The Mandalorian S2E5: The Jedi
It was my birthday yesterday (oh, if you want to get me something, by the way, let me be really cheeky and leave my wishlist here), and Dave Filoni came through with a gift.
The Mandalorian, finally, has landed on Corvus, and brought us the Ahsoka Tano live-action goodness that I’ve been waiting for at least for the last twenty-five years of my life. Played by Rosario Dawson, Tano makes the jump from animated to real-life for the first time in this episode, The Jedi, which sees Mando finally tracking down an appropriate guardian for our little green companion.
And, okay, let’s talk about the Tano of it all. Because this is really what I came to this second season to enjoy; it feels right that this episode is written and directed by Dave Filoni, who first breathed life into everyone’s favourite padawan in The Clone Wars, and Filoni delivers a perfectly-crafted version of the iconic Tano for her Mandalorian debut. Rosario Dawson embodies the role to an almost uncanny degree, but, more than just the physical appearance, this version of Tano feels deeply true to the one that so many of us have known before.
She’s headstrong, enormously talented with the Force, committed to her morals, driven, compassionate, witty. I was so concerned that, when Tano finally made it to live-action TV, she might end up some watered-down, more palatable version of herself, unable to carry the weight of everything that this character has been through, but The Mandalorian and Dave Filoni seem determined to make sure that we don’t forget who she is. Tano has always been one of my favourite characters in the Star Wars canon, one of most impactful and defining character journeys of the entire franchise, and to see her here, feeling like a true embodiment of those things – you love to see it.
But, of course, this is fundamentally not the Ahsoka Tano show (though that mention of Thrawn suggests that one is on the way, and I am more than fine with that): this is The Mandalorian, and this episode comes as the ostensible end of Din’s journey to find Baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – a home with a Jedi who can train him.
This episode is, as so many Star Wars stories are, a gentle re-tooling of a classic genre, this one, the Samurai movie. Filoni turns Corvus into a striking science-fiction nod to the iconography of that genre; from the architectural design of the village to the lone warrior taking on an unjust system in the form of Tano, it’s a confident, cinematic entry into the Mandalorian canon. Oh, and getting to see some long-form lightsaber action? It’s good stuff, lads. It’s good stuff.
Amongst all this Tano stuff, though, there’s a really good step forward in Din’s story, too. Though he finds Tano and intends to leave Baby Yoda with her to train in the Force, the show isn’t going to get rid of its
Christmas cuddly toy cash-cow baby quite yet. And I’ve got to say, though I think we all saw it coming, I think that the show worked into that in a really clever way; having Tano make the choice not to take Grogu on, and to leave him with Din, comes after she sees the love between the two of them and considers that more important than taking him on herself.
And it makes a lot of sense for Tano to be the one to make this call. She was basically raised and trained by a man (Anakin) who was taken from his parental figure to train as a Jedi and for whom that was a hugely destablizing factor; given the choice to be the one to do the same to Grogu, she refuses. It’s more important for her for him to be with someone who loves and cares for him as a parent than it is for her to use this child to help expand the tiny ranks of the remaining Jedi – and, after she saw what her own master went through, it’s a perfectly logical character moment that feels earned and genuine.
I love any Star Wars media that feels as though it has a sense of real history in the universe, and this is a great example of drawing on that to reflect current story elements in a way that lends them honest depth. Tano is no gimmick here, but rather, a connection to and reminder of what happened before, a necessary nod to the need for love and found family more than order and power. Dave Filoni did Ahsoka – and the rest of us, too – pretty damn proud.
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(header image via Radio Times)