NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Mandalorian” are present in this review
Oh boy, this is a big one! The Mandalorian has arguably played it a lot safer with its narrative this season, being much more inclined to settle back into its usual tropes to sustain engaging, if fairly inconsequential weekly errands for Din Djarin and his adorable charge. That being said, there have been some immensely rewarding twists for hardcore Star Wars fans so far this season, and those twists came in full force for this week’s offering! “Chapter 13: The Jedi” is another episode that’s best experienced while knowing most of the story behind not only the Star Wars movies, but also the franchise’s duo of fan-favourite animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Even if you’re not fully up to date on Disney’s Star Wars canon however, this episode still remains one of Season Two’s best to date, presenting some huge new developments, and plenty of style to spare!
Best of all as well is that The Mandalorian finally delivers on its previous tease of Ahsoka Tano’s live-action debut in the Star Wars franchise here! As rumoured during production, Rosario Dawson portrays Ahsoka’s live-action incarnation, one of the few remaining Jedi in the galaxy at this point in the Star Wars timeline. It’s initially disappointing that Ahsoka’s former voice actress, Ashley Eckstein doesn’t reprise the role on The Mandalorian, especially when Katee Sackhoff reprised her own former voiceover role as Bo-Katan Kryze in full live-action a couple of episodes ago, but Dawson is undeniably superb in the part. She kicks off this episode with aplomb as well, taking out several underlings of an evil magistrate in a misty valley outside the city of Calodan, before demanding knowledge of the magistrate’s mysterious master.
This is around the point that Djarin and The Child finally land on Corvus, subsequently moseying into the occupied Calodan to inquire about Djarin’s next objective. Upon getting an audience with the magistrate however, Djarin is ordered to kill the resident Jedi, in exchange for a large spear made of ultra-valuable Beskar. This is certainly a tempting offer, and the backstory of conflict between the Jedi and the Mandalorian tribe would seem to inevitably test Djarin’s loyalties to his creed… But, instead, Djarin is naturally going to do what’s best for The Child. After exploiting a conversational loophole during a rather tense introduction to Ahsoka, Djarin reveals that the magistrate hired him to kill her, right before showing her The Child. I hope you’re sitting down at this point as well, because Ahsoka delivers a ton of valuable exposition about The Child’s history, since, surprise, The Child was alive and in the Jedi’s custody during the events of the Clone Wars!
We even learn The Child’s real name from Ahsoka at long last! No, it’s not, “Baby Yoda”, in case you were still holding on to that hope. Instead, The Child’s real name is Grogu, and he formerly underwent some Jedi training as a youngling during the time of the Clone Wars. After the declaration of Palpatine’s Order 66 however, which saw most of the Jedi killed (specifically during the events of 2005 prequel movie, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith), someone stole Grogu from the Jedi Temple, and that’s where both Grogu’s memories, and Ahsoka’s account of them, become unclear. If you recall, Djarin initially stole Grogu from some Nikto guards during The Mandalorian’s very first episode as well, many years after the account of Grogu escaping Order 66, and considering that the Nikto are supposed to be servants of the Hutts, the biggest gangsters in the Outer Rim, it would seem that whoever initially took Grogu probably didn’t do it for noble reasons. Obviously though, through the series of events depicted on this show, Grogu ended up with Djarin, whom Ahsoka confirms Grogu now shares a strong bond with.
This bond is part of the reason why Ahsoka ultimately refuses to train Grogu, despite his very strong Force affinity. This would initially seem to be a contrived, annoying turn to the uninitiated, but for those with knowledge of Ahsoka’s background, it’s immediately apparent why Ahsoka would come to this decision; She’s the former Padawan of Anakin Skywalker, one that was forced to witness her master being successfully seduced to the Dark Side, and ultimately become a traitor that helped to massacre most of the Jedi Order. Thus, it makes perfect sense why Ahsoka wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past, ultimately refusing to dictate that Grogu follow the path of the now-dead Jedi Order. Sure, it’s a device to keep The Mandalorian’s story going as well, but the way that this episode showed real grief and fallout from Ahsoka’s time under the fallen Anakin, as depicted during the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series most notably, and directly wove it into the turbulent destiny of Grogu, is pretty fantastic.
Nonetheless, Djarin talks Ahsoka into training Grogu if he helps her take back Calodan from the magistrate, who, as it turns out, is Morgan Elsbeth, the mastermind of the Imperial Fleet’s designs. This gives us another reliably exciting climax, complete with Djarin having a Western-style stand-off with Elsbeth’s right-hand man, Lang, played in a brief guest turn by The Terminator and Aliens alum, Michael Biehn. Even considering all of the huge plot developments with The Child this week as well, the real twist of this episode was yet to come from the other side of this battle! Right before Ahsoka seemingly strikes Elsbeth down during their own duel, she finally learns who Elsbeth has been serving this whole time; Grand Admiral Thrawn! This name won’t mean anything to the more casual Star Wars fan that’s only familiar with the franchise’s movies, but to those well-versed in Star Wars’ former Expanded Universe media, or at the very least the later episodes of Star Wars Rebels, they’ll know that Thrawn’s name being dropped in The Mandalorian is an enormously significant development!
Disney previously teased the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn in future Star Wars projects years ago, and confirmed that Star Wars Rebels wouldn’t be the last turn for the fan-favourite character, a promise that’s now being fulfilled! If you’re unfamiliar with who Thrawn is, he’s a dangerous Chiss (a blue-skinned, red-eyed humanoid) mastermind with pretty much unparalleled intelligence and tactical proficiency in the Star Wars universe. Imagine Lex Luthor if he was working for the Empire, and that’s pretty much Thrawn. He’s an expert in war tactics, social sciences and manipulation, among other things, and more or less seized ultimate power and influence within the Empire as a secret ally to Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader alike. More complicated still is that Thrawn was a friend of Anakin’s even before he joined the Sith, even being acquainted with Anakin’s ill-fated wife, Padme Amidala, and was one of the only people who originally knew that Darth Vader used to be Anakin. The fact that Thrawn was absent from the original Star Wars movie trilogy is also supposed to be a testament to how efficiently he manipulated events and held on to power, even from the shadows. Put simply, Thrawn coming to The Mandalorian is a big deal! Even Moff Gideon feels like small potatoes compared to Thrawn’s overwhelming manipulations and dangerous degree of knowledge from all sides of the galaxy!
This was the cherry on top of another earth-shattering episode for The Mandalorian, even as Ahsoka insists that Grogu remain with Djarin, rather than be trained by her. Ahsoka does at least point Djarin and Grogu to a new objective however, namely on the planet Tython, where the ruins of a sacred temple can potentially call another wayward ex-Jedi to train Grogu, should that be Grogu’s desired path. Miraculously, even considering Djarin’s mission with Grogu being artificially prolonged yet again, “Chapter 13: The Jedi” managed to end as brilliantly as it began. This episode joins, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” as one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian’s sophomore season at this point, presenting more landmark developments for Star Wars fans, along with an excellent live-action debut for Ahsoka Tano. Even then though, the true best surprise of this episode, more so than The Child’s true name, is confirmation that Grand Admiral Thrawn is back, and manipulating events behind The Mandalorian, years after the fall of the Empire! I’d expect nothing less from Thrawn, frankly.
Does this mean that Moff Gideon is ultimately a pawn of Thrawn’s grand design? How does Bo-Katan’s mission to take back Mandalore play into proceedings? One thing’s for sure, The Mandalorian seems to be kicking into high gear again! Hopefully that means something better than another unnecessary detour next week.
- Ahsoka Tano's superb live-action debut
- Rewarding insight into The Child's backstory
- Exciting climax that teases Grand Admiral Thrawn's return