By Jamie Binegar
The latest installment of The Mandalorian hit Disney+ on Friday, and while some fans were dissatisfied, others were filled with joy and awe.
The thirteenth chapter titled simply “The Jedi,” finally delivers the live-action Ahsoka Tano we’ve anticipated for nearly a year. We get a thrill of possibility towards the end of the episode – a potential storyline for the rumored Rebels sequel series. And, of course, we learn more about our favorite Child and his turbulent past.
We open on the planet Corvus, a giant gate looming ahead. An Imperial magistrate rules this town, but her guards are cut down easily by Ahsoka. The action here is solid, with Ahsoka’s cloak enabling her to disappear into the misty, barren forest to evade guards. I have to say, when those white sabers appeared, my heart leapt a little. It seems the magistrate has information Ahsoka needs, presumably to kick off her adventure with Sabine in their search for Ezra. But that’s just speculation, of course.
Din and The Child come into town, and the story progresses pretty predictably from there. The magistrate offers Din a beskar spear if he kills Ahsoka, but Din teams up with the former Jedi instead to take down the magistrate’s guards, free the civilians, and defeat the magistrate herself. Her name is Morgan Elsbeth, and she has information on the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Before all this, Ahsoka tests the Child’s Force abilities. Oh, and he has a name! Grogu was raised and trained at the Jedi temple on Coruscant before the events of Revenge of the Sith. During the siege, he was hidden for safety and then taken from the temple. Hopefully, the next few weeks will bring clarity to his backstory – there are a couple of decades left unaccounted for. How did he end up abandoned on Arvala-7, in the hands of Niktos?
Ahsoka can’t train Grogu due to his attachment to Din – “You’re like a father to him” – but she instructs Din to take him to Tython, where a seeing stone would help Grogu determine his path. A Jedi might sense his presence and come to his aide. With few Jedi left, it might be a long shot.
This episode received a wide range of reactions, from unbridled joy to harsh criticism. Many fear that The Mandalorian will be inundated by cameos and lose its individuality as a series. I don’t share this fear. Ahsoka may show up once more, but I think our time with her will be limited. It’s more likely we’ll see her in her own series, as mentioned previously.
For what it’s worth, meeting characters from other shows or the movies was inevitable. The minute Grogu showed up in Chapter One, it was only a matter of time before we saw the likes of Ahsoka or other Jedi. Yoda was the only prominent being of his species before Grogu; Din had to come into contact with those who knew him eventually (and no, I’m not forgetting about Yaddle, don’t worry).
As for Ahsoka’s performance, I was quite satisfied. Her demeanor reminded me of Rebels-era Ahsoka – more stoic, more mysterious than the teenager we knew in The Clone Wars. Dawson doesn’t try to imitate Ashley Eckstein’s voice, and I’m grateful. A bad imitation of Ashley would take me out of the episode immediately. The action was wonderfully choreographed. Some have called Dawson’s movements too stiff, but you have to remember – we’re used to an exaggerated animation style, which will always make an actual human seem stiff in comparison.
Fans have expressed dissatisfaction with Ahsoka’s choice to not help Grogu. Consider, though, where she’s coming from. She’s been disillusioned with the Jedi Order for some time. She watched as it crumbled. She saw Anakin, her mentor, her brother, become a monster because he was separated from Padme. Ahsoka is familiar with the danger of taking a Jedi away from their attachments. She’s understandably wary of the fierce bond between Din and Grogu. That’s why she has to let him choose his own path. That’s why they have to go to Tython.
Does it suck for us because we have to go to yet another planet and find another Jedi? Sure. But it makes sense. Besides, the writers weren’t going to separate father and son this early in the season.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode. We finally got insight into Grogu’s story, and the relationship between Grogu and Din was named – that of a father and son. We’ve been saying it for a year, but to hear it in the story was satisfying. Ahsoka’s appearance was delightful; it opens the door for other stories to be explored in the future. Hopefully, that exploration happens in another series, so The Mandalorian can continue to stand on its own. Don’t panic, folks. The show still has half a season to maintain its individuality.
Besides, there’s going to be an episode for everyone. An episode you hate, an episode you love, and some in the middle. Keep the faith, folks. Your time is coming.
However, we have to address the proverbial elephant. Rosario Dawson’s casting as Ahsoka Tano is rife with controversy. Dawson and her family were sued last year by a former employee, who accused them of transphobia and physical assault. Many of the charges were dropped, leaving only the claims of physical altercations with Dawson’s mother to be considered in court in December.
Whether Dawson is guilty or not isn’t the issue. Many trans Star Wars fans were outspoken against the casting of Dawson. For many, the choice made them feel unsafe in their fandom and with one of the most beloved characters of the franchise. With Disney’s silence on this issue and on Gina Carano’s recent anti-trans rhetoric, they are effectively ignoring the voices and concerns of their own fans, and that is unacceptable. And other fans should be supporting these voices, not telling them, “hush, it doesn’t even matter.” We can’t push them aside, either. So, if you find yourself typing, “What’s the big deal?” I encourage you to stop and take a moment to reflect on your privilege.