Editor’s Note: Welcome to Mandalorian Monday, when Vanyaland film editor Nick Johnston recaps last week’s episode of ‘The Mandalorian‘. It runs — you guessed it — every Monday during the show’s second season, so you have the chance to watch it over the weekend and he can write about it without having to put a big SPOILERS warning atop the page.
Hey Mando Monday readers — I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving, full of blue milk cookies and roast Krayt dragon. This week, we’ve got the Dave Filoni-directed “The Jedi,” which brings a fan-favorite character into the live-action Star Wars world, which means boomers like me will be frustrated because we’ve never quite understood why anybody likes the Clone Wars cartoon anyway [Editor’s Note: Nick Johnston is not a boomer]. I get Rebels, I get Resistance… I just don’t quite get why everybody loves looking at that ugly-ass show or watching it in chronological order despite it being made nearly impossible to do so. But, remember, I’m dumb! There are lots of people who love the Clone Wars. Read them instead (and maybe they’ll be able to explain why introducing time-travel into the Star Wars universe so someone can save a favorite character isn’t a horrible idea), but read on if you want to read rough jokes and references to football games. Oh, wait: This week we’ve also got a baseball reference! So, let’s waddle up to the plate like we’re Bartolo Colon and hit one deep, huh?
Yeah, that’s right: it’s Big Sexy time.
Well, we begin with a showdown on the forest planet Corvus, which has been rendered into a stump-strewn landscape by years of warfare and Imperial torture. A regiment of gas-masked troopers are felled by a cloaked figure wielding two white lightsabers, and a certain subset of Star Wars nerds are basically becoming Vince McMahon with every stroke and slash of the two blades. The figure stops at the gates of the city of Calodan, where an Imperial Magistrate (Diana Lee Inosanto) and her second-in-command (Michael Biehn, fuck yeah) appear on top of to parlay with the figure, revealed to be an aged Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson, whose casting Gina Carano must have been pretty happy about, given that it took the heat off of her for an afternoon). Ahsoka demands information from the Magistrate, who demurs, offering peace and safety for Calodan’s citizens in exchange for her surrender, but Ahsoka sees through the guise. She gives her a day to meet her demands and flees into the forest, while all of the Imperial Remnant holed up Calodan changes their pants. Can you imagine getting shit out of a stormtrooper costume? The dry-cleaning bill must be murder! Hit that title screen! It’s like Madden 2000 out here!
And, suddenly, we’re back on board the Razor Crest, as it makes its way into Corvus’ orbit. Mando and Baby Yoda are hanging out, having a good time, but as any dad on a road trip knows, the kids are gonna start messing with shit when they get board. So, Baby Yoda wants his ball back, which also happens to be the top of the Razor Crest‘s joystick. Mando says no, and Baby Yoda fumes a little bit before unscrewing it with The Force. Just think about how screwed Baby Yoda would be if he encountered the Tall Man from Phantasm — his favorite toy, weaponized against him!
The pair land and make their way to Calodan, with Baby Yoda concealed in his bag like a bottle of Fireball at a college football game. He’s stopped at the gates by the second-in-command, who knows Mando’s armor and asks him if he’s a bounty hunter. The bounty hunter says yes, and the second-in-command, who goes by the name of Lang, tells him the Magistrate will want to see him. Inside the walls, Mando tries to talk to a few of the townspeople, who flee at the very sight of him, and Lang eventually comes to shepherd him to the large walled-off building at the center of town, past rows of tortured prisoners mounted like they’re on the cross.
Behind the walls is a palatial estate with its own Star Wars take on a Koi pond, and Mando finds the Magistrate on a small bridge, feeding the fish. The Magistrate tells Mando that they’ve got a Jedi problem, and that she needs his help solving it, Clone-Trooper style, especially given that Mandalorians and Jedi hate each other. If he completes the job, she’ll give him a staff made of pure Beskar, just like his armor, and she has faith that he’ll see it through. Mando plays along, looking for hints as to where Ahsoka might be, and agrees to the job. Our man leaves the town and heads into the forest, following the directions given to him by the Magistrate, analyzing the trails left over by various creatures and whatnot. He puts Baby Yoda on a rock, backs away, and is soon ambushed by Ahsoka, who rightfully assumes that he’s a bounty hunter and that he’s out there to kill her. It’s a weirdly choreographed scene, honestly — something about the editing or the crispness of the motion feels off, like as if it’s this weird handshake compromise between the Prequel-style acrobatics and the intense swordsmanship of the OT — but, of course, it ends quickly when Mando tells Ahsoka that Bo-Katan sent him (to find out if she knows any good wig shops, primarily, but also to find help for The Child). Ahsoka then notices the kid, whom she becomes quickly enamored with.
Later on, after presumably some bone broth and intense mental conversation, Ahsoka reports back to Mando with some news: She knows a lot about Baby Yoda’s origins, and, boy, are they sure to be controversial. It turns out that Baby Yoda was kept at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant before he was shepherded away by some unknown party before he tasted the hot end of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, and a lot of his memory is clouded in darkness. He’s got a name, though, and it’s Grogu, which is perhaps the worst possible name for Baby Yoda that anyone could have invented, so congratulations, Dave: We hate it. But, perhaps most importantly, somebody actually says the name “Yoda” in this series, so we now know that somebody knows what he is. Mando asks Ahsoka to train him, and she balks at that request, saying that the Jedi are basically done for. But, hey, she might give it a shot, even if he’s a little fearful. But you better bet more people are going to say “Grogu” a lot before the episode ends, so we’re going to respond in turn:
At daybreak, Ahsoka decides to test the little one. She uses The Force to pass a stone to the little kid, but he doesn’t want to pass it back, because he’s scared of using his powers. Only Mando can make him do it, it seems, because he loves and feels comfortable around the armored warrior, and when Mando passes the little one his favorite shiny ball from the ship, he throws it back at him like a heater coming off of Aroldis Chapman’s glove. Ahsoka tells Mando that there’s absolutely no way that she’ll train him now because she’s seen what that kind of love can do to a Jedi (which, fair). Instead, she hopes his powers will just go away if they’re ignored, just like everybody tries to do with armpit hair or their first pimples. Great advice!
But Ahsoka has shit to do — remember, she’s got information to extract from the Magistrate — and Mando strikes his own deal with the former Jedi. He’ll help her liberate Calodan if she ensures that Baby Yoda gets trained by some Jedi, somehow, somewhere. She agrees, and the pair plot a way to get inside and take down the better-armored force. Mando’s been curious about who the Magistrate is, and Ahsoka finally gives him an answer: Her name is Morgan Elsbeth, who used her family’s massacre during the Clone Wars to help build up the Imperial Navy. She knows something that Ahsoka wants to know, and she’ll get it, god dammit.
The plan is this: Ahsoka walks in like a boss, looking like she’s straight out of Yojimbo, and tosses down one of Mando’s Beskar shoulder plates. Everyone will shit their pants yet again, and Ahsoka will demand the information. Elsbeth will order them to open fire, and Ahsoka will flee, where she’ll be able to pick them off one by one. Lang will order that the prisoners be executed, along with everyone else in the town, and Mando will fly in using his jetpack and prevent that from happening. Once all of those dudes are dead, it’ll be showdown time — Mando v. Lang, and Ahsoka v. Elsbeth, who will be wielding the Beskar staff, since it can apparently deflect lightsabers. Sure enough, everything goes according to plan, though maybe not according to how Filoni had envisioned it in his head. This is the first sequence in which I think the editing is genuinely sloppy — it’s bizarrely-paced, and Ahsoka moves awkwardly when she’s supposed to, you know, glide! — but, hey, different strokes for different folks. What matters is that we have ourselves a cool-ass duel here. Theoretically, I mean. Ahsoka and Elsbeth face-off samurai-style, which should cause one to flashback to Kurosawa classics, but instead made my palms sweat like I was going to fuck up a button-press in one of the standoffs in Ghost of Tsushima.
Anyway, Lang looks like he’s about to lay down his weapon after talking about how either side might win, behind those gated-off palace walls, but seems to realize his mistake when he groks that the only person capable of killing Ahsoka Tano is named Dave Filoni. Sure enough, she easily bests Elsbeth in combat, and demands the information from her at saber-point: Ahsoka wants to know the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is apparently still alive and well after all of these years, that blue-skinned rat bastard (I hope Timothy Zahn gets cash money every single time they say his name). But, outside the gate, Lang decides to get the jump on Mando, and pulls his weapon up, but Mando’s quick on the draw with that big iron on his hip. The town’s liberated, Ahsoka seems to have her information, and Mando’s gifted the Beskar staff by Tano, who claims that it should be in the possession of a Mandalorian.
Mando heads back to his ship and prepares Baby Yoda to leave his friendly arms like a parent sending their kid off to college, but Ahsoka arrives at the Razor Crest and tells him that she’s not going to train him, given the relationship that Mando has with the boy. However, she will tell him where he could potentially get help from — a Jedi Temple on the planet Tython, possibly the first — where he’ll be able to reach out through the Force and find a master to get help from. Ahsoka bids the pair a fond farewell, and the Razor Crest takes off from the surface of Corvus, as Ahsoka smiles. Will this be the last we see of her? Who knows. But hey, if you flip a coin, when it’s in the air, you’ll find out what answer you’re hoping for.
Yeah, this didn’t do it for me. I don’t think Filoni’s that great at directing — he did, after all, put his name atop the Clone Wars film, which is just the absolute worst — and he cribbed heavily from the Kurosawa playbook to mask the fact that he doesn’t have much of a style anyway, beyond the environments looking kind of cool. Dawson seemed… kind of bored? Perhaps it was meant to make Ahsoka seem pensive in comparison to the other characters, but she stumbles over the kind of lines that others might have paused on — her sage bit of Jedi wisdom during the stone-test was all but sped through. Honestly, this entire affair felt weirdly sleepy for what should have been such a high-octane episode. People are happy with it, but I can’t help but feel like I’m still missing what everyone else is seeing. I’m gonna give these two Jango Fett heads out of five. I’m sorry, guys. One day, I’ll be able to get Ziro the Hutt out of my head.
I’m going Michael Biehn here. If you need a refresher on why Michael Biehn fucking rules, go watch The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Tombstone or The Rock tonight. Or, maybe play Far Cry: Blood Dragon, in which he has the lead role — it’s a fun time! He’s not given much to do in “The Jedi,” but he is able to basically make this Space Tombstone, even though he doesn’t get the chance to spin his pistols. He does get a laser shotgun, though, which kind of rules.
Star Wars Fan Film of The Week:
This week, I’m spotlighting Forces of Darkness, which is a new-fangled play on the old-fashioned “lightsaber fight” fan film. It’s focused on a battle between Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, where the young Ben Solo must confront the fact that his Grandfather would have totally handled his ass, even if the young man is able to pull out the W at the end. It’s by the filmmaking collective Seize the Frame, and it’s got a great aesthetic to it, as well. It’s a lot of fun to check out, and I hope you enjoy it.
This Week’s Weirdest Piece of Baby Yoda Merch:
It’s officially the holiday season, so why not welcome Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or any other winter solstice celebration) in with this inflatable Baby Yoda lawn ornament from Gemmy Industries? Measuring roughly five feet tall, this is sure to put the fun back in your holiday celebration by further grafting Baby Yoda on human traditions that he would absolutely not understand in the slightest. Is that even a candy cane, or is it some weird Huttese saxophone that we don’t know anything about? Maybe it’s somehow involved in a Life-Day celebration. Either way, this can be yours for a cool $70 at Amazon.
Anyway, stay tuned for “Chapter 14” next week, and feel the sense of possibility wash over you, given that we don’t know anything about who directed this episode. I can’t even make a guess as to what will happen, but I do know this: It’ll probably have Baby Yoda in it, and he’ll probably get called Grogu. God help us all.