***SPOILERS Below for Chapter 13 of the Mandalorian and everything before***
13 episodes in to the Mandalorian and we are finally starting to see how it all ties together. A heavily anticipated character appears (in style) and a genuinely shocking reveal as to who may be the real threat behind Moff Gideon. The Force is strong in this one.
Over the past few weeks I have to admit that the momentum of the Mandalorian was beginning to waiver. The production values remain high, the writing decent, but at the heart of the show there was little meaning to hold my interest in the story being told. One season to establish characters, the protagonist and a story arc (albeit a weak one) is sufficient, but the first half of Season 2 was stuck on impulse power, not going anywhere in a hurry.
Well boy did it just jump to hyperspace.
It was well known that Dave Filoni; Lord of the Nerds, would be taking the reins of Chapter 13. Given that Filoni created Ahsoka Tano along with George Lucas, and is behind some of the best Star Wars content in the forms of the Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, to say that anticipation was high ahead of Chapter 13 is an understatement. It may not have been the perfect episode, but for a show that was just beginning to stray from the path an injection of purpose has put it right back on course.
In a massively refreshing change of pace, Chapter 13 wastes no time in getting to the point. Within a minute, Ahsoka Tano’s recognisable white lightsabers are utilised in an impressive action sequence, as she takes down soldier to soldier in a bleak, dead forest. This kind of action is something Filoni was able to portray much better in Star Wars TV adaptions than the main movies, where every battle had to have a “fate of the galaxy” feel. The fact is Jedi were keepers of the peace, and sometimes that means unglamorous fights on the front line. For every righteous duel there are a thousand skirmishes, and Ahsoka makes short work of these soldiers through a mix of cunning, agility and skill.
Rosario Dawson had an incredibly hard task in taking on the mantle of Ahsoka. This is a character loved by the hardcore fans who take a vested interest in the wider Star Wars universe; so typically much harder to please. Furthermore this is a character who was far younger for the majority of her screen time, only appearing for moments in Rebels as an older more experienced Jedi. Dawson had to adopt a beloved character, whilst integrating the years of experience and depth that we didn’t see in the period between the two television adaptions. As I said, tough.
How does she do? In truth very well, if not spectacular. I think Dawson lacks the cheeky spark we saw from Ahsoka in Clone Wars, even if she has innate charm and guile of an older, wiser Jedi on the run. The performance definitely lined up more with her appearances in Rebels, where she came across as methodical and guarded. Some fans have already taken issue with the subtle changes in her appearance, but it’s really a case of “no pleasing some people.” From what we’ve heard she will be appearing a lot more in the Mandalorian and other shows – so appearance decisions are likely base don what will look most believable in the long run and with a lot of screen time. I’m down with that.
Whilst clearing up “nondescript masked baddies” we cut often to a run down, ruined town, the kind that we are used to seeing in the Mandalorian. Though this one is clearly more oppressed that criminal. Ahsoka confronts the Governor (Diana Lee Inosanto), who holds some information that she needs. Throughout the episode the Governor is a little underwhelming to be honest. She gets a throwaway line of dialogue as back story and later on find out she knows how to fight a Jedi for some reason. It’s a bit villain of the week, and hopefully if the episode brings us what it teases we will be getting some better, long term villains.
Go Go Grogu!
After Ahsoka tactically retreats, we cut to Mando and Baby Yoda (which who knows, may actually be true). Some neat foreshadowing of the Razer Crest knob’s importance, and they land on Corvus. Din reaches the gates, and exchanges words with Michael Biehn’s Lang. More than just a cameo, Biehn has some serious action movie qualifications, having appeared in Terminator, Aliens, Tombstone and The Rock amongst others. He also plays an interesting part in this episode – I found myself hoping he could have stuck around a little longer as a recurring gun for hire type.
Mando gets ushered in, and after the local population cower and hide before him, he is brought in to the Governor’s home, by way of some suffering prisoners, tortured in standing cages. The contrast is well done, and the Governor’s extravagant home against the ramshackle town tells us the little we need to know. She offers Mando a Beskar spear for killing a troublesome Jedi, and not-so-subtley reminds him that the Jedi and Mandalorians are ancient enemies. \
Off he goes into the wilderness, Baby Yoda in his knapsack (apparently for luck). It doesn’t take long for him to find Ahsoka (or Ahsoka to find him, whichever way you look at it) and after a short but inventive fight he cries her name in truce, before she notices the Child.
The next 10 minutes are pretty heavy in exposition, both for the series and the episode. She does some Jedi mind stuff with Baby Yoda, finding out his name is Grogu (Sure?) and he was trained in the temple on Coruscant. This raises as many questions as it answers… How did he come to be in the hands of smugglers? Is he related to Yoda in some way? How trained is a child that can’t even speak?
The internet is already awash with fan theories, but what I enjoyed about the small, seemingly unimportant revelations is just that; there were some revelations. It gives us new questions to ask and new theories to ponder, which keeps it interesting. Although the previous episode dipped into the purpose behind Baby Yoda when the team happen upon the cloning facility, we received no new information, just stuff that hadn’t been mentioned for a while. This felt just a little fresh.
Ahsoka goes through a short training routine with Grogu (will I ever get used to that??) and he doesn’t respond. After Mando manages to get Grogu to respond using the Razer Crest’s lever knob, Ahsoka decides she cannot train him, because he likes Mando too much. It’s a bit of a downer that the only objective of episodes 1 to 4 is shot down in a moment. It’s also pretty thin reasoning. For all intents and purposes he is a young child, I’m not sure it’s Jedi policy to not to train any child that has attachments when they are still so young. The broad stroke rationale she gives is how this can corrupt the “best of us” – where we can only suppose she means Anakin/Darth Vader.
The Unlikeliest of Allies
Mando gets the legendary negotiating skills out again and makes Ahsoka a deal; he will help her get to the Governor and save the town in exchange for her training Baby Yoda. Though we do’t see her accept apparently she does, as we cut to her assaulting the town. She easily defeats the first wave of goons, throwing down a piece of Mando’s armour in front of the Governor in claim of defeating Din. I enjoyed the assault, in particular Ahsoka’s stealthy style. It makes sense for her as a character, and is more visually impressive that “pew pew, zing zing, pew pew” for every Jedi battle. Mando joins up to free the prisoners (though Ahsoka looks like she is doing fine) and ends up coming face to face with Lang, Whilst Ahsoka faces off against the Governor.
The two battles hold their own significance. On the one side, Mando and Lang, a bounty hunter and a hired gun, stand off whilst they wait to see who wins between the Governor and Ahsoka. Lang tells Mando they are just hired guns with no interest in dying for someone else’s cause. The contrast is engaging; the Mexican stand off between the bounty hunter and the hired goon, whilst the Jedi and the Governor compete in a battle of higher purpose.
There have been theories that Ahsoka was holding back as she needed information, but I feel the Governor was a little too competitive. The choreography and visuals of the fight were great though, with Inosanto being a stunt-woman coming through in her movement. After a great fight, Ahsoka bests the Governor and asks; “Where is Grand-Admiral Thrawn?”
If you don’t know who that is, the best way to find out is watching Rebels, because I won’t be able to do him justice here. Suffice to say he is a superb villain from that series, with the cold calculation that makes him feel a genuine force to be reckoned with. The Empire has far far too many throw away officers dotted around, so in my mind the appearance of the formidable admirable Thrawn is exactly what this show needs.
Lang attempts to take a cheap shot at Mando, only for a quick draw from the Mandalorian to drop him, and a hiding droid out. Perhaps Mando is willing to fight for the right cause after all. The townsfolk are saved, and there is much rejoicing. Again frustratingly, Ahsoka just backs out of the deal to train Grogu and instead tells Mando to take him to the home of the oldest Jedi temple. If Grogu connects with the force there, he may reach out to another Jedi, who will come to train him. A bit of a cop out for me, but Mando being the prime negotiator he is immediately agrees. I am a little torn on this, on the one hand its another cop out and fetch quest, but on the other we may get to meet new Jedi… so may the force be with you I guess?
You can’t get Rid of Baby Yoda that Easily
This was probably the best episode of the Mandalorian to date, through a combination of long awaited revelations, great action and most of all, a sense of purpose being added to the series as a whole. On top of Din’s mission, we now know that Thrawn could be lined up as the series antagonist, which would be a huge plus for me. We are also sign posted the possibility of other Jedi. At this point in time, the likely contenders are either Luke Skywalker, Ezra Bridger (from Rebels), Cal Kestis (of Jedi: Fallen Order fame) or as the rumour mills would suggest the possible return of Mace Windu, although some definite leaps would have to take place before we see that.
There were a couple of noteworthy Easter eggs dotted throughout the episode, outside the obvious like everything surrounding Ahsoka Tano. When Yoda’s name is mentioned we get a few bars of his theme, which admittedly gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. We also see the owl-like Morai, a creature tied to Ahsoka following a very interesting plot in the Clone Wars that considered another plane of existence and the physical embodiment of the force. In the final battle we also catch a glimpse of a Loth Cat, perhaps the biggest hint that it is Ezra Bridger we will be seeing soon.
One thing is for certain, after the opening meandering episodes I can happily declare that This is the Way I want the Mandalorian to continue. Yes, we applauded the show for its low key, small scale plot that told a story other than bringing balance to the force or the fate of the galaxy. But let’s be honest, this is Star Wars, and whilst it doesn’t have to be a galaxy wide plot, we can’t help but get excited for space wizards and laser swords.
What did you think of Chapter 13? And what further expanded universe characters could we get in the Mandalorian? Post your thoughts below!