Somehow, Anakin Skywalker has returned. Although the timeframe of Ahsoka is at least five years after Anakin’s fatal end in Return of the Jedi, thanks to some time-bending shenanigans (possibly created by the World Between Worlds) this post-classic trilogy Star Wars show has become very focused on characters from the prequel era.
Episode 4 of Ahsoka was thrilling and certainly proves the series is perhaps hiding more than we’ve known. And yet, when we consider what the series is actually about, this era of Star Wars is starting to develop a new problem. Seeing Hayden Christensen again, just a year after he appeared in Obi-Wan Kenobi certainly gives fans some early aughts nostalgia. But the Star Wars decade that Ahsoka needs to deal with isn’t the aughts. It’s the ‘90s.
The 1990s were the best and worst time to be a Star Wars fan. Best because there were a variety of bold and unique Star Wars stories being told in comic books, novels, and games. Worst because there were literally zero new Star Wars movies or TV series airing in the ‘90s until 1999 when The Phantom Menace was released.
Today, we regard the existence of the expansive Star Wars TV franchise as a given, but in the ‘90s, that kind of multiseries franchise was not only rare (Star Trek’s various ‘90s shows were outliers, not the norm) but also seemed unlikely. In various magazine interviews, George Lucas made it clear he had no intention of going forward after Return of the Jedi, meaning, that time period was completely in the province of the books and comics. And there were a lot of books and comics to cover this time period.
Hop between portals in the World Between Worlds, and emerge a year before The Force Awakens. The canonical focus of Star Wars had utterly shifted. While the ‘90s saw a ton of material made that focused on events after the classic trilogy, by 2014 that had all flipped. Thanks to the prequel films, the majority of new Star Wars content had become populated by stories that all took place before the original films, not after. If there’s one psychological reason why Gen-X and older millennial Star Wars fans threw hissy fits about the prequel era it’s simple: All the ideas and situations of the classic films and the ‘90s expanded universe were simply ignored in favor of newer stories that all led to those other stories anyway.
In 2015, J.J. Abrams and Co. tried to heal this generational divide with a sequel film that also served as a soft reboot: The Force Awakens. But in a sense, the films in the sequel trilogy took place in a time period just as different and strange as the prequels and The Clone Wars. It seems the further one chronologically gets away from the classic trilogy, the less the various shows and films get to “feel like Star Wars.” (Case-in-point: Rogue One and its spinoff series Andor are both highly praised by fans of all stripes, and each hews very close to the timeline of A New Hope.)
In theory, Ahsoka is the best of all Star Wars worlds. It rejects the idea that there are “prequel characters” and “classic characters,” by reminding us that some people, like Ahsoka, Sabine, and Hera, lived through a variety of these epochs. And like Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Clone Wars and Rebels heroes come from non-movie media, meaning what we’re seeing is not too different philosophically than if books and comics from the ‘90s were brought to life. Heck, Ahsoka even rebooted the greatest ‘90s-era Star Wars starfighter and is making a big deal of phrases like “Heir to the Empire.”
Which brings us to the weirdness of Ahsoka’s status quo. As Inverse’s Lyvie Scott pointed out, the absence of the Skywalkers in Ahsoka (not even a mention!) is starting to get distracting. But it’s not just the Skywalkers. It’s the entire New Republic at this time in the canon. Because Ahsoka is bringing back Thrawn to the exact same time period he appeared in the Expanded Universe (and is teasing ‘90s fans with E-wings and “Heir to the Empire” talk) it’s deeply weird that we’re not aware of what Wedge Antilles or Lando Calrissian are doing. When Hera leaves Home One without authorization in Episode 4, that feels like a perfect moment to recast Wedge. Or even have a voice-over cameo from Denis Lawson. Imagine it! “General Syndulla, this is Admiral Antilles. Stand-down!”
Instead, the post-Return of the Jedi era has been populated by characters from The Mandalorian and Rebels universes, including the welcome return of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s Carson Teva. But it still feels like a missed opportunity. Does Carson know Lando? Or Leia? This feels like a character who could talk about the status quo of the New Republic in a meaningful way and make us feel that we’re not in a bubble necessitated by budget — or the fact that certain legacy characters desperately need to be recast.
Carson Teva is awesome. Sabine is awesome. These characters should not be replaced with EU or classic trilogy people. However, it would be nice if, as Ahsoka goes on, we get more of a sense of what is happening with the characters who populated Heir to the Empire (and its sequels) in the ‘90s. Because Ahsoka is so focused on Thrawn, the catalyst of the 1991 Star Wars literary renaissance, it feels only natural for the show to tip its hat in other ways. If Hayden Christensen can be digitally de-aged to look 20 years younger, then surely, a character can casually mention what Lando Calrissian is up to.