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spoilers for Rebels, TCW season 7, and the Darth Vader Dark Lord of the Sith comic series

When I was talking about season 7 of The Clone Wars with a friend of mine, she mentioned that people have been theorizing that the scene at the end of that season, where Vader finds Ahsoka's lightsaber, takes place long after that time period, even after Rebels. I didn't think that the theory held any water at the time, but now I've been thinking.

At first, when I watched the show, I assumed that Vader would have gone looking for Ahsoka and Rex fairly soon after becoming Darth Vader. He was changed, but he still would've sought some resolution, I feel, for their lives, and Palpatine would have wanted Vader to know they were dead. This didn't seem to clash with season 2 of Rebels, where Vader first learns that Ahsoka is alive. I also can't imagine that Vader, after fifteen years of being Vader, would go back to where he thought Ahsoka died. So I just assumed that that scene took place soon after Anakin became Vader.

But here's the rub - the 2017 comic series Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith. It takes place very directly after RoTS, right when Palpatine tells Vader that Padme is dead. The whole series takes place in a very tight time period, with an emphasis on Vader burying Anakin Skywalker. In the final volume of that series, Fortress Vader, Vader goes through a very direct facing of his past as Anakin, burning away all of his past attachments. Ahsoka is featured here, as well as Shmi Skywalker and Obi-Wan. In the end, Vader finally loses Padme for good, solidifying his role as Darth Vader.

With this comic, I found myself wondering - when did that scene at the end of season 7 take place? Given the way Vader gently held the lightsaber, I wouldn't assume it was so far after RotS, but this clashes with the comic series. The series is about Vader killing his past - so why, after this, would he go out to the place where he thought Ahsoka died?

Is it still reasonable to assume that, maybe after this series, Vader went to that crashed ship? Or is there evidence that he did so at a far later date?

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Short answer: we don't know exactly.

However a few general assumptions can be made:-

  1. Going by the post Clone Wars Imperial equipment (Stormtroopers, Lambda shuttle etc.), it's a safe bet this is not in the immediate aftermath of RotS. The Ahsoka novel which takes place about a year hence, mentions that the non-clone Stormtroopers are a relatively recent development, at least in the outer rim.
  2. Enough time had passed between Ahsoka and Rex leaving and Vader's arrival that both the local climate had changed (most likely seasonal, but the impact of the ship could have caused a mini-nuclear winter) and that most of the grave markers seem to have been knocked down by the elements.

I think it's reasonable to presume that we're looking at one year minimum. As for the maximum; there's no reason why this couldn't literally have taken place the day before he sets off for Endor. It's that wide open at the moment.

If I had to make a wild guess; I'd say sometime in the first decade makes the most sense, since that's presumably when he spent the most time actively hunting down leads for Jedi left unaccounted for following Order 66. It also thematically makes the most sense for this to happen before the time of rebellion.

On the other hand, immediately prior to 'The Empire Strikes Back' Vader is sending out thousands of probe droids into the galaxy, so during that search may be the time when he's most likely to have randomly come across a crashed ship on a remote (presumably) unsettled planet. Indeed there was at least one probe droid at the site when he landed, so it's not impossible.

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