EVERY JEDI MASTER needs an apprentice. Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, there was a young alien girl named Ahsoka Tano who studied under Anakin Skywalker. After Anakin’s downfall as Darth Vader, Ahsoka embarked on her own path across the stars to become one of the most popular Star Wars characters of all time.
Ahsoka is a new Star Wars adventure set to premiere on Disney+ on August 22. The series, planned for eight episodes in its first season, follows its title heroine—played by Rosario Dawson, best known for movies like Men in Black II (2002), Sin City (2005), Rent (2005), Haunted Mansion (2023), and the Marvel/Netflix shows—who re-teams with old friends to investigate a resurgence of the fallen Empire.
While Ahsoka may be the first time most audiences will meet its characters for the first time, for hardcore fans, it’s a reunion. With major supporting players like blue-haired punk Sabine Wren (played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo), the calculating general Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and a witty lightsaber-maker droid named Huyang (David Tennant), Ahsoka brings a lot of familiar faces from Star Wars animation into flesh and blood reality.
Because navigating the Star Wars hub on Disney+ can be its own challenge as if conjured by the Sith, it’s easy to feel unprepared about going into Ahsoka. Fret not, Padawan learner. Men’s Health is here to guide you and give you only the most essential intel you need to know about Ahsoka, her mission, and the period of the Star Wars timeline her show takes place. Here’s all you need to know.
Trust us, and trust in the Force.
Meet Ahsoka Tano, Ex-Apprentice of Anakin Skywalker
During the Clone Wars, between the movies Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), Ahsoka Tano was a young Togruta girl assigned by the Jedi to be the student of Anakin Skywalker. Sometimes naive but often brave, Ahsoka was ambitious and held plenty of promise as a would-be Jedi Master herself. She was introduced in the 2008 animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and her journey as Anakin’s protege was one of the primary storylines in the follow-up animated series of the same name that ran for seven seasons.
Ahsoka trained under Anakin throughout the Clone Wars. But after she was framed for murder, she grew disillusioned and left the Jedi Order. When the Jedi were betrayed and hunted by Order 66, and Anakin’s descent as a Sith lord took hold, Ahsoka narrowly escaped with her life. She went into hiding and became a prominent agent for the rebellion against the Empire.
An older, wiser, almost monk-like Ahsoka resurfaced in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, which aired from 2014-2018 on the cable channel DisneyXD. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (1977), Rebels reintroduces Ahsoka who aids the series’ heroes including Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Gray), an orphaned youth with a strong grasp of the Force, in establishing footholds and influence across the galaxy.
Originally voiced by Ashley Eckstein, Rosario Dawson played Ahsoka in a Season 2 guest appearance on The Mandalorian. Seizing on her popularity in the fandom and positive reception towards Dawson’s performance, Ahsoka now stars in her own series Ahsoka, which takes place some time during The Mandalorian.
So What Is the Plot of Ahsoka All About?
Ahsoka takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi, and many years before The Force Awakens. The Empire is in shambles, but there are still those loyal to the fallen regime who operate in the galaxy’s darkest corners. That’s where Ahsoka comes in. The former Jedi confronts rumors about the whereabouts of Thrawn, a prominent Imperial Grand Admiral who was thought dead and whose return can galvanize Empire loyalists and reignite war.
Because no one can fight the Empire and the Sith alone, Ahsoka reunites with some old allies, mainly characters from Star Wars Rebels, to defeat evil before it can rise again.
A Jedi’s Redemption Story
Maybe unsurprisingly, a lot of Star Wars fans did not love Ahsoka Tano at first. Her initial youthful characterization, designed to appeal to a diverse audience, incurred the wrath of fandom circa 2008. Excavate the ruins of old forums, blogs, and Reddit threads from the time, and you’ll find fans bemoaning everything about Ahsoka, even comparing her to Jar Jar Binks.
More unsurprisingly, fans’ hatred of Ahsoka led to severe online harassment of her actress, Ashley Eckstein. Today, Eckstein cites the traumatic experience of bullying for inspiring her towards mental health advocacy and to co-found Her Universe, a nerdy fashion label for women.
Typical of fandom revisionism, years of engaging Star Wars cartoons plus comics and novels have made fans change their tune and warm up to Ahsoka. Today, she is one of the franchise’s most popular characters, despite having never appeared in any of the live-action movies. Her appearance on The Mandalorian had plenty of buzz precisely because of her towering importance. Now, all that goodwill is being leveraged to bring attention to her series.
What Other Star Wars Characters Should I Know in Ahsoka?
Given its inclusion of a few other popular Star Wars characters, one might interpret Ahsoka as the official continuation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Besides Ahsoka herself, one of the show’s most important leads is Sabine, a Mandalorian who began Jedi training under Ahsoka until their relationship grew strained. (In a lot of ways, Ahsoka’s abandonment by Anakin is echoed in her own abandonment of Sabine.) There’s also Hera, a pilot who has grown into a respected general. In Rebels, Hera fell in love with Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), a Jedi who survived Order 66. They have a son together, Jacen, a name that may raise a few eyebrows. Eman Esfandi also stars in the series as Ezra Bridger, who has been missing since the events of Rebels.
David Tennant, known for shows like Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman‘s Good Omens, again lends his voice to Huyang, a droid who built lightsabers for the Jedi for thousands of years and aids Ahsoka in her mission. Tennant first played the role in The Clone Wars.
The show will also feature the live-action debut of Thrawn, an Imperial military leader who, like Ahsoka, has never been in the movies. Bring up Thrawn among the right type of fans and you’ll see their spines shiver. That’s because Thrawn was the principal villain of three Star Wars novels from the ‘90s whose success basically launched the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Often called the “Thrawn Trilogy,” the three books—Heir to the Empire (1991), Dark Force Rising (1992), and The Last Command (1993)—were released during a lull in the franchise when there was no new Star Wars media to keep fans engaged, and the prequel films were still so far away. Actor Lars Mikkelsen will reprise his voice acting role as Thrawn from Rebels in Ahsoka, this time in the live-action blue flesh himself.
What Do I Need to Watch Before Ahsoka?
While it’s possible to go into Ahsoka completely unacquainted, it’s infinitely more rewarding to have at least some familiarity. Thankfully, Lucasfilm knows you’re curious and has made it pretty easy. Right now in the Star Wars hub of Disney+, there is a carousel titled “Ahsoka Tano Essential Episodes.” It contains exactly what it says: It’s a list of over two dozen episodes, mostly from Clone Wars and Rebels, that have Ahsoka in a prominent role. These altogether tell the story of Ahsoka, from Jedi padawan to Jedi exile to a hero in the rebellion.
But if you need a shorter, more condensed list because you’re pressed for time, just consider these episodes:
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the 2008 feature film
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 1, Episode 2, “Rising Malevolence”
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 21, “Padawan Lost”
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 22, “Wookie Hunt”
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 11, “Shattered”
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 12, “Victory and Death”
- Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi Season 1, Episode 6, “Resolve”
- Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 18, “Shroud of Darkness”
- Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 21-22, “Twilight of the Apprentice”
- The Mandalorian, Season 2, Episode 5, “Chapter 13: The Jedi”
- The Book of Boba Fett, Season 1, Episode 6, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger”
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.