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. In the film and in early seasons of the series, which would air until 2013 before being brought back for a final crop of episodes earlier this year, Ahsoka was initially portrayed as Anakin’s bratty, annoying sidekick. (She infamously referred to Anakin Skywalker, who would go on to become the dark scourge of the galaxy, as “Skyguy.”) But as the series went on, she became a powerful Jedi, one who helped liberate Mandalore (which will undoubtedly tie into future episodes) and fought valiantly against the Separatist armies across the cosmos. And, of course, as things progressed, her closeness with Anakin became even more tragic, as we knew that he would turn to the dark side and she would eventually have to face off against her former mentor and friend.

She also became a key ally for Rex, a Clone Trooper who has been reinserted into the main continuity as the guy with the white beard on Endor in Return of the Jedi.

What makes her really interesting is her complicated relationship with the Jedi. She was taken away from her family by the Jedi Master Plo Koon (from the prequels) who understood that she was highly in tune with The Force. But after being prosecuted for an attack against the Jedi that she didn’t commit, she found herself a wayward Force user, neither Jedi nor Sith. To that end, she designed her new lightsabers with a white blade, signifying her nebulousness. This also allowed her to slip out of the official canon, allowing the references to the last remaining Jedi in the original trilogy being Luke and Leia to remain technically true (should she survive that long). It also makes the title of the episode, “The Jedi,” somewhat curious.

After Order 66 (the order to kill all of the Jedi, as dramatized in the film Revenge of the Sith and in the final four episodes of Clone Wars) was enacted, Ahsoka fled, eventually becoming an agent for Bail Organa (Leia’s father) under the codename Fulcrum. That’s when she met up with the crew of Rebels onboard the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels (which ran for 75 episodes from 2014 to 2018), a sort of animated follow-up to Clone Wars that employed the same animation style but was set in the early days of the Rebellion.

She has fought Darth Vader and Darth Maul, been pulled into a kind of Force-y netherworld, and become a true hero to fans of Star Wars, arguably becoming the most popular character to never actually appear in one of the canonical live-action Star Wars “saga” films. Countless fans have dressed up as her for Star Wars Celebration and other fan conventions and paid tribute to her in many different forms online, including some truly stunning fan art. And now she’s on The Mandalorian. Huzzah!

What is Her Connection to The Mandalorian (and Bo-Katan)?

Ahsoka Tano entered The Mandalorian first via dialogue spoken by Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), the titular character in Episode 3, “The Heiress.” She is the sister of Duchess Satine, who wanted to subdue the warmongering ways of the Mandalorians and bring peace to the planet. Bo-Katan rebelled, first forming an insurgent group called the Death Watch, eventually forming a different group, the Night Owls, once Darth Maul took control of the planet. This is where Ahsoka Tano comes in, as she helped to liberate the planet, allowing for the Darksaber to eventually be transferred to Bo-Katan. Clearly, something happened since the weapon is now in the hands of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and Bo really, really wants it back, in part to return the planet to its former glory. (Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of Bo-Katan on The Mandalorian.)

Bo-Katan and Ahsoka have clearly been keeping in touch, since Bo-Katan knows where Ahsoka is (when we last saw her, further on in the timeline at the end of Rebels, she was searching for Ezra Bridger, whom she had left in the aforementioned wonky Jedi netherworld). Could they team up once again to get the Darksaber back from Gideon? And will she help guide The Child (aka Baby Yoda) train to be a Jedi? Take him back to his kind? Or something else altogether?

It’s also worth mentioning that on Rebels Ahsoka formed a close bond with Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian onboard the Ghost, leading to speculation that Sabine could be entering the live-action realm of The Mandalorian very soon.  The final  sequence of Rebels was an epilogue that took place after Return of the Jedi, putting it in roughly the same time period as The Mandalorian.

Has She Been Teased in Live-Action Before?

Here’s the interesting thing: Ahsoka Tano has actually made appearances in the so-called “saga” films. You can hear her voice (once again supplied by Ashley Eckstein) in The Rise of Skywalker in the moment when Rey is being encouraged from beyond the grave by the Jedi that came before her (again muddying the waters of whether or not she’s actually a Jedi). This has led to speculation that she has died in between the events of Rebels and The Rise of Skywalker, something that might not necessarily be true, especially given the confusion around whether or not she’s an actual Jedi anymore and if her time in the aforementioned netherworld has given her some additional abilities.

It’s also worth noting that she could have technically been in a live-action Star Wars movie already, we just haven’t seen her – the Ghost, the ship from Rebels, takes part in the Battle of Scarif at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We never see inside of the ship, but we know that Hera Syndulla, the pilot of the Ghost (who is referred to in the movie as “General” meaning she has risen in the ranks), is still in command of her old ship and others, like Ahsoka Tano, could be there alongside her.

New episodes of The Mandalorian premiere Fridays on Disney+. For more, check out what we learned about Baby Yoda’s name in the latest episode, and our interview with Bo-Katan herself, Katee Sackhoff.

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