This Star Wars: Ahsoka article contains spoilers.
Ahsoka has wasted no time introducing fans to all kinds of new lore and corners of the Star Wars universe. From bringing Grand Admiral Thrawn to live action for the first time to an extragalactic adventure to the homeworld of the Nightsisters, Ahsoka is taking us where no other live action Star Wars project has gone before.
Then there’s the show’s surprising new take on Imperial stormtroopers, specifically the gold-accented Night Troopers serving Lars Mikkelsen’s Thrawn on Peridia. Presumably, these are the same troopers who were stationed in Thrawn’s fleet when Ezra had them all zapped by purrgil to parts unknown at the end of Rebels, and it’s clear they’ve fallen on some hard times in the decade since.
As Thrawn makes his dramatic entrance to meet Lady Morgan, Baylan, and Shin on Peridia, we get a good look at his ranks with their cracked, dirty armor, the damage repaired kintsugi-style with gold and gray metals or bandaged up with a blood red fabric similar to the color of the Nightsisters’ robes. And they’re now led by the mysterious Captain Enoch, a stormtrooper whose helmet faceplate has been replaced by a very creepy golden mask. In other words, these are not your average stormtroopers, and it gets weirder.
At the end of Ahsoka episode 6, “Far, Far Away,” Thrawn tells the Nightsisters’ Great Mothers that he “once again requires the aid of their dark magick,” as his forces prepare to make the trip back to the known galaxy and wage war against the New Republic. But what exactly does the Grand Admiral need Nightsister magick for? Ahsoka actually foreshadowed what he might be using the dark magick for earlier in the season.
If you recall, former Inquisitor Marrok met his end at the wrong end of Ahsoka’s lightsaber. But as he fell over dead, a thick green smoke spewed out of his lifeless body, leading many to theorize that Marrok was actually a dead Inquisitor who had been resurrected by Nightsister magick (their spells were usually green in color in animation) prior to the start of the series. That of course tracks with what we already know about these witches, who at one point reanimated the dead in The Clone Wars.
So, are the Nightsisters using their magick on Thrawn’s stormtroopers, keeping them alive for the Grand Admiral long after they’ve expired? Thrawn hints his forces have suffered quite a few casualties when Lady Morgan asks why he won’t send more men to help Baylan and Shin hunt down Sabine and Ezra. “During this exile, our numbers have dwindled,” the Heir to the Empire explains to Morgan, implying that most of his men are dead.
The troopers that remain are simply not normal, and we’re not just talking about their armor and how their wrapped up in Nightsister fabric, but the way they carry themselves. For example, none of them speak except Enoch, whose voice sounds anything but human, and at one point he even uses a strange language to communicate with his men. The Night Troopers also chant Thrawn’s name as he enters the hangar, which definitely isn’t standard operating procedure for soldiers of the Empire. You didn’t hear everyone chanting, “Pal-pa-tine, Pal-pa-tine,” as the Emperor arrived on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, after all.
But the most obvious evidence that the Witches of Dathomir are controlling these soldiers is the “Night Trooper” name itself. These are stormtroopers so bewitched the Great Mothers named them after themselves. This collaboration clearly runs pretty deep.
If it does turn out the Nightsisters have raised a zombie army for Thrawn, this will hardly be the first time Star Wars has dealt with undead stormtroopers. In 2009, Del Rey published the novel Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber, which featured zombified, flesh-eating stormtroopers accidentally infected by a bio-weapon. That book is no longer canon, and the Night Troopers on Ahsoka aren’t eating people (yet), so there’s no actual connection between the two stories, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the Empire has been known to conduct all kinds of unnatural experiments throughout the history of Star Wars.
There’s of course the very secret strand-cast experiment that has been teased throughout the Mandoverse and that will somehow eventually lead to Emperor Palpatine returning in The Rise of Skywalker about 25 years after the events of Ahsoka. But there are also more direct examples of the Empire using other supernatural means to power its troopers in the now non-canon Legends continuity.
In the video game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, an Imperial cult known as the Empire Reborn use a “Force nexus” — in this case, the energy of the Jedi and Sith spirits who died in an ancient battle in a place called the Valley of the Jedi — to give a special unit of stormtroopers dark side powers. The Empire Reborn names them Shadowtroopers and arms them with lightsabers to attack Luke’s Jedi Temple later in the game. The Empire Reborn also allied itself to and worshipped a trans-dimensional being called Waru in the novel The Crystal Star by the great sci-fi author Vonda M. McIntyre (who also wrote some of the best Star Trek novels to date). In order to keep Waru happy, they fed it the life-force of kidnapped children. The old Expanded Universe was wild, man.
You probably shouldn’t expect anything as extreme as the Empire Reborn on Ahsoka, but the point is that the Empire has never been afraid to get a bit…weird in their quest to reclaim power over the galaxy. If that means teaming up with space witches and reanimating dead stormtroopers, so be it.
Star Wars: Ahsoka is streaming now on Disney+.