In a galaxy far, far away, flawed female characters are hailed as heroes. In Star Wars' latest Disney Plus show Ahsoka, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), her apprentice Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are reunited, this time in live-action.


All of these women are incredibly powerful, but it’s established early on that even these acclaimed warriors have faults.

Within minutes of the first episode, Master and Apprentice, Ahsoka demonstrates her impressive combat abilities, outsmarting and defeating a swarm of battle droids. Sure, she decimates the remnants of a city in the process, but she escaped with the map, so that’s a win right?

However, the former Jedi Knight is haunted by her mistakes. Ahsoka defines herself by two pivotal choices from her past, which she interprets as failures: her decision not to complete her Jedi training with Anakin, and abandoning her hopeful apprentice, Sabine.

Later, Huyang (voiced perfectly again by David Tennant) tells her that the two Dark Jedi (later named as Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati) would be “formidable adversaries for you alone”.

Even the closest of allies of the force-wielding, fearless warrior can spot her weakness and encourage her to acknowledge it. Her solitude is a vulnerability and there’s a sense that in order to become unbeatable, she has to address it and evolve.

Similarly, Sabine fails catastrophically in the first episode; she disobeys Ahsoka’s orders, unlocks the star map before it’s stolen and is severely wounded in the process. When her Jedi training ended with Ahsoka, Sabine admits to Huyang that she stopped practising with her lightsaber, which explains her clumsy swings and missteps during her fight with Hati (Ivanna Sakhno).

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Sabine’s shame, combined with her desire to correct her mistake, makes her more determined than ever to prove to Ahsoka that she is a worthy apprentice: “I haven’t seen her in years and the first thing I do goes sideways.”

Meanwhile, Hera didn’t check that Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) had dismantled her operation on Corellia when the Galactic Empire fell. On closer inspection, she discovers that a rebellion uprising (loyal to the Empire) has been operating under her nose the entire time. Oops.

Ivanna Sakhno as Shin Hati in Ahsoka.
Ivanna Sakhno as Shin Hati in Ahsoka. Disney+/Lucasfilm

However, these characters’ power isn’t diminished by their failures; in fact, they seem stronger as they take risks and learn from their errors. As Sabine recovers from her wound, she scans the decapitated droid’s hard drive and adds: “Like me, this droid is incredibly resilient.”

It establishes that these powerful female characters make mistakes, but their strength comes from their determination to learn from them, continue to fight and do better next time.

Sabine frequently pushes herself beyond her limits – sometimes that leads to failure, other times, major breakthroughs. Without error or risk, there’s a sense that these women would hold no power at all.

Huyang encourages Sabine to move on from the past where Ahsoka “quit” on her, as he disregards her excuses and suggests “perhaps it is time to begin again.” By the end of the second episode, Sabine embraces the uncertain path ahead, as she accepts that she is not capable of reaching her full potential without her master Ahsoka’s help. Once again, Sabine’s strength is displayed when she acknowledges her limitations, and rather than avoid them, she faces them and commits to put in the effort to improve.

It’s also refreshing to see women fail (in major ways) on-screen without consequence: they don’t lose their authority or autonomy, and others still believe that they’re capable after a mistake. Failure isn’t a sign that these women aren’t worthy of their physical power, social status or respect, instead their well-rounded character is a reminder that they have earned it and deserve it.

These strong female characters are a welcome new addition to the live-action sphere, after Ahsoka’s brief appearance in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. In comparison with other characters in the universe, such as Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), Sabine, Ahsoka and Syndulla hold power and abilities that aren’t diminished, overshadowed or sexualised by their male counterparts.

As this is Ahsoka’s story, the flawed female characters are the central focus of the narrative, but their autonomy is reinforced in their functional outfits, and how the trio combine their varied skills, advice and abilities to overcome obstacles together. There have only been glimpses of a network of strong female alliances in live-action beforehand, more recently with Leia and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the Force Awakens sequel trilogy.

Equally, Sabine, Ahsoka and Hera advise each other after a setback, to remind one and other that their failures don’t reflect their true capability or necessarily mean the same outcome will happen in the future. It’s an important reminder that a person’s character isn’t defined by their failures or weaknesses, but how they handle them and move forward from it.

The series suggests that failure is inevitable to bring about change and become a powerful leader, as embodied in our three flawed heroines.

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Star Wars: Ahsoka is available to stream on Disney Plus from Wednesday 23rd August 2023. New episodes weekly. Sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year.

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