The Mandalorian's Grandest Episode Yet Uncovers Old Friends, and Older Pains

Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.
Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.
Image: Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian has always promised the picture of a much wider place it could encompass in the Star Wars universe, ever since its first episode flipped the script and put our titular hero in front of a little green mystery from the stars. Its latest chapter re-aligns the show’s place in that world even as it grows it ever larger, but does so while cementing the most intimate bond that ties it together.

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Image: Lucasfilm

It’s hard not to treat “Chapter 13”—burdensomely titled “The Jedi” and directed by Clone Wars and Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni—as something of a turning point for The Mandalorian. The end of one part of its mystery and the start of a new expansion which builds upon that mystery. Yet, there is a loose casualness to the way it sweeps its prior slate clean, only to begin writing a new, grander story for Din Djarin and our dear Baby Yoda to take.

That’s a casualness that also extends to its treatment of the titular Jedi, perhaps the show’s worst-kept secret in a long time: Ahsoka Tano (played by the equally-ill-kept secret, Rosario Dawson, who has been the center of an ongoing legal case regarding the alleged discrimination of a trans employee). For all the reverence we as Star Wars fans place on the character, The Mandalorian is not particularly of the same eye. Ahsoka is not some grand secret kept hidden away for a lavish arrival onto the scene, or kept at arm’s reach as That Thing We Know. From the moment the episode begins, no grand airs are made: Ahsoka is here, lightsabers swinging on the planet Corvus—the wandering ronin to our western gunslinger in Din. Ultimately, as so often is the case with The Mandalorian, she is someone willing to help Din if he helps her in turn.

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Image: Lucasfilm

What Ahsoka needs in exchange for lending a hand (and a floating rock or two) is access to the Magistrate of Calodan, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto)—a woman whose lingering scars from the Clone Wars not only saw her align with the Empire during its reign and help build its navy, but continue to keep a cold grip on the people under her thumb even as that Empire lies in ashes. Ahsoka wants Elsbeth, not just to liberate the people under her control but for information, the continuation of her own quest from Star Wars Rebels to locate both Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger, who vanished into the unknown regions in the animated series’ climax.

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Although Ezra himself goes unnamed here, it is a connection to this brash, once angry, once emotional young Jedi Knight that seems to plague Ahsoka for much of the episode, something of a running theme in her long life at this point. In spite of ultimately making good on her offer to help Din, she cannot teach the Child the ways of the Force. After making a connection with him, Ahsoka lays out something that is as clear in her as it is in the Child—in the process, revealing his name, Grogu. A young Padawan raised on Coruscant, Grogu was hidden away during the Clone War, only to be rescued and kept secret once more when it fell during Order 66. Through the Force, Ahsoka senses Grogu’s pain and despair, but also anger: an anger she has seen lay even the greatest Jedi of her time low.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm
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So, like she herself seemingly has with the world around her, Ahsoka begs Din to cut Grogu off—let his connection to the Force dwindle, keep him secret as he once was. Because the thought of training that power only to see it give in to the dark, uncontrolled impulses Grogu has displayed before could only lead to the heartbreak she once saw with Anakin. Ahsoka lost her master and is in the process of attempting to recover a lost young friend strong in the Force, one who needs as much guidance as Grogu does. These connections have driven her over the years, yes, but they’ve also caused her unimaginable pain. Pain she does not want to burden further in taking on Grogu and training his abilities: the fear of a failure that saw her unable to save Anakin or Ezra (yet).

But Ahsoka’s distance with Grogu, even as she is able to connect with him and share his story with Din, is tempered by something made more explicit in “The Jedi” than it ever has previously been in this series: the simple fact that Din loves this child. It’s not outright said, The Mandalorian isn’t really that kind of show, but this chapter’s most gleeful, earnest moments aren’t in Ahsoka swinging a lightsaber about or the mentions of Star Wars’ past, canon or otherwise.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

They’re the intimacy in his interactions with Grogu in this episode, made all the stronger after Ahsoka’s mental connection to the Child provides context for him. The lovingness with which he knows how to get Grogu to reach out with his power for Ahsoka, his joy and pride when Grogu does so for him and not her, the quiet moment of melancholy when, in the episode’s climax, Din believes he’s waking the child up on the Razor Crest one last time before parting ways. Hell, even the way he practically coos when calling the Child “kid,” or by his name.

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We know that Din cares for Grogu at this point, but it’s typically been presented with a gruff distance, the underprepared sudden father figure attempting to deal with a wacky kid high on space macarons and midi-chlorians. The bond between them has never been depicted as openly and as intimately as it has here, and it’s vital that it is presented openly, as The Mandalorian evolves from the mystery of who this child is, and instead onto where he will go next. It’s a rare emotional denouement in a show that is otherwise mostly preoccupied with tone and context: we now know who Grogu was, but it is also made clear who he is now, the adopted son of a man whose bond is just as potent with him as a Jedi’s connection to the Force is.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

As to where he’ll go next? Ahsoka is, at least, willing to pass the metaphysical buck, so to speak. After Din aids her in liberating Calodan from Magistrate Elsbeth and her Forces, Ahsoka insists once more that she cannot train Grogu, but offers hope that there may yet be more Jedi that could: but they will have to be Jedi open to that idea, not ones who have this little child thrust into their paths as she was. Ahsoka gives Din a location, Tython, home to an ancient Jedi temple, and a seeing stone that will allow Grogu to decide his own path: reach out and allow others of his kind to sense him, or stay hidden as the Jedi’s twilight continues.

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A new quest for our heroes, albeit a spin on the old one, but many questions still remain, of course. Who kept Grogu a secret for all those years of tutelage? Who saved him from the rise of the Empire? Who, if not Ahsoka Tano, could be the Jedi that reaches out to him now on Tython? But in some ways, even for a show that is all-too-fascinated by lingering questions and the promises of wider teases to Star Wars canons old and new, they don’t necessarily matter in this immediate moment. For all the importance laid upon the appearance of Ahsoka here, “The Jedi” keenly reminded us that the most vital thing The Mandalorian has is the relationship between Din Djarin and his child.

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Image: Lucasfilm
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Assorted Musings:

  • Shout out to Michael Biehn! Also, RIP Michael Biehn, I guess.
  • Are you ready for the inevitable, incredibly stupid fandom war that’s going to break out between people who will continue to casually call Grogu “Baby Yoda,” those who are insistent that now his name is known we must call him Grogu at all times, and then the third faction attempting to still use “the Child” as a middle ground? It’s Star Wars. People will complain about this.
  • Ahsoka is still looking for Thrawn at this point, which means she’s been doing so for around four years—The Mandalorian takes place around 9ABY, while Star Wars Rebels’ epilogue has previously been established in the book Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy as taking place around a year after the Battle of Endor, so in 5ABY. What’s interesting here is the way she refers to Thrawn as Elsbeth’s “Master,” which almost carries the implication that Thrawn is not as missing as he was when Ezra shipped them both off with the purrgils into the unknown. Is Thrawn once again a presence in the Imperial Remnant, as he was in the old Expanded Universe? Is he Gideon’s master? And if Thrawn has returned, and Ezra hasn’t, what became of our young rebel friend?
  • Tython has been previously mentioned in the Disney era of Star Wars canon as home to one of the earliest known Jedi temples, but it has a much longer history in the prior Expanded Universe as the ancestral seat of the Jedi Order, home to its spiritual predecessors in the Je’daii, first covered in the Dark Horse Comics series Dawn of the Jedi. Players of Bioware’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be familiar with it—Tython and its Jedi temple are where all Knight and Consular characters begin their journeys as padawans.
  • Speaking of the Old Republic games: HK Assassin Droids! Elsbeth’s two HK-87s aren’t from a model that’s appeared in Star Wars before, but their series has an infamous legacy. We first met them in the form of HK-47, the sardonic mercenary killer who joins the player’s party in the beloved Knights of the Old Republic CRPG, making appearances in its sequel The Sith Lords as well as the aforementioned The Old Republic MMO. While the series itself has had fleeting mentions in Star Wars’ current canon, this is the first time we’ve actually seen one in action. Frankly, the 87s don’t seem quite up to the task like HK-47 was!
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James is a News Editor at io9, where you can find him delivering your morning spoilers, writing about superheroes, and having many feelings about Star Wars. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

DISCUSSION

aboynamedart6
Arturo R. Garcia

Dropping the Thrawn card seems like a major escalation. Excited for the fans who followed the animated side of things that they got that moment.

One small moment I liked: when Din is explaining to Ahsoka that he was offered that stff made of Beskar, she folds her arms with a bemused smile as if to say, “OK that’s a suitable bounty.” That’s a level of badass on its own.