One habit the Disney+ Star Wars TV series line seems to have formed is that of the juicy surprise character reveal. After all, the first episode of The Mandalorian fired its open salvo upon the pop culture landscape by prefixing 'Baby' to 'Yoda' in the collective consciousness. Season 2 tried to outdo that with Boba Fett, Ahsoka Tano, and Luke Skywalker. Even in the trailers for the forthcoming Ahsoka spinoff series, we can spot allusions to characters we’ve yet to see in the Disney+ live action streaming era, like old Legends continuity favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the David Tennant-voiced lightsaber tutorial droid Huyang from Season 5 of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
This is all to say that we’ve been trained like kath hounds to wonder, when presented with any new character, if maybe we’ve seen them somewhere before. Especially if they seem to be concealing their identity up front. So when the latest Ahsoka trailer dropped with the masked visage of an Imperial Inquisitor, it’s natural that the first question we ask is who’s wearing the mask? After all, masks have been concealing secrets since Star Wars began. (“Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”) Could this one be hiding another face from Ahsoka’s past? Or perhaps from the collective Star Wars fandom, like the hood draped over Luke in the Mandalorian Season 2 finale? Let’s go over what we know, what we’re thinking, and what we’re prepared to accept.
A crash course on Star Wars' Inquisitors
Palpatine and Vader didn’t exterminate the 10,000 members of the Jedi Order alone. Sure, they got most of their work done on that first day, between activating the sleeper agent programming in the Clone Army and the newly minted Darth Vader’s raid on the Jedi Temple. But pockets of resistance and refugees continued to evade the Empire’s grasp for years. For this purpose, the Inquisitorius was formed – a small collective of Force Sensitive acolytes turned to the Dark Side, many if not all of them at one point Jedi younglings. Trained only to hunt and kill Jedi, these Inquisitors were stripped of their names and assigned numbers as they sought to finish what Order 66 began. We’ve seen them before in television series like Star Wars: Rebels, Tales of the Jedi, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, in comics such as the 2017 Darth Vader series, and in video games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The Inquisitors can be many species, and in fact few of them are human. They’re trained or brainwashed to bear grudges against the Jedi. They’re highly skilled in a very particular style of lightsaber combat, which involves a rotating, helicopter-like blade. And, before the events of the first Star Wars film, they were all assumed dead. After all, we never saw Luke have to deal with any of them in the original movies. Which makes the presence of this Inquisitor in Ahsoka, set some five years after Return of the Jedi, all the more curious.
The big theories on Star Wars' new Inquisitor
The last great mystery of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series of 2014-2018 is whatever became of its protagonist, Jedi in training Ezra Bridger. He was last seen entering hyperspace towards regions unknown, taking Admiral Thrawn with him to the depths of space on the back of a pod of Purgill (think hyperspace-traveling squid-whales). Thrawn is slated to return for this series, and we know that Ezra will be returning as well -- although we naturally won't know in what capacity until the series airs. Many times throughout Rebels, Ezra was tempted towards the dark side, from encounters with the fallen Darth Maul to Emperor Palpatine himself. Could the Empire have finally gotten to him during his absence? And, if so, will Ahsoka and Ezra’s former allies be enough to return him to the light?
One of the most plausible theories for Ahsoka is a return to one of her oldest relationships, with former Padawan Barriss Offee. Barriss and Ahsoka were close friends in the Clone Wars animated series, only for Barriss to grow disillusioned with the Jedi and betray them at the end of Season 5 – a crime for which Ahsoka was framed, resulting in her parting ways with the Jedi Order. After Barriss was convicted for her attack on the Jedi Temple, we never learned what became of her. With Clone Wars showrunner Dave Filoni overseeing all the new Star Wars stories as creative director, he’s gained a reputation for seeking to resolve stories specifically surrounding his favorite pet characters. It’s a primary reason we’re getting an Ahsoka television show at all. A return to the Barriss storyline feels like it would make the most sense, and the Inquisitor angle would be an intriguing way to approach it.
Of course it’s always possible that one of the Inquisitors we’ve seen fall in the past has returned again. We saw it happen to the Grand Inquisitor himself in Obi-Wan Kenobi after his own apparent demise. Why couldn’t the Second Sister of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, or even the Inquisitor Ahsoka herself defeated in Tales of the Jedi, return for a second round? We never did find out for sure what became of Reva, the former Third Sister, after Obi-Wan Kenobi. Although after all she’s been through, it would be a shame to see that she’d fallen again.
Then again, the Inquisitor’s mask may be hiding a much older face from Star Wars’ past. Since clearing the decks of the old Expanded Universe material in 2014, Star Wars has been slowly, tantalizingly teased beloved concepts and characters from novels, comics, and games from an era of outdated continuity back into the fold, sometimes in surprising new shapes and forms. The return of Thrawn himself is one strong example. Cyborg bounty hunter Beilert Valance, an antagonist of the 1970s Star Wars Marvel comics, is the frontman of his own comic series today. Even media ranging from The Rise of Skywalker to Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Andor have been teasing the return of the Old Republic mythology. Who’s next from our apocrypha to return to the fold? An interesting contrast to Ahsoka may be The Starkiller, Galen Marek – apprentice to Darth Vader in the Force Unleashed video game duology of 2008 and 2010. (Although, yes, technically, that second game featured a clone of Galen. But then, who’s to say there couldn’t be a third?) Stricken thoroughly from the record since the Disney acquisition, a recanonization of his history might set up a tasty confrontation between the scions of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
What we know about Star Wars' Inquisitors
Okay, we’ll level with you here: lots of Inquisitors wear masks. Most of them do, and many of them even conceal their entire face. It’s an Imperial thing, if you haven’t noticed. They’re all really into masks. It’s not so much about concealing identity as it is erasing the individuality of the person underneath. It’s the same reason Inquisitors take numbers instead of their names. They do not exist as individuals, only as servants of the Empire.
In fact, let’s get serious. In the latest stills for Ahsoka released by Disney, the Inquisitor is clearly identified. The Inquisitor’s name is given as “Marrok,” as portrayed by Paul Barnell. Barnell is a career stunt double, though, so he could be standing in for anybody – and we’ve heard the name “Marrok” before. It was the name of the bounty hunter Embo’s hunting hound in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As Embo was voiced by Dave Filoni himself, that’s likely not a coincidence. We’ve got to say that “Marrok” strikes us as a codename rather than an actual identity, alluding more perhaps to this character’s identity as a hunter driven by an animal instinct. Like all Inquisitors are trained to be, from potential Jedi Knights to dogs for the Empire.
Whatever the case, we’ll find out soon enough. Keep these theories close to your chest so that no matter what the truth turns out to be, you can declare you knew it all along when Ahsoka debuts.