Woah. We have to take a collective bow for Dave Filoni, the genius behind The Clone Wars and savior of Star Wars. After the catastrophic reaction to The Rise of Skywalker and the polarizing effect of The Last Jedi on the fandom, it was starting to look like our beloved saga might implode. However, all it took to unite the community again was Filoni leaning into what was possible rather than rest on the safe, uninspired laurels of what already exists (*cough* last week’s episode *cough*). Not only did The Mandalorian deliver it’s strongest chapter of the season, but it shows how the franchise can successfully evolve without angering anyone along for the ride.
Sometimes it pays to do your research. Anyone who invested in the seven seasons of Clone Wars and four seasons of Star Wars Rebels will see their dedication pay off in this very memorable adventure. For those who believe that live-action movies are all that matter when it comes to world-building a vast universe like Star Wars, “The Jedi” is here to tell you you’re training is incomplete. Without experiencing Ahsoka Tano’s (Rosario Dawson, who is getting a “Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series” nomination nod after this outstanding debut) journey — from Anakin Skywalker’s impetuous padawan to a headstrong and independent young woman who was right to defy the Jedi Order’s hypocrisy — her appearance in this chapter won’t carry the same emotional bliss.
The audience reuniting with Ahsoka is comparable to seeing Chewbacca and Han back onboard the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens or Luke Skywalker at the climax of said film. It has been a long time, Ahsoka Tano, and your live-action introduction further underscores your legendary status. So why is she crossing paths with Din Djarin and the Child? Well, for starters, she bears the gift of a name for our little foundling. Before we get to the big controversial reveal, it’s to figure out what is so special about her hideaway: a forest planet that was home to the enslaved city of Calodan.
The capital is under the jurisdiction of Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth, a victim of the Clone Wars’ devastation and a pioneering architect of the Imperial Navy during the Empire’s beginnings. The scorned former naval officer holds important information that is critical to Ahsoka Tano’s secret quest. Elsbeth knows the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn (actor unknown), a Chiss commander who was last seen in the series finale of Star Wars Rebels. Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger intervened when Thrawn was on the precipice of victory during a confrontation with the Rebel Alliance. Using tentacle creatures known as the purrgil — capable of lightspeed — Bridger sacrifices his safety to save his allies. He influences the astral species to drag Thrawn, his star destroyer flagship Chimera, and the entire fleet to somewhere out in the galaxy’s Unknown Regions.
Having a master strategist like Thrawn, plus his armada, back in the fold would give the Imperial Remnant a huge boost in their efforts to resurrect the Empire. So, yeah, in the words of one of our own planetary leaders: “Dude’s gotta go!” Hopefully, Tano — and possibly a cameo from Bridger, if he’s still alive — can take the elite tactician down for good. First, Tano has to end the reign of Elsbeth, who has enslaved the Calodan population and uses them to draw out the Jedi in hiding. Speaking of, Rosario Dawson does an incredible job with the legacy created by voice actor Ashley Eckstein. She imbues the fan-favorite with the same wry humor, tenacious spirit, and forthright code of ethics. No matter what her mission is, Ahsoka Tano always puts the needs of innocent bystanders before her own, and the same can be said for the suffering citizens of Calodan.
After Elsbeth tasks Mando with hunting down Ahsoka, our protagonist discovers the titular queen in the foggy forest outside the city walls. The pair have a brief yet memorable fight, employing the best of their talents and proving themselves to be equally matched against the other. Thankfully, Mando’s bounty hunting days are behind him, as his true objective is about to be fulfilled. Once she’s convinced of his honest intentions, Tano is introduced to a familiar face: the Child, whose true identity is Grogu, ex-trainee at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant before the Emperor’s Clone Trooper forces burned it to the ground. Like Obi-Wan and Yoda before him, Grogu hid away from danger and somehow found his way out of harm until his capture on Arvala-7, where he crossed fateful paths with Din.
Despite his potential, Tano concludes Grogu is unfit for Jedi training. She says his abilities will eventually fade, but for now, his attachment to Mando makes him easy pickings for Dark Side influence. We’ve already witnessed Grogu wield the Force choke power when Din’s life was in danger. However, she says there is one last possibility Din could try if he’s convinced the youngling is better off in the hands of Jedi. Tano directs the duo to Tython, the homeworld of the oldest Jedi Temple in existence. At the top of it, she instructs, Grogu must tap into the Force — if someone hears his “calling,” then the foundling’s fate is tied to the ancient order.
As expected, Tano and Mando are triumphant against their adversaries. The Togruta Jedi bests Elsbeth in a fencing match, lightsaber against Beskar spear. Meanwhile, Din emerges victorious in a gunslinger duel with the Magistrate’s second in command, Lang (Michael Biehn), an old mercenary who is just happy to be employed. With Calodan liberated and back in democratic control, courtesy of Governor Wing (Wing Tao Chao), Tano and Mando are free to go their separate ways. Viewer attention will bisect, but of course, our loyalties lie with surrogate father and son for now. Into the stars they go, allowing us a week’s time to exhale after such an exhilarating chapter in the greater Star Wars lore.