We need to talk about Ahsoka Tano.
For those who haven’t seen “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Ahsoka was Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan throughout a large portion of the Clone Wars. She was first introduced as a naive child, thrust into the middle of a war and given a position of authority without much experience. She was clearly made to parallel Anakin and his journey through the Jedi Order. Both of them were considered to be rebels among their peers, more inclined toward “aggressive negotiations” than careful diplomacy. They cared very deeply about people and refused to give up once they’d put their minds to something.
Over time, Ahsoka learned to be less reckless. She proved herself to be politically savvy and intuitive as she traveled around the galaxy, meeting new people and helping various civilizations in their fight against the Separatists.
But then, Ahsoka was framed for murder.
This set off a chain of events that created one of the darkest arcs in the whole series. Ahsoka was accused of committing a terrorist act, and when the police attempted to arrest her, she ran.
Making her situation all the worse was that she had lost nearly all of her allies. The Jedi Council was convinced that she was guilty — despite there never being a trial — and had expelled her from the order. Her closest friend and mentor Anakin Skywalker tried to help her, but even he was deferential to the Council. Some of these people prematurely convicting her of murder were friends she’d had for as long as she could remember.
So, she turned to one of her fiercest rivals, Count Dooku’s former apprentice Asajj Ventress. Ventress had recently been betrayed by her master and was searching for a new purpose in life and she decided to help Ahsoka because, as she later told Anakin, she saw herself in Ahsoka and how she was betrayed by those she looked up to. And at the end of the arc, completely disillusioned with the Jedi, Ahsoka left the order permanently, feeling as though she no longer had a home with them.
For all that people want to hate on Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side in “Revenge of the Sith,” the Jedi’s rejection of Ahsoka and her subsequent departure provide a very compelling basis for his distrust of the Order.
Even more intriguing is the story behind the actual murderer. Barriss Offee was one of Ahsoka Tano’s closest friends, having fought together on several occasions. Barriss and her master Luminara Unduli represent the anti-Anakin and Ahsoka. They were more observant and deferential, obedient to both the Jedi Council and the code. They were everything a Jedi and her Padawan are supposed to be.
Until Barriss blew up a part of the Jedi Temple.
At first, none of the Jedi could understand why she would do this. After all, she had been a loyal soldier throughout the war, almost giving her life in the line of duty during the Second Battle of Geonosis and its aftermath. She was frequently critical of Ahsoka’s unconventional tactics that she learned from her master, saying that it was their duty to prepare for battle.
But during all of these trials, Barriss began to notice the discrepancy between the traditions and teachings of the Jedi and what they were actually doing. The Jedi were typically known as peacekeepers, aiming to maintain the balance in the Force. In essence, the Jedi understood the need for a separation between church and state.
The Jedi of the prequels had lost this objectivity. They acted as generals in the army of the Republic and ambassadors on behalf of various groups. They were adamantly anti-Separatist with no room for doubt. They could sometimes disregard the fact that the clone troopers are human beings and were comfortable with the war continuing because they had a high unlimited number of soldiers.
This interference by Force-wielders in the political spheres of their respective nations continued into the original trilogy. Part of the reason why the Rebel Alliance was so ill-prepared to fight the Empire head-on before Luke joined them was because they lacked a trained Force-wielder. Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus of “Star Wars Rebels” could be exceptions, but neither of them finished their Jedi training. On the other hand, the Empire had Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and the Grand Inquisitor, as well as a number of other Inquisitors. The various major conflicts were all caused by Force-wielders seeking to eliminate their counterparts.
At the end of the day, the Jedi are responsible for the current state of the galaxy. All of the chaos caused by the Empire can be traced back to the Jedi Council’s treatment of Anakin Skywalker. He arrived at the Jedi Temple as a former child slave, having just been separated from his mother, the only person to have ever loved him. Soon after, his mentor died, leaving his training in the hands of someone who just graduated from being a Padawan. He was constantly told to ignore his feelings and remain detached from the world even though he was clearly someone who cared a lot for people.
Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn’t help him. Obi-Wan was trained by Qui-Gon Jinn, who was treated as a rebel for ignoring the rules in favor of helping others. Obi-Wan noticed how his master was treated and he likely attempted to overcompensate for this by strictly adhering to what the Jedi Council ordered him to do. Unlike Anakin, he was taken by the Jedi as a baby, so he didn’t have a good frame of reference for how normal human relationships are supposed to work — seriously, these people forcibly took babies from their parents and we’re supposed to root for them. He discouraged Anakin from acting on his feelings in “Attack of the Clones,” even though this caused Anakin’s mother to die. He didn’t have anyone to turn to in order to discuss his feelings for Padme, leaving him even more isolated and secretive.
The next time he had dreams of someone he cares about dying, he knew that the Jedi will likely discourage him from acting even though he had already proven that his dreams did have meaning. The only person he could turn to — apart from Padme — is Chancellor Palpatine. The Jedi pretty much forced him into the arms of the Sith. That doesn’t excuse all the murder and whatnot, but Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side did not occur in a vacuum.
Decades later, his son Luke was put in a similar situation in “The Empire Strikes Back.” He knew that his friends were in danger and that he had the power to at least try to save them. Yoda — with whom he is training — told him not to go, citing the Jedi teaching that Luke must learn to let go of his feelings. Luke, unlike Anakin, refused to listen and ran off to Cloud City, which is likely the reason why Leia and Chewbacca managed to escape. By ignoring his traditional Jedi training, he was able to do what Anakin didn’t: save those he loves.
We don’t know much about how Luke worked to resurrect the Jedi Order in the time between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” Loathe as I am to admit it, “The Last Jedi” provides the clearest insight into how Luke trained the next generation of Force-wielders. If Luke did indeed have the ancient texts of the Jedi, then he was probably at least somewhat adhering to tradition.
Unlike Anakin Skywalker, however, Kylo Ren very obviously had a support system in place during his time in the Jedi Order. He grew up with his parents and an uncle who loved him. Luke is a naturally kind person so it is hard to imagine him discouraging his students to form relationships with others, particularly since doing so is how he saved the galaxy and defeated Palpatine.
It is reasonable to believe, therefore, that the Jedi might be salvaged through Rey. Since the ancient texts have burned and Luke is apparently dead — why didn’t he just take his X-wing to go fight Kylo? — it is up to her to decide what the future of the Jedi looks like. All she has is maybe a few months of training, most of which involved the practical use of her powers rather than any sort of philosophical teachings.
And that’s a good thing. She is the last hope of the Jedi to receive some much-needed reforms. But it might just be better to “let the past die,” to quote Kylo Ren, and leave the legacy of corruption and abuse behind, relegating it to the stuff of legends.