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Everything you need to know before the ‘Ahsoka’ series debuts

<i>Disney/Everett Collection</i><br/>Ahsoka Tano in
Disney/Everett Collection
Ahsoka Tano in "Star Wars: Rebels" Season 2

By Dan Heching, CNN

(CNN) — With this week’s premiere of “Ahsoka” on Disney+ – the latest live-action series to round out the ever-expanding “Star Wars” universe – a long-held hope of franchise obsessives and even some casual fans is being realized.

Ahsoka Tano, previously voiced by Ashley Eckstein in 2008’s animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” film and ensuing series of the same name, and the subsequent series “Star Wars: Rebels,” was never in any of the tentpole live-action movies, but is nonetheless a pivotal “Star Wars” franchise figure. Starting out as the Jedi padawan (read: apprentice) of Anakin Skywalker (read: the future Darth Vader), she in fact ties together several threads that span the first six major movies of the “Star Wars” saga (in other words, the classic original trilogy followed by the prequels released between 1999 and 2005).

Before Rosario Dawson’s much-hyped live-action appearances as Ahsoka in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” in 2020 and “The Book of Boba Fett” last year, her story was one told solely in the animated content within the “Star Wars” canon, which is still kept in high regard by experts and enthusiasts – they were directed, written, and/or produced by “Star Wars” uber-fan-turned-major-creative force Dave Filoni. (Filoni, as it happens, is credited with conceiving the character of Ahsoka with “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.)

As with any world-building lore, especially one as rich and storied as the “Star Wars” franchise of films and series, it’s easy to get caught up in various details within Ahsoka’s – and many overlapping characters’ – backstories. Many die-hards and completists would argue that the below barely scratches the surface in terms of who Ahsoka is.

However, certain pivotal moments in the animated content – including a beautiful origin story in the first episode of the “Tales of the Jedi” series of shorts from last year – paint a picture of Ahsoka as a staunch fighter with deep connections to other major “Star Wars” characters, not to mention a powerful link with the Force.

“Tales of the Jedi”

This 2022 series, which featured six standalone shorts that jump around various timelines within “Star Wars” to fill out several backstories and missing pieces, has a few brilliant moments dedicated to Ahsoka, including the first episode of the series, which shows her as an infant and displays how her Force sensitivity is so strong that she is able to fend off a fierce wild animal who steals her away from her parents in the jungles of her home planet. A later short in the series – the fifth, to be exact – displays pivotal passages later in her life, during her Jedi training as the padawan to Anakin (Luke Skywalker’s father, who famously becomes Dath Vader).

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (film and series)

The 2008 film served as the franchise introduction of Ahsoka, of the alien race Togruta. Her entry into the universe, as Anakin’s youthful and headstrong student, not only helped Anakin mature, but also showed her fiercely independent nature, and willingness to walk away even from the path of the Jedi to forge her own way. A key story arc in the series follows Ahsoka as she is framed for murder by a fellow Jedi, which causes her expulsion from the order. When the crime is discovered and Ahsoka is invited back to rejoin the Jedi, she declines – which many believe indirectly contributes to Anakin’s fall from grace and into the Dark Side.

While “The Clone Wars” series ran for seven seasons with over 130 episodes, the last three to four episodes of the final season show prime Ahsoka content. In the second to last episode, Ahsoka’s independence and commitment above all else to maintaining peace and justice is displayed when she makes the observation that, even though the Jedi are supposed to be peace-loving stewards, she’s had to be a soldier ever since becoming one.

These final episodes also coincide with the events of 2005’s prequel “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” which in part recounts the advent of Order 66, the nefarious order given by Emperor Palpatine (who is revealed to be the evil Darth Sidious) to have all Jedi exterminated. Thanks to Ahsoka’s light saber training by Anakin, she survives. These events also serve to set up 1977’s “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope,” which describes at the beginning how almost all Jedi had previously been wiped out.

“Star Wars: Rebels”

This series, along with Ahsoka’s more recent brief live-action appearances in “Mandalorian” and “Boba Fett,” is the storyline that most immediately precedes the new “Ahsoka” show, with many of those characters set to appear as their live-action counterparts for the first time. Among many other notable developments, “Rebels” sees a decisive fight between Ahsoka and Vader – formerly her Jedi teacher Anakin – in the Season 2 finale. Since Hayden Christensen (who played Anakin in two of the “Star Wars” prequels as well as more recently reprising the role in the Emmy-nominated “Obi-Wan Kenobi”) is also returning for “Ahsoka,” seeing their previous face-off is worth the time.

“Rebels” also introduces another Force-sensitive individual who trains to become a Jedi – Ezra Bridger – and shows Ahsoka’s connection to him and his team. The end of the series details how Ezra disappears with villainous military mastermind Grand Admiral Thrawn in order to remove Thrawn’s impending threat against his home world of Lothal, setting up Ahsoka’s search for both of them in the new series.

“Ahsoka” debuts with a two-episode premiere on Tuesday, August 22 on Disney+.

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