Subtitle: the truth is Anakin needs Ahsoka as much as she needs him
This is the first part of a three part arc but it got so long I decided to post it by itself. The plot is simple: Ryloth (the Twi’lek homeplanet) has been seized by Separatists and its people taken hostage so the Jedi work to break them out. First, Anakin and Ahsoka command a space battle to enable the Jedi rescue teams to land, then in the next two episodes Obi-Wan and Mace Windu lead separate teams to free the hostages and the capital in order to take back the planet.
Honestly, Ahsoka has been training with Anakin and others throughout the war effort so she is far and away more qualified than Luke in A New Hope. But putting a teenage girl in charge of this mission as her first shot at command still seems as terrible as it is awesome.
But I want to talk about Anakin’s parenting skills.
The relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka is the beating heart of this series. That Anakin is Luke’s father is a core story point, but we don’t get to see him act as a father in the films (that Anakin is Leia’s father is barely addressed at all). But the Master and Padawan relationship is described as parental and thus Clone Wars allows us insight into the kind of father Anakin could have been through his interactions with Ahsoka. And by association it also provides insight into the mentoring (parenting) styles of Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Shmi Skywalker, Palpatine, and Padmé.
In this episode, Anakin supports Ahsoka completely. He provides opportunities, boundaries, discipline, and compassion. He listens to her, and actually incorporates what she says into his plan. And he pushes her, but makes it clear he has total faith in her abilities and choices. He shows himself to be an excellent mentor. Which is tragic, of course, but also incredibly interesting.
Why is Anakin so good with Ahsoka and how did he get that way? Some thoughts:
- Shmi raised him from birth to age 9. And 9 year old Ani was arrogant and impulsive, but also kind and eager, not only to please, but to help. And to act. These are some of Anakin’s core traits so he understands them when mirrored in Ahsoka, and remembers Shmi supported him even when it scared or hurt her.
- Qui-Gon was Anakin’s first father figure, as well as Obi-Wan’s – while his time with Ani was short, he basically raised Obi-Wan who then became the adult most responsible for raising Anakin after age 9. Notably Qui-Gon argued against the Council on behalf of Anakin, in front of Anakin, and the council eventually ended up changing their mind. This taught Anakin that a) the Council didn’t trust him, b) Qui-Gon thought Anakin’s status as ‘Chosen One’ was more important than the Council’s teachings, c) talking back to the Council/ignoring the rules might be frowned upon, but gets results (and that is why I blame the Jedi for the entire situation, but I digress).
- Obi-Wan’s influence on Anakin is more often seen in his disobedience and disagreement, his acting out, but in this episode I think it’s most clear when Anakin tells Ahsoka to look at the bigger picture and “the first rule of war: listen to your superiors”. Ahsoka immediately points out that Anakin seldom does this himself and he doesn’t disagree or tell her he’s older and therefore smarter/better/whatever – which is more than Mace Windu ever did for him including in this very episode – he tells her that’s how and why he understands how she feels, and that he wants to help her deal with it, not punish her. Obi-Wan is diplomatic and non-confrontational and I see that parenting style in this exchange, as well as later when he literally sends her to her room to cool off (the most Dad!Anakin thing ever).
- Palpatine is terrible, the worst, and a master manipulator who takes advantage of and exerts control over Anakin pretty much from the moment they meet. But part of that includes listening to and encouraging Anakin in a way the Jedi never do. It pains me to say, but Anakin probably gets some of his good parenting skills from his most bad (actually literally evil) parental figure. For example, when Anakin reports the loss of all the fighters in their first bout with the blockade, Obi-Wan asks “and your padawan?” (in effect ‘was she also lost aka dead’) not “and Ahsoka?”. I know, and Anakin knows, Obi-Wan cares about Ahsoka as an individual, and about Anakin if she were lost, but to him she is first and foremost a member of the Jedi Order. In contrast, to Anakin everyone is an individual. Obi-Wan, Padmé, Ahsoka, every clone… It’s instinctive, hard-wired from a young age (”I’m a person”) but the Jedi and the Republic discourage it while Palpatine tells him to trust himself, attach himself, be himself. Of course, his end goal is the opposite and he only encourages Anakin’s self-actualization in order to turn him into the ultimate weapon. Palpatine does not teach Anakin good parenting skills and he’s certainly not a good parent to, or good influence on, Anakin, but he pretends to care and Anakin doesn’t know it’s not real so he responds to it, is affected by it, and learns from it.
- And then there’s Padmé. Does little Ani call her ‘the most beautiful creature in the galaxy’? Yes, but that’s not why he fixates on her, falls in love with her, and ultimately destroys everyone’s life for her. Padmé is in charge of a planet on the brink of war but she takes the time to befriend a lonely little boy. Padmé is the ONLY person (other than his lost mother) who pays attention to Anakin with no ulterior motives. She doesn’t want anything from him so he gives her everything he is. She acknowledges him, she listens to him, she sets boundaries for their relationship, she questions him, she comforts him, she treats him as an equal, she trusts him, she loves him. Padmé provides Anakin with the closest thing to a balanced, healthy relationship he has and because of everyone else in their lives they are forced to hide it and disavow it and treat it like something to be ashamed of.
And all that is why Anakin has the potential to be a wonderful parent and all that is why he loses his chance.
Anyway, every moment of Anakin and Ahsoka’s interaction in this episode is golden and the result is Ahsoka getting her confidence back and saving the day:
While Anakin looks on bursting with pride:
There’s also a hilarious subplot where the bad guy reads up on the legendary General Skywalker and I just really love that the entire series and galaxy has a boy crush on Anakin but all he wants is respect from the Jedi and they consistently say ‘nah’. I know I’m always saying the Jedi are terrible so I want it to be clear that I love that the Jedi are terrible! They destroy themselves and that is a far more satisfying story than Palpatine’s machinations (or Snoke’s in TFA).