In theory this map will lead to the villainous Thrawn, and by extension Ezra Bridger – a missing Rebel ally. But first, the show’s heroes need to find the map, and then they have to unlock it. Then the bad guys steal it, leading to a secondary map hunt.
A lot of fans have a bone to pick with Star Wars‘ obsession with map MacGuffins, arguing that instead of being an affectionate homage to past canon, it’s now a tiresomely overutilized trope. However, I must respectfully disagree. Ahsoka’s problem isn’t the map itself, but how the show uses it.
Ahsoka doesn’t understand how MacGuffins work
There’s nothing wrong with MacGuffin-based storytelling. Plenty of iconic movies revolve around people squabbling over a shiny object: Pulp Fiction, The Maltese Falcon, the entire Indiana Jones franchise.
By definition, a MacGuffin is a storytelling tool. It’s an impetus for conflict. Good MacGuffin stories don’t focus much attention on the MacGuffin itself. They spend most of their time exploring the peril and emotional tension experienced by characters trying to get their hands on the prize.
This is, needless to say, the exact opposite of what Ahsoka is doing.
The emotional driving force of the show is the heroes’ desire to find Ezra Bridger. That’s the real reason why viewers should care about the map. Unfortunately if you’re not a Star Wars: Rebels fan, this quest is utterly meaningless because Ahsoka barely explains who Ezra is. Instead of delving into why he and Thrawn are so important, we just keep coming back to the damn map.
Ahsoka’s creators seem convinced that the MacGuffin should be onscreen as much as possible, discussed in exhausting detail. This makes for some very boring TV – and it’s a deeply baffling choice compared to classic Star Wars MacGuffins.
When you think of The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker’s starmap probably doesn’t loom large in your memory. Likewise, we don’t dwell on the role of the Death Star plans in A New Hope and Rogue One. These MacGuffins exist to facilitate more interesting parts of the story, a lesson that Ahsoka‘s creators clearly did not understand.