Star Wars: Rebels’ season finale featured the exploration of Malachor, the return of Darth Maul, and a battle against three inquisitors, but for much of the fandom, the highlight was always going to be Ahsoka Tano. Formerly the young Padawan of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars, Ahsoka made her return to the Star Wars universe early on in Rebels’ second season, and right away, viewers prepared for a confrontation between Ahsoka and her former master, now the sinister Lord Vader. It was such a juicy setup: a Jedi Padawan, who has not seen her master for 14 years, must fight against the man she once looked up to, now seeing him for the monster he has become.
And so throughout “Twilight of the Apprentice,” all in all a fantastic season finale, Ahsoka fanatics were just counting down the moments until Vader inevitably appeared for the showdown of the century. We were all pretty sure Ahsoka was going to be killed – her storyline needed to be wrapped up, both because her presence on Rebels always seemed fleeting and because her absence from the original trilogy must be explained. Finally, before the final commercial break, Anakin Skywalker descends onto Malachor, and we are all primed for the epic and emotional sendoff Ahsoka deserves.
The confrontation itself does not disappoint. Ahsoka must accept the fact that the Anakin she knew and loved is long gone, and what stands before her is something else entirely. “Anakin Skywalker was weak, so I destroyed him,” Vader says. “Then I will avenge his death,” Ahsoka responds. Chills. “Twilight of the Apprentice” also, more than any other piece of Star Wars content, truly made me feel that Anakin Skywalker is inside that Darth Vader suit. Though intellectually I obviously understood that, the transition in Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was so poorly done that rarely do I connect Hayden Christian’s Anakin to Lord Vader in the original trilogy. Here, in a truly magical Star Wars twist, Ahsoka slices through a bit of Vader’s helmet, and we can actually see – and hear – young Anakin Skywalker underneath the mask.
Yet Rebels ultimately botches Ahsoka’s sendoff by refusing to give her any sort of a definitive conclusion, throwing years of character growth out the window.As Vader approaches Ahsoka, ready to go in for the kill, the doors close, and Ezra and Kanan fly off. It briefly looks like this is merely the show’s kid-friendly way of killing off Ahsoka without getting overly graphic. We’re on Disney XD, after all. That’s a solid ending: Ahsoka dies heroically, saving Ezra and Kanan and refusing to give up on bringing Anakin Skywalker back to the light. It’s similar to the way Han Solo bites the dust in The Force Awakens.
But no, they couldn’t end it there, could they? As the episode comes to a close, we see Vader limping away from the battle, and we get this brief shot of Ahsoka standing in the entrance of the temple. Wait…she survived?
Maybe! Maybe not!
So much of the emotional baggage we bring to that battle derives from our knowledge that Ahsoka probably won’t make it out of there and that she is going to give her own life attempting to save Anakin. If she walks away unscathed, then what exactly was the point? Ahsoka’s storyline is going to have to be definitively wrapped up at some point, right? What better opportunity will there ever than this one, the chance to give her a hero’s death in “Twilight of the Apprentice”?
What’s frustrating isn’t even just that Ahsoka survives, though. It’s that it’s extremely vague what went on, and this final shot is just kind of tossed out there as an afterthought rather than a reveal. The Ahsoka beat is so quick that it’s difficult to even tell if she’s walking into the temple or if she’s collapsing after having been left to die. That’s how we’re going to wrap up the multiyear storyline of a beloved character? With a shrug? With a bullshit “you decide what happens”?
And it doesn’t appear that this is meant to be a Jon Snow style cliffhanger where we spend the next few months wondering about Ahsoka’s fate, only for her to make a return in the Season 3 premiere. No, according to Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni, this is it for Ahsoka, at least on this series.
I mean, the thing for me in this moment in time with this story – and I was pretty clear about this from the beginning in that Rebels is not Ahsoka Tano’s story, nor is it Darth Vader’s story, and we worked really hard to bring those characters into the story. But ultimately, I have to service Ezra and Kanan, and the crew of the Ghost. So a lot of that episode is portrayed through their eyes, and especially Ezra’s, as he witnesses this kind of titanic thing happening. It’s just so easy – especially in that situation – it’s so easy to have Ahsoka and Vader take over the show. And I think evidence of that is that even though they don’t encounter each other until act three, you immediately get the dynamic of what’s going on. I would say that – while I’m not a huge fan of being tremendously ambiguous as far as what happened – I would say that this is the one case where I think it’s alright with Ahsoka to leave things a bit open-ended. You wondered what happened to her before, but you knew she walked away. Now she kind of leaves in a state of conflict. I would just say that there are probably – and I’ll give you this as we go back a ways – there are probably more stories to tell with Ahsoka Tano, but I would not believe that that would happen necessarily on Star Wars Rebels. I’ve been wrong in the past, but I think that she has served the part of the story that she needed to for our characters here.
If the excuse is that we can’t give her an ending because Rebels isn’t about her, then why go through the effort of having that extra shot? If Filoni wanted to focus on Ezra and Kanan, he could have ended on them flying away and Ahsoka being presumably killed by Vader. There could still be some wiggle room if Lucasfilm wanted to bring her back one day, but for now, she has likely been killed. That’s a satisfying conclusion. Instead, we get this fucking stupid extra moment that’s the equivalent of a “THE END…?” at the end of a movie.
If this is truly the last we ever see of Ahsoka, and a strong, complex character’s storyline ends like a choose your own adventure book, that is some bullshit. Ahsoka Tano is a wonderful protagonist – one of the best female characters in the Star Wars saga. She deserved a real ending.