*** Be warned that SPOILERS ARE AHEAD, so if you haven’t watched the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, don’t read this article. Trust me, you want to go into this one without spoilers. ***
Over the last decade, Ahsoka Tano has emerged as one of the most popular and fan favorite Star Wars characters of all.
She is the primary protagonist of the animated The Clone Wars TV series, and also played a significant role in the animated Rebels series. And now, she has made her live-action debut in The Mandalorian!
So if this is your first introduction to the character, you may wonder why it’s such a HUGE deal for her to show up, so I’ve written a brief explanation of who she is, which hopefully will give you a better idea of just how awesome it is to see her in live-action.
But even better: maybe this will serve as an introduction to The Clone Wars and Rebels, both of which include some of the very best Star Wars storytelling ever done. I highly encourage both of them!
Anyway, back to the question at hand: who is Ahsoka Tano? Let’s dive in.
The Clone Wars
At a very young age, Ahsoka Tano was discovered by Jedi Master Plo Koon and taken to the Jedi Temple to train as a Jedi. When she was a teenager, in the very early stages of the Clone Wars, Tano was sent by Grand Master Yoda to the front lines of Christophsis, where Jedi generals Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fought. Skywalker was under the assumption that Tano was Kenobi’s new padawan, but she reveals that she was actually assigned to be the apprentice to Skywalker. Anakin was opposed to this at first, but as the battle went on, he warmed up to her. “You’re reckless, little one,” he tells her. “You never would’ve made it as Obi-Wan’s padawan… by you might make it as mine.”
Thus was born a bond that would grow incredibly close throughout the war, of Master and Apprentice, as Skywalker and Tano fought together in countless battles. They fought on Christophsis, they worked to return Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son to the crime lord, they helped destroy the Malevolence megaship, they worked to stop the spread of the deadly Blue Shadow Virus, and much more. They participated in the Battles of Ryloth, Felucia, Geonosis (the second one), and many more. She was often seen fighting alongside Skywalker and Kenobi, and together the three of them formed very close relationships and were almost unstoppable in battle.
At one point in the War, the trio stumbled their way to Mortis, a mysterious world strong with the Force. There they encountered the Father, Son, and Daughter, who wanted to find out for sure if Skywalker was the Chosen One. In the process, Tano was kidnapped by the Son (who was corrupted by the dark side) and was infected by a dark side spirit. She turned against Skywalker and Kenobi and fought them, but eventually the Son betrayed and killed her. The Daughter then sacrificed her life to prevent the Son from killing their Father, and as she took her final breaths, she instructed Skywalker to transfer her life force to Ahsoka, reviving the young Jedi.
Later, Skywalker and Kenobi were tasked with leading a covert operation to rescue Jedi Master Evan Piell, who was in possession of important hyperspace lanes but was imprisoned at the top-secret Separatist prison The Citadel. Skywalker forbade Tano from being a part of the mission, but she snuck into the group. Piell had half of the information, while the other half was with his officer, Wilhuff Tarkin. Tano proved to be essential to the mission, especially during the escape attempt. Piell was killed attempting to escape, but before he died he passed along the information to Tano, who escaped with the others and was able to provide the information to the Republic.
Especially relevant to The Mandalorian is Tano’s involvement on Mandalore during the Clone Wars. At one point, she joined the junior senator Lux Bonteri (who was a bit of a love interest for Ahsoka) on a mission to visit the Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch on Carlac. Tano pretended to be Bonteri’s fiance, and they met with Pre Vizsla, Bo-Katan Kryze, and the others from Death Watch. But as things went awry, Tano revealed herself to be a Jedi, freeing herself and making an escape – but not before she dueled with Bo-Katan, ultimately getting the upper hand.
There were a number of other missions and adventures that Tano was involved in during the Clone Wars, but a massively significant one as the War neared an end. Skywalker and Tano were fighting on Cato Neimoidia when they were urgently recalled to the Jedi Temple, which had been bombed, leaving many dead. The two Jedi were tasked with investigating the mysterious terrorist attack, which was feared to have been committed by a Jedi. They zeroed in on a potential suspect, but when Tano went to visit her in prison, the subject was killed with the Force. Clones saw what happened and assumed that Tano had killed her and arrested the Jedi padawan. She escaped the prison and fled to the Coruscant underworld, as the police, clones, and Skywalker hunted her. Skywalker knew that his padawan was innocent, but she was eventually apprehended by the clones and put on trial. The Jedi Council expelled Tano from the Order so that she could face a trial in the Republic, with Wilhuff Tarkin prosecuting her (and Padmé Amidala defending her). As the trial went on, Skywalker desperately searched for the real killed to clear Tano’s name, and he found her: Barriss Offee, another Jedi padawan who was close friends with Ahsoka. Just in time, Skywalker brought Offee to the trial, where she confessed to everything.
In the aftermath, the Jedi Council apologized to Ahsoka and said that this may have actually been the Force’s way of putting her through her trial, offering her the rank of Jedi Knight. But she turned it down, instead turning and leaving the Jedi Temple. Skywalker ran after her, and his apprentice told him that she was leaving the Jedi Order. She needed to find her new path – alone. Without the Jedi, and without him. In a moment of honesty, Skywalker told her that he understood the desire to leave the Jedi, to which she replied that she knew that. She turned and left, leaving her master behind.
The Siege of Mandalore
The Jedi was all that Ahsoka knew, so she was forced to forge a new path ahead. She spent time in the underworld of Coruscant, and wound up meeting the Martez sisters on Level 1313. She befriended them and wound up helping them on a series of adventures that took them to Oba Diah, the homeworld of the Pykes. While on Oba Diah, she was spotted by Bo-Katan Kryze, who tracked her back to Coruscant and asked for her help. The former Sith apprentice Maul had established control of Mandalore and murdered their rule, Satine – Bo-Katan’s sister. Bo-Katan had intel that Maul was on Mandalore, and she needed help taking him down. Tano agreed – and knew exactly where to get more help.
She contacted Skywalker and Kenobi and met up with them aboard their cruiser, as she and Bo-Katan laid out the plans, while Tano shared a heartwarming reunion with Skywalker, Rex, and the clones. But the reunion was cut short as Kenobi got word that General Grievous had launched an attack on Coruscant and they had lost contact with Chancellor Palpatine. The two Jedi had to rush back to aid the desperate defense, but Skywalker left Rex and part of the 501st with Ahsoka. Tano, Bo-Katan, Rex, and their forces launched an invasion of Mandalore, quickly driving Maul’s forces underground.
Eventually, she found the former Sith, who tried to enlist her help in taking down Darth Sidious. She initially agreed… until Maul revealed that Anakin Skywalker had been groomed as Sidious’s new apprentice. Tano refused to believe this, thinking instead that Maul lied, and the two engaged in a lightsaber duel that ended with Maul’s capture. Tano, Rex, and the clones left to take the captive Sith back to Coruscant – but along the way, Tano sensed that something terrible had happened with Anakin. Rex, meanwhile, had received Order 66 to eliminate any and all Jedi. He fought it, pleading with Tano to find Fives, but then fired upon her. Tano defended herself from the clones, using her lightsabers to deflect their bullets to create an opening in the ceiling, through which she escaped.
A fugitive aboard the ship, Tano freed Maul, hoping to create a distraction. Meanwhile, she investigated the records to find information about Fives, the clone Rex mentioned. She discovered that he had experienced a malfunction with an inhibitor chip in his brain (which caused him to turn on and murder a Jedi), and Rex was on record as saying that it’s possible the chip had a purpose they didn’t know yet. Equipped with this information, she enlisted the help of some droids to take Rex captive and remove the inhibitor chip from his brain. With her old friend once again an ally, the two of them fought their way through a hanger of clones, trying to find something flyable. They did, but the Jedi cruiser crashed on a remote planet. Ahsoka and Rex gave the clones a burial, with Ahsoka leaving her lightsabers behind.
Eventually Tano tried to settle on some worlds in the Outer Rim, but even there she could not escape either the Empire or the Rebellion. She was recruited by Senator Bail Organa (through an old friend, R2-D2) for the Rebellion, and she defeated an Imperial Inquisitor, the Sixth Brother, before taking the kyber crystals from his lightsaber and purifying them, turning them white. Soon thereafter, she joined Organa’s Rebellion against the Empire, working as a spy under the codename “Fulcrum.” Years later, she would supply information under this alias to Hera Syndulla’s Ghost crew, which would eventually become Phoenix Squadron in the Rebellion. Syndulla’s crew included a Jedi, Kanan Jarrus, and his padawan, Ezra Bridger, which drew Ahsoka’s attention. She thus took a more active role in helping the Ghost crew, including training Bridger and embarking on missions with them.
At one point, as the crew attempted to flee the siege at Lothal, they discovered that they were tracked by a lone Imperial fighter – one that managed to destroy a number of their ships. Hera and the team took to the Ghost to fight, and Ahsoka joined them. From the cockpit of the ship, Kanan and Ahsoka together used the Force to discern the identity of this pilot: Darth Vader. As Vader said to himself, “The apprentice lives,” Ahsoka screamed and collapsed. Later, she lied and told Kanan and Ezra that she didn’t know who it was, but insisted that she had to leave to answer some questions.
On another mission that followed, members of the Ghost crew traveled – at Tano’s suggestion – to a remote world, where Rex and two other clones lived in anonymity. Kanan, a survivor of the Purge, initially didn’t trust them, but they won his respect, and Rex left with them to join the Rebellion and reunite with Tano.
Tano joined them on a later mission, to rescue some Force-sensitive children before the Empire could get them. Kanan and Ezra traveled to a planet to retrieve the infants, but were met by two Inquisitors. As the Jedi struggled to escape, Ahsoka showed up and fought off the Inquisitors, allowing time for the Rebels to escape. On yet another mission, Tano joined Kanan and Ezra to journey to a Jedi Temple on Lothal, searching for answers. The three of them each underwent various visions and trials, and Ahsoka was visited by a vision of Anakin Skywalker, asking her why she left him and if she knew what he had become. As she left the Temple, she saw a Force projection of Yoda, who smiled and waved at her.
This all was setting up for the seemingly inevitable confrontation, and it wound up happening on the ancient Sith world of Malachor. Tano accompanied Kanan and Ezra to the planet, where they discovered Maul, but more importantly, where Darth Vader found them. Vader initially confronted the young Bridger, but Ahsoka showed up to distract him. The two had a conversation, in which Vader said that, “Anakin Skywalker is dead.” When Tano replied that she would avenge his death, Vader said that revenge is not the Jedi way – to which Ahsoka said, “I am no Jedi.” The two engaged in a lengthy lightsaber duel, master versus apprentice, and Tano managed to deal a massive blow to the Sith Lord, cracking his helmet open. As she saw part of Anakin’s face, she promised him that she wouldn’t leave him this time. Vader said that meant she would die, and she was left behind by the others to face Vader.
But later, Ezra Bridger would journey to the World Between Worlds, where he saw the events unfold, and he reached through time and pulled Ahsoka out just before she was killed. In the World Between Worlds, they also encountered Emperor Palpatine, who was trying to gain access to the mysterious realm. Tano and Bridger managed to escape, going their separate ways.
Years later, after the fall of the Empire, Ahsoka showed up on Lothal to reunite with Sabine Wren, a member of the Ghost crew. Bridger had been taken into hyperspace with Grand Admiral Thrawn during the Battle of Lothal, and together Tano and Sabine left to go searching for him.
And now, with The Mandalorian, we know that at one point Ahsoka wound up on the planet Calodan, where we meet her in the show. She’s searching for information on the whereabouts of Thrawn, perhaps connecting with the search for Ezra.