“I like first times, they’re memorable,” explains Ahsoka Tano, seen on screen in live action form for the first time since her introduction into the Star Wars universe, over 12 years ago.
It’s one of many ‘first times’ in arguably the most memorable episode thus far of The Mandalorian. There’s the first time we hear Baby Yoda aka The Child’s name. The first time we find out his – Grogu’s – backstory. The first time we see lightsabers in live action outside of the films.
And yet it’s all still very much familiar. Din Djarin once again lands on a strange new world, and immediately finds himself being hired to do a job. Except this time the job is to kill the very person he has come to befriend.
Aside from the return of a Jedi on screen, this is an episode steeped in classic Star Wars storytelling – ancient Japan-style set designs with a hint of Yojimbo in the plot – for an evil tyrant is locked behind the high walls of a city, where she’s ruling with an iron fist.
Unfortunately for the tyrant, a Jedi is in the area, and dedicated to liberating the city (something she threatens in the stunning opening sequence), and needs a bit of help to do the job.
As beautifully depicted as it is (this might be the most cinematic, and visually arresting episode so far), the fans are here to see one thing – Ahsoka Tano. And further, to see how Tano reacts to the existence of a baby who looks just like Yoda.
With Dave Filoni directing, there’s enough fan service here to cool a nuclear reactor. Not least Ahsoka uttering a villainous name we’ve not heard in a long time. It’s a tantalising tease, one that opens up new possibilities for expanding The Mandalorian, or indeed other Star Wars spin-off shows, into directions we’ve not previously imagined.
If there’s one thing Disney’s franchise machines are good at it’s setting up the future instalments, and while that can generally be as exciting as it can be frustrating (some of us remember a time when such stories were self-contained), in the here and now, Filoni has delivered a pay-off that The Mandalorian has been promising since the start.
Rosario Dawson’s Tano is strikingly similar to her cartoon counterpart, so good in fact that, by the end, we’re left wondering when we’ll get to see her again. And frankly, if her continuing story might actually be of more interest than the one we’re destined to follow.
For now, we can enjoy one of the best entries into the Star Wars canon since Disney took over George Lucas’s world. And it’s no coincidence that it’s a story from Lucas’s era, developed and directed by his protégé, that has delivered so much. Thanks to Dave Filoni it’s an episode by the fans, for the fans.
Indeed, The Mandalorian has a lot to live up to in the final three episodes, if he’s to escape the shadow of a character that has been looming over the second series. Where he goes next, and who he finds, is going to be crucial for everyone involved.