So, Star Wars Celebration 2023 was a lot. From a batch of new films that feel like they might actually get made to hyping up new Disney+ shows that we already knew were coming, this year’s event had something for every type of Star Wars fan — except for those done with the franchise at this point, of course. Understandably so, the Dave Filoni-helmed Ahsoka series, announced to be arriving in August, took up most of the online conversation over the weekend.
The first trailer is quite spectacular and contains more teases than anyone anticipated. If we consider how restrained Disney and Lucasfilm’s marketing for their Star Wars shows normally is, this one might be packing a lot of goodies, since they even confirmed the rumored casting of Eman Esfandi as Ezra Bridger.
Spoilers for Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian season 2, and The Book of Boba Fett follow from this point.
When the outcast Jedi showed up in The Mandalorian Chapter 13, most viewers had no problem understanding who Ahsoka Tano was and what she was after. It was a perfect “guest character of the week” episode with just enough information to make her work within the series’s main narrative. “Oh, cool, a Jedi on the run who’s able to point Din in the right direction.” That was all. But of course, her live-action introduction had to lead somewhere.
The first live-action Grand Admiral Thrawn name-drop also rang some bells even among non-fanatics; he’s been a key player in both the Legends canon and the current continuity, so anyone somewhat interested in Star Wars has heard of him. If you were just watching the funny space dad and Baby Yoda show, it was also fine, as Ahsoka exited the plot to do her own thing after freeing the town alongside Mando.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Ahsoka unexpectedly showed up again in The Book of Boba Fett, but once again, she was there to help move the plot along and let casual viewers know that the Skywalkers and she share some history. Again, well played… aside from the entire “let’s steal a bunch of episodes from Boba Fett in his own show” thing, but I should get over that already.
Now, the Ahsoka series is an entirely different beast. Think of walking into a Force Awakens screening back in 2015 without having watched any of the previous Star Wars installments. Yes, it’d half-work as a standalone adventure (and the film grossed over $2 billion regardless), but you’re getting constant callbacks, lore dumps, and big character moments that don’t land if you don’t have that experience with the saga. I mean, it’s Episode VII.
At this point, the same thing is happening with Star Wars television, and that’s 100% fine. Dave Filoni — and George Lucas, let’s not forget that — started developing an entire set of new characters and arcs with The Clone Wars roughly 15 years ago, and that ball has kept rolling across three eras of Star Wars, running in parallel to the events almost everyone on this earth knows about.
Ahsoka and other characters that were initially created to fill gaps between the films with stories that didn’t rely on the legacy characters have eventually become legacy characters themselves. In a way, many of them have grown into big parts of the future of Star Wars because they’ve risen to fan-favorite status. It’s hard to forget that Ahsoka herself once was as hated as Jar Jar Binks. Now, she’s probably the most famous Jedi that has only existed outside the films. And that’s changing soon.
Dave Filoni has insisted throughout this last Star Wars Celebration that Ahsoka will be perfectly approachable for anyone tuning in without any prior knowledge of the character, and I already know that’s just marketing talk. I explained the first, most obvious reason above, but the main thing is that she comes with a huge baggage of personal growth and even wacky mythology that goes way beyond “yeah, so she had plenty of adventures with Anakin as his Padawan and then went into exile.”
And that’s just Ahsoka. The entire thing has been written and designed to be Star Wars Rebels 2 (now in live action!). Whether it ties into The Mandalorian and the upcoming theatrical event film (it will) doesn’t even matter. It’s filled with tons of characters — such as Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla — who have gone through a lot already, so I can only imagine that jumping into this one without having done the animated homework beforehand will be a nightmare.
And you know what? That’s completely fine. With so much Star Wars content (God, I hate that word.) coming our way, it’s time for non-fanatics to pick their “battles” wisely. Much like the sequel trilogy in its own way, Ahsoka will only really work if you’ve gone through many seasons of The Clone Wars and Rebels. They’re great shows, but I totally get not having the energy or time to bother with them just to get into the new Star Wars thing that is following the Marvel Cinematic Universe model.
The problem here is that a lot of spectators who claim not to care that much about Star Wars anymore are getting really mad about Ahsoka fully working only if you watched Star Wars animation, and that’s almost as weird as folks walking into Avengers: Endgame and posting online afterwards that nothing made sense because they had only seen the original Iron Man once. You know, you can just disconnect from some pop culture discourses. Just a thought.
Regardless, the Ahsoka trailer has had a visible impact already, as my Twitter feed is now full of people finally getting around to watching The Clone Wars and Rebels, so maybe that was Disney and Lucasfilm’s plan all along: “Hey, we’ve got all this Star Wars stuff you haven’t watched included in the sub you were gonna stop paying for after The Mandalorian season 3 ended, so maybe stick around until August binging the cartoons while you do exercise or something.” I’d like to see those viewership numbers in the coming weeks.