Damn you, Dave Filoni! Why must this episode of The Mandalorian be so good!? I’ve watched it twice already and I’m not sure it’ll be enough.
By far the most cinematic episode of either season, “The Jedi” FINALLY gives us the long-awaited live-action debut of Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson. We assumed it would be Filoni to make this a reality, hence the stop-gap story last week, and the extra week’s wait was worth it. In fact, Tano shows up right off the bat. No bullshittin’ around this time, as she’s seen in the shadowy fog of the forest city of Calodan on the planet Corvus, slipping among the burned-out trees and cutting down a group of robotic soldiers.
When Djin Djarin aka Mando and the Child make their landing on the planet, it’s like they’ve stumbled into a whole new world. And in a way, they have, just as the series has, because the Jedi have been a total non-factor for the entire run up to this point. It’s almost unbelievable to think we’ve gotten this far into a Star Wars story and for that to be the case. Almost immediately upon arrival, he’s set upon by a local Magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth (played by renowned martial artist Diana Lee Inosanto) and her right-hand man, Lang (the great Michael Biehn). They want to hire him to take out Ahsoka Tano, who has been plaguing them of late. In exchange, they will give him a spear of pure Beskar metal. How she got it…well, that remains a mystery. She also seems to know a lot about the Mandalorian/Jedi war.
So Mando has been hired to kill the woman he’s been looking for all along? Tricky situation that, and in true superhero fashion they briefly fight before ironing out their differences. Tano’s dual lightsabers clash with his Beskar, but he gets the upper hand briefly using a zipline, only to have her turn the tables. The two quickly figure out their differences. He tells her about Bo-Katan, and Tano says he hopes he’s there to talk about “him”, pointing directly at The Child.
Here’s the thing: while this episode is going to be thought of as the one where Ahsoka Tano makes her debut, it’s also the one where he find out the most about The Child. Like…well, his actual name, which happens to be Grogu. After a Force-sensitive conversation with Grogu, Tano also reveals a large chunk of the tyke’s past, which is much darker and more involved than we knew. It involves training at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and his being there at the time of its destruction at the hands of who? Tano’s old master, Anakin Skywalker. After that, it’s been years on the run hiding his Force powers.
We get a parallel to the stories of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, as well, with Tano saying that she can’t train Grogu in the ways of the Force. Not because he’s too old, but because of the fear she senses in him. Also, his connection to Mando is too strong.
Every time a powerful Force-wielder who held this much fear was trained fully it turned out shitty. Who can blame her for saying no? Ultimately, they strike up one of those bargains this show is famous for by this point. Mando will help Tano take out the Magistrate if she’ll agree to train Grogu.
What follows is fairly familiar infiltration stuff; what’s important are the face-to-face confrontations. Lang, who looks like he might’ve been yet another marshall (ala Cobb Vanth and Cara Dune) in a former life, tries to talk his way out of an old school Western standoff with Mando. Meanwhile, Tano and the Magistrate’s showdown, a clash of lightsaber and Beskar steel, the latter proving impervious by the way, leads to another big name drop for this episode:
Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Oh boy. Talk about tying up loose ends. Thrawn, far and away the best villain to emerge from the pre-Disney era Star Wars novels, made his canonical debut in Star Wars Rebels. He also connects directly to the disappearance of then-emerging Jedi Ezra Bridger. So has Ahsoka Tano still not found Ezra after all of this time?
As the minutes tick down and we know the credits are about to roll on this eye-popping episode, there’s still yet one more big mention. Tano sends Mando off to the planet Tython, which if you’re fully invested in the Star Wars comics and novelizations, you know is damn important to the history of the Jedi.
This episode pretty much had everything we could’ve asked for, and then some. After a lot of concern over how Ahsoka Tano would make the jump from animation to the real thing, I think Dawson does an incredible job capturing her personality. Not only that, but she just looks so perfect. The costuming is pinpoint, from the headdress to her white lightsabers, right down to the angular lines in Dawson’s face. Superb. And she’s even better in action. We all know Dawson is a supreme ass-kicker on the big screen, but she’s somehow even better than imagined as a Jedi. Yes, please, I’ll take more.
That’s just it,though, because it seems like we won’t see Tano for a while. There may be other Jedi around, though, and my fingers are crossed one of them is Ezra Bridger. With so much learned about Baby Yoda….er, Grogu, The Mandalorian is turning pages on this story very quickly all of a sudden as the season finale approaches.