On Corvus, Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) arrives at the gates of an occupied city and demands an audience with the Magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), with whom she has unsettled business (*). It's a standoff, with the guards unable to kill or capture Tano but holding her at bay by threatening the city's innocent hostages. In between two nights of this standoff, Djarin arrives at the city and is hired by Elsbeth to assassinate Tano. His reward: a staff made of pure beskar. Of course, since Djarin has come here specifically to bring the Child to Tano, Elsbeth has no idea that she has basically set in motion her own defeat.
* Tano wants to know the whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn, of apparent significance in the larger Star Wars universe, but unknown to me.
"The Jedi" is a masterpiece of cinematic style, mood, and photography, executed in the spirit of an Akira Kurosawa samurai epic, with nods in the editing, cinematography, production design, and the amazing atmosphere that suffuses every scene. I'm no expert on East Asian cinema, and I can't call out individual shots and match them to their source films, but Dave Filoni has taken an episode of pop-culture television and brought an artistry to it that's cumulatively effective in how it evokes an overall aesthetic, whether it's with the composition of particular shots (for example, the long-shot side view establishing Tano about to face off with the Elsbeth on the bridge), or the smoke from the charred forest that hangs in the air in every scene.
I'm reminded of how Quentin Tarantino used Kill Bill to brilliantly meld his favorite martial arts movies with the spaghetti western. If most episodes of The Mandalorian are in the western template, we here get the definitive episode of the East (*). The middle passages, where we spend time in the charred forest with Tano, Djarin, and the young Grogu (yes, we officially learn the Child's name!), have an eerie and serene quietness to them that isn't simply a setting for exposition (although we do get that, satisfyingly), but serves up stillness as its own aesthetic reward.
* But we get our western gunslinging as well, with Mando facing off against the Magistrate's top mercenary, played by Michael Biehn.
The episode gives us some details on the Child's origins: He was born on Coruscant, and hidden for decades as the Empire rose and fell. Tano says she can't train Grogu because he's too filled with fear and too attached to the Mandalorian. So she gives Djarin a different mission, involving a quest to a mountaintop. (Djarin's plight in this series is destined to follow one lead to the next.)
I realize Tano has a long history in the animated tales, and I can't comment on how her presence here tracks with all that came before. But Dawson is very effective as a Jedi warrior with her own mission, and here finds an unexpected partnership with a Mandalorian. The episode culminates with an action sequence that's a master class in tension and technique. I again have to hand it to the way this show envisions action as a full tactile experience: The way Tano's lightsaber clangs against the Magistrate's beskar staff allows us to feel the action rather than just watch it. This is possibly The Mandalorian's finest hour.
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