When an institution doesn’t align with your ideals, you have the right to leave in search of undiscovered pathways. Although the Jedi Order was once synonymous with the light side, we find that “the light” finds a way to illuminate in other shades of expression around the Star Wars galaxy.
On the Star Wars television screen, Ahsoka Tano marked the first light side Force-sensitive warrior to cast off the Jedi title without defecting to the Sith side. According to Clone Wars post-cancellation material, Ahsoka remained an ally in the Jedi fight after a leave of absence. As a Jedi-derived warrior without a clear title (“part-timer,” ex-Sith Maul snidely quipped), she outgrew Jedihood, but not her light side duties and still engages in Jedi meditation. Her white lightsaber eschews Jedi hues.
Existing within the same spectrum of light is Kanan Jarrus, formerly Padawan Caleb Dume, wielder of a saber with Jedi hues and a blaster (a weapon often avoided by the Jedi). In A New Dawn and the Marvel’s Kanan comics, his Jedi heroism remained dormant and suppressed before he reclaimed his mantle in the first episode of Rebels. But post-Order 66, he’s a borderline-adequate Jedi operating tentatively without the guidance of the Jedi institution, confronting his cut-short Jedi education when training his apprentice.
When Kanan and Ahsoka met face-to-face on Rebels, the character dynamics could flourish from their crossing paths. They could converse about their temple childhood, their agreements, misgivings about Jedi dogmas on law and attachment. Alas, their interactions were criminally sparse, save for a few trades alluding to their tentative Force status.
“What I have to say is Jedi business.”
“Then I guess I qualify.”
“Heh, you qualify more than I do.”
Whatever additional introspection transpired between Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka Tano lies in the hands of intrigued and motivated fanfiction writers who have time. I do dream of tie-in canon materials set before Ahsoka’s departure from Rebels: perhaps a Marvel comic or a novel, where Kanan and Ahsoka carry out a mission together, setting the stage for interaction about their Force philosophies.
While the Jedi Order had been touted as the Force’s peacekeeping saviors of the galaxy, post-Prequel Trilogy canon interrogated the rigid institutionalism evident in the Jedi Order. The Clone Wars series fleshed out the Jedi Order’s dogmatic neglect of Ahsoka’s sentiments, and ultimately, Anakin Skywalker too, to the point fans consider the Jedi institutionalism as complicit in Anakin’s fall—or “death.” (If terrible women’s healthcare somewhat attributed to Padme’s death by childbirth, the poor mental health care in the Jedi Temple somewhat attributed to Anakin’s downfall.) In A New Dawn, a young roughneck-drifter Kanan ponders how timeworn Jedi creeds on “no attachments” conditioned him to easily disperse from any meaningful relationship, until he enters one with Hera.
Ahsoka and Kanan shine as foils to Anakin, without his deficiencies, and with identical maverick tendencies. Ahsoka has her Master Skywalker’s reckless bents. When training as a Padawan, Kanan, then Caleb Dume, takes considerable cocky pleasure in the idea of fighting wars like a “superhero.” Post-Order 66, Kanan indulges in a semi-hedonist roughneck identity in A New Dawn. Even when he matures from his crassness, he has shades of Han Solo cockiness and exercises a safe attachment to his Captain Hera Syndulla (that the tv series plays coyly in borderline romantic terms), which proves to be a more functional relationship than the tragically paired Anakin and Padme.
The Original Trilogy established the rudimentary light versus dark binary in its broad Jedi versus Sith story. As time passed, society developed into a hunger for nuances to Good versus Evil narratives, meaning Star Wars had to evolve from the Jedi/Sith binary. While old Expanded Universe/Legends may dish out other shades, such as the familial-endorsing Corellian Jedi or Grey Jedi, non-Jedi light siders have yet to take precedence on the cinematic screen. With The Last Jedi on the horizon, fans wondered if Rey would be a new successor to the Jedi lineage. Or would Luke truly be the last and Rey would follow a divergent path that incorporates a fraction of Skywalker’s Jedi teachings? With the face of the Sith dissolving into the yet-to-be fleshed-out “Knights of Ren,” this is within narrative plausibility. The speculatory riddle in the unreleased Last Jedi heightens the relevance of Kanan and Ahsoka because they stand as the most present exemplars of subverting the institutionalism of the Jedi Order within the light side. If Rey subverts the Jedi title, they might as well be Rey’s spiritual predecessors.
Time will tell whether Kanan does stay Jedi. Fans noted that Kanan could move away from his Jedi title through his latest deference to the teachings of the Bendu, the creature in the “middle” of the Force. As of now, Kanan wears the mantle of a Jedi, maybe a Jedi with liminal convictions between traditional and rogue, but another path could be open to him.
I lamented the lack of a joint on-screen character study of Kanan and Ahsoka’s working relationship. Sidestepping all possibility, the writers have Ahsoka act in confidentiality about her past around the Rebels protagonists (note Ezra’s surprise when Ahsoka tells him she isn’t a Jedi near the end of the second season). It underutilized Ahsoka in Rebels and a fostered a missed opportunity for Kanan Jarrus’s character arc.
That’s why I mourn for the missed opportunity of a Kanan and Ahsoka dynamic. Their hypothetical camaraderie would have represented what it means to experiment with many paths of the light side.
Caroline Cao is a Houstonian Earthling surviving under the fickle weather of Texas. When she’s not angsting over her first poetry manuscript or a pilot screenplay about space samurais, she’s doing cheesy improv performances for BETA Theater, experimenting with ramen noodles, engaged in Star Wars fanfictions, or hollering vocal flash fics on Instagram. Her columns and poems have popped up on The Cougar, Mosaics: The Independent Women Anthology, Glass Mountain. Her flash fiction recently earned an Honorable Mention title in Sweater Weather magazine. She has her own Weebly portfolio and contributes thinkpieces to Birth.Movies.Death. She’s also lurking in the shadows waiting for you to follow her on Twitter.
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