There’s never been a Star Wars Disney+ series quite as ambitious as Ahsoka. Not only is it a continuation of storylines introduced in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett but also a direct sequel to animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels. Specifically, the new Disney+ show picks up where Rebels left off, showing us what our favorite characters from the cartoon are up to in the years after the fall of the Empire.
But for those Star Wars fans who haven’t watched those animated series, catching up on multiple seasons of The Clone Wars and Rebels to learn everything there is to know about Ahsoka, Hera, Sabine, Ezra, and Thrawn might seem like a daunting tasks. That’s why we’ve broken down the key things you need to know about these characters as Ahsoka kicks off…
Ahsoka Tano Was Anakin Skywalker’s Apprentice…Until She Left the Jedi Order
Ahsoka Tano made her debut in the 2008 animated movie The Clone Wars, which was in essence a pilot film for the much more beloved TV series. The animated feature takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of Sith, and introduces the young Togrutan as Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi Padawan. From 2008 to 2014 — the show’s original run of episodes — we watched as Ahsoka learned the ways of the Jedi from Anakin, all while serving in the Grand Army of the Republic against the Separatists and the evil Sith leading them. It’s also during this time that she met Huyang, the droid professor who helped younglings construct their first lightsabers. In Ahsoka, Huyang now serves as her trusty companion.
While Ahsoka’s years learning at the Jedi Temple and at the frontlines of the war made her strong in the Force, her time with the Order came to a shocking end. After becoming disillusioned with the Jedi and being accused of a crime she didn’t commit, Ahsoka decided to leave the Order and her master behind, never officially completing her training.
After Escaping Order 66, Ahsoka Joined the Rebellion and Confronted Darth Vader
That doesn’t mean Ahsoka didn’t continue to fight for the light side of the Force, though. When The Clone Wars returned for a final revival season in 2020, we saw Ahsoka thrust right back into the war, this time on a mission to free Mandalore from Maul’s control (it’s a long story you don’t really need to worry about here). Although she succeeds in capturing Maul for the Republic, the mission ultimately ends in tragedy when Palpatine instructs the Clone Army to execute Order 66, aka the complete annihilation of the Jedi Order, as seen in Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka narrowly escapes a clone ambush and goes into hiding for a time.
But when freedom fighters begin to rise up against the new Galactic Empire, Ahsoka decides to join the fledgling Rebellion, working as a spy, handler, and informant under the codename “Fulcrum.” It’s during the early days of the Galactic Civil War that Ahsoka first meets the Rebel cell known as the Spectres, the scrappy main characters of the Rebels animated series: ace pilot Hera Syndulla, Mandalorian weapons expert Sabine Wren, fellow Jedi survivor Kanan Jarrus and his padawan Ezra Bridger, the ferocious Zeb Orrellios, and little grumpy astromech Chopper.
On one mission with the Spectres to an ancient Sith temple on the planet Malachor, Ahsoka must confront her greatest fear: the true fate of her former master. All this time, Ahsoka had believed that Anakin had been killed during Order 66, but when Darth Vader arrives on Malachor, she confirms the truth she had already begun to suspect. These former friends now find themselves in a duel to the death, as the temple begins to crumble around them. While the Spectres are forced to leave Ahsoka behind, she is later saved from almost certain death, thanks to some timey-wimey shenanigans we won’t confuse you with here. Although, if you really want to know, you can read about the World Between Worlds, the mythical plane Ahsoka used to escape Malachor and travel through space and time, here. Whether that information will be vital to viewers watching Ahsoka remains to be seen.
The short version is Ahsoka fought Vader and lived to tell the tale, although she remained trapped between Malachor and the World Between Worlds for quite some time thereafter. She finally made her return to the galaxy after the end of the Galactic Civil War (which explains why she wasn’t around during the Original Trilogy era) to begin the quest she’s on in the next Disney+ series. More on that in a second.
Hera Syndulla and the Spectres
The new show brings back most of the main characters from Rebels, including Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and Ezra (Eman Esfandi). We also know Zeb is out there, thanks to his cameo in The Mandalorian season 3, although it’s unclear whether he’ll pop up in Ahsoka, too. The new show also brings back Lars Mikkelsen as Thrawn, the main villain of the last two Rebels seasons, and makes the Grand Admiral the focal point of Ahsoka’s mission to take down the Empire once and for all.
That said, if you’ve not watched Rebels, you may be confused about who most of these characters are and why they’re all so important to the Star Wars saga. Let’s begin with Hera: although the Twi’lek ace pilot is now a New Republic general, she was a Rebel hero long before that, participating in the fight against the Empire since she was a little girl on her homeworld of Ryloth.
When we meet her on Rebels, Hera’s already in command of her own ship, the Ghost, and leading the Spectres. In fact, Hera’s cell of freedom fighters predates the official establishment of the Rebel Alliance, meaning her crew were rebelling long before the events of the Original Trilogy. But when it was time to come together as an organized Rebellion, Hera quickly became one of the early leaders of that movement, heading up missions both on the ground and in firefights in space.
At the end of Rebels, we learn Hera had a son with Kanan, a boy named Jacen. It’s unclear if Jacen will pop up in Ahsoka, but we know Kanan won’t, as he sacrificed himself to save the rest of the Spectres in Rebels season 4.
As a New Republic general, Hera’s command largely involves peacekeeping missions as well as keeping the Imperial Remnant at bay. But as the growing threat of Thrawn’s return looms, Hera may be thrust right back into an old war.
Sabine Wren Is a Mandalorian Who Once Wielded the Darksaber
Sabine plays a major role in Ahsoka and a lot has happened since we last saw her in the Rebels finale. For one thing, this Mandalorian warrior apparently began training as a Jedi in the aftermath of the war with the Empire, even becoming Ahsoka’s padawan learner! But it seems like things didn’t really work out between master and apprentice, who are now estranged at the start of the Disney+ show.
Although it’s unclear whether Sabine is even Force-sensitive to begin with, as she didn’t use Force powers on Rebels, it makes a bit of sense that she now uses a lightsaber as her weapon of choice. After all, when Sabine became the rightful wielder of the Darksaber on the animated series, she learned how to use it properly by training with the two Jedi on her team, Kanan and Ezra. So, despite her lack of Force abilities back then, Sabine’s been practicing the art of lightsaber combat in one form or another for years.
In later seasons of Rebels, Sabine returned to Mandalore to help liberate the planet from the Empire. It was after freeing her homeworld that Sabine passed on the Darksaber to Bo-Katan Kryze, essentially setting up the events that inform much of The Mandalorian season 3. When we catch up with Sabine on Ahsoka, she’s living in Ezra’s old watchtower on Lothal, and it’s unclear if she’s up to date on what’s been going on on Mandalore…or if she knows the Darksaber has been destroyed. Perhaps she’s due a chat with Bo-Katan?
Why Ahsoka Is Looking for Thrawn and Who Ezra Bridger Is
Ahsoka brings all of these characters together to complete two missions: to stop Grand Admiral Thrawn before he can launch his attack on the New Republic and to hopefully find their long-lost Jedi friend Ezra in the process. But what does one have to do with the other?
You once again have to go back to the Rebels series finale, in which the heroes liberate the Outer Rim planet of Lothal — the cartoon’s main setting and Ezra’s home — from the Empire. But that liberation didn’t come without sacrifice. In order to remove Thrawn’s fleet from the battle, Ezra used the Force to communicate with a herd of purrgil — space whales that can travel at lightspeed — recruiting them to wrap their tentacles around the enemy ships and zap them into hyperspace to parts unknown. But Ezra pulled off this maneuver while still on Thrawn’s capital ship, meaning he disappeared along with the villain, never to be seen again.
Of course, now that Ahsoka has learned that Thrawn might still be alive and building up his forces in deep space, there’s hope that Ezra also survived the hyperspace jump and is waiting to be rescued. And bringing back Ezra would not only mean reuniting with their beloved friend but adding one more Jedi Knight to the galaxy at a time when there aren’t many left besides Ahsoka and Luke Skywalker.
Fans of Rebels also learned why Thrawn is such a dangerous enemy, but this master tactician who is always 10 steps ahead of his opponents is actually much older than that cartoon. In fact, he made his debut in 1991 in the Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire as the first big villain of the post-Return of the Jedi era of Star Wars. Headlining a whole trilogy of books, the Grand Admiral put a very young New Republic through its paces in an effort to restore the Empire and eventually become the next Emperor. But Luke, Han, and Leia, alongside some new allies, made sure that didn’t happen.
Although the events of those Thrawn books aren’t canon anymore, it seems likely that the Grand Admiral will have similar goals in Ahsoka, this time with the help of Morgan Elsbeth (the cruel Magistrate from The Mandalorian season 2 episode “The Jedi”), dark siders Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati, and a secret Shadow Council of Imperial officers, as revealed in Mando season 3. True to the spirit of those classic Zahn books, taking down Thrawn will be anything but an easy task.
Star Wars: Ahsoka hits Disney+ on Aug. 22.