Just when the Star Wars fandom caught its breath after the reveal of Clone Wars favorite Bo-Katan, The Mandalorian once again delivered on bringing an animated character to live action. But this time it was not just a Clone Wars character. It was not just an animated character. It was the Clone Wars character. It was the animated character.
“Chapter 13:The Jedi” is an action-packed, Kurosawa-inspired Western that could simultaneously bring together genres in a way that only Star Wars can, a major aspect of which must be the metaphoric and symbolic meaning sprinkled throughout the story.
Life and Death
The episode begins in a forest of dead trees, with lightsaber blades slicing through darkly attired, masked figures. No, this is not Rise of Skywalker, but the parallel is important. Where most forests, such as the forest moon of Endor, are representative of life, Corvus, like Exegol, is full of death. Within that death is the reaper. The quick cuts show the swiftness and efficiency of Ahsoka Tano not only as a wielder of the Force but as a reaper for justice. Her white blades are hope slashing through the darkness.
This idea is reinforced later, when we see Ahsoka leading The Mandalorian and The Child through part of the forest that is full of green, of life. Ahsoka is the light side of the Force personified, as the daughter of Mortis gave her life force to restore Ahsoka. The sun is even shining down on them in the morning, a time of renewal and rebirth. (Interestingly the moon is behind Ahsoka when she first holds The Child, a juxtaposition that may mean something later in the season.)This contrast between Ahsoka’s home versus the rest of the planet sets up her final duel versus the magistrate, who has created her own facade of life in the bowels of the village. Full of trees and water (another symbol of life that has made itself known throughout the season), this is the stage where the reaper of the light restores life for the villagers.
On the topic of creating or restoring life, this episode diverts somewhat from its predecessors. Throughout the season symbolic representations of wombs and eggs have been prevalent; in “The Jedi,” however, things are more phallic. The trees, the staff of beskar, and even Ahsoka’s lightsabers. The two aspects of life creation are coming together. To reinforce this, eggs are still present, primarily in the orb that The Child is obsessed with. Writer and director Dave Filoni is clearly foreshadowing the establishment of some form of new life for or around The Child.
This new life, whatever it will be, has already begun for The Child, who has a new (at least for the audience) name. Grogu. This new name comes with a new identity (again for the audience), as Ahsoka explains how Grogu was raised and trained in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and “then his memories become dark.” This is another classic Star Wars set up of light vs. dark, but it also challenges Din Djarin to redefine how he sees his ward.
Grogu has become very attached to Din. Ahsoka says, “His attachment makes him vulnerable to his fears. His anger.” She speaks from experience, having seen the fall of Anakin Skywalker and his demise into his new identity, Darth Vader. As if that parallel wasn’t clear enough, when Ahsoka looks into the eyes of Grogu she repeats Yoda’s words to a young Anakin Skywalker, “I sense much fear in you.” It could not be any more clear that young Grogu is going to struggle with the dark side because of his attachment to his father figure, just as Anakin did.
Grogu will not be alone in this challenge, though. Din has clearly become attached to Grogu, obvious in the emotional almost-goodbye aboard the womb… whoops the Razor Crest. Ahsoka knows this will be a part of the challenge they will face, and at times it seems like she is testing Din as much or more than she is Grogu. She tells Din to call the “kid” by his name, forcing him to come to terms with this change in identity for his little green friend. Likewise, when Ahsoka and Din team up to take the village, Ahsoka tosses the one piece of beskar that has the Mudhorn clan symbol on it to the ground. A sacrifice must be made.
Past vs. Present
Star Wars teaches that the sins of the father will most certainly affect the present. Anakin’s sins had to be rectified by Luke and Leia. E.K. Johnston’s wonderful Ahsoka, Rebels, and this episode show that Ahsoka has had to deal with the sins of her father, the Jedi Order, as well. (There is likely a great many connections between her connection with the daughter of Mortis, the Father of Mortis, and the Jedi’s failure. But that’s a story for another time.)
The scars that Ahsoka has are apparent in spades. When faced with the question of whether to train Grogu or not she says, “Better to let his abilities fade.” She’s seen what happens when attachments become too strong and the impact that it can have on the galaxy. She even tells Din, “You’re like a father to him.” which has to remind her of the dynamic between Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Nonetheless, Ahsoka does not deny being a Jedi. Even after being called a Jedi she doesn’t retort with her famous, “I am no Jedi.” line. This is not to say that she has fully accepted the Jedi identity once again, rather to show that she understands her place in the spectrum. She is living like a Jedi, just without the Order. This makes it ironic that she assists The Mandalorian, as, “The Jedi are the ancient enemy of Mandalore.” But, of course, “A Mandalorian and a Jedi. They’ll never see it coming.” When the wounds of the past are healed, new paths can be forged.
Amongst the things the audience never saw coming was the mention of one of the most historical planets in Star Wars lore. In Star Wars Legends, Tython is the planet where pilgrims learned to harness the Force and create what was, at the time, called the Je’daii. This is where Ahsoka still sends Grogu and Din, which means she must have some faith in the roots of the Order in which she was raised. Knowing that Luke Skywalker is out in the galaxy right now searching for artifacts of the Jedi’s past, and even that he even the original Jedi text, has fan excitement and theorizing about what this all could mean at maximum capacity.
Gates, Faith, and Choice
As Ahsoka cleanses the forest in the opening scene, she comes to the gates of the village to face down the magistrate. According to the University of Michigan, “the gate is an entryway into an unknown place, or a place of great significance.” This is clearly true here, as what lies beyond is unknown to the audience, and the village will be the centerpiece of the third act. Likewise, a gate “can function [as] a door between life and death–the gates of Heaven.”
These gates are juxtaposed to the gates into the magistrates inner sanctum. There is an important moment of duality happening here, as the people, who are the just and righteous, live in the dark and rank outer portion of the village, while the magistrate, the devil, lives in the innermost portion. However, that innermost portion is full of life. In the Bible, the inner portion of the temple was where Jews believed God to reside, and thus only the priest could enter. Here, though, the devil has taken this holy place, and has even begun to crucify people outside.
Ahsoka has come to restore the righteous order. “You will learn nothing from me,” the magistrate declares, essentially saying that she has all the power. Which, at this point, she does. Filoni even shows this visually by having the magistrate high atop the gate looking down on Ahsoka. Yet, Ahsoka is a woman of faith, so she has a power that need not display its power. “I will not give you that choice,” Ahsoka tells her.
Choices are present throughout the episode, starting even in the aforementioned scene, where Ahsoka gives the magistrate a day to choose between surrendering or facing the consequences of Ahsoka’s return. “You have one day to decide.” This is not really a choice so much as an ultimatum, but it sets the stage for Ahsoak’s arc in the episode.
When she first learns of Grogu’s power, she tells Din that things will be better if The Child’s abilities fade. There is no choice. Not even an ultimatum. Just a declaration. However, as the episode goes on, Ahsoka’s stance softens, to the point where she actually gives Grogu, for the first time, the right to make the choice. She sends Din and Grogu to Tython so that Grogu can make the choice about who he wants to be, a choice she never had.
More so than any of the other episodes this season, “The Jedi” sets up distinct sides. The krayt dragon, spiders, and even the Imperials, in a way, are opposing forces but not sides. They are simply existing as they do naturally. Yet here walls separate. There are clear divides. As Din faces off, in a classic Western shootout, with the magistrate’s righthand man, the man says, “Could be your side. Could be mine.” This is no longer nature taking its course. This is choice. This is a line in the sand. While the audience knows that Din is not going to jump ship, the sides here are not what is important. The choices that will be made in the remaining three episodes are.
Will Grogu choose the Jedi or Din? Will Din choose The Watch or another Way? Will the clan of two be able to withstand the looming evil present in the threat of Moff Gideon? The stage is set. The pieces are in place. The time on the clock is ticking away. Now the proverbial line must be drawn. This is the Way.