This week’s episode of The Mandalorian brought some answers, raised more questions, and brought a fan-favorite to life in a Samurai style story.
This season of The Mandalorian has been going full steam ahead at incorporating the characters and story into the larger Star Wars universe. The newest episode, appropriately titled “The Jedi” brings that into even sharper focus, while moving our heroes to the next phase of their journey. Let’s break down ALL the big stuff that went down, and as always, beware of spoilers if you haven’t watched yet.
Today’s the day many Star Wars fans have been waiting for. Teased a couple episodes back, ‘The Jedi’ brought the iconic animation character to live-action: Ahsoka Tano (played by Rosario Dawson, which we’ll talk about in a sec). Many fans were curious to what degree we’d see the character, and in this regard, the episode absolutely didn’t disappoint.
In fact, it kicks off with a demonstration of Ahsoka’s continued ass-kicking abilities as she takes down a squad of soldiers outside the gates of an obvious fortress—the city of Calodan. Still sporting the white Lightsabers we saw her wield in Star Wars Rebels, her introduction is pretty impressive. Soon, we see the story of the episode begin to come into focus as Ahsoka is battling against a corrupt Magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), who’s working the townspeople to death and stripping their planet.
Elsbeth is ruthless and isn’t above using innocent townspeople as shields to her own benefit. She has information Ahsoka wants, but isn’t about to give it up easily. Ahsoka offers up an ultimatum, leaving Elsbeth a day to decide whether to give up or not. Enter Din Djarin.
Mando arrives on Corvus after his stop on Nevarro last week, and is looking for answers. What he finds is a city of dejected people too afraid to even speak with him. He’s quickly introduced to Magistrate Elsbeth and presented with a job offer. Take down the “Jedi” troubling her, and she’ll provide him with a swanky spear made of pure Beskar.
Mando sets off to find Ahsoka, though he has no intentions of killing her. Finally, he sees a chance to complete his quest…
Answers and More Questions
After a brief battle (in which we finally get visual confirmation that Beskar is indeed Lightsaber resistant), Din is able to get Ahsoka to take a moment to trust him. As expected of someone who grew up in the Jedi Temple during the time of the Prequels, she pretty immediately recognizes The Child and what’s going on with it.
At long last we have a NAME! Grogu! Little Grogu is the name of the Child, which we learn after some telepathic communion went down between the characters. More so, we get some tantalizing details on where the “baby Yoda” came from. Turns out he was raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant as well, but was hidden away after the Clone Wars ended, thus avoiding the fate of Order 66 that so many other younglings couldn’t.
After that, his memories are “dark” and he hid his abilities in order to keep himself safe. This obviously still leaves us with a heap of questions. That’s a solid 25-ish years of time between leaving the Temple and Din finding him in the first episode of The Mandalorian in which we know almost nothing. Not to mention that doesn’t offer up much explanation for how Moff Gideon would even know about Grogu’s existence.
Regardless, it’s nice to get some answers and hints, as well as something to call him other than The Child. While Grogu will certainly take some getting used to after all this time, I’m kinda of digging it.
Taking Back the Village
The meeting isn’t everything Din was hoping for, however, as Ahsoka makes it clear she will not train Grogu. Seeing the attachment he has to Din, a very parental attachment, Ahsoka fears further training could lead Grogu down a dark path, something she knows about all too well with her own Master.
She agrees to help Din so long as he helps her take the city back from Elsbeth. So yeah, this pretty much sticks with the pattern all of The Mandalorian episodes have taken this season. Not that its’ a bad thing, just kinda funny to see him having to tackle all this sidequests in order to move his main quest along. Almost like watching an RPG!
From here, it’s pretty straight forward as Din and Ahsoka work together to take out Elsbeth’s heavily armed forces (including Michael Biehn and his bad-ass shotgun blaster). While Din holds things down, Ahsoka is free to confront Elsbeth, who clearly has training and abilities to hold off Ahsoka’s well trained attacks.
Not going to lie, it’s kinda surreal to see Lightsabers in action in this kind of format. While it’s something we’re all used to seeing on the big screen, it’s something The Mandalorian has largely shied away from. It’s cool, especially when you throw in the Martial Arts awesomeness of Diana Lee Inosanto wielding a Beskar spear.
There are a number of fun elements in this city battle that takes place, but ultimately the showdown falls a little flat. The Kurosawa influences are readily apparent, and the whole episode plays out like an old-school Samurai film, but not every homage lands the way they’re intended.
The overall pacing felt wonky, and the places they chose to cut away from certain actions ultimately robbed moments of any real sense of tension. Rather than playing out like the simplistic, yet charged battles of Samurai flicks, it felt like a big chunk of things were done off screen to mask actions they weren’t sure how to handle.
The Next Steps
In episode already filled with major revelations, somehow, they were able to pack in one more. Turns out the information Ahsoka is on Corvus to find is in regards to none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn!
Fans of the old Expanded Universe are intimately familiar with the iconic blue character, and his return to canon via Star Wars Rebels (and heaps of new books) has been exciting. Hearing him finally mentioned in live-action is almost a dream come true.
I have a lot more to say on this, but let’s wrap up this episode real quick. With Elsbeth defeated, the original Magistrate is able to regain control and his people rejoice. With the work done, Din is frustrated to learn that Ahsoka STILL won’t take on Grogu. Instead, she offers another step to take, as well as giving Grogu the choice to forge his own path in life.
She directs Din to the planet Tython, another name steeped in Star Wars lore, where he’ll find an ancient Jedi Temple. From there, Grogu will have the chance to choose. He can reach out through the Force, where it could be amplified and picked up by other surviving Jedi, or he can continue to keep his presence small, eschewing training and going his own way with Din.
Tython is an interesting mention as in the Expanded Universe/Legends material it was revealed to be the origin point for the Jedi and site of the first Temple. The true location of the first Temple is a bit muddled now (with Ahch-To from the Sequel films also being on the table for that), but I got a geeky thrill out of hearing it.
The planet already reappeared in Canon recently thanks to the Doctor Aphra comic series. That brief excursion didn’t delve too deeply into the vast lore previously associated with Tython, so there’s still plenty of room for The Mandalorian (or other upcoming Star Wars stories) to explore.
As has been the case this season, we leave the episode knowing more than we did before, but still short of the goal. This isn’t a bad thing, and the way it continues to open up the bigger Star Wars galaxy is a big part of the fun.
‘The Jedi’ tossed out a number of big ideas in the episode, each of which could have big implications for both this show and future Star Wars tales. There’s a lot to process, so I’m going to try and break this down into easier to digest chunks:
Thrawn – Obviously this is the biggest piece of “holy crap” information we’re given. Not only is this some confirmation that Thrawn is still alive (something we assumed but was left nebulous at the end of Rebels), but he apparently still has a presence within the galaxy and those who inhabit it.
If you don’t remember (or didn’t watch the cartoon series) in Star Wars Rebels Grand Admiral Thrawn was finally defeated as Ezra Bridger seemingly sacrificed himself to make the leap into Hyperspace with the aid of the strange ‘space whales’ known as the Purrgil. It was a blind jump, one of the most dangerous as it could have placed them literally anywhere in the Galaxy.
It could have meant they jumped straight to their death, or simply lost out in the void of space. Either way, it put them firmly out of the picture for several years, all throughout the events of the Original Trilogy films. The final moments in Rebels shows Ahsoka show up to travel along with Sabine Wren in order to find out exactly what happened to Ezra in a time after Return of the Jedi.
Thrawn’s mention by Ahsoka in this context means she already knows the villain is alive AND is clearly back at work influencing events in the galaxy. After all, Ahsoka refers to Thrawn as Elsbeth’s “Master” meaning she’s currently working for him and knows where to find him. This implies that Thrawn could end up being a much bigger threat in the near future…
Ahsoka’s Quest – Ahsoka is obviously on a quest of her own, though I’m having a tough time pinning down exactly what it might be (other than finding Thrawn). Mostly, I’m trying to figure out the timing at the moment considering the above implications I mentioned.
The more I think about it, the more I’m wondering if the ‘coda’ sequence in Rebels takes place much further after the events of ROTJ than initially implied. The way Sabine talks makes it sound like we’re catching up with her soon after the Death Star II exploded, but even then fans point out how much the city on Lothal had grown in such a short time. Perhaps, that moment actually takes place AFTER the events we see in The Mandalorian.
In today’s episode we Ahsoka pretty much clothed in much the same way we saw from previous cartoons, with the gray cloak and outfit we saw near the end of The Clone Wars and her initial episodes in Rebels. It’s definitely not the “Ahsoka the White” outfit we see when she goes to pick up Sabine.
Does this mean Ahsoka somehow learned about Thrawn on her own, and after tracking down more information (like whatever she gets from Elsbeth that we don’t hear) THEN goes to Sabine to finish finding Ezra?
Other Jedi – Ahsoka also mentions there aren’t “many Jedi left” and doesn’t outright tell Din that they’re gone. This implies that she knows about the other Jedi out in the Galaxy, which would obviously include Luke Skywalker. As I mentioned in my long speculation article, it seems unlikely that at this point in time—3-5 years after ROTJ—Ahsoka wouldn’t know about, or hadn’t met, Luke Skywalker.
Does this mean we’re heading for an encounter with the iconic hero in the show? Hard to say, but we do know that during this period of time Luke is actively hunting down Jedi artifacts and lore, something that could understandably lead him to Tython on his own anyway.
If Luke doesn’t show up on Tython, however, which other Jedi could potentially arrive? Could Cal Kestis (from the Fallen Order game) still be around? Another survivor we haven’t heard from yet? Perhaps even Ezra himself?
Tough to say at the moment. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some old-school Force Ghosts show up, maybe even Yoda himself. I still think Grogu will ultimately wind up with others of his kind. Not necessarily the Jedi, but his own species and family. Something that only those who’ve passed on might have information about.
Then again, Din might not even be able to get to that point. We can’t forget that Moff Gideon has a tracker beacon placed on the Razor Crest and probably isn’t going to sit back and wait much longer to try and get Grogu back under his control. Din, alone (most likely) in an abandoned and ancient Temple seems like the perfect spot to spring a trap…
Where We Go Next
As I mentioned last week, fans are kind of in the dark going forward as the back half of this season has been kept entirely out of any trailers/TV spots. I still think we’re heading for a moment where Gideon manages to get his hands on Grogu, perhaps snatching him from Tython before Din can get more answers.
This would lead to an epic rescue mission that could see Din reach out to his new allies for help. I mean, it seems awfully convenient that Din ends the episode with his hands on a weapon (the spear) that has the ability to withstand the Darksaber. Could be a fun confrontation!
Perhaps we’ll learn along that way that Gideon himself is also working for Thrawn, leading Ahsoka back into the action of the show that way along with Bo-Katan. Of course that doesn’t exactly give much room for expanding on that dangling Boba Fett plot thread (which I think will be addressed in some way before the season ends).
There are a lot of possibilities and it’s hard to guess at what could be coming. What I’m liking, however, is the fact that The Mandalorian, despite all these new elements being thrown in, is still focused on its specific story. While some are concerned about the show incorporating some many elements of the big Star Wars lore, I think it’s being handled in a smart way.
While Din is encountering familiar characters and dabbling into major events within the galaxy, the show is still very much centered on HIS experiences with those and the quest he’s on. It hasn’t deviated from that, and in doing so manages to keep these bigger aspects accessible for newer fans. Since he’s encountering these aspects for the first time, his perspective serves as a gateway for audiences.
Even without knowing about The Clone Wars or Rebels, you get the gist of these characters and motivations. As the goal of any Star Wars media is to expand the fanbase and bring in viewers both new and old, it’s a great jumping off point to get audiences into other Star Wars stories.
I think this is how Mandalorian will continue. There will be hints and elements of the bigger story, but will be limited to how Din interacts within them. All of which could easily lead to other shows to fill in those missing gaps.
Let’s Talk About Ahsoka
Okay, so let’s talk about Ahsoka and the actress playing her. First of all, it’s still blowing my mind to see this character brought into live-action Star Wars storytelling. The import of which is something I’m sure we’ll see in other projects down the road. She’s a beloved character, and many in the current Star Wars fandom grew up with her as their main character thanks to The Clone Wars series.
Bringing her to life is an important task, and the episode does a decent job of selling us on her. While I think the pacing problems hold it back from greatness, I still think it was a solid introduction of the character for audiences who haven’t watched the other shows she’s been in.
Rosario Dawson’s casting as the character is somewhat problematic, however, and has been causing some fans issues since she was first rumored to take on the role. Last year, Dawson and her family became embroiled in a lawsuit in which it was alleged they harassed a trans-man, lobbying transphobic remarks, and even participated in an outright assault.
Dawson has gone on to say the claims were baseless and since then much of the person’s claims have been withdrawn. The problem, however, is that for a big portion of a community that are already made to feel on the outskirts, their concerns aren’t being heard. Hell, in a civil case where you’re up against a famous family’s money and attorneys, it’s not entirely crazy to feel the pressure to drop things (especially in a system that generally doesn’t work for minorities).
Here’s the thing, I don’t know what to tell you about it all. I DO know, however, there are a number of trans fans who are upset and wishing to be heard on the matter, rather than shouted down simply because a fan-favorite character is in play. So even if you already have an idea in your head about these allegations, perhaps take a moment to listen to others in the community, others who normally get shit on by others in fandom.
Wow, all this and we still have THREE episodes to go! This season of the show is certainly running on all cylinders. While I didn’t care too much for the pacing/direction of this episode (sorry Dave Filoni, you have great ideas, but need a hand with other stuff) the huge amount of lore it infused will keep me thinking/discussing for a while.