November 29, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: The Mandalorian Season 2 Ep 5, "The Jedi"


As the title implies, this is the episode where Ahsoka Tano, the breakout character of the animated Star Wars series, Clone Wars and Rebels, was set to make her live-action debut. I more than half expected this to be a long-drawn-out tease, where we would get a glimpse of Ahsoka in the final minutes, but no. The opening minutes of this episode are eerie, fast-paced fight scenes on the forest planet Corvus, where Ahsoka is seen right away, fighting alien guards of the capital city, Catodan. Wielding her twin white lightsabers, she fights her way to the gates of the capital city, demanding information from the woman called the Magistrate. The Magistrate threatens to execute some of the townspeople, and Ahsoka gives her one day to change her mind before walking back into the fog. 

(As an aside: what the devil is happening on this planet? Bo-Katan Kryze called Corvus a "forest planet" in the previous episode, but in the next scene where Mando is bringing the Razor Crest in for a landing, it looks like half the planet is on fire. The background for the entire episode is a burnt forest, not a whole one, with stripped trees sticking out of the ground like broken toothpicks. The atmosphere is also a smoky/foggy haze, obscuring the sun. Yet nobody remarks on this?)

Mando lands his ship outside the castle/capital city, takes Baby (who has been playing with the shift knob again) and walks to Catodan. The Magistrate's right hand man, Lang, lets him in, and after Mando tries unsuccessfully to get information from some of the frightened locals, he is taken to see the Magistrate. Along the way they pass the prisoners seen earlier, who are strung up on poles and being tortured. The Magistrate is holding court in another compound inside the city (which has water and un-burnt trees) and upon seeing Mando, offers him the job of killing a troublesome Jedi. Without missing a beat, Mando plays along with this, and the Magistrate offers him a spear/staff of pure beskar for the job. 

Mando strides off into the burned-out forest outside the castle, carrying Baby slung at his side in his little pouch. (Lang asks, "What is that thing?" and again without missing a beat, Mando says, "I keep it around for luck.") They reach the specified coordinates and Mando sets Baby Yoda on a rock to look around with his spyglass. Ahsoka Tano ambushes him from behind, and they go around for a bit before Mando manages to yell her name and that Bo-Katan sent him. "We need to talk," he says.

"I hope it's about him," Ahsoka says, noticing the curious baby perched on the rock. 

Ahsoka sits communing with Baby for a while, while Mando paces nervously in the background. Finally she brings the baby and tells Mando what she discovered: that he has a name, Grogu; that he was raised at the Jedi temple in Coruscant, and was taken away and hidden during the Clone Wars (and apparently there's a gap in his memory, as we're not told who did that or how he got to where Mando found him); and she's seen only one other being like him, the Jedi Master Yoda. Ahsoka asks if he still uses the Force. Mando betrays how little he knows about the Jedi, as he refers to Baby Yoda's "powers," and Ahsoka has to explain the Force to him. Mando says he has been tasked to bring this child to the Jedi and wants Ahsoka to train him. Since Baby Grogu was tired out by Ahsoka's questioning and is nodding off, Ahsoka says she'll test him in the morning.

(All right. Grogu? Really? It's nice that Baby Yoda has a name, but that hard "g" doesn't suit him at all. Also, hearing it makes me wonder if he's Baby Groot's long-lost cousin.)

In the morning, Ahsoka tries to get Baby Grogu to show he can use the Force. She does this by sending him a rock through the air and telling him to send it back. Mando objects: "He doesn't understand," but Ahsoka says, "He does." The baby isn't listening though, just letting the rock fall to the ground, so Ahsoka tells Mando to see if he can get Grogu to cooperate. Mando steps up and pulls the shiny shift knob out of his pocket, telling Grogu to take it. The baby does--in fact, he zips it through the air to his little hands pretty damn fast. This makes Mando crow with pride: "I knew you could do it!"

Pride goeth before a fall, though, as Ahsoka next says she will not train Grogu. 

She gives a couple of reasons for this. The first is his attachment to Mando, which is obvious to anyone, with or without the Force. She notes the little one is scared, and he had to hide his powers to survive. Finally, she says that this fear, and his attachment to Mando, will lead him to the Dark Side, and she will not put this child through that.

This bears a bit of unpacking, I think. First, we all know Ahsoka is talking about Anakin Skywalker, even if Mando doesn't. Aside from that, this bit of dialogue is vague enough to allow for individual interpretations, so here's mine: Ahsoka knows that Grogu is, or will be, very strong in the Force; this baby is frightened and traumatized (understandably so, with all that has happened and been done to him); and right now, his attachment to Din Djarin is probably the only thing that's keeping him from falling to the dark path. Training Grogu would require years, and Mando can't stick around on this burning planet for years (even if he and Ahsoka would get along during the training). I think Ahsoka believes it would be more dangerous to separate the two of them, which is why she refuses. (Also, I think she can't take Grogu on right now because she has her own quest: namely, hunting down someone whose name we'll hear in a bit.)

Mando objects to this: this is the quest he has been sent on, even though we see throughout this episode that he really doesn't want to hand Grogu over. He tells Ahsoka the Magistrate sent him to kill her, and strikes a bargain: he will help Ahsoka take the Magistrate down if Grogu is trained. 

Ahsoka returns to Catodan at the end of her promised day and attacks. She cuts their huge gong, used to sound the alarm (and this planet belongs to an interstellar civilization? Really? Every time I saw the city, I kept thinking it was some kind of medieval fortress), in half with her lightsaber and confronts the Magistrate, tossing one of Mando's beskar shoulder pads on the ground and informing her the "bounty hunter" has failed. The next bit is a fantastically choreographed and shot running battle through the city, with Lang taking his guards and battle droids after Ahsoka and her cutting them down one by one, and Mando releasing the prisoners and herding all the townspeople off the streets. Finally, Ahsoka pins down the Magistrate in her garden and the two go at it on her boardwalk, with the Magistrate wielding that beskar staff that can withstand the lightsaber's blows. Outside, Lang and Mando meet in a sort of High Noon-ish pose, although they're not shooting each other yet because they're listening to Ahsoka and the Magistrate. Ahsoka finally whips the staff from the Magistrate's hand and demands the piece of information she was searching for all along: "Where is your master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?" We don't see what happens to the Magistrate, but I imagine she winds up as dead as Lang after Mando quick-draws and shoots him down. 

Afterwards, the townspeople are released, Ahsoka gives Mando the beskar staff, and he goes back to the Razor Crest to hand Baby Grogu over. The baby is sleeping in his little hammock, and for the longest time Mando just sits with him; we know, if we didn't already, that he does not want to do this. Finally, Ahsoka shows up and again states that she cannot train Grogu, noting: "You're like a father to him." She offers a compromise, telling Mando take the baby to Tython, to a ruined Jedi temple with a "seeing stone"; set Grogu there, and if he chooses he can reach out with the Force and see if there is a Jedi who will train him. Although Ahsoka isn't optimistic: "There are not many Jedi left." 

So Mando takes off, and Ahsoka Tano turns and walks back to the city. 

Whew. As I said, I've never watched the animated series and thus have never seen Ahsoka in her earlier incarnations, but this left quite the impression. If, as is rumored, she's getting her own show on Disney Plus, I would happily watch it. What this episode does, however, is drive home the fact that the heart and soul of The Mandalorian is Din Djarin and Baby Grogu. I'm sure there are confrontations with Moff Gideon to come (where's that tracking beacon?), but this episode moved both the plot and the characterizations forward. 

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