Ahsoka Tano is a reminder that you can’t save everyone. Love alone does not conquer everything, and to quote someone from my chosen family, love should do no harm.
This essay contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars
By Rebecca Wei Hsieh
I admit, I had a meltdown and a half after watching the series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. There’s Order 66, Anakin’s Fall to the Dark Side, and all the fear that makes me want to return to this godforsaken franchise. But for many fans, Ahsoka’s return remains the culmination of the series’ revival. While the sight of Rex defying his inhibitor chip tore my heart out, it was Ahsoka’s last departure that broke me. I didn’t just mourn, however; I was very proud of her as a survivor.
Ahsoka initially joins the Jedi as a youth, and to quote 5.6, she and her colleagues are quick to think that the Order is “their real family”. The family dynamic is perhaps most evident between Ahsoka and Anakin, whom she regards as the older brother. As a result, Ahsoka is understandably devastated when she is unceremoniously charged with terrorism without her family support. The only person who shows her a minimum of faith is Anakin.
Of course, Ahsoka is by no means the only convincing portrayal of familial alienation, especially between carers and children. The chaotic family dynamics have played a central role in the stories we tell for centuries. But while I am referring to characters like Zuko, for example, only Ahsoka’s arc has resonated with me in a way that shakes me to the core.
After Anakin clears Ahsoka’s name, the Jedi Order greets her back with open arms, but she says no. She says no to a family that she wants back, one that she has want return, but cannot afford to.
Let me be clear: it is never easy to leave an abusive or toxic situation. Staying is never a sign of weakness. This shit is complicated and I’m not going to be part of fake, unhealthy comparisons. But there is a distinct taste of guilt in leaving loved ones behind who love you because they are no longer safe for you.
From childhood we are taught that love conquers everything, that love is enough to fix everything. Check out Disney, check out fairy tales, check out every other story where families ride every wave together, carried by their love. After all, family should mean that no one is left behind. But that is not always the reality of the family.
Anakin is Ahsoka’s pillar in the order and he clearly reciprocates her affection. So what does he do when she leaves? He stumbles over her and keeps centering himself. His own trauma doesn’t give him a free pass to ignore her feelings, especially when he’s her mentor. She can’t go, he says, because it’s the Jedi Order [her] Life’. He whips the classic “What about me?” From what implies that Ahsoka is selfish for leaving the Order, that her decision is somehow a personal insult to him. He admits that he understands the desire to leave the Jedi, but still expects Ahsoka to stay for him, for her family, because ultimately this family is her life.
But the thing is, Ahsoka White The Order is her whole world, and that’s why she has to leave everything she has ever known. When the family has let them down in such a colossal way, no matter how much love there is, leaving becomes less a choice than a necessity. Anakin is so much in one unfinished sceneBut even then, his conclusion is that Ahsoka is a “great disappointment” because she does not consider herself to be in danger for her family.
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Ahsoka knows all of this, but that doesn’t stop the guilt of her survivors from doing so long before Order 66 kicks in. If you’ve been taught all your life that family is everything, leaving feels like a moral failure. You don’t just go, you leave, and what kind of selfish, heartless monster is walking away from a loved one who needs them? Who says no when the most important person in their life asks them to stay?
However, the truth is that leaving the people who left you in the first place is impossible. Sure, the Order technically expands an olive branch, as does Anakin, but that show of goodwill is undermined by the cost involved: them. Ahsoka is the one left behind; She was merely framed as the bad guy performing the physical act of walking away.
It is important to remember that the playing field is not the same for Ahsoka, similar to many caretaker-child relationships. She is a female Togruta in a universe that we know is prejudiced against both men and humans. She’s seventeen by the end of season five, still one Child (Don’t even get me started with a whole child soldier situation.). She relied on this family to survive her entire life, a family that abruptly pulls the carpet out from under her feet only to light them up with some bullshit where the power works in mysterious ways. The power dynamic will be forever distorted as long as one party depends on the other for basic survival.
So obviously a damn one child, shouldn’t be responsible for being the “bigger person”, staying and “saving” loved ones at your own expense.
What strikes me most about Ahsoka’s entire story is how Well she remains so. Though traumatized and reluctant to forge close ties in the EU Ahsoka Roman, she still refuses to turn her back on people who need her. Ahsoka continues to play her role in liberating the galaxy, fighting the Empire in every possible way.
Despite the difficulties of forging a new life on her own, she returns to Season 7 as her own person. Still a child, certainly, but much more mature and steadfast in her faith. We see them continue to grow Star Wars rebelswhere, as a 31-year-old, she fights for a cause that she could easily ignore if she wanted to. Leaving her toxic family does not break her or turn her into a cold hearted woman with no moral compass. Not to romanticize trauma, but if anything, her resilience to her ordeal has made her kinder and more empathetic.
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I don’t want to delve into my tragic origin story, but what haunts me the most is the fear that if I am not already I will become an abuser myself. It is cruel and abusive that I give up people who still love me.
But Ahsoka Tano reminds us that you cannot save everyone. Love alone does not conquer everything, and to quote someone from my chosen family, love should do no harm. Neither Ahsoka nor I are to blame for not returning to the open arms that are waiting for us, not when they are arms lined with teeth and claws.
We are not bad people when we love each other first in order to survive. Nobody is.
Rebecca (she / she) is a Taiwanese-American actress, writer, translator, and authenticity reader based in NYC with a BA in Theater and Italian Studies from Wesleyan University. She grew up on multiple continents and focuses on the interplay between Asia and the Asian diaspora, gender, weirdness and mental illness. They are currently writing a joint treatise on China-occupied Tibet. You can find their nerd jokes on Twitter and their properly edited work her side.
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