6- Practice Makes Perfect
What the episode does well it does very well. For instance, the time progression is clear via its use of blackouts as transitions, with the added benefit of costume and location changes establishing where this lines up relative to the established canon. This cannot be said for all of the episodes. It allows the relationship dynamics between the characters to be easily understood, taking the pressure off of the viewer to make the connections so they can focus on what the story is saying.
Nonetheless, its biggest drawback also regards those relationship dynamics. Particularly in the beginning, when Anakin is blatantly rude and disrespectful to his Padawan in a way that doesn’t fit with their relationship in The Clone Wars. At one point, when Obi-Wan comments on Ahsoka’s progress, Anakin retorts, “I wouldn’t know.” He is also extremely invalidating toward his apprentice because of his frustration with the testing that has nothing to do with her. While the two do take time to truly connect in Clone Wars, it is never this negatively antagonistic.
There is one reason that this episode sits so low on this list, which is that it retcons pre-established canon in the Ahsoka novel. While elements are similar, like Bail bringing Ahsoka into the Rebellion, hiding on a farm planet, and Ahsoka’s need to protect others even at the risk of her own safety, and the appearance of an Inquisitor, the stories are not the same.
It is easy to brush this off because this is written by Dave Filoni, the creator of Ahsoka, and his stories are generally accepted as the final word with regards to the character. Similarly, having the story does not take away from the wonderful book that E.K. Johnston wrote. What it does do is set the stage for more retcons in the future. Possibly the very near future if the Cassian/K-2S0 meeting is seen on-screen. If said story, or other stories like it in the future, continues to negate the books and comics in favor of the on-screen material, there becomes a tier system of canon that will reduce fan investment in off-screen content. Not a good precedence to set.
Choices and Justice are nearly inseparable in that they both serve the same purpose: show Dooku’s frustration and reason for leaving the Jedi Order. Both episodes have Dooku with a partner, show a self-serving Senator making it rich at the expense of his constituents, and highlight Dooku’s resentment toward the Order and its intertwining with the Republic. To him, this inability to separate one institution from another calls for a need to destroy both and begin again.
The contrast between Mace Windu and Dooku in this episode is that idea manifested. Mace is by the book, still sees the Jedi and the Republic as partners rather than symbiotes, and honestly believes that every Jedi will make the choice in the best interest of the person in front of them rather than what is best for the Senate/Jedi. Windu’s belief that the Jedi are “guided by the Council, not by politics or ego” is what we want to be true. It just isn’t. It might be too late to stop his fall, but no one would know because Dooku is kept at arm’s length because of his willingness to question. Thankfully, he passed this trait onto his Padawan, Qui-Gon Jinn.
Justice ranks slightly better than Choices because getting time with Dooku and Qui-Gon together furthers the narrative thread of a Jedi “family tree” from Dooku down to Ahsoka that they season is focused on. Through this line, the morality of the Jedi is able to survive despite the rising darkness that brings the formal Order down. Qui-Gon’s ability to take the admirable aspects of Dooku and pass them on to Obi-Wan, who will pass them down to Anakin and thus Ahsoka, saves the Order much like he saves his Master from murdering Senator Dagonet.
Visually this is established by contrasting the environment of this episode, Dooku’s first, with Ahsoka’s last. Whereas the obvious choice would be to start with Dooku in a bright, shining environment and ending with Ahsoka surrounded by darkness, they invert this to show Dooku in a bleak and barren farm town and Ahsoka in a bright and thriving one. It is far from a safe choice and something that would likely only be effective in a series of shorts all released at once. But it worked, and it worked really well.
2- Life and Death
As an Ahsoka aficionado, yours truly loves starting this new series with baby ‘Soka. The rise of individuals like myself, who came late to the Ahsoka party, has led to a movement of new Ahsoka material. Nonetheless, the “average” Star Wars fan might not know who she is; they might only know her from The Mandalorian. To introduce her from birth and then fulfill her arc (for this series) after seeing Dooku’s journey to darkness sets the stage for all of the themes and ideas the series focuses on.
“Everywhere there is life. Value it. Honor It.” These words from Pav-ti, Ahsoka’s mother, are essential in understanding the connection between the Ahsoka and Dooku arcs. Both characters grow up to value life, but there expression of it is different. Ahsoka grows to be an individually who does everything she can to avoid killing. She refuses to kill the clones in Clone Wars, does not try to kill Darth Vader in Rebels, and puts her own well-being at risk in order to save her fellow farmer. On the other hand, Dooku “honors” life by trying to bring down the Republic he sees at fault for the suffering of beings across the galaxy. He has some regret for this, certainly, as he says, “How many died because of my actions?” But that regret makes him move closer to the darkness, whereas the regret Ahsoka has (not being there for Anakin, not being able to stop the death of so many of her friends and peers, etc.) leads her to examine her choices and evolve. To become better.
Ahsoka has to be that. As the conduit of the Daughter of Mortis, she is the epitome of the light. She carries it through the darkness so that the heroes of the original trilogy can take the mantel years later. Pav-ti tells her, “You must face death, Ahsoka. Do not fear it.” The transfer of essence from Daughter to Ahsoka breathes new life into her, helps her conquer death. Yet she grows to understand the subtle balance between life and death. In the Rebels episode World Between Worlds, she stops Ezra from saving Kanan from his death because that would undo everything his sacrifice did. All of that starts here.
1- The Sith Lord
It would be really hard to argue for any other episode to top this list. The Sith Lord hits all the Star Wars notes, be it the music, the visuals, the symbolism, or the way it interweaves and adds context to so much of the canon.
Upon initial watch, it is easy to question this episodes canonicity, as Dooku is in the Jedi Temple post the death of Qui-Gon Jinn. Based on Dooku: Jedi Lost, Dooku left the order years before because of the Jedi demanding he disconnect completely from his sister. This series shows, however, that it was more than just his sister causing him to leave the Jedi. The prior two episodes show Senators taking advantage of the system; likewise, Dooku had been warning the Jedi for years of the imminent “storm clouds.” Positive change had not occurred, though, and Dooku took things into his own hands. Those hands would end up with much blood upon them. “Such is the price of freedom,” Darth Sidious tells him. Dooku believes that price is worth paying, that he is doing the right thing. He not only kills his friend and peer, Yaddle, he calls it giving her “peace.”
If there had been anything stopping Dooku from fully giving himself to Palpatine, this episode burns it to ash. The loss of Qui-Gon, established through the season as a critical relationship for Dooku, is a loss he cannot overcome. The “death” of Darth Maul creates an opportunity for Sidious to officially bring Dooku to the forefront. He takes that opportunity, and takes advantage of a remorseful Dooku, bringing him closer to his goal of “unlimited power.”
Tales of the Jedi is an amazing dive into two of the most influential and intriguing characters in Star Wars, and its success opens up opportunity for storytelling in season two and beyond.