Season 2, Episode 5: ‘The Jedi’
Baby Yoda has a name!
In “The Jedi,” the latest chapter of “The Mandalorian,” Din Djarin finally makes it to the desolate forest planet of Corvus, where he intends to leave the Child with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), a Jedi who might be able to train the little guy. First though, Ahsoka taps into the Force to communicate telepathically with her potential student. She learns about how he was taken from the Jedi temple on Coruscant, and how he spent many dark, lonely years living in fear. And she learns his name, which is … Grogu.
I confess to having some mixed feelings about this revelation. There’s nothing wrong with Grogu, which is no more or less silly than any other “Star Wars” name. (Honestly, any name was bound to seem relatively plain after 12 episodes of mystery.) But it’s going to be hard from now on to justify calling the kid “Baby Yoda.” That’s a bit of a bummer.
On the other hand, whenever Mando says, “Grogu,” the Child looks right at him and makes a little gurgling noise, as if to say, “Yes?” This is a delightful thing to see and hear. And so, “The Mandalorian” giveth, just as it taketh away.
Because this week’s episode was the fifth of an eight-episode season — and since Disney has already ordered a Season 3 — there was little chance Din was actually going to bid farewell to Grogu this week. Instead, not long after Ahsoka’s initial mind-meld conversation, she tells the Mandalorian it’s a terrible idea for her to train the child. For one thing, she fears his immense power, which he has learned to hide ever since he left the temple. She worries that the lingering anger over how he has been treated will tip him over to the Dark Side, if he ever unlocks the Force’s full potential. Ahsoka, who was a Padawan learner under the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, knows well how the powerful can be corrupted.
Another reason Ahsoka may not want to become Grogu’s mentor is that she’s pretty busy right now. She’s been trying to free the long-suffering citizens of the city of Calodan from the tyrannical rule of the magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto). The two have been locking horns for a while, each using maximum pressure to demand the other’s surrender — with Ahsoka regularly killing Elsbeth’s creepy masked goons and Elsbeth imprisoning and torturing any Calodanian who helps Ahsoka.
Although this episode adds significant new pieces to the show’s larger story, it almost plays like a backdoor pilot for a new live-action “Star Wars” series starring Ahsoka. (The character has been well-represented in the animated “Star Wars” shows, appearing in both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels.”) After she meets Mando — and after they have a brief but exciting fight — she helps him to understand only a little bit more about Grogu before she gets right back to her day job, fighting evil. The Mandalorian plays a minor role in this chapter’s climactic action sequence. He aids in Calodan’s liberation and then gets stuck in an old-fashioned gunfighters’ standoff with Morgan Elsbeth’s right-hand man, Lang (Michael Biehn).
The main confrontation this week is between the magistrate and the Jedi, who have a battle royale in the Corvus equivalent of a Zen garden, just like something from an old martial arts movie. (Inosanto is a veteran stuntwoman and stunt coordinator who knows that genre well.) Ahsoka duels with two lightsabers while Morgan has a spear made out of the lightsaber-proof metal beskar — a.k.a. “Mandalorian steel.” It’s a fantastic fight, which ends with the villain’s revealing yet another important name: her master, the Grand Admiral Thrawn, a character who appears in several of the fan-favorite “Star Wars” novels.
Still, even though the Mandalorian is a bystander for much of the roughly 45-minute running-time, this a gripping and meaningful episode, deriving its emotional pull and its tension from the hero’s personal code — and from his relationship with Grogu. There’s a lot of talk this week about contracts and promises, and how Din Djarin feels obliged to complete the tasks he has agreed to, without taking any compensation unless he’s succeeded. But he remains unsure about who he’s supposed to be serving when it comes to the Child, who might ultimately be better off traveling around the galaxy in the Razor Crest than getting parked with some fussy Jedi who won’t let him have any fun.
There’s a touching moment early in the episode when Ahsoka tries to test Grogu’s powers by asking him to move a small rock with his mind. When he refuses, she asks Mando to try — “to see if he’ll listen to you.” He jokes, “That would be a first.” But then he has a bright idea, and he pulls his ship’s gearshift-knob out of his pouch. Grogu, who loves that little ball, immediately yanks it through the air telekinetically.
So here’s this Mandalorian, obsessed with honoring every agreement down to the letter. And here’s this kid, who doesn’t speak. Yet for months now, this odd couple have taken care of each other and have understood each other, without the need for any common language — or even any names.
This is the way:
Unlike last week’s episode, which borrowed a lot of imagery directly from the “Star Wars” movies, this week’s seems more visually inspired by the “Star Wars” cartoons and video games (as well as by old westerns and samurai pictures). The writer-director Dave Filoni does include one familiar bit of schtick from the films though, when the Mandalorian is surveying his surroundings on Corvus through a pair of electronic binoculars, marveling at some huge tree-eating animals … right before Ahsoka Tano attacks him. The scene echoes one from the first movie, when Luke Skywalker is looking at a couple of Bantha on the horizon and a Tusken Raider catches him by surprise.