The Mandalorian Episode 5 Review: Chapter 13 – The Jedi
Dave Filoni delivers The Mandalorian’s best episode yet.
Longtime Star Wars scribe and half-showrunner Dave Filoni delivers the best episode of The Mandalorian yet. The Jedi easily ranks amongst the most accomplished hours of Star Wars to grace live-action. It transcends and blurs the boundaries between animation and live-action as it effortlessly introduces Jedi legend Ashoka Tano from The Clone Wars, teams her up with Mando and builds up, then executes a flawless showdown as Mando and Ashokha take down Morgan Elsbeth and her lieutenant Lang.
Aware of the weight of fan expectations riding on Ashoka, Filoni chooses to go easy on the plot. When viewed at a broader level thus, it’s essentially the “good guys” teaming up to take on the “bad guys”. Mando arrives on Corvus to meet Ashoka to learn more about the Jedi so he could reunite The Child with them. He crosses paths with Elsbeth who offers him a spear made of pure Beskar armor for killing Ashoka. Naturally, Mando isn’t about to go with this plan as he pulls off a double-cross and teams up with Ashoka to take down Elsbeth instead. As Mando has proved repeatedly, he’s certainly one to honor his word but only if that wouldn’t jeopardize his entire mission. It’s also possible Mando learned from Bo-Katan that the honor and the ways of the Mandalorian that Din strives towards are ancient history now.
Ashoka is introduced in an epic, stealthy, impeccably choreographed fight sequence that sees her take down Elsbeth’s henchmen with wit and style, using pieces of the trees in her desolated surroundings to her advantage. She slices her way through her enemies, truly making a grand appearance, so much that it makes an impact even to folks like me who have yet to see The Clone Wars. Her costume and hair are intricately styled, ringing true to the animated show, as if she leapt off from one medium to another. She’s apparently more in command of her moves and her place in the Jedi Order here compared to the animated series where she learned under the tutelage of Anakin Skywalker.
That last bit is also why she’s hesitant to train Yoda herself. Anakin’s descent to the dark side had multiple reasons, but chief amongst them were his “attachments” to a loved one. Ashoka sees Grogu (yep, Baby Yoda’s official name) having forged a bond with Din Djarin and considers it a risk to train Grogu to use his full abilities, for fear that losing that connection with Din could then push him on the edge. She instead does what everyone has been doing to Mando: directs her to another planet (this time Tython) where Grogu will try to reach out to the Jedi using the Force. We also learn some more about Grogu, in that he grew up on the Jedi Templte of Coruscant and has been suppressing his powers ever since the fall of the Jedi.
Aesthetically, the episode strongly invokes Japanese samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. The vast, barren, dusty landscapes look like a burnt down rainforest (one of Filoni’s inspirations for the imagery) and bear a mostly muted, sepia-toned color pallette that resembles a more toned down Blade Runner 2049 look. Acclaimed cinematographer Bad Idoine embodies the space western look as images of the stand-off between Mando and Lang interspersed with Ashoka squaring off with Elsbeth toggle between western and epic. Filoni gives Mando and Lang a tense showdown, continuously racheting up the suspense of who’ll pull the trigger first. Meanwhile, Elsbeth and Ashoka get some gorgeously choreographed shots and I loved how the frame lingers on for more than usual as the Beskar spear clashes with the lightsaber, forging epic wallpaper-esque stills.
Much like everything else in The Mandalorian, The Jedi too strongly gives the world a sense of being lived-in. Ashoka ostensibly continues her quest to fight the Grand Admiral Thrawn, suggesting closer ties between the two series and could easily carry a show on her own (in fact she is). The rivalry between Elsbeth and Ashoka seems longstanding. And Ashoka has known Grogu and the Jedi history for quite a while, so much that it’s Mando who provides newcomers to the show with the outsider perspective on as Ashoka narrates key moments summarizing what went down in the prequel trilogy.
Technically, this is an outstanding production, much like every other episode of the show and raises the bar considerably for what’s possible on TV. Andrew Eisen edits the show tightly, not a moment slipping by. Ludwig Gorranson’s score was already a highlight but he’s been doing a remarkable job leaning in to his own theme score and coming up with variations and spins on the familiar composition. At this point, should shows like this become commonplace, us viewers are in for what could unarguably be dubbed as The Golden Age of TV and Streaming.
If any fan were left with any doubt that The Mandalorian is peak Star Wars, this episode should cement that doubt and nip it in the bud. At this point, I’m fully onboard the train just like many other fans that the future of Star Wars might be better suited to live-action TV Shows than movies. Sprawling an extensive mythology, Star Wars might be best tackled in shows and as The Jedi proves, the shows can all coexist and often crossover, without needing to rush through storylines. Beautifully crafted action sequences, a strong portrayal by Rosario Dawson sealing deeper ties with the animated show, more fleshing out of Baby Yoda’s backstory (including his name reveal) and the promise of what’s to come make this arguably the best episode of the series by far.