***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Season 2, Episode 5 of The Mandalorian!***
Not only did The Mandalorian drop a fresh episode over the long Thanksgiving weekend, but as a holiday treat, the Star Wars series finally revealed the actual name of the creature we've all referred to as “Baby Yoda” for over a year now. Are you ready for it? The Child's true name is…drumroll please…GROGU. Somehow, that Dragonball Z-sounding monicker just doesn't sound right. I wouldn't be surprised if Baby Yoda sticks around for a long time to come. Nevertheless, it's a major revelation for fans of the show, but as per usual, I'm getting way ahead of myself here.
“Chapter 13: The Jedi” lives up to its title right off the bat with the re-introduction of Ahsoka Tano (now in three dimensions!). After months of rumor, we can now say with 100% certainty that she is indeed played by the badass Rosario Dawson. Ok, so what's she been up to since the Empire fell? Well, she's on the trail of Grand Admiral Thrawn, whose whereabouts are known by the magistrate of Calodan, Morgan Elsbeth (played by Bruce Lee's goddaughter, Diana Lee Inosanto).
Elsbeth's people were massacred during the Clone Wars and her ensuing anger led to a ruthless industry that helped the Empire build its Starfleet by mining other planets for resources. She now rules over Calodan's main city with an iron fist and by the looks of the dead trees, it seems like she hasn't given up her environment-decimating proclivities. Speaking of which, Calodan has my favorite planet design of any seen in The Mandalorian so far. The hazy sky and ominous forest are hauntingly beautiful and reminded me of some of the practical sets used in The Wizard of Oz.
For an unspecified amount of time, Ahsoka has been laying siege to the Magistrate's city and the opening moments give us some much welcome lightsaber action as the former Jedi lays waste to a number of Elsbeth's soldiers. She has a small army at her disposal, which is led by a gruff, ex-military advisor named Lang (Michael Biehn of Terminator and Aliens fame).
Not long after, Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda (he's not Grogu just yet) land on the planet, their ship being tracked in a similar fashion that recalls the Rebel watch-posts on Yavin 4 in the original trilogy. They head into town, which has clearly fallen on hard times; people live in fear and refuse to talk with the newcomers. Some citizens are even secured to stockade-like devices that shock them every few seconds.
The Magistrate summons Mando to her little palace and tells him that if he kills Ahsoka Tano, she will grant him a spear made of pure Beskar. Mando agrees, but doesn't tell Elsbeth of his real plans: to reunite the Child with one of its kind. And so, the bounty hunter treks out into the spooky and dying forest to seek out the Jedi. They get into a bit of a scuffle, but the fight dies down when Mando says that Bo-Katan sent him.
Ahsoka can commune with Baby Yoda through the Force and tells Mando that she's only ever seen one other creature like The Child before: “A wise Jedi Master named Yoda.” HUUUUUUGE props to composer Ludwig Göransson for subtly reprising John Williams' iconic Yoda theme in this moment. It's almost imperceptible, but the perfect accompaniment to the scene. As it turns out, Grogu was raised at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, where he was trained by a slew of masters over the years. When the Empire rose to power and wiped the Jedi out, Grogu was taken from the Temple and hidden away. After that, his memory “becomes dark,” which means there are still mysteries to be solved with the kid.
Mando thinks he's finally found a proper place for Baby Yoda, but after trying to test Grogu's powers, Ahsoka states that she cannot train him. Mando is able to coax some Force abilities out of the foundling, which brings out some genuine joy, excitement, and pride out of the usually dry warrior. Sadly, it confirms Ahsoka's worst fears: the kid has too much of a bond with the bounty hunter. Based on personal experience, she knows what strong emotions can do to a Jedi. After all, she was trained by Anakin Skywalker, whose deep love for Padmé led to him becoming Darth Vader.
The student has become the master and like Luke in Episode VIII, Ahsoka isn't so sure the Jedi need to continue on. She's content to let Grogu's powers fade away if it means he'll live a happier life. In other words, the war against the Empire has left everyone in the galaxy broken, jaded, and unsure of what comes next.
Still wanting to complete his mission, Mando offers to help Ahsoka defeat the Magistrate if Ahsoka agrees to train Grogu. The Jedi seemingly agrees and the two take down Elsbeth and her cronies in an Old West-meets-samurai denouement full of character and atmosphere. In particular, the final sword-fight showdown between Ahsoka and Elsbeth is very Kill Bill-esque. The town if freed and its people celebrate as Göransson's score takes on a festive, medieval sound.
The day won, Mando heads back to the Razor Crest to wake Baby Yoda from a nap. It's time to say goodbye, but as he holds the sleeping child on his lap, we're transported back to the very first episode of Season 1 when the two characters first met. It becomes apparent that The Mandalorian won't be separating one of the most iconic duos in pop culture right now.
Despite their deal, Ahsoka asserts that she cannot train Grogu. However, she tells the bounty hunter that there is one option left to him: Din Djarin must take The Child to the famous of planet Tython, where the Jedi are said to have originated. There, he will find the ruins of an ancient temple that has a strong connection to The Force. He must then place Grogu on the Seeing Stone at the top of the mountain. Once there, Grogu can choose his path; if he reaches out through the Force, another Jedi (most likely Luke Skywalker) will sense his presence and seek him out.
Something tells me the path to Tython won't be so smooth. With three episodes left, Mando and Baby Yoda (I'm still calling him that, and there's nothing you can do about it!) have yet to have a rematch with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). In any case, “Chapter 13” was BIG in terms of expanding on the lore and there was no better person to write and direct it than Star Wars expert and series executive producer Dave Filoni. I'm glad he and his creation, Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Eckstein in The Clone Wars), were able to be reunited.
For our coverage of Season 2 thus far, click the links below: