What an entrance. After weeks of teasing, and years of backstory building in animations like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, games, books and comics, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) finally made her live action debut – carrying one of best episodes of The Mandalorian so far.
13 episodes in, Mando finally gets where he’s going. He’s stopped off to fight sand dragons, taxied lizard ladies around space, crashed into spider webs, picked up old friends, joined a band of pirates and had his ship fixed up (twice), but at long last Mando makes it to the planet Corvus for his rendezvous with the one rumoured Jedi who might be able to take Baby Yoda off his hands.
Corvus looks fantastic. Lit like Chernobyl, and shrouded in green mist, it’s a suitably cinematic place to introduce Ahsoka, and director Dave Filoni (also in charge of The Clone Wars and Rebels) gives her one of the series’ most stylish set-pieces to show off her skills. Lurking in the woods outside another wasted Western-style town, Ahsoka stalks masked goons with her trademark double white lightsabers, force-pushing the middle bits out of trees and chopping baddies in half like a ninja. In a year without blockbusters, it’s easily the most badass bit of action movie chic that we’ve had in months – and Dawson (Sin City, Death Proof) gives Ahsoka all the seasoned samurai gravitas she deserves.
Just as Anakin Skywalker was apprenticed to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka was apprenticed to Anankin – the third link in a chain that was only broken when Anakin flipped to the dark side and became Darth Vader. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, but if you haven’t been following the Star Wars story outside of the main movies, you need to know that Ahsoka is kind of a big deal – and her appearance in this week’s episode is a huge step towards linking The Mandalorian to the bigger universe that’s been unfolding since 1977.
But first Mando has to meet her. Arriving in the middle of a standoff between Ahsoka and the city of Calodan, his first obstacle is getting past ‘The Magistrate’ (Diana Lee Inosanto, mostly known for her stunt work, which seems like a shame given her great performance here), a petty tyrant with a private army. Here we also meet her ex-army henchman (Michael Biehn, crossing at least three geek streams at once after his legendary lead roles in Terminator and Aliens), and the frightened townsfolk looking for salvation.
The Magistrate hires Mando to kill Ahsoka, Mando double crosses her and teams up with Ahsoka instead, and we get a magical second-act training montage where Baby Yoda tries to hone his force powers. More importantly though, we also get Baby Yoda’s real name – apparently always called “Grogu” (cue a mad panic in factories around the world as this year’s best-selling Christmas toy suddenly needs a new label on the box…)
Agreeing to help Ahsoka save Calodan from The Magistrate, Mando puts Grogu back on the ship and heads into town for yet another standoff – although in reality this episode really isn’t about him. As Mando and Michael Biehn try and out-Clint Eastwood each other in the street, Ahsoka squares off with The Magistrate in a Japanese tea garden – gifting us a beautifully-choreographed lightsaber ballet and one of the best Star Wars showdowns ever. With one pair of cowboys duelling with guns, and a couple of samurai wielding swords, the ferocious last 10 minutes of Chapter 13 manage to pull off everything Star Wars does best – nodding to Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa and George Lucas all at the same time.
Mando and Ahsoka win their fights, of course, but Grogu is still a long way from safety. Ahsoka refuses to train him because his attachment to Mando is too strong – but she does give the pair a new pointer that’s set to shape the narrative of the next three episodes. Mando needs to take Grogu to the planet Tython to find a ruined Jedi temple. If he puts Grogu on the right ancient stone, he can channel the force to make his own mind up about his fate – either choosing to train as a Jedi master or living the rest of his life as a muggle with Mando.
But that’s not all. In beating The Magistrate, Ahsoka wrings an important name out of her –Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thought dead at the end of Rebels, Thrawn is the big bad of almost all the Star Wars stories set between Episode III and IV, and his mention here is a huge clue about what’s in store for the rest of the series (and beyond).
Even more villains, then, and even more heroes as we head into the final three episodes of season two. Things are still shaping up into something big for the finale…
- Listen out for the very subtle hints of classic Star Wars themes in key moments of this week’s episode – more proof of just how brilliant Ludwig Göransson’s score really is.
- Rosario Dawson’s stunt double is World karate champion Caitlin Dechelle – also the double for Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman, and for Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
- The colour of Ahsoka’s lightsabers is important – shifting from green to yellow to blue to white across various stages of her development. Now a “neutral” colour, her new weapon is the result of purging a dark side blade (more on that in Rebels…)
- Ahsoka drops hints about “other Jedi” when she explains what Grogu has to do on Tython. Will we see Luke Skywalker? Rebels upstart Ezra Bridger?