The teaser synopsis of Chapter 13 of The Mandalorian couldn’t have been more generic: “The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey through a dangerous galaxy.” That spoiler-averse summary could have applied to any episode of the series. But the title (“The Jedi”), the length (47 minutes, the third longest so far after the Season 1 finale and the Season 2 premiere), and the writer-director (executive producer Dave Filoni, veteran of Rebels and The Clone Wars and steward of all of Lucasfilm Animation) belied the nondescript description, promising a momentous week.
That’s just what we got. The fifth episode of Season 2 is an emotionally resonant and narratively rich installment of The Mandalorian, but it’s also the culmination of months of anticipation, a love letter to fans of Filoni’s former creations, and a work of world-building with implications for the future of the franchise on both the big and small screens. “The Jedi” gives a name to the Child, introduces a fan-favorite character from beyond the films to live action (while teasing the possible appearance of another), and fulfills the second season’s mission to make The Mandalorian the era-spanning, lore-linking centerpiece of Star Wars—though not without continued consequences for the spectator experience of the series as a standalone piece of IP.
Structurally speaking, “The Jedi” looks like almost any other episode: Mando and the Child land on an unfamiliar planet, team up with an ally who has a grudge against local heavies and, with the weekly give-and-take completed, lift off for a fresh destination where they can continue their quest. This time, though, the ally is a preexisting character with special significance for Star Wars fans: former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, who’s appearing in the flesh for the first time, portrayed by Rosario Dawson. And unlike every other friend or foe Mando has encountered in his past adventures, Ahsoka is both willing and able to tell him who his sidekick is.
Like The Rise of Skywalker, “The Jedi” starts with a lightsaber-wielding warrior in the woods laying waste to helmeted adversaries. This warrior is also trying to track down a hidden quarry, but her blades are white, not red, and her combat style is precise and stealthy, not blunt and unrestrained. Her ochre skin, white facial markings, and majestic montrals and head tails mark her as Ahsoka, the Togruta Force wielder who fought the separatists during the Clone Wars as Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice, left the Jedi order just as she neared knighthood, and survived Order 66 and decades on the run from Imperial Inquisitors under Darth Vader’s command. After dispatching several defenders, Ahsoka stands before the gate of a walled city, where she confronts the Magistrate (played by Bruce Lee’s goddaughter, Diana Lee Inosanto) and her henchman Lang (Michael Biehn, best known for starring as military men in ’80s sci-fi standouts The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss). The Magistrate threatens to slaughter the city’s subjugated populace if Ahsoka doesn’t depart, but Ahsoka says she’ll be back in a day.
That day makes a difference. Following a tip about Tano from Bo-Katan (who must be in close contact with Ahsoka if she knows about the ex-Padawan’s seemingly impermanent presence on the planet), Mando and the Child land on Corvus, which—surprise, surprise—turns out to be inhospitable. From orbit, the surface is stitched with lines of flame. On the surface, it’s even less inviting. The “forest planet” Bo-Katan referenced looks like The Lorax after the Once-ler kills all the Truffula trees. It’s a nearly lifeless industrial wasteland obscured by smog belched from factories, one of which looms on the outskirts of Calodan, where the Razor Crest makes a much more controlled landing than it did on Maldo Kreis or Trask.
Mando, posing as an active bounty hunter—not a tough persona for him to pull off—meets with a less violent reception than Ahsoka. Lang, a mercenary devoid of Din Djarin’s newfound compassion, allows him to enter the downtrodden town, where the Magistrate—whose pristine inner sanctum is ringed by tortured prisoners, in case there were any doubts about where our loyalties should lie—offers him a spear of pure beskar to take care of her Jedi pest problem. The events of Season 1 taught Din to beware of bounty givers bearing beskar, but he pretends to take the bait. With the Child in tow, Mando trudges to the coordinates the Magistrate gave him, where Ahsoka awaits. She ambushes Mando, who demonstrates beskar’s lightsaber-blocking abilities as he fends off her offensive. He convinces her to stand down by dropping Bo-Katan’s name and declaring that he’s come to talk. “I hope it’s about him,” Ahsoka says, indicating the Child, whom she recognizes as a member of Yoda’s species. The stage is set for a scene that this series has been building to ever since Din discovered the Child in Chapter 1. It’s time to reveal Baby Yoda’s backstory.
After communing with the kid in a wordless, Force-infused exchange of feelings and memories, Ahsoka shares some significant news, for Mando and for us: The little green guy has a name, and it doesn’t start with a Y. After calling him Baby Yoda or the Child for a year, “Grogu” will take some getting used to. (I still think of Din as “Mando,” mostly, although that’s because nobody calls him Din; if Mando keeps calling the kid Grogu, maybe I’ll abandon “Baby Yoda,” though I think the internet imprinted on the nickname.) And that’s not all Ahsoka learns: Grogu’s Force skills aren’t self-taught. Like her, he’s a former resident at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, where “many masters” trained him over the years. At the end of the Clone Wars—presumably sometime before Ahsoka’s former master showed up to massacre the younglings—someone took him from the Temple and hid him away. Like Ahsoka, he’s been hiding from the Empire ever since, disguising his Force powers so as not to give himself away (unless he has to use them in pursuit of some frog eggs—but hey, no one was around to see him Force-stealing the spawn of the unsuspecting Frog Lady).
It’s somewhat surprising that Ahsoka and Grogu haven’t met before: Ahsoka was raised at the Temple from the age of 3, and one would think she would have been aware of a fellow youngling like him. Not just because he’s cute or because he had probably been there for years by the time she arrived, but because members of Yoda’s species aren’t exactly low profile. Yoda and Yaddle—the only other known examples in Star Wars canon, the latter of whom Ahsoka seems to have forgotten—were both on the Jedi Council during Ahsoka’s time in training, and between their prominence in the Order and Grogu’s midi-chlorian count, the kid would have been a Jedi top prospect. For whatever reason, the two aren’t acquainted—the Temple was big, and maybe the babies kept to themselves—but the quick conference, and Ahsoka’s own experience as a fugitive, are enough to tell her that the little dude is damaged and filled with fear (as Anakin was, according to Yoda and Dooku). That explains why he hasn’t used the Force except when he’s alone, one-on-one with Mando, or in extremis and forced to intervene to save the life of a friend. Perhaps he and Mando get along so well not only because they’re both foundlings, but because both are encased in some sort of armor, visible or otherwise.
Din expects Ahsoka to train Grogu, but like Yoda when Luke first arrives on Dagobah, she declines. A test of his telekinetic powers confirms that his skills haven’t atrophied, but it also makes clear what has long been apparent to anyone who’s watched Clan Mudhorn in action: Grogu has developed a deep bond with Din. He refuses to play Force catch with Ahsoka and a pebble, but when his adopted dad urges him to pluck his favorite shiny bauble from the Razor Crest’s controls out of his hand, he quickly complies, pleasing a proud Din. Grogu’s obedience and Din’s exuberant (by his standards) reaction tells Ahsoka that the two are attached, and the former friend and student of Anakin knows the dangers of attachment too well. “I’ve seen what such feelings can do to a fully trained Jedi knight—to the best of us,” she says. “I will not start this child down that path.”
Mando doesn’t take no for an answer. Instead, he offers to aid Ahsoka in her attempt to liberate Calodan. The Magistrate, Ahsoka confides, is an enemy with the oddly normal name of Morgan Elsbeth. Elsbeth (a new character, not another artifact from the Filoniverse) is—like Din, Grogu, and Ahsoka—an orphan and psychological casualty of the Clone Wars. Her people were massacred (maybe by the Separatists), and her rage fueled her efforts to bolster the Imperial Starfleet at the expense of the planets that supplied the labor and raw materials. Corvus has become her latest victim.
Mando and Ahsoka have something in common besides bad memories of the Clone Wars: They’re both good at getting over walls. They tag team Calodan’s defenses, with Ahsoka initially pretending to have killed Mando to preserve the element of surprise. (As Din jokes, “A Mandalorian and a Jedi? They’ll never see it coming.”) As fans of Filoni’s series can attest, Ahsoka is more than capable of taking out Lang, two Samurai-esque HK-87 assassin droids—another gift from Filoni to fans of classic snarker-killer HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic—and a few foot soldiers, but she can’t be everywhere at once. As she fights in the streets, Mando rockets into town just in time to save the prisoners who are about to be executed. Then they split up to tackle Calodan’s final bosses in single combat—Ahsoka vs. Morgan, and Mando vs Lang.
You don’t cast Bruce Lee’s goddaughter just to have her hide behind bodyguards, and the Magistrate proves to be the town’s most formidable opponent, dueling Ahsoka to a standstill until the lapsed Jedi finally knocks the beskar stabby stick out of her hands. Ahsoka doesn’t emphatically distance herself from the Jedi in Chapter 13, but in her animated and off-screen incarnations, she repeatedly rejected her old order (which unjustly tried her for treason), most memorably reminding Vader in Rebels, “I’m no Jedi.” She still possesses the sabers, the skills, and the impulse to protect innocents that hail from her former life, but she’s less pacifistic and wary of revenge than a straitlaced pre-Imperial.
Holding a lightsaber to Elsbeth’s neck, Ahsoka demands to know the whereabouts of the Magistrate’s master: “Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?” The mention of Thrawn, a Star Wars expanded universe icon restored to current canon when Filoni featured him in Rebels, is the third jaw-dropping development of the episode (after Ahsoka’s debut and the bombshell that Disney can start selling a whole bunch of Baby Yoda merch under a new name) and the second that requires some specialized Star Wars knowledge to feel its full effect. (More on that in a moment.)
A cut back to Mando obscures the Magistrate’s fate: We don’t know if Ahsoka executes her or turns her over to the happy Calodanians. Nor do we know if Elsbeth divulges Thrawn’s location, although she doesn’t deny knowing where he is. What we do know is that Mando does away with Lang, who makes a show of setting down his shotgun-esque blaster—like Biehn’s weapons for close encounters in Terminator and Aliens—but foolishly whips out a pistol, underestimating both beskar’s resilience and Mando’s speed on the draw. (One of the strengths of this series is its knack for leavening combat with comedy, which “The Jedi” achieves by making Mando and Lang listen to Ahsoka and Elsbeth fight from afar.) File Lang and Elsbeth away with Fennec Shand on the list of Mandalorian baddies who went one and done. And add a beskar spear to Mando’s suite of armaments.
Unlike Yoda, Ahsoka doesn’t change her mind about accepting a questionable trainee—not yet, at least. But in the time-honored tradition of characters who cross paths with Mando, she does give Din some useful intel: If he takes Grogu to the planet Tython, he’ll find an ancient Jedi Temple where Grogu will be able to choose his path. If he decides to open himself up to the Force, another Jedi may sense his presence and search for him. But as Ahsoka notes, there aren’t many Jedi left.
This series keeps its secrets close: The Mandalorian didn’t divulge the names of its leading duo until its eighth and 13th episode, respectively. Chapter 13 answered some questions, but it prompted many more. Who saved Grogu from Order 66, and how did he stay out of the Empire’s clutches for decades? Will we see Ahsoka again in this season, or this series? Is Thrawn, the blue-skinned, red-eyed, and art-loving tactical genius, in league with Moff Gideon? Might reaching out through the Force at the “seeing stone” on Tython expose Grogu to Darth Sidious, like Frodo drawing Sauron’s eye when he puts on the Ring? Which Jedi, if any, will answer Grogu’s call: a new character, or one of the few known survivors, such as Luke and Leia, Quinlan Vos, or Ezra Bridger, the former Padawan who disappeared along with Thrawn in Season 4 of Rebels, and whom Ahsoka and Sabine Wren set out to find? As Ezra told Thrawn shortly before the pair entered hyperspace, bound for parts unknown, “Whatever happens next, happens to both of us.”
In tandem with the two episodes that preceded it, which introduced Bo-Katan and foreshadowed Snoke and the decrepit clone Darth Sidious, “The Jedi” also poses a big-picture question: Who is The Mandalorian for? Is it for hardcore Star Wars lifers or franchise neophytes? Filoni’s Lucas-loving muse, or Disney’s blockbuster ambitions?
The answer, it seems, is intended to be “all of the above,” but this season’s promised expansion in scale has made all of that tap dancing more difficult. Jon Favreau and Filoni have stuffed their series with Easter eggs for Star Wars diehards from the start, but on a narrative level, it didn’t matter that much whether one recognized the animal roasting on a spit in the premiere as a Kowakian monkey-lizard, let alone knew it by name. That’s changed in the second season, especially after Chapter 10. The show has evolved to the point that viewers steeped in the expanded universe and animated series, and those whose Star Wars knowledge goes no further than the films, are now having drastically different spectator experiences—albeit both pretty rewarding ones, at least so far.
As I write this, “The Jedi” boasts by far the highest IMDb user rating of any episode in the series, probably reflecting the most committed fans’ excitement about seeing Ahsoka and hearing Thrawn’s name. I got actual chills at multiple points, so yes, I felt it too, but this chapter was tailored to me and my taste in Star Wars. Casual viewers may wonder what some of the fuss is about. It’s tough to put myself in the place of a big-screen-or-bust Star Wars fan who’d have to check Wookieepedia or read recaps like this one to realize that Bo-Katan, Ahsoka, and Thrawn have histories outside of this series. There’s no way around the fact that the catch in Dawson’s voice when Ahsoka describes Anakin as “the best of us” hits much harder if you’ve seen all seven seasons of The Clone Wars. And if you haven’t seen Rebels or read Timothy Zahn’s books, the shout-out to Thrawn doesn’t land at all.
As foretold by Bob Iger, Mando seems to be morphing into a sort of streaming Johnny Appleseed: Wherever he travels, he comes across characters from the animated or book/comic canon (Cobb Vanth, Boba Fett, Bo-Katan, and now Ahsoka) who could carry or costar in spinoff series. Disney didn’t cast Dawson—who has joined Gina Carano in troubling some Star Wars fans because of charges of transphobic behavior (most of which were dismissed)—just to use her for a single guest spot, so we’ll see Ahsoka again, though not necessarily in The Mandalorian. (Ashley Eckstein, who voiced Ahsoka in The Clone Wars and Rebels, didn’t get to reprise her performance in person like Katee Sackhoff did as Bo-Katan; that’s probably partly because she doesn’t look like Ahsoka, but also likely because she isn’t a mainstream star.) It’s hard not to regard “The Jedi” as a backdoor pilot for a future streaming series or film—or possibly both, if various rumors are to be believed.
In recent episodes, Mando and his sidekick have ceded some screen time to secondary characters and the demands of Disney’s franchise CPR: Ahsoka gets the first and last shots of Chapter 13 to herself. If you’re not a lore lover and want The Mandalorian to be a procedural about Baby Yoda and Din, the saving grace of this season is that the complexities that accompany these transplanted characters are largely optional. The Thrawn name drop could be a confounding climax to the Magistrate’s story line if Thrawn isn’t seen in this series, but one didn’t need to know the backstory of Bo-Katan to enjoy her role in “The Heiress,” and one doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of Ahsoka to appreciate the appearance of a Jedi-adjacent ass-kicker. For fans who are new to those characters, their stints in the spotlight function like any other episodic installment of the series, with the added benefit of a few major moments for Mando and Child.
Better yet, The Mandalorian manages not to neglect small but meaningful emotional moments even as it spins plates from the prequels, the sequels, and every Star Wars stop in between. Some of those moments come courtesy of the guest stars, such as when Ahsoka alludes to Anakin or, through Grogu, feels the half-forgotten touch of a personal connection through the Force. More of them come from the core characters: Grogu perking up when Din uses his name for the first time; the infant and the fighter performing for Ahsoka and feeling a figurative pull as strong as Grogu’s Force pull; Din tenderly cradling Grogu on the Razor Crest when he thinks their one true pairing is about to be broken up. It would take a heart as hard as beskar not to feel something when Mando softly says, “Wake up, buddy. It’s time to say goodbye.” Mercifully, it’s not nearly time for their final farewell.
The Mandalorian has always been both in debt to and in conversation with the legacy of Star Wars, which spans generations in our galaxy as well as the one far, far away. Even if you kill the past, its echoes resound: “The Jedi Order fell a long time ago,” Ahsoka says, but as Mando rejoins, “So did the Empire, yet it still hunts him.” For all its originality, this is a series that stars an infant lookalike of a beloved original trilogy character and a dude directly inspired by Boba Fett, and models itself on the sci-fi serials and Western and Samurai stories that inspired Episode IV. The Mandalorian is trying to be the Chosen One, bringing balance to a fractured fan base that craves fresh adventures that stand on their own but also responds to nostalgia and lore. As Ahsoka’s old mentor found out, fulfilling such a prophecy can be painful, but the payoff is spectacular. And for fans who see Star Wars from a certain point of view, this week was a thrilling showcase for the emotional and narrative firepower of a fully armed and operational series.
Fan service of the week
In terms of pacing and plot, Filoni really leveled up since his last live-action directorial turn. In contrast to Chapter 5, which trafficked in fan service for fan service’s sake, “The Jedi” delivers a series of toe-curling nerdgasms that mostly serve some purpose, either in this series or for the franchise at large. Where The Force Awakens and The Last Skywalker put its characters through paces previously seen in the Skywalker saga, The Mandalorian transmogrifies figures from animation into live action and sends them in different directions. And instead of defaulting to Tatooine, “The Jedi” takes place in an original, distinctive setting, one with clear roots in Asian architecture and design.
Snippets of Yoda’s theme and Ahsoka’s theme work their way into Ludwig Göransson’s score. Ahsoka, like Luke, Obi-Wan, and Yoda, reverently describes the Force as “an energy field created by all living things.” Visual nods to the original trilogy abound, from the flickering of Ahsoka’s sabers to the stop-motion look of the droids and the tree-eating creatures on Corvus. Filoni even recycles a couple of lines from Luke’s journey to Dagobah: “I’m looking for someone” and “I’m gonna start the landing cycle.” Vader visited Tython, the planet next up on Mando’s itinerary, in a 2019 issue of the canonical comic book series Doctor Aphra, and the world dates back further in the Legends timeline, where it was the seat of a Force-sensitive order that preceded the Jedi. In addition to the homage to HK-47 (and a possible sighting of the power droid from Jabba’s palace), a Loth-cat from Rebels—or at least the illusion of one—graces the streets of Corvus, perhaps auguring Ezra’s return, and Ahsoka’s owl-like familiar, the mystical Morai, makes a cameo just before Mando meets her.
Expanded Universe deep dive
Conveying the complete context for Thrawn and Ahsoka would require article-length explainers. Fortunately, I already wrote one about Thrawn when he made his Rebels debut, in which I explained how he helped breathe life into a moribund franchise during the decade-plus-long drought between trilogies. Plus, Binge Mode has you covered with a breakdown of Ahsoka’s significance. In lieu of skimming the surface of those characters here, I’ll recommend that you read/watch those longer looks. Or, better yet, start watching Filoni’s animated oeuvre; it’s not going to get any less relevant as this series proceeds and spinoffs proliferate. Here’s hoping Filoni has the on-screen real estate to spread out his storytelling instead of squeezing it all into The Mandalorian.
Previously unseen in Star Wars
Ahsoka’s white lightsabers aren’t new to the franchise—they’re a holdover from her return on Rebels—but white sabers are a strange sight for fans of the films, who are used to more traditional colors like blue, green, or red, as well as more exotic selections such as yellow and purple. Ahsoka originally wielded a green saber, which she subsequently supplemented with a yellow-green shoto saber as she picked up the double-bladed Jar’Kai technique. After Order 66, she abandoned those sabers in an effort to fake her own death and throw the Inquisitors off her trail.
By the time she popped up on Rebels, decades later in the timeline, she’d switched to white blades—one long and one short—with curved hilts.
The 2016 novel Ahsoka explained how she made them: by “purifying” the kyber crystals from the double-bladed saber of an Inquisitor she’d killed, an inversion of the “bleeding” process dark Jedi use to turn their crystals red. The white light represents Ahsoka’s rejection of the Skywalker saga’s binary notion of light and dark, Jedi and Sith. She blends both disciplines but embodies neither, much as The Mandalorian is charting a new source for Star Wars by borrowing the best of the old.