‘The Mandalorian’ Review: Beloved Character Makes Live-Action Debut in ‘Chapter 13’

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 5, “Chapter 13 – The Jedi.”]

“The Mandalorian” has been building up to a meeting with a Jedi since Season 1 concluded last year, and the latest episode of the “Star Wars” show makes good on the teases via an action-packed episode that is one of the season’s best installments yet.

Given that “The Mandalorian” has been hinting at the appearance of lightsaber-wielding warriors for so long, the episode thankfully wastes no time before introducing viewers to Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson, AKA the year’s worst-kept casting secret). Episode writer/director Dave Filoni, who co-created Ahsoka with George Lucas, handles the character’s first live-action appearance with the reverence one would expect from a diehard fan; “Chapter 13” opens with an intense fight scene between the fan-favorite ex-Jedi and a handful of faceless goons and the action is shot in a way that is tailor-made to overjoy viewers who have been in love with Ahsoka since she made her franchise debut in 2008.

The aforementioned faceless goons are the henchmen of Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), the show’s latest Villain of the Week who has enslaved on a hapless town on the planet Corvus. As promised in the season’s prior episodes, Mando (Pedro Pascal) finally lands on said planet early in “Chapter 13” and promptly sets off to Morgan’s town in search of a Jedi. The town’s populace are being tortured and terrorized by Morgan, whose personality can be summed up as “very bad,” and her troops. Unsurprisingly, Morgan tasks Mando with hunting down the Jedi, and unsurprisingly, Mando eventually returns with Ahsoka to help liberate the town.

The episode’s overall arc is fairly predictable, and Morgan is far from the show’s first one-dimensional villain, but “Chapter 13” is one of the first episodes of “The Mandalorian” where neither of those things serve as detriments. Morgan and her troops kick-start the episode’s plot, are necessary fodder for some of the show’s best action sequences to date, and their lack of characterization is more than made up for by the dialogue between Mando and Ahsoka and a handful of unexpected revelations.

Dawson does a commendable job bringing the character to life and makes for one of the season’s best guest stars yet, despite the fact that the actress is more or less unidentifiable underneath all that makeup. Ahsoka steals every scene she is in, and though longtime “Star Wars” fans will get the most mileage out of her explanations about the Jedi Order and the nature of the Force, it’s all done in a way that will also appeal to those with a more casual understanding of the franchise. The traditionally guarded Mando openly admits to Ahsoka that Baby Yoda, AKA The Child’s powers are beyond his understanding, and his willingness to be honest and work with Ahsoka — Mandalorians and Jedi are typically enemies in “Star Wars” lore — speaks volumes about how much he cares for his little green ward. The episode does a fantastic job of revealing subtle bits of Mando’s character without resorting to exposition, and the episode’s talkier moments are as effective as its explosive action set-pieces.

Speaking of The Child, “Chapter 13” also reveals a shocking amount of information about the character. His name is Grogu (yes, he actually has a name!) and he was raised and trained at the Jedi Temple prior to the events of the “Revenge of the Sith” film. Grogu was taken away from the Jedi Temple by an unknown person and hid his abilities to survive over the years. Grogu’s strong attachment to Mando is emphasized, and Ahsoka argues that Grogu’s unstable emotions make him unsuitable to learn the ways of the Jedi, despite Mando’s insistence.

The latter point is left unresolved, but Mando and Ahsoka agree to work together to liberate Morgan’s town. A handful of exceptional combat sequences ensue: There’s no doubt that Mando and Ahsoka have Morgan and her army outmatched, but Filoni’s directorial work and all manner of impressive visuals ensures that every fight looks, sounds, and feels suitably tense and visceral. Ahsoka is rightfully the star of the show and gets a bulk of the exciting action scenes, which range from her effortlessly deflecting a hail of blaster bolts from troopers and HK-87 assassin droids (they don’t resemble the beloved HK-47 from old “Star Wars” media, but fans will appreciate the reference) to squaring off in solo combat against Morgan, but Mando also contributes via a handful of memorable moments. There’s no telling if Ahsoka will return in upcoming installments of “The Mandalorian,” but given that the episode also revealed that she’s hunting Thrawn (another fan-favorite character who appeared in “Star Wars Rebels”), there’s ample reason to be excited about a reunion between Mando and the ex-Jedi in the future.

Even with all of these strong points, it’s a bit deflating that Mando’s meeting with Ahsoka essentially ends with the latter telling the protagonist to shuttle Grogu to yet another planet to possibly meet yet another Jedi. Granted, Ahsoka is unwilling to train the emotionally vulnerable Grogu for a multitude of good reasons franchise fans are already aware of — for the laymen, she was once Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice and clashed with him after he became Darth Vader — but that doesn’t mean the runaround isn’t disappointing. Regardless, given that Mando’s ship is being tracked by Moff Gideon’s Imperial Remnant and there’s still unfinished business to resolve with the rest of the Mandalorians and the Darksaber, the protagonist’s next quest will likely boast more than a few welcome surprises.

“The Mandalorian” has entered a solid groove over the last few weeks and continues to put enticing new pieces in play for Season 2’s remaining episodes. “Chapter 13” is a remarkable showcase of everything that fans appreciate about “The Mandalorian,” and it’s hard to imagine the season entering its final stages on a stronger note than this.

Grade: A-

New episodes of “The Mandalorian” Season 2 debut Fridays on Disney+.

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