In “Children of the Force,” a season two Clone Wars episode, future Emperor Palpatine via his Sith Lord persona, Darth Sidious, attempts to arrange the kidnapping of force sensitive children. It’s a plot that is defeated through the efforts of Anakin Skywalker and his padawan, Ahsoka Tano, and as a result, we never quite learn what Palpatine’s plans were for the children. It was just one note in the midst of the galactic war and in a galaxy where hundreds, if not thousands of Jedi, still roamed, attempting to keep the Old Republic intact, the loss of a handful of children, while horrifying, would not have had a major impact on the Jedi Order. Fast forward to the galaxy in the time of Rebels, and every force sensitive child carries upon its small shoulders the survival of the Jedi Order. As such, “The Future of the Force,” manages to raise the stakes when two Inquisitors set out on a similar mission of kidnapping children strong with the Force.
The episode opens with the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister boarding a transport captured by a star destroyer. They quickly locate a grandmother and her grandchild, then it’s inferred kill everyone else on the ship. We cut to Ahsoka informing Kanan that they have a mission oriented toward Jedi business, which naturally draws in Ezra. The mission calls for investigating leads in two different places with our favorite Togruta Jedi heading off on her own to one and Kanan, Ezra, Zeb and Chopper traveling in the Phantom to the next. Almost all the events of “The Future of the Force” take place with the latter group, so for the sake of brevity, it’s enough to know that Ahsoka discovers the transport from earlier, drifting lifelessly in space. Surprisingly, she finds the grandmother still alive and learns that the Inquisitors had stolen the child. Tano promises the grandmother they will rescue her child and we head to the planet Takaboo.
The team immediately split up with Zeb and Chopper assigned to scout the space port for evidence the Inquisitors were already on the planet, while Kanan and Ezra head into the city for the coordinates provided by Ahsoka. This leads them into an apartment where a female Ithorian desperately seeks their help to keep her son safe, a son she sent away with their droid. Baby Ithor isn’t the only baby at play on Takaboo, as Zeb and Chopper soon discover the two TIE fighters of the Inquisitors (think something of a predecessor of the TIE Advanced flown by Vader in A New Hope). Within one, Zeb discovers the child from the opening of the episode and whisks it away to the safety of the Phantom and in their wake, leave the smoking ruins of the TIEs.
At the Phantom, Zeb is called in by Kanan to help find the droid and Ithorian child. This he does with aplomb, finding the droid and the Ithorian child almost immediately. The ease in which he does this is lampshaded by the writers who have Zeb comment on it himself. No sooner does he meet up with Kanan and Zeb than the Inquisitors find and engage them. A brief tussle in a hall way leads into a pursuit of the former by the latter out of the apartment building onto landspeeders zipping through the city’s streets and finally to the hangar where the Phantom is parked. It’s at this point that the episode truly earns its stars and it’s entirely owed to the arrival of Ahsoka Tano.
By the time of her departure in Clone Wars, Tano was already an incredibly skilled wielder of two lightsabers, which is not surprising with someone like Anakin Skywalker as her mentor. In the final action sequence of “The Future of the Force,” we learn that in the interim, Ahsoka Tano has not only improved, but has most definitely become a master of her weapons and the art form. Confronted with the two Inquisitors, Ahsoka steps forward to provide cover for the gang’s escape, and reveals that the two Inquisitors, who had easily overpowered Kanan, were truly no match to her. It implies the limitations of not only Kanan’s training, but also that of the Inquisitors.
Prior to a retreat when the Empire sends in dozens of storm troopers in to support the Inquisitors, Ahoska’s maneuver to defeat the Seventh Sister (having already knocked the Fifth Brother) revealed her own evolution as a Jedi. Before she walked away from the Jedi Order, Ahoska had a decidedly aggressive style of dealing with enemies and problems (another thing she inherited from her master). However, in this duel, she abruptly turns off her lightsabers and kneels down in a meditative position. This lures the Seventh Sister into attacking at an apparently defenseless Ahsoka, who leaps forward at the last minute to catch the Seventh Sister’s lightsaber by the hilt and in a smooth motion, disarm and knock her nearly unconscious against a nearby pillar. Through her fighting style, we can see that Ahsoka Tano has matured into a more balanced Jedi.
“The Future of the Force” ends with our heroes successfully rescuing and reuniting the children to their loved ones, though on the ominous note of speculation toward what the intentions of the Inquisitors were for the children. As an episode, “The Future of the Force,” should fall into the expected level of good quality we now look for in the second season of Rebels, but it sneaks in at a slightly higher level with the addition of the Inquisitors vs Ahsoka Tano fight. The appearance Tano to Rebels has given an undeniable boost to the emotional stake viewers have in the show and undoubtedly, perhaps a tragic tone, should we take Yoda’s words to Luke in Return of the Jedi to heart, “…last of the Jedi, will you be.”