There is one scene in Return of the Jedi that will forever live in Star Wars lore. It happened on Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge, right before Luke, Han, and Chewie were about to be tossed into a giant man-eating sinkhole in the middle of a desert. Things seemed hopeless as Artoo rolled out to see what was going on. Han looked around in bewilderment while Luke and Lando exchanged furtive glances.
Then an omen came in the form of a little salute Luke gave in Artoo’s direction. One of the compartments in the droid’s dome head suddenly slid open and something popped out. Luke jumped, pirouetted in mid-air, and grabbed onto the plank just as Artoo launched the object into the sky.
It hung in the air just long enough for Luke to somersault back onto the deck, catch it, and then unsheathe what turned out to be an emerald-bladed lightsaber. That’s when the former farm boy went on an unstoppable rampage, whipping his wrists around and sending each one of Jabba’s minions tumbling into the abyss.
In less than five minutes, Jabba, Boba Fett, and Salacious Crumb (just heartbreaking) were all dead in a bloodbath that left Tatooine a safer place and once again added the name Skywalker to the planet’s greatest folk tales. The kid that blew up the Death Star was now the kid that single-handedly knocked off one of the galaxy’s biggest crime overlords.
This season, we witnessed what may have been the best scene so far in Star Wars Rebels, as Ahsoka Tano showed everyone that she could deliver the same kind of Jedi beatdown.
The surprise reveal of Ahsoka at the end of the first season of Star Wars Rebels was as great — if not greater — as seeing Darth Vader descend down a ramp onto Lothal. She hadn’t been seen since Star Wars: The Clone Wars, leaving the Jedi Order and her Master, Anakin Skywalker, in a heartbreaking season finale. But it was clear that this wouldn’t be the last we would see of her. All it would take was another Star Wars animated series and a rebellion that she could secretly aid under the alias of Fulcrum.
Now that she’s here, now that she’s chosen a side in this conflict, now that she’s connected with mysterious Sith Lord, every episode felt like another step closer to the moment when “Snips” would become “Pillage” or “Warhawk.”
Lightsaber duels aren’t glorified sword fights, they’re glorified character manifestations, whispering to us as they hum and sashay in the air.
Luke’s slash and burn display at the Sarlacc was like opening an oven and taking out the perfect soufflé. The waiting was finally over. The raw, hapless Jedi that fumbled stones and couldn’t even stand on his hands was a now a fearless warrior that was ready to take on the Empire himself — as a friend once told him before his demise.
That was actually evident a few scenes earlier when Luke walked into Jabba’s palace, Force choked two guards, and then pulled a Jedi mind trick on a crony for extra measure. Apparently, he had gotten the hang of this whole Force thing. But what was even more impressive was his temperament. That scene where he threatened Jabba in the throne room when he was completely surrounded by goons is still one of my all-time favorites.
Ahsoka has struck a similar tone leading the undermanned and poorly-equipped rebels this season. Clearly, something has taken hold of her since the Clone Wars, and that’s adulthood. The Ahsoka we knew early on was snarky, ebullient, and precocious. She was more like a younger sister to Anakin instead of someone who looked up to him as a parent, which was fitting since Anakin wasn’t much wiser or more subordinate when it came to taking orders from the Jedi Council. Ahsoka shared Anakin’s disregard for the rules, she just didn’t know how to get around them and then provide steady rationalization for it afterwards. She would mature in the series, but was still not grown up.
The Ahsoka we’re seeing now is graceful, soft spoken, and contemplative. Unlike Luke who sought adventure, responsibility found Ahsoka.
Being a Jedi is a kind of a big commitment. It’s what someone said a long time ago in 1980, back when cassette players were the equivalent of smartphones and the Cold War was in a semi-thaw. It takes heartbreak and it takes sacrifice. In Empire Strikes Back, Luke lost his hand and found out that the second-most reviled figure in the galaxy was his father.
Up until that point Luke had an unimpeachable view of how the universe worked. He was arrogant, he was boorish, he was impulsive. But the soul-crushing truth he had endured opened his eyes to the kind of logic that Yoda was trying to teach him during his Jedi training. So this was what going to the dark side meant. Suddenly everything became clear about that moment in the cave where he stared down at Vader’s decapitated head and saw his own mangled face looking back at him.
Not that Ahsoka hasn’t suffered. She’s had one of her closest friends frame her for murder. She’s watched the Jedi Council turn their backs on her. She’s seen friends die in war. And through all that she’s demonstrated considerably more poise than her former Master, and even Luke on occasion.
We’ve seen Ahsoka in a lot of lightsaber duels, but they were mostly defensive battles that never had a decisive outcome — though she always managed to win the game of cat and mouse that she lured her opponents into. This season’s showdown with the Inquisitors might have been the second best fight of the year after Rousey vs. Holm. It wasn’t anything like Luke’s dalliance with the dark side in Return of the Jedi. That was a messy affair with a lot of yelling and another hand falling off. Here, Ahsoka looked barely engaged as she flicked away the Fifth Brother and then disarmed the Seventh Sister with her lightsabers sheathed and her eyes closed.
A great fighter typically ends their skirmishes in two minutes. Ahsoka did it in less than one, and she made it look cool. It was an amazing thing to see, a throwback to that moment 30 years ago on Tatooine. When “the next one” simply became known as “The One.”
Sean Galusha is a content writer with Lucasfilm. Check out all of his latest posts on Twitter at @seanmgalusha, where you can chronicle his wisdom about sports, Hot Pockets, and all things geeky. Follow at your own risk.