“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Finale!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

How The Mandalorian‘s second season finale will be judged largely depends on what happens next, in either the sequel season it sets up with a not-so-subtle cliffhanger ending, or the spinoff it teases in an unexpected post-credits scene (or…are they are one and the same?), because what we got is very clearly not the resolution to a self-contained original story, but rather the prologue to a wider saga spanning the Star Wars universe. But right now, for this one blissful moment, my feelings are deeply conflicted yet generally positive…because you simply can’t do what The Mandalorian season two finale did in its closing minutes, and not excite the Star Wars fan in me.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian | deadline.com

Just as in season one, when Din Djarin (voiced and played by Pedro Pascal) had to assemble a team to defeat the unnamed Imperial client on Nevarro (the true identity of whom will likely remain one of the series’ many minor, irritating, unsolved mysteries), this season’s finale revolves around assembling a small gang of heavily-armed misfits and saving Baby Yoda – or Grogu, or The Child, or whatever you want to call him. Djarin had already gained the allegiances of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano). The last piece in the puzzle is the Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), who plays a pivotal role in the events of the finale, even though…well, it’s complicated, in a weird and somewhat unsatisfying way.

It’s nothing, however, compared to the intricacies of Mandalorian societal structures, which continue to grow increasingly messier the more we learn about them – today culminating in a face-off between Bo-Katan and Boba Fett where the two are barely able to resist from killing each other on the spot. The reasoning for that goes back a long way, to the animated Clone Wars series, in which it was revealed that most Mandalorians regard the entire House of Fett as outsiders to their creed and community – and Boba specifically as something entirely alien, due to the bounty hunter having been created inorganically as an identical clone of his father, Jango. Bo-Katan, who cast stones at Din Djarin for unknowingly belonging to a group of religious fanatics, now taunts Boba Fett with questions about his “donor”, and comparing him to other clones she’s known (and yes, that’s extremely hypocritical and uncharacteristic of her, since clone armies were instrumental in putting her in power after the Siege of Mandalore), causing a scuffle between Fett and Bo-Katan’s second-in-command, Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks). Fett, in turn, is utterly dismissive of Bo-Katan’s goal to unite the Mandalorian clans behind her and retake their ancestral home planet of Mandalore, which the Empire supposedly desecrated. In the end, the promise of finally being able to confront Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and win back the Darksaber is what convinces Bo-Katan to join: though Din Djarin valiantly tries the “they-took-the-Child” route with her. It’s worked for everyone else, and it seems to be almost be enough for Bo-Katan, but the show is painting her as a low-key antagonist to Djarin for whatever reason, so they can’t have her be too kindhearted.

This is one of two instances in The Mandalorian so far (the other being Ahsoka’s refusal to train Grogu because of attachments) that I would be tempted to classify as character assassination if the term hadn’t been hijacked by trolls who use it broadly to mean anything that ever happened in the sequel trilogy. There’s a difference between character assassination and character development that a lot of people don’t get: and Luke Skywalker’s journey in The Last Jedi, for example, is a textbook example of the latter. Character development is organic and typically serves a thematic purpose; whereas assassination is a shortcut used lazily to rush the story forward (in Ahsoka’s case), or to force a conflict where there was none (in Bo-Katan’s case). What’s particularly frustrating is that audiences who don’t know Bo-Katan from the animated series’ will now remember her best as the borderline ruthless, prejudiced, ambitious-to-a-fault schemer she is here.

Laying out an elaborate strategy for how to infiltrate Gideon’s star-cruiser, the gang sets out in a small Imperial shuttle stolen from its previous pilot (played by Thomas Sullivan, whom I immediately recognized from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The Mandalorian somehow has time to flesh out his character, and give him a pointless back-and-forth with Cara Dune, where he manipulates what I guess are supposed to be her traumatic memories of the destruction of Alderaan. The event has now been referenced twice this season, and, leaving aside the fact that Carano’s acting does nothing to convey the trauma of its aftermath (the dialogue literally mentions her shedding a tear, while Carano’s eyes are dry), it’s honestly just weird that people keep bringing it up in-universe.

Omid Abtahi briefly reprises the role of Dr. Pershing, the other occupant of the stolen shuttle, but there’s no time to interrogate him about Grogu’s exact midi-chlorian count. The fact that he was on his way to and not from Gideon’s cruiser bodes well for Grogu, as it implies he may not have had a chance to extract any further samples from the child (Gideon later confirms he’s taken his own samples of the child’s blood, but, well, that will be insignificant in the long run).

Director Peyton Reed is at his best while orchestrating the high-stakes, action-packed break-in – a stark contrast to his Ant-Man movies, which have mostly been low-stakes, filled with comedic action scenes and sight gags. Between this and the exhilarating spider chase he directed earlier in The Mandalorian‘s second season, he’s definitely given himself an upgrade before his next Marvel film, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. His exceptional use of each character’s individual strengths makes for a very memorable string of fight scenes, and there’s a real sense of urgency and danger, even though most of our heroes are encased in beskar steel, which is nigh on impossible to shatter, dent, or damage in any way.

The Mandalorian
Din Djarin and Grogu | polygon.com

Din Djarin finds this out the hard way when he singlehandedly takes on Gideon’s elite platoon of robotic dark troopers – even with one of these super-sized metal juggernauts repeatedly hammering his face backwards into a wall with the force of a small battering ram, it’s the wall that gets broken to bits and Djarin who escapes unscathed, thanks to his beskar steel helmet. Hilariously, he’s then able to temporarily eliminate the dark trooper threat by blasting them all out an airlock.

While Bo-Katan and her all-female team storm the ship’s bridge looking for Gideon, Djarin accidentally but predictably encounters the Moff personally guarding his most prized possession, Grogu, with the Darksaber in hand. Finally, we can see why Lucasfilm hired Giancarlo Esposito for this role, as the ex-Imperial sneakily manipulates the conversation, feigning disinterest in the Mandalorian political situation while freely offering the child to Djarin. Although Djarin initially buys into his lies, it takes all of five seconds for Gideon to reveal his true colors and start hacking ferociously at Djarin with the Darksaber. The beskar steel gifted by Ahsoka Tano finally comes in handy, allowing Djarin the means to fight back in one of the series’ most hyped-up duels. The whole sequence is over suspiciously quickly, however, and Gideon is soon captured and dragged up to the bridge after being disarmed by Djarin.

When they reach the bridge, we find out just how cunning Gideon has been – possibly at the expense of established Star Wars canon. It was revealed a while ago in Rebels that, to wield the Darksaber and claim it as one’s own, one must first defeat the previous owner in combat. Or, at least, that was the case until Sabine Wren yielded the Darksaber willingly to Bo-Katan…who soon after lost it to Gideon himself, and spent years hunting him down, trying to make up for her failure and render her claim to the sword irrefutable. Gideon, by intentionally losing to Djarin, has now created a situation where Bo-Katan “can’t” take the sword unless she wins it in combat…from Din Djarin. Except she can. Sabine Wren set the precedent. Djarin offers it to her several times, only for Gideon to interject each time with a gleeful reminder of how Mandalorian law supposedly works. My best guess is that Bo-Katan blames her willingness to defy tradition and take the sword freely for all her failures, and for that reason won’t do so again. This whole thing is weirdly reminiscent of the Elder Wand debacle in Harry Potter.

It’s at this moment that the dark troopers return, flooding back onto the ship and charging towards the bridge, all while Gideon gleefully torments his captors with quips and boasts. His menace is rather undercut, though, by the sheer stupidity that compels him to grab a blaster and aim for Bo-Katan, who, reminder, is wearing beskar steel. He gets knocked unconscious by Cara Dune, and that’s literally the last we hear of him. A humiliating defeat for a villain that had just come into his own.

In the chaos, a single X-Wing fighter appears out of nowhere, heading for the cruiser. At first, I assumed it had to be the New Republic, come to save the day and convince us that a Rangers Of The New Republic spinoff series is actually necessary, but once the ship is confirmed to be flying solo and lands without communicating with the bridge, I figured I knew who its occupant had to be. Reed draws out the big reveal, forcing you to agonize and wrestle with your emotions and your “this can’t be happening” impulses, even as all the visual clues add up. And the brutal, beautiful suspense makes it that much more conflicting when the smoke clears, each and every dark trooper has been obliterated, and the person standing there is indeed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)…but is also very much not.

The CGI replacement for young Luke – which uses Hamill’s digitally de-aged voice and likeness – is perhaps not quite as unnerving as the CGI Princess Leia in Rogue One, but nowhere near the seamless, stately elegance of CGI Tarkin in the same film. CGI Luke’s eyes are haunting and slightly unfocused, and his voice doesn’t quite seem to match the movement of his lips. He is, of course, revealed to be the Jedi that Grogu contacted back on Tython, but when they meet at last, Grogu waddles over immediately – only to spend most of the scene talking to Luke’s sidekick, R2-D2, in an excited chirping language matching the droid’s beeps, boops, and bops, while CGI Luke stands to the side; his ghastly top half purposefully out of frame, his lower half standing too still, like a background character in an animated movie.

The Mandalorian
Luke Skywalker and Grogu | menshealth.com

Disturbing digital effects aside, the Luke reveal is emotional and brilliantly executed, and it makes sense that he’ll be the one to train Grogu in the ways of the Force. But of course saying goodbye is hard: and so Djarin removes his helmet willingly, revealing his face to Grogu for the first (and hopefully not last) time. The puppet’s tiny claw reaches out to touch Djarin’s cheek, wide eyes take in every feature of his face…and yes, those muffled sobs you hear are mine. What can I say? I love character development.

And with that, CGI Luke sweeps Baby Yoda into his Ken doll arms, and takes off, concluding the second season of The Mandalorian. So much is still unresolved! Moff Gideon is defeated, Din Djarin commands the Darksaber and must now either embrace a new destiny or pass it on to Bo-Katan, and Grogu is headed to Ach-To, I guess. Oh yeah, and Boba Fett and Fennec Shand are getting a spinoff (or maybe just taking over The Mandalorian), which we’ll discuss in greater detail, in the second half of my finale review.

Because this show is so frustrating, one just wasn’t enough.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

Ahsoka Among 9 New Star Wars Series Titles Revealed!

Lucasfilm had plenty of new Star Wars content to offer fans at the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday evening, including multiple series heading straight to the Disney+ streaming service: one returning favorite (the third season of The Mandalorian, which will drop near the end of 2021), and nine new titles. As has long been reported, characters like Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Lando Calrissian will each be getting their own spinoffs, although there were several big surprises among the new reveals – and a few notable absences. Star Wars also seems to be setting up a mysterious (but presumably massive) crossover event between some of these upcoming series.

Star Wars
YouTube | @NewBite

First up we have Kenobi, which will follow the titular Jedi Master during his time in exile on Tatooine. A beautiful new, desert-inspired logo for the series was unveiled, and a sizzle reel was played for Disney investors but hidden from general audiences. But what captured the internet’s attention was the reveal that prequel trilogy star Hayden Christensen will be reprising the role of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the series. How this will work is currently unclear: between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, Kenobi and Vader never had any interaction with each other – but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy promised fans that the Jedi and Sith will take another crack at each other, in the “rematch of the century”. My theory is that some sort of Force projection or vision will make this possible, but who knows? This is Star Wars: canon has been rewritten countless times before.

Ahsoka, based on the adventures of former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano, will presumably follow Rosario Dawson’s version of the fan-favorite character after her brief appearance in The Mandalorian‘s second season. The title logo, which features a star-chart similar to the map of the World Between Worlds, seems to indicate a connection to the Star Wars: Rebels animated series, where the World Between Worlds first debuted. This probably means that Ahsoka will travel through the World Between Worlds on her journey, and she’ll likely team up with Rebels heroine Sabine Wren on her quest to locate the long-lost Jedi Ezra Bridger (fingers crossed Rahul Kohli plays him in live-action) and Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Rangers Of The New Republic is a bit more vague. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, the creatives behind The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, will work on this series too – its existence probably explains the reason why New Republic characters have been popping up frequently throughout The Mandalorian: particularly X-Wing pilot Carson Teva, played by Kim’s Convenience‘s Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Unfortunately, New Republic marshal Cara Dune will likely also return, putting bigot and anti-masker Gina Carano in a lead role in Star Wars. This is among the series’ I’m least excited for (partially because of Carano, partially because the New Republic is pretty uninteresting to me; especially without Carrie Fisher around to reprise the role of Leia Organa), but it’s apparently one of three that will lead into a massive crossover event including characters from The Mandalorian and Ahsoka. I expect this crossover to focus on the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger; the final showdown between Din Djarin and Moff Gideon; and the rise of the First Order. Strangely, a Boba Fett series rumored to be in the works was not included among the new title reveals.

Star Wars
Rangers Of The New Republic and Ahsoka | theverge.com

Lando has the potential to be a great series, thanks to the involvement of Dear White People‘s Justin Simien. Little else is known, and the sizzle reel played for investors was hidden from general audiences: but there’s a possibility that both Billy Dee Williams and Donald Glover will reprise the role. The colorful logo for the series and the party music played during the sizzle reel interval hopefully reflects the show’s playful, groovy bent – I’d gladly take a break from Star Wars‘ doom, gloom, and darkness, if it means exploring the glittery upper echelon of galactic society. Explicit confirmation of Lando’s pansexuality (teased by the Solo writers prior to the film’s release, without payoff) would also be nice.

One of the few Star Wars series’ to reveal new footage at the presentation, Andor will explore the backstory of Rogue One antihero Cassian Andor, as a fighter and secret agent for the young Rebellion. Spanning twelve episodes and featuring a cast of over two-hundred named characters (!), the series also stars Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, and Genevieve O’Reilly, who will reprise her role as Rebel leader Mon Mothma. For Star Wars: Rebels fans who were let down by the lack of a Rebels animated sequel series announcement, Andor is a must-watch: I thoroughly expect some characters from the animated series to pop up in live-action, with General Hera Syndulla being the most likely candidate in my opinion. This series will drop in 2022.

An animated series titled The Bad Batch will premiere next year – a trailer dropped, which I reviewed yesterday. The only other animated series revealed was one simply titled Visions, which will explore new corners of the Star Wars galaxy through the perspective of anime – and produced with the help of some of Japan’s leading anime studios. This seems likely to be an anthology of standalone episodes, much like another newly revealed Disney+ project which is being called an animated series by most outlets: A Droid Story, which will star C-3PO, R2-D2, and a new droid character.

Star Wars
The Acolyte | comicbook.com

Finally (and most excitingly, to my mind), we have The Acolyte, an original series from Leslye Headland, one of the visionaries behind Netflix’s brilliant dark psychological comedy, Russian Doll. The Acolyte is set further back in Star Wars‘ timeline than any existing live-action property, during the mysterious era known as the High Republic: which will be further explored in a series of novels and comic books set to release next year. Said to be female-led and featuring martial arts elements, The Acolyte focuses on the Dark Side of the Force, and sounds like it might be our most in-depth look yet at the hierarchy of the Sith, and their heyday. The logo – with a prominent lightsaber gouge slashing the title – also hints at something very new, unique, and cool.

So what are you most excited for? The Acolyte is my most-anticipated Star Wars series, but maybe you’re more interested in Ahsoka, or Lando…or A Droid Story? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

What To Expect From Tython, Star Wars’ Force-Sensitive Planet

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

The latest chapter of The Mandalorian has definitely given me plenty to talk about, from the origins of Grogu to the backstory of Grand Admiral Thrawn. But one thing which we haven’t discussed yet – and which I haven’t seen being widely discussed online – is the series’ next destination: the planet Tython, where Din Djarin and Grogu will supposedly find a mountain, a magical seeing-stone, and quite possibly a Jedi willing to help them out of a tricky situation. Ahsoka Tano didn’t provide much other information about the planet in her vague set of directions, which means she failed to warn Djarin about something that might pose a small problem, depending on what’s canon now and what’s not: Tython is one of the few Force-sensitive planets in the galaxy, and it can be downright hostile to Force-users visiting its surface.

Tython
Tython | starwars.fandom.com

Tython is not a new addition to the Star Wars universe, made up on the fly by The Mandalorian‘s creative team: it’s existed on the fringes of the current, official, Disney canon for a couple of years, and far longer in the old – and now mostly disregarded or discarded – “Legends” canon. I don’t expect the planet’s entire “Legends” era backstory to be suddenly canonized in next week’s episode, but I do think that, with this being the planet’s first live-action appearance, there will be plenty of opportunities for Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to slip in some subtly awesome callbacks to “Legends” material. And because they’ll probably only be hints at most, I thought you, dear reader, might want to go into next week’s episode prepared to quickly identify those hints.

First, though, let’s quickly go over what we know to be true of the planet Tython: i.e., what’s actually stated in the Disney canon. So far, it’s only been mentioned a handful of times, and visited just once, in an issue of the Dr. Aphra comics. Chelli Aphra and Darth Vader went there looking for the Rebel base – which Aphra, a Rebel sympathizer, secretly knew was located on the planet Hoth. Aphra was able to distract Vader and his Imperial forces on Tython for a while, leading the Sith Lord to a mysterious location known as the Martyrium of Frozen Tears, in the planet’s coldest region, where Vader was forced to confront traumatic memories of his past crimes. It’s unlikely that Din Djarin and Grogu will have any reason to visit the Martyrium themselves – though it could be useful, if we need to see any of Grogu’s own traumatic memories (such as his escape from the Jedi Temple during the Purge). The only other thing we know about Tython is that it’s located in the Deep Core (near the heart of the galaxy), and it’s one of several planets that vie for the honor of being the homeworld of the Jedi.

In the old “Legends” canon, Tython simply was the ancient homeworld of the Jedi – and, as I mentioned, it was also a Force-sensitive planet that reacted violently to any disturbance in the Force. Almost 40,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the Je’daii Order was founded on Tython by mystic pilgrims who arrived there in eight giant, flying, pyramids. Conveniently, they just happened to discover another giant flying pyramid already waiting for them on the planet (seriously, what are the odds?). These pyramids – named the Tho Yor – came to rest in various locations around Tython, where they became the foundations of the planet’s cities and temples. I’m not saying that the “mountain” that Ahsoka told Din Djarin to seek out is necessarily an ancient pyramid starship, but…wait, actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. At least be aware of the possibility. These pyramids could also serve as weapons of mass destruction during wartime, which is both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Tython
Tho Yor | swtor.fandom.com

Each of the temples built up around the Tho Yor had its own specific purpose – from martial arts, to healing, to balance. In these places of learning, the Je’daii invented and taught the philosophies that would later shape them into the Jedi Order we all know and love (do we love them? That’s up for debate: they’ve been pretty awful sometimes, no matter what canon you’re referencing). Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Before long, Tython became a battleground for the Force Wars, a conflict between two opposing factions of mystics; some still calling themselves the Je’daii, others carrying Force-powered swords and known as…wait for it…Jedi. Needless to say, the Jedi won. The planet faded in importance as the Jedi spread out across the galaxy, and it fell into the hands of the Sith a few times.

But by far the most interesting thing about Tython is its ability to detect any imbalance in the Force, and respond with deadly force whenever necessary: the planet is sentient, and can change its weather to create catastrophic Force storms and earthquakes. How it determines “imbalance” is up for debate; apparently, even the mere presence of a very strong Force-user can cause the planet to start self-destructing. In the Disney canon, it’s unclear if this is still the case. After all, Darth Vader – whose midi-chlorian count is the highest on record – didn’t face any resistance from the planet; but Grogu is possibly even stronger. We’ll see. I would be thrilled if Tython actively tried to annihilate Grogu and Din Djarin, because I don’t think they’d be in any great danger: whichever Jedi they meet on the planet would surely be able to help calm the planet and lull it back to sleep – just as the Je’daii were trained to do for centuries.

Alternatively, we know that The Mandalorian loves a good old beastie – and Tython is crawling with them, both in “Legends” and supposedly in the new canon as well. Some of the monstrous animals to look out for next week include…(*takes deep breath*)…Silik, desert-dwelling humanoid lizard beings; hook hawks, that hypnotize unwary travelers with enchanting singing before gouging their eyes out; carniverous Manka cats, armed with tusks; giant Saarl worms, a distant cousin of the Sarlacc; vicious, bat-like Blood Spites, which exist in the Disney canon already; shaggy Uxibeasts; tentacled Gelfish; and acid spiders for good measure, just in case you wanted more after Chapter 10 gave us an entire arachnid army. Depending on where Din Djarin lands the Razor Crest, he’ll find plenty of creepy-crawlies to fight off while Grogu does the magic hand thing and tries to call up some of his old Jedi pals.

Tython
Tython | swtor-life.com

As for the actual seeing stone referenced by Ahsoka, I can’t find anything like that in the surprisingly extensive records about Tython. I suspect this is an entirely new invention, but it could also be the last remnant of one of the Je’daii Temples built around the Tho Yor pyramids. Either way, it obviously has a strong connection to the Force. It’s unclear how Ahsoka Tano even knows about it, but it’s possible she and other Jedi survivors visit the planet often, which is why she believes Grogu will be able to contact one there. There’s a small risk that Grogu will accidentally contact a Sith or other Dark Side user, and an even bigger risk that Moff Gideon will ambush Djarin and Grogu there (he’s been tracking the Razor Crest since Nevarro), so one has to hope there’s a Jedi on standby somewhere. I’m not sure how this whole thing is supposed to work: can Grogu summon Jedi instantly to his location? Do they have to sit on the mountaintop and wait? I guess we’ll find out next week.

What do you think? Are you excited to see Tython? How similar do you expect it to be to its “Legends” counterpart? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Who Is Thrawn? The Star Wars Villain, Explained.

As I mentioned while reviewing yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, I am a huge fan of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. I love the entire crew of the Ghost; I get a kick out of seeing Rebels references and Easter eggs pop up anywhere from Rogue One to The Rise Of Skywalker; and today, when it was teased that a major cliffhanger from the Rebels series finale will finally be resolved, I nearly screamed out loud because it’s about time. Whether it happens in future seasons of The Mandalorian or an entirely new spinoff series starring Ahsoka Tano (and Sabine Wren?), we are going to learn the whereabouts of one of Star Wars‘ most enduring antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And, probably, the lost Jedi Ezra Bridger. This could not get any better.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | barnesandnoble.com

(No wait, actually it could. Please, Disney: cast Rahul Kohli as live-action Ezra Bridger. It’s the fan-cast that dreams are made of, and I will accept nothing less).

So let’s break it down. Even though we went over the basics in my review, I still feel like I have more to say (I always have more to say about Rebels), and anyway, it seems like fans of The Mandalorian are going to need more than a passing knowledge of Thrawn in order to fully understand what he could be up to, so many years after his initial disappearance at the end of Rebels.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, born Mitth’raw’nuruodo, was one of the Empire’s most terrifyingly efficient military leaders and strategists during the fight to suppress the rebellion. He’s been around in Star Wars canon for a long time, first appearing in the 1991 novel, Heir To The Empire. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and erased much of the old canon (now called “Legends”), Thrawn was nearly lost forever – but Dave Filoni swooped in and rescued the fan-favorite character from oblivion, giving him a key role in Star Wars: Rebels as the series’ main antagonist, and ultimate big bad. With his innate ability to strategize several steps ahead, and foresee every plausible outcome, the red-eyed Chiss alien commander is more like a super-computer than a living creature; his most “relatable” quality is his affection for art, which he steals from the worlds he plunders and assembles into a massive private collection.

In the waning years of the Galactic Empire, Thrawn’s attention was turned towards the remote planet Lothal, home to some of the Empire’s most valuable industrial centers. There, shortly before the battle in which the Death Star plans were stolen, setting off the events of A New Hope, Thrawn clashed with the Rebel forces led by Lothal native Ezra Bridger, a young Jedi with a deep connection to animals. All of Thrawn’s intricate plans were foiled by Bridger saving the day in a heroic, and completely unpredictable, act of self-sacrifice – by summoning an entire army of purrgil space whales from the other side of the galaxy. The purrgil grabbed both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger in their tentacles before shooting off into hyperspace at lightspeed, to a destination unknown. The moment leaves everyone – including the audience – in stunned silence, but Bridger’s actions end up saving Lothal: reeling from the loss of Thrawn, the Empire gives up on the backwater planet and turns its focus towards other, more urgent targets, while the core team of Rebels are free to go their separate ways, starting new lives.

Thrawn
Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren | starwars.fandom.com

And as for Bridger and Thrawn…well, nobody knows. But Dave Filoni has confirmed that both characters survived the space-crossing. Most likely, they exited hyperspace somewhere in the outermost regions of the galaxy (or perhaps even further afield?), and have now spent the last decade or so trying to find their way back. The final scene of Rebels picks up with one of Ezra Bridger’s former crewmates on the Ghost, Mandalorian graffiti-artist Sabine Wren, some years after the fall of the Empire; as she embarks on her own journey to locate Bridger and finally bring him home to Lothal. We know she has help from Ahsoka Tano, who made a promise to Bridger before his disappearance that she would find him. And now, thanks to The Mandalorian, we know a little bit more about Tano’s involvement in this very personal quest.

The general consensus amongst fans is that The Mandalorian‘s latest episode takes place just before Ahsoka and Sabine team up in that final scene of Rebels. It makes sense: the episode ends with Ahsoka learning the new whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn from one of his acolytes, which could give her some hint of where to find Ezra Bridger as well, or at least where to start looking. But if Thrawn is back (and apparently already conspiring with his old allies), that means the New Republic has more pressing concerns than finding Bridger – the Grand Admiral could very well be the mastermind behind other Mandalorian villains like Moff Gideon, and the driving force behind the plan to rebuild the Empire, making him the biggest threat in the galaxy. As I said in my review, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that The Mandalorian is all leading up to the story of how Thrawn created the First Order from the remnants of the Empire. This would even line up with Thrawn’s original story arc in the “Legends”, where he set up his own secret empire, united the remaining Imperials in the wake of the Empire’s fall, and battled the New Republic. Much like Palpatine in The Rise Of Skywalker, he cloned himself and became something of a recurring threat long after his actual death.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | usatoday.com

Ezra, meanwhile, can’t be too far off. In fact, The Mandalorian dropped a subtle reference to him in this latest episode, with the sudden (and suspiciously random) appearance of a loth-cat in the streets of Calodan. Loth-cats are native to Lothal, and act as Bridger’s spirit guides throughout Star Wars: Rebels, communicating the will of his planet’s thriving ecosystem. They’re cute and all, but their semi-mystical powers and connections to the Force make them even more fascinating. Interestingly, this is the second loth-cat to show up in The Mandalorian: the first having almost eaten Baby Yoda (back when he was still Baby Yoda) in season one. Is a pattern emerging?

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Thrawn return to Star Wars, and make his live-action debut? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

6 Characters Who Could Have Saved Grogu From Order 66

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Today’s episode of The Mandalorian was practically overflowing with Star Wars deep lore, including several big reveals, Easter eggs, and hints and teases of even more exciting things to come. But whereas many of those things (like Ahsoka’s future, and the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn) may be explored in spinoff series’ down the line, the true identity of Baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – and the details of his mysterious backstory are almost sure to be explored in The Mandalorian itself. So let’s discuss the new biggest mystery surrounding Grogu’s past: who saved him from Order 66.

Grogu
Grogu | insider.com

Thanks to Ahsoka Tano, we now know that Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in the last years of the Old Republic. He was mentored by many Jedi Masters, and presumably became fairly strong in the Force – but in the intervening years between the fall of the Jedi Order and his reappearance in The Mandalorian shortly after the fall of the Empire, he has somehow forgotten much of his Jedi training and distanced himself from the Force. Ahsoka explains that this is because Grogu is afraid of something; probably the trauma of having survived the Jedi Purge and the execution of Order 66, when Emperor Palpatine turned on the Jedi and slaughtered all but a few in a massive bloodbath. In one of Revenge Of The Sith‘s most memorable sequences, Palpatine’s disciple Anakin Skywalker stormed the Jedi Temple and murdered pretty much everybody, including children. But somehow, Grogu survived the Purge, thanks to an unnamed rescuer who got him out of the Temple and kept him hidden from Anakin, Palpatine, and the long arm of the Empire for years. While the Emperor continued his hunt for Jedi survivors with the help of Darth Vader and a small army of Jedi traitors known as Inquisitors, Grogu remained alone in a secret location until somehow being brought to the attention of ex-Imperials in the aftermath of the Empire’s collapse. The rest is history.

But now, let’s look at a few characters who could have been Grogu’s secret savior (and one or two who definitely weren’t) – and who could be very important players in The Mandalorian‘s future storylines, as we continue to explore the child’s backstory and purpose.

Grogu
This is not the face of someone about to rescue a baby | express.co.uk

6: Anakin Skywalker. This is a bizarre theory I saw making the rounds on social media, though it seems very out of character for young Skywalker. In Revenge Of The Sith, we saw Anakin go from senselessly murdering children in the Jedi Temple to mowing down an entire Separatist council, Force-choking his wife, and trying to kill his mentor. I’m not sure there’s any space in between those events for Anakin to suddenly have a change of heart, randomly decide to spare a single padawan‘s life, and then go back to being an out-of-control killing machine. In his later years, as he witnessed first-hand the horrors he had helped to bring about, Anakin quietly (and sometimes subconsciously) started helping his enemies in small, secretive ways – such as destroying a Jedi holocron that would have supplied Palpatine with the names of every Force-sensitive child in the galaxy: which means that, technically, older Anakin actually did save Grogu’s life. But young Anakin? Not a chance.

Grogu
Yaddle | starwars.com

5: Yaddle. The Mandalorian introduced a new complication in the story of Yoda’s female counterpart, Jedi Master Yaddle, with Ahsoka Tano stating definitively that, in all her time as a Jedi, she’s only ever known one other member of Grogu’s species, besides Grogu himself – Yoda. It’s a big slap in the face to all of Yaddle’s fans, who are still waiting for her to return. She hasn’t been seen in live-action since her very first appearance in The Phantom Menace, and it’s been way too long if you ask me: especially since the current canon doesn’t provide any information about Yaddle’s fate in the Purge (and, in fact, hints that she survived). So why doesn’t Ahsoka know about her? Well, Yaddle is believed to have retired from her post on the Jedi High Council before Attack Of The Clones, meaning that Ahsoka might have never come into contact with her if she left the Temple completely. But if that’s the case, that means Yaddle probably wasn’t anywhere nearby when Anakin attacked and Grogu needed saving. So I think we have to rule her out as a likely option, but take comfort in the fact that it means Yaddle’s survival is even more plausible!

Grogu
Shaak Ti | aminoapps.com

4: Shaak Ti. I feel kind of sorry for Master Shaak Ti – who, coincidentally, filled Yaddle’s seat on the Jedi High Council. Ti was given a very important role in the Jedi hierarchy, overseeing the training of the Clone armies on Kamino. But in this role, she failed to thoroughly examine the nefarious secret behind the purpose of the inhibitor chips hidden inside each Clone soldier, despite all the warning signs. It would have been cruelly poetic if she had been killed by one of those same Clones at the same time as most of her fellow Jedi, but she was actually murdered by Anakin Skywalker himself: impaled while meditating in the Jedi Temple. That would seem to rule her out as a potential Grogu savior, but she did record a final hologram message before her death telling any surviving Jedi to rise up and rebuild the Order – so clearly, she knew what was going on before Anakin got to her. Could she have had time to rescue Grogu in that brief space of time and make up for many of her failings? Possibly. I doubt it, but never say never.

Grogu
He…survives this? | starwars.com

3: Mace Windu. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Mace Windu literally one of the first Jedi to die in Order 66? Doesn’t the Emperor personally kill him, with help from Anakin? Well…maybe. Windu’s death is something that’s been debated in the fandom recently, with some (including Samuel L. Jackson himself, and George Lucas) theorizing that such a powerful Jedi could have withstood losing a limb, being electrocuted by Force lightning, and then getting thrown out a skyscraper window. This is Samuel L. Jackson we’re talking about here, so I’m prepared to buy that. And if he did survive his apparent death, maybe he could have gotten back to the Jedi Temple before Anakin and rescued Grogu: though I’d be interested to hear his reasoning for why only Grogu warranted saving. This theory raises a lot of questions. Too many, if you ask me. But if it means we get SLJ/Baby Yoda content, I’m prepared to forgive even the most random of retcons.

Grogu
Yoda | observer.com

2: Yoda. We still don’t know whether Yoda and Grogu are related in any way, despite being two of only three known members of their unidentified and incredibly secretive species, but Yoda would definitely have known who Grogu was during the child’s time in the Jedi Temple. He probably also selected some of Grogu’s Masters, and might have taken a role in mentoring the child – when Ahsoka mentioned Yoda’s name in her conversation with Din Djarin, Grogu’s ears immediately perked up, indicating that he recognized the name, at least. Yoda was one of the wisest and most far-seeing Jedi: if Grogu has any huge relevance to the overall story of Star Wars, it wouldn’t be surprising if Yoda knew that well in advance, and decided to protect the child from harm so he could one day grow up to become…whoever he becomes. Yoda did visit the Jedi Temple the morning after Anakin’s attack, so he could have found Grogu, if the child had hidden during the assault on the Temple. But why wouldn’t he have taken Grogu with him to hide on Dagobah?

Grogu
Jocasta Nu, the galaxy’s coolest librarian | themarvelreport.com

1: Jocasta Nu. If anybody had the motive and means of smuggling Grogu out of the Jedi Temple, it was Jocasta Nu. The elderly Jedi librarian who briefly interacted with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack Of The Clones may not have been of much assistance when trying to track down Kamino, but she became instrumental in rescuing and preserving Jedi knowledge after the Empire rose to power. According to the new Disney canon, she was able to escape from the Jedi Temple on the night of Anakin’s attack with a treasure trove of books, holocrons, artifacts – and potentially one stray padawan? Nu tried her best to locate other surviving Jedi, particularly Force-sensitive children; a list of whose names she kept in a valuable holocron. Although Darth Vader eventually killed her, she didn’t fail entirely in her goal: Vader destroyed the holocron without telling Emperor Palpatine of its existence, and the information Nu snuck out of the Temple provided the blueprint for Luke Skywalker’s later attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order. And it’s possible that, if she was Grogu’s savior, she may have played an even more important role in saving the galaxy.

As you can probably tell, there aren’t a whole lot of Jedi who could have saved Grogu: some of the ones on this list were probably either too far gone to the Dark Side, too far away, or just too dead, to help out. It’s possible this is a completely unimportant conversation, too: maybe Grogu was rescued by someone random, a Jedi we’ve never met before in any story. But I don’t think so. The way this reveal was set up – combined with the revelation that more Jedi are coming in future episodes of The Mandalorian – makes me think we will learn the identity of Grogu’s savior, and it will be someone we already know. It also makes me think we’ll be getting flashbacks to the attack on the Jedi Temple: just like the flashbacks we saw of Din Djarin’s own childhood trauma, and the slaughter of his people by Separatist battle droids, in The Mandalorian‘s first season.

So what do you think? Who saved Grogu? Somebody on this list? Somebody completely different? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 13 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AND STAR WARS: REBELS AHEAD!

Mere moments after The Mandalorian‘s thirteenth – and most eagerly-anticipated – chapter opens, we are introduced to Rosario Dawson’s live-action Ahsoka Tano, rising up out of the nocturnal fog with her twin lightsabers flashing on and off, hot on the trail of one of her enemies. And like me, your first reaction to this might be that it’s too soon for the episode to reveal her character, that you’re not yet prepared, that you haven’t had time: but that’s because we’ve all been under the (completely wrong) impression that Tano’s debut would surely have to be the biggest reveal in this entire episode, no matter what else happened. That is very much not the case. In fact, if I had to make a bet, I’d wager that any and all Ahsoka Tano discourse will dwindle out long before the uproarious debate about several other, arguably more urgent, reveals – including Baby Yoda’s birth name. This episode gives you absolutely no time to process any one of these reveals before dropping another bombshell on the audience, which makes the whole experience even more thrilling for a viewer (especially if, like me, you’re watching at three o’-clock in the morning and trying to stay quiet while also wanting to scream to the heavens because OMG WAS THAT A THRAWN NAMEDROP?)

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | polygon.com

Yes, yes it was.

But before my head actually explodes, let’s dial things back. Let’s start out with the most predictable and least shocking of all the reveals, which, ironically and a little bit tragically, turned out to be Ahsoka Tano. Over the course of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Tano gradually became one of the most well-written, complex, and compelling characters in all of Star Wars canon, growing from a reckless, free-spirited Jedi padawan, to a disillusioned cynic who left the Order rather than be complicit in its crimes, to a Rebel leader and a mentor for heroes like Ezra Bridger. The Mandalorian picks up with her shortly before her final Rebels appearance, still on Bridger’s trail after his mysterious disappearance (although he’s not the only missing person she’s following, as it turns out). Tano is once again entrusted to the care of her creator Dave Filoni, who directed this week’s turbulent, action-packed chapter.

It’s hard to find any glaring faults in Rosario Dawson’s performance, although the design of her striped lekku horns leaves much to be desired: somehow they went from ornate and almost waist-length at the end of Rebels to being short, soft, and rounded again, like they were in Clone Wars, and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Dawson has many of the character’s mannerisms down to a science, from her smirks and side-eyes, to the way she runs slightly hunched-over. She doesn’t perform quite as many gravity-defying leaps or twirls as her animated counterpart, but her action scenes are impressive nonetheless – and she has plenty of them. Her twin lightsabers, gashes of white light in the oppressively dark fog of Corvus (when Bo-Katan said it was a forest planet, she neglected to mention it was a petrified forest on a lava flat), are strikingly beautiful weapons as always. The only major difference between animated Ahsoka and live-action Ahsoka is her voice, which has up until now been consistently provided by actress Ashley Eckstein. Dawson’s voice is deep where Eckstein’s was higher-pitched, and the change is significant and hard to grow accustomed to in just forty-five minutes, especially when we’ve spent so much time with Eckstein as Ahsoka, and her unique voice has become such an intrinsic part of the character’s identity.

And, although I can’t believe I have to be saying this a second time, it is worth remembering and acknowledging that Rosario Dawson is still under fire for alleged transphobia, something that can’t be taken lightly. But whereas her Mandalorian castmate Gina Carano foolishly decided to make her petty transphobia public on her social media, Dawson’s case is more complicated, as it involves a severe allegation – that Dawson violently attacked a transman in her employ – that supposedly happened behind closed doors, and is thus much harder to prove. All but two of the charges filed against Dawson were dropped a few months back, but many fans still find it hard to support Dawson until more information is available, and that’s totally valid. No matter how you ultimately decide to process this information, it’s important that you know about it.

Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal), meanwhile, knows nothing about Ahsoka Tano except what Bo-Katan told him about her location on Corvus, in the city of Calodan. By the time Din Djarin and Baby Yoda reach Calodan, Ahsoka has already had to leave the city, and is now lurking in the forests just outside its walls, picking off her enemies one by one and slowly working her way towards the heart of the city, and its ex-Imperial Magistrate, a woman named Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto, channeling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon era Michelle Yeoh very effectively), who wields a beskar steel spear and is withholding some very valuable information about her former masters. Elsbeth immediately enlists Din Djarin to hunt down and kill Ahsoka for her in exchange for her Mandalorian spear. But when Djarin does find Ahsoka, the two only exchange a few blows (and Djarin nearly scorches her with his trusty flamethrower, but whatever) before they both hesitantly lay down their weapons and agree to help each other. Like all of us, Ahsoka is immediately entranced by Baby Yoda, and wants to know more about him.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | indepent.co.uk

And thanks to her ability to communicate with Baby Yoda via the Force, we actually get some solid, though incomplete, answers to our many questions about the child’s backstory and place of origin. But most shockingly, we also learn his given name. He couldn’t just be Baby Yoda forever, I suppose. Now, one can see the wisdom in Disney’s decision to name him “The Child” in all of The Mandalorian’s marketing – it seems they were trying to give him the most boring moniker imaginable, so that when the time came for the big name reveal, audiences would willingly make the transition. But just as they never realized how big a sensation The Child would become, they never realized how the entire fandom would instantly disregard “The Child” in favor of a hashtag-friendly nickname we all collectively decided upon: Baby Yoda. And now, a season and a half into the show, we’re being asked to give up the nickname/social media phenomenon that helped to fuel this show’s popularity in favor of a new name…Grogu.

Grogu is a short, simple, and kind of adorable in its own way. Who knows, it might even catch on with the fandom (though, from what I’ve seen, reactions to this reveal have been mixed). But the fight between the Grogu separatists and the Baby Yoda loyalists will be long and brutal, and I honestly don’t see how Grogu – despite being a truly cute name for a cute character – can beat out Baby Yoda, which has become so solidly cemented in the public consciousness over the past year. Personally, I hope both stick, because I’m not quite ready to let Baby Yoda go (though I will use Grogu from now on).

In-universe, though, he’s officially Grogu. He even answers to that name, which will make the Mandalorian’s parenting a lot easier from now on. And in his conversation with Ahsoka, Grogu feels comfortable enough to open up about some other details from his traumatic past – like how he apparently used to live at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant until the very end of the Clone Wars, at which point someone got him out of the Temple. Although nobody mentions the Jedi Purge or Anakin’s slaughter of the Temple’s younglings, it sounds like Grogu was snuck out during that night of bloodshed – Ahsoka notes that Grogu is still very afraid of something. Without any more information to go on, we’re still left with gaps in Grogu’s story that don’t make sense: like how he ended up in the pirate camp where Din Djarin found him in the season one pilot. Or, for that matter, how Ahsoka herself managed to live at the Jedi Temple for years without ever coming across the baby (it’s theoretically possible he joined the Order after she left, but there’s hardly enough time between then and the end of the Clone Wars for him to have been trained by “many Masters”, as Grogu says he was). The reveal that he came from the Temple doesn’t even necessarily suggest a connection with Jedi Masters Yoda or Yaddle: the Jedi took in hundreds upon hundreds of Force-sensitive children from every corner of the galaxy. He could be anyone.

At the very least, Grogu’s background as a Jedi-in-training will give him an advantage as he begins the learning process again and reconnects with the Force. Ahsoka practices with Grogu, helping him use the Force to levitate small rocks, but the child is stubborn – and too attached to Din Djarin for his own good, Ahsoka quickly determines. And so, after a single training session, Ahsoka politely informs Din Djarin that she can’t risk mentoring Grogu, and tells him in no uncertain terms to seek help elsewhere. Ahsoka’s own mentor and best friend did succumb to the Dark Side because of his powerful love for another, so she’s certainly entitled to be wary of any sort of “attachment”, something expressly forbidden by the old Jedi code. But in my opinion, this whole situation felt far too contrived for my taste, and out of character for Ahsoka. After all, Ahsoka knew about Anakin Skywalker’s love for Padmé, but she never actually found out that was what drove him to the Dark Side. And considering how she rejected the Jedi Order and its outdated rules pretty firmly in The Clone Wars, it seems odd that she’d now be so adamant about adhering to their traditions, so many years after the Order fell.

But The Mandalorian needs a way to write her off the show somehow, because apparently we don’t get to spend more than one episode with any new character. First, though, Din Djarin agrees to help Ahsoka storm the city of Calodan and defeat Morgan Elsbeth. And it’s a good thing he does, because we, the audience, get to witness a truly spectacular duel between Ahsoka and Elsbeth in the latter’s water-garden (while Din Djarin confronts Elsbeth’s henchman in a very suspenseful staring contest): and what’s more, we finally find out why Ahsoka is so intensely interested in this remote planet when the former Jedi asks Elsbeth point-blank where to find Grand Admiral Thrawn. Cue me, a Star Wars: Rebels fanboy, screaming at the top of my lungs. Thrawn, the chief antagonist of Rebels, went missing shortly before the events of the original trilogy, after being ensnared in the tentacles of a purrgil space whale and carried to an unknown location somewhere in the outermost reaches of the galaxy. Ezra Bridger, the young Jedi protagonist of Rebels, went with him – sacrificing himself to defeat Thrawn and put an end to the Grand Admiral’s schemes. Fans have always known that neither Bridger nor Thrawn died: but at the same time, we still don’t know where they went, or whether they’ve spent the intervening years trying to work their way back towards civilization. But now, thanks to her encounter with Lady Elsbeth, it looks like Ahsoka has the intel she’s been looking for – and despite leaving The Mandalorian for the time being, she may be back: this time, perhaps with her traveling companion Sabine Wren, another Mandalorian and former Rebel whom we know she eventually enlists to help find Bridger.

The Mandalorian
Thrawn | syfy.com

The big question, though, is whether we’ll meet Thrawn in this series, or a future spinoff – because I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for him to appear now. Although he failed in his attempts to obliterate the Rebel Alliance, he became a truly menacing villain thanks to his innate ability to play the long game, staying several steps ahead of his opponents at all times and only being defeated thanks to a truly unpredictable act of heroism. But if Ahsoka has reason to believe he’s back, that probably means he’s begun conspiring with other ex-Imperials. I would not be at all surprised if we eventually learned that Thrawn is as much one of the masterminds behind the First Order’s rise to power as his master, Emperor Palpatine.

But for the time being, the race to hunt down Thrawn is still merely a tantalizing subplot. The main plot is heading to the planet Tython, where Ahsoka tells Din Djarin he’ll find an old Jedi Temple – and maybe, just maybe, some other Jedi. No hint of whom that might be (share your own theories in the comments below), but I expect we’re about to be in for another big reveal.

Episode Rating: 9/10

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 12 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

The hype for The Mandalorian‘s second season has never been higher than after last week’s episode, probably the best in the entire series, when audiences met The Clone Wars‘ Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time, and were promised an upcoming encounter with another fan-favorite from the animated Star Wars universe: Ahsoka Tano, former Jedi turned Rebel spy. But the eight-episode series has found time for another side-quest this week before we actually get to meet Ahsoka – and although it’s a side-quest that does eventually tie back into the actual plot, towards the very end, it might be the final straw for some people. This latest episode hasn’t made it into the top trends of the day on Twitter and it probably ranks among my least favorite “chapters” thus far. The slow pace, something I had hoped to grow more accustomed to this season, still just feels obnoxious and inorganic to me – seriously, how many times are we going to repeat the same exact storyline of Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) trying to find a mechanic?

The Mandalorian
Cara Dune, Din Djarin, and Greef Karga | gamesradar.com

The Mandalorian has never been great at moving the plot forward. When it does move, it takes baby steps. And some people really like that, which is fine. Some people think it gives us more time for worldbuilding and character development; which, to some extent, it does. But never enough, in my opinion, to justify the series’ tedious pacing. The only character who has any development this week is Cara Dune (Gina Carano), and, well…that’s a whole other messy situation.

Gina Carano, a WWE wrestler turned actress, has proven to be more damaging to the Star Wars franchise than I’m sure anyone behind the scenes at Lucasfilm could have anticipated. Last year, when she made her debut in The Mandalorian, she was generally well-received by audiences: sure, she wasn’t all that great an actress, but the driving concept behind her character was intriguing, and it seemed like a fairly decent bit of stunt casting. That was last year. These past few months, Gina Carano has been using her social media platforms (including her newest one, alt-right conspiracy theory forum Parler) to spread dangerous misinformation about everything from the Black Lives Matter movement, to voter fraud, to COVID-19. She got into a prolonged Twitter war with the transgender community after mocking the use of pronouns and putting joke pronouns on her bio. Bizarrely, she also celebrated the birthday of a YouTuber who has attacked her liberal Mandalorian co-star Pedro Pascal in a series of rant videos. I can’t be sure what else she’s said and done more recently, as she blocked me on Twitter not long ago, but I think you get the gist: she’s wildly controversial, and many of us feel that her and her baggage have no place in Star Wars. In some ways, Cara Dune has herself been tainted by the actress’ personal views, and it’s hard to not feel extremely uncomfortable whenever she’s onscreen.

But whether or not Gina Carano sticks around (there has been a steadily growing movement to have her replaced), Dune looks likely to stay – and with a different actress in the role, one who doesn’t make fun of marginalized communities or attempt to undermine democracy, perhaps I’d find her more interesting. After the first season finale, Dune became the Marshal of Nevarro under the administration of Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, who also directed this week’s episode), and we now get to see her doing his dirty work as a brawler, before being approached by her former allies in the New Republic (by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, no less) and asked to come back and help root out the last Imperials scattered across the galaxy. Although Dune turns down the offer, she seems indecisive, and if she does decide to rejoin the Republic, that would be a good setup for future stories: especially since there’s still a lot of gaps in our knowledge about the New Republic, and how it took over from the Empire, especially in the worlds on the Outer Rim. What Dune would be leaving behind, however, is a good job on a world that seems like it might become a bustling trade hub in the near future, thanks to Din Djarin.

The Mandalorian
tvfanatic.com

Djarin gets involved in this week’s side-quest mostly out of necessity, after having to land on Nevarro for more repairs (his initial attempt to put Baby Yoda to work ends up getting the child electrocuted), leaving his ship with a suspicious mechanic, and reuniting with Dune and Karga, both of whom he bonded with during his adventures in season one. Karga’s been trying to clean up his act and turn Nevarro into a more respectable planet than it once was: he’s even built a school in the remains of the old saloon where he and Din Djarin battled the Empire. But the one thing he hasn’t been able to do is infiltrate the ex-Imperial fortress outside town where a small garrison of stormtroopers are still hiding out – and that, of course, is where Djarin comes in. He can’t really turn down Karga’s offer, after all. And so, after leaving Baby Yoda at the aforementioned school (where Baby Yoda spends most of the school day using the Force to steal cookies from his unsuspecting classmates), the squad set out in a speeder owned by the very same Mythrol alien (Horatio Sanz) whom Din Djarin took captive in the season one pilot. Froze him in carbon, if I recall correctly, and sold him off for a hefty reward. You would think this might lead to more awkwardly humorous interactions between the two now, but that is unfortunately not the case.

The break-in at the fortress has its moments (including one obviously unintentional blunder, when a Mandalorian crew-member wearing a wristwatch is partly visible behind Greef Karga at exactly 18:54). There’s a riveting chase scene involving speeder bikes and TIE fighters. A small volcano erupts. But by far the most notable events take place in the secret laboratory deep within the fortress: where Din Djarin uncovers a recent hologram message from season one’s minor antagonist Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the ex-Imperial official who has made it his mission to recover Baby Yoda at all costs and…well, we don’t know what he intends to do with the child after that. Presumably something involving cloning, Pershing’s specialty, since the laboratory in the fortress is filled with rows of tanks containing strange, malformed humanoids – including one that some fans think might be an early prototype of Supreme Leader Snoke, a major villain in the sequel trilogy, revealed in The Rise Of Skywalker to be a mutated clone of Emperor Palpatine.

Pershing’s experiments seem to have been developed using a single blood sample he obtained from Baby Yoda back in season one: a blood sample which, in his words, contains an abnormally high “M-count”. While this reference might go over some fans’ heads (it went over mine at first, that’s for sure), this is a nod to one of the most controversial elements of the prequel trilogy: midi-chlorians, ingredients in a person’s genetic code which determine that person’s strength in the Force. The whole concept of midi-chlorians was extraordinarily unpopular back in the day, since it seemed to undermine the idea that the Force was something anyone could wield, so The Mandalorian can’t have brought them back without a very good reason. What seems most likely is that Gideon and Pershing are trying to clone Force-users – perhaps the early stages of a plan to resurrect Palpatine – and understanding midi-chlorians would be essential to getting to the bottom of this nefarious plot. All of this sounds very complicated and very exciting: which makes it even more disappointing that we still don’t have any clear answers, even after this new reveal. If anything, we just have more questions – since the return of midi-chlorians necessitates a re-evaluation of the Force, and more heated arguments about who can and can’t use it.

The Mandalorian
Snoke | inverse.com

In the end, the fortress comes down and Nevarro is saved. But Din Djarin has unintentionally landed himself in more trouble, since it turns out that the mechanic he hired is actually a spy working for Moff Gideon, who somehow anticipated the Mandalorian’s arrival and had a tracking beacon ready to attach to the Razor Crest so that Gideon can now follow Djarin and Baby Yoda to their next location – which, presumably, will be the city of Calodan on the forest planet of Corvus, where Djarin has an outstanding appointment with Ahsoka Tano. What are the chances?

(Before I close out this post, I want to briefly inform my readers that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, the date on which we mourn the transgender lives lost to transphobic violence and bigotry: thus making Gina Carano’s return to Star Wars on this solemn date all the more noticeably awkward and uncomfortable, considering that her own statements and actions – whether intentionally transphobic or willfully ignorant – have made members of the trans community less safe.

To my cisgender readers: please know that being asked for your pronouns isn’t some ridiculous request or an opportunity to make a joke, but is instead a harmless and important sign of allyship with the trans community. My pronouns are he/him/his, for example. And to my transgender readers: please know that I stand with you, and I will listen to you and learn from you, as I continue to strive to make my blog a safer and more welcoming place for people of all gender identities).

Episode Rating: 5/10

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 11 Just Made Din Djarin Interesting

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

So…what is the way, exactly?

The mysterious “Way”, the unbreakable creed by which The Mandalorian‘s protagonist Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) lives, and which, as far as we know, mostly exists to forbid him from ever removing his helmet in the presence of others, was well-established and cemented by the end of The Mandalorian‘s first season: but fans of Star Wars‘ animated offshoots The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have always known something sounded a bit fishy about this “Way”, which never stopped previous Mandalorian characters in either of those canon TV series from removing their helmets freely and frequently.

The Mandalorian
Mandalorian Nite Owls | gamespot.com

And today, The Mandalorian finally addressed that lingering continuity error by revealing that, as many of us had suspected for some time…Din Djarin is kind of weird, even by Mandalorian standards.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – jumping the shark, or the mamacore, if you will. Best to start at the beginning, with Din Djarin piloting a very damaged Razor Crest towards the estuary moon of Trask, still ferrying Frog Lady (voiced by Misty Rosas) – who, to be fair, is keeping her cool under extremely disturbing circumstances. Luckily for the fandom, which can now finally take a break from the lively and occasionally heated debate about whether or not Baby Yoda intentionally committed genocide by devouring several of Frog Lady’s unborn children on last week’s episode (and whether or not that forebodes a turn to the dark side in his near future), the infant isn’t given an opportunity to eat any more eggs. Instead, his insatiable appetite finds other victims this episode; mostly small, tentacled creatures.

The crash landing on Trask goes about as well as you’d expect, which is to say it’s a complete disaster and Frog Lady is nearly killed one more time before finally reuniting with her husband – who is alive! That’s doubly fortuitous because it means that (a) Frog Lady’s entire species will not be wiped out of existence despite Baby Yoda’s best efforts, and (b) because this husband of hers is able to lead Din Djarin to a friend, who gets in touch with another friend, who supposedly knows some Mandalorians. This friend-of-a-friend’s deal involves a not-at-all suspicious boat ride across the open ocean with a sea monster (a mamacore, to be precise) in the cargo hold. Din somehow doesn’t find this alarming at all, and unsurprisingly ends up in the aforementioned cargo hold, drowning, with a bunch of Quarren pirates trying to strip him of his precious beskar steel armor, while the mamacore swallows Baby Yoda in his tiny motorized cradle.

The father/son bonding moment is broken up by some swift intervention by a trio of rogue Mandalorians wearing dark blue armor and jet packs. Their leader, instantly recognizable long before she’s unmasked due to the distinctive markings on her helmet, is none other than Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, making her long-awaited live-action debut, played by the same actress, Katee Sackhoff, who has voiced her for years in both The Clone Wars and Rebels. It was in Rebels that we last saw Bo-Katan, wielding the famous Darksaber and preparing to unify her warring peoples for an assault on Imperial-occupied Mandalore, her ancestral homeworld. The Darksaber has passed from her hands to others, and the Empire has now fallen, but the years that have passed since her appearance in Rebels have done little to change her iconic look – somehow, the costume department for The Mandalorian even nailed her strange, choppy, red bob haircut. But when Bo-Katan and her team remove their helmets is when things get weird, because Din Djarin almost immediately has a freakout moment and flies off with Baby Yoda, convinced his saviors aren’t really Mandalorians at all. I’m not sure how the Mandalorian education system works, but you’d think someone as well-traveled as Din Djarin would at least have heard stories about Bo-Katan, the sister of Mandalore’s former duchess and herself once its leader, after the end of the Clone Wars. But, as Bo-Katan rather scornfully points out, Djarin is a “Child of the Watch” – a signifier that, shocking as it might seem for fans of the show, confirms that Djarin is a member of a group affiliated with Death Watch, the super-violent, jingoistic, religious extremist militia group that was formed during the Clone Wars to oppose Duchess Satine’s peaceful rule. Bo-Katan herself was once a high-ranking member of the group, but left after Darth Maul got involved with Death Watch, and instead formed her own group called the Nite Owls. It appears she (understandably) doesn’t have warm feelings towards the people who stayed with Death Watch, and the people they in turn recruited into their ranks, like Djarin (who was only a child during the Clone Wars, and didn’t actively choose the way of the religious extremists).

The Mandalorian
Bo-Katan | meaww.com

Djarin isn’t having any of it and makes his escape, so hastily and awkwardly that he doesn’t even have time to retrieve Baby Yoda’s floating cradle. There’s no going back for it now – Bo-Katan blows up the entire ship when she leaves. It’s a small tragedy: that cradle wasn’t just a practical item that saved Baby Yoda from some dangerous situations; it was also a last keepsake by which to remember the hospitality and honorable sacrifice of Kuiil, the Mandalorian’s friend from season one. Without it, Din Djarin is now forced to carry Baby Yoda around in the crook of his arm everywhere he goes.

To add insult to injury, Bo-Katan’s Mandalorians return just a few minutes later to save Djarin again, after the brother of the Quarren smuggler who tried to kill him randomly shows up to avenge his sibling’s death. Over a drink and a cup of hot, steamy…sentient tentacles, the Mandalorians start to ease up, and we get some insight into what Bo-Katan is doing on Trask with her compatriots, who include Simon Kassianides as Axe Woves, and Mercedes Varnado (better known by her stage name, Sasha Banks, or her wrestling alias, The Boss) as Koska Reeves. Banks wasn’t playing Sabine Wren after all, as many people had guessed after seeing the second season trailer – nor was she a solitary Inquisitor, as some believed. All in all, her role turned out to be small but fun: and yes, she’s a better actress in her few scenes with minimal dialogue than The Mandalorian‘s resident anti-mask, conspiracy-peddling transphobe, Gina Carano, was in the series’ entire first season. The trio’s mission is to stockpile weapons and gear for an eventual assault on Mandalore, which Bo-Katan hopes to retake – she does have a valid claim to the throne, after all, and until recently was in possession of the weapon that would have solidified that claim: the semi-mythical Darksaber, which we the audience know is currently being wielded by Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis, ex-Imperial fanatic Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).

Without many other options to choose from, it’s not long before Din Djarin has reluctantly signed on to help Bo-Katan and her squad in exchange for information about the Jedi – whom he also knows nothing about and needs help finding. The mission is a fairly simple job on paper, breaking into a cargo ship manned by some ex-Imperials and stormtroopers, but the potential danger means Djarin first has to stop by Frog Lady’s house and leave Baby Yoda in her care. Baby Yoda is always being dropped off places while Djarin does the dirty work, and that formula is growing a bit tiresome – I’m still waiting for the day when the child will actually be able to fight alongside his father, with his own itty-bitty little lightsaber and Force powers. Alas, today is not that day.

(On the other hand, it’s probably for the best, because Baby Yoda isn’t around to witness what has to be the biggest slap in the face to Din Djarin during an episode that mostly consists of Djarin being slapped around and otherwise humiliated: when Bo-Katan gives him an order and then follows it up with “This is the Way”, stealing his sacred catchphrase in a way that seems to be subtly poking fun at his strict, old-fashioned code. I don’t know what they call that in Star Wars lingo, but here we call that a burn).

The mission itself is a lot of fun to watch, and director Bryce Dallas Howard keeps it suspenseful even though the outcome is predictable: it’s a fight between four Mandalorians and probably around thirty or forty stormtroopers, so obviously the odds are in the Mandalorians’ favor. Even the ship’s conniving Imperial Captain (played by Titus Welliver) can’t do anything to slow down his attackers, despite an urgent call with a completely disinterested Moff Gideon to beg for reinforcements and then a last-ditch attempt to crash the ship into the ocean; though he does ultimately kill himself (in the most eerily Nazi way you could imagine, by biting down on a poison pellet in his cheek) before Bo-Katan can wrestle any information out of him about the Darksaber’s whereabouts. The whole incident sets up several new plot lines I can’t wait to see continued over time. We’ve all just assumed that Din Djarin will have to face off against Gideon at some point – but Bo-Katan’s arrival makes it far more likely that, if anyone is going to take him down, it’ll be her. She’ll definitely stick around: she’s far too important a character to only appear once, and we still have to see what happens when she and her now very heavily-armed team head to Mandalore to overthrow a government.

As for Din Djarin, he chooses not to follow them, because he still has an oath to lead Baby Yoda to the care of his own people, or at the very least a Jedi. He gets his next coordinates from Bo-Katan: the city of Calodan, on the forest planet of Corvus – an as yet unexplored location in the vast Star Wars universe, but supposedly home to one former Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. Let the fandom discourse begin anew, because Star Wars is about to welcome actress (and alleged transphobe) Rosario Dawson into the fold as one of the saga’s most popular and interesting characters – an extremely controversial choice, to put it lightly.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | nme.com

But of the many repercussions this episode will have, one of the biggest (and subtlest) is that Din Djarin is finally interesting again. Up until now, The Mandalorian has positioned Djarin as a gold standard Mandalorian, a prime specimen of the group. He’s also been – for the most part – a fairly noble hero, who operates according to the tenets of his faith, putting his people’s needs first and respecting tradition above everything else. Revealing that Djarin’s “Way” is actually not the Way after all heightens the stakes dramatically, placing Djarin in a very uncomfortable position, challenging his faith and forcing him to reconcile with his clan’s past crimes. Whether Djarin knew about those crimes or not is still up for debate (he didn’t seem to know who Bo-Katan was, and he had never even heard of Jedi, so I don’t put it past him), but either way he’s been put in a deeply personal predicament.

But of course, because this is still really the Baby Yoda show, the episode ends with the child eating yet another tentacled creature, one that seemed much too large for him to tackle, but, hey, what can I say? He’s a growing…unknown type of alien, and he needs sustenance! Be glad he’s out of his baby-eating phase.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Teaser Trailer! Baby Yoda Is Back!

This is the way.

In the absence of any of the original Marvel content that was supposed to debut this year, Disney+ is relying on a second season of its mega-hit The Mandalorian to keep subscribers satisfied with the streaming service: and yes, while it’s disheartening that we’re now probably getting two seasons of this one show before a proper trailer for either Marvel’s WandaVision or Falcon And The Winter Soldier, I’d be lying if I said that the irresistible duo of Pedro Pascal and his puppet sidekick Baby Yoda isn’t enough to tide me over for a while yet. And the first trailer for The Mandalorian‘s upcoming second season gives us plenty of the adorable single father/social media celebrity pairing that we can’t get enough of, no matter what other problems we (or is it only I?) might have with the series overall.

The Mandalorian
radiotimes.com

During the first season, I mostly took issue with the slow pacing and general sense of meandering that had me wondering, more and more with every episode, whether there was supposed to be a plot throughline or not. Everything worked out by the end, when the Mandalorian (whose real name is Din Djarin) had his epic confrontation with ex-Imperial Stormtroopers under the command of Moff Gideon, who was revealed in the finale to be in possession of an ancient, powerful weapon: the Darksaber of Mandalorian legend, once wielded by generations of Mandalorian leaders and even the tyrannical Sith Lord Darth Maul. But this time around, new problems have emerged: specifically the castings of Rosario Dawson as the Jedi Ahsoka and Gina Carano as Cara Dune. The former, who is joining the show for the first time this season, has allegations of transphobic abuse leveled against her by a former employee; the latter, a holdover from season one, has recently been embroiled in a number of online controversies, including urging people not to wear masks or stay in quarantine during coronavirus and appearing to mock the trans community with her new set of joke pronouns.

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | thedisinsider.com

Will they detract from my enjoyment of the new season? I hope not, because the teaser trailer has me deeply invested already in the Mandalorian’s next adventure across the galaxy, but you can be sure I will continue to address it throughout my coverage of the season. We briefly catch a glimpse of Cara Dune in the teaser, and I have to admit feeling a bit of disappointment that I can’t get as excited about her appearance as I should be. It’s doubly unfortunate because, for the moment at least, Cara Dune is the show’s female lead and Ahsoka is supposed to be a major character too. Thankfully, other female characters are leveling up in the show, including Sabine Wren: who is possibly the hooded woman we see watching the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in the teaser.

The teaser, thankfully, highlights a number of other things to get hyped about, including what looks like a more structured storyline revolving around the Mandalorian trying to reunite Baby Yoda with the infant’s kin; a bunch of new and old locations, including Tattooine and an ice-planet (Hoth? I don’t remember many other ice-planets in Star Wars); and an increase in violence. No sign of Moff Gideon or his legendary Darksaber just yet, but I’m sure he’ll pop up in future trailers. As for the Jedi, they seem to be remaining in the shadows for right now, but I have a feeling more are out there then we think (my theory is still that Jedi Master Yaddle survived the Great Purge and is Baby Yoda’s mother).

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | syfy.com

Speaking of Baby Yoda, the adorable little baby is still pint-sized and easily portable, something that comes in handy during action scenes I’m sure. Just so long as no one smacks the baby on his itty-bitty fragile little head this time around (looking at you, random Stormtrooper from season one), he should be doing pretty good: he’s learned how to quickly evade danger by disappearing into the safety of his floating cradle. He has the power to use the Force, but he’s just not in the mood to do so, and you know what?…I respect that.

So what do you think? How excited are you for The Mandalorian season two? Are you here for the plot, or for Baby Yoda? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Katee Sackhoff Will Join “The Mandalorian” As Bo-Katan!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS AND THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD

When a franchise is as divided and fragmented as Star Wars is, it can be a welcome relief to find evidence of continuity between that franchise’s various offshoots. Katee Sackhoff, the voice-actress behind the role of Bo-Katan on The Clone Wars, joining the cast of the second season of Disney+’s live-action phenomenon The Mandalorian might not seem like too much of a big deal: in fact, to some it might seem obvious, even predictable. But for someone still terrified that Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be officially decanonized and all its cast of characters recast as soon as the series ends, it’s like a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
nerdist.com

Sackhoff is, however, an obvious choice to portray Bo-Katan, whom she has voiced in several seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars – the fan-favorite character is a Mandalorian rebel aligned with the violent Deathwatch terrorists when we first meet her, but she quickly develops into a fascinating, nuanced woman, who hatches an elaborate plan to win her home planet back from the clutches of Sith Lord Darth Maul and his loyalists. After the death of her sister, the Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan becomes steely and frigid, but more devoted than ever to the Mandalorian way of life. By the end of The Clone Wars, she’s become the leader of Mandalore, and in Star Wars: Rebels, we see her accept the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian patriotism, and embrace her destiny as the heroine who will unite the various Mandalorian clans. Sounds like she should be a pivotal figure in a story about the Mandalorians, right?

The Mandalorian Darksaber
slashfilm.com

Unfortunately for Bo-Katan, we also learned in The Mandalorian that her destiny was unfulfilled – as the villain Moff Gideon was seen wielding the very same Darksaber in the season finale, with no explanation of how or when he obtained it. It’s very likely that Bo-Katan was killed prior to the events of the series and the Darksaber taken from her, meaning that any role she may have in these upcoming seasons of The Mandalorian could be limited to appearances in flashbacks. But the Bo-Katan fan in me desperately hopes she somehow survived the brutality of the rebellion and the war against the Galactic Empire, not only because she’s a fun character who deserves a prominent role, but because Katee Sackhoff is a very underrated actress who could benefit from the exposure in what has proven to be Disney+’s most successful original series.

Bo-Katan is only the latest in a steadily growing line of animated characters making the jump to live-action: others, however, like former Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Mandalorian Sabine Wren, have been or likely will be recast for their appearances in The Mandalorian‘s highly anticipated second season (Tano and Wren are also rumored to appear in just one episode of the season, which will serve as a backdoor pilot for their own spinoff series: if that is true, it makes sense why Disney and Lucasfilm would want to cast bigger, more recognizable talent for the roles). Boba Fett will also make his return to Star Wars in the upcoming season, though it is believed he will only have a small role.

The Mandalorian
thewookieegunner.com

Assuming that Bo-Katan did, in fact, survive her fateful encounter with Moff Gideon or his forces, she could conceivably run into Din Djarin and Baby Yoda while on the hunt for Gideon and her stolen Darksaber. The character lends herself nicely to cool action sequences – thanks to her jetpack, secret weapons and martial arts prowess – and I’d be eager to see her take on Gideon in a fight. If it’s only through flashbacks, and the outcome of the fight is predetermined, then so be it…but I really do think there are many more things that could be done with her character, and I hope that’s taken into consideration before a decision is made to kill her off.

So what do you think? How do you feel about seeing Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time ever, in The Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 12 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS FINALE AHEAD

You knew this day was coming. At some point, we would come to the end of all things, and I would inevitably make a Lord Of The Rings reference because, despite it having nothing to do with the situation at hand it’s still my go-to resource for quotes, and we would all start crying because, yes, The Clone Wars is actually over. And no, not over like it was over the last two times, but over as in it was resurrected from the dead by Disney, a final season was commissioned, and now we’ve breezed through that too. I have very mixed emotions about how I feel right now, so get ready for just a little ranting and rambling.

Clone Wars finale
cinemablend.com

If you’re here, I assume you saw the warning at the top of the post, but one can’t be too careful – we’re about to get into SPOILERS! territory, and, what with this being a finale, there’s sort of a lot of spoilers.

First of all, it’s sad. You may think that’s obvious, given that this is the final episode of a beloved series, but The Clone Wars finale is sad on a whole new level – to a point where it doesn’t even feel sad, it just feels depressing. Other Star Wars stories have seen fit to close out their final chapters with at least a small glimmer of hope (think baby Luke arriving on Tattooine while the galaxy crumbles into chaos at the end of Revenge Of The Sith, or Leia’s shocking but inspiring appearance at the end of Rogue One), but not so The Clone Wars, whose finale abandons all hope and veers into territory so foreign to the series, it makes this episode feel almost like a standalone – an eerie, grimdark, post-apocalyptic dystopian short story.

The melancholy, and occasionally ominous, score accompanying this episode only works to make it even darker, as does the bleak gray color palette. Even the setting is designed to depress: remember the good old days when we could follow our sprawling cast of heroes all around the galaxy, to new and exciting planets untouched by war? Yeah, well, most of this finale takes place on the Republic (technically now Imperial) star-cruiser still hurtling through hyperspace towards Coruscant, and Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) spends most of the time trapped in the cruiser’s suffocating maze of passages, being hunted by her own clones and finding every escape route closed off to her.

Clone Wars finale
cbr.com

With all of the main characters busy running for their lives, it’s unsurprising that nobody has time to suddenly recognize they’re in a finale and start monologuing dramatically to each other. But this episode has shockingly little dialogue at all, and there’s not really that many last words to be said. Ahsoka’s final scene with her old friend Captain Rex (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) is, in fact, completely silent, as Ahsoka mourns her fallen troopers (what makes it doubly sad is that they were literally a gift to her from Anakin) by creating a vaguely creepy public art display out of their helmets, and Rex huddles by a cheerless fire, trying to stay warm. As for Darth Maul (Sam Witwer), he steals a ship and disappears into space, off on his own quest to cause chaos and exact vengeance on those who wronged him – which at this point is pretty much everyone. At least he tears apart the star-cruiser’s hyperspace engines before he goes, which inadvertently allows Ahsoka to make her escape (and keeps her from falling into Emperor Palpatine’s hands).

The Clone Wars used to be a pretty cheerful, even funny series: but that’s not the case in the finale. There’s no humor at all, and we’re even forced to watch the happy, helpful droids introduced in last week’s episode as they get blown to bits, screaming in their shrill voices, by a merciless clone firing squad. And soon afterwards, every clone on the star cruiser, including ARC Trooper Jesse, dies when their ship hurtles out of hyperspace and smashes into the surface of a remote planet.

Clone Wars finale
cbr.com

The closest thing to a hopeful ending is the haunting final scene, which shows Darth Vader arriving on this planet and finding the strange grave-site built by Ahsoka, alongside one of her lightsabers. The following shot of Vader activating and brandishing the blue lightsaber is both a sad reminder of what he was before his fall, and a subtle nod towards the redemption he would still achieve: redemption that would make him worthy of once again carrying such a saber. But for the moment, Vader is still Vader – and he turns away from the desolate scene, leaving us to follow his diminishing silhouette reflected in the visor of a dead clone-trooper’s empty helmet. Is that what passes for hope these days?

I may sound like I’m complaining about the sadness, but…well, I am a little, actually, but I did enjoy every individual component that went into today’s episode. Everything from the animation to the action scenes was beautiful, even if it was sad – but it does make one wonder: does Star Wars have a problem with happy endings?

Now obviously, The Clone Wars was never a story that was going to end with all the main characters riding off into a double sunset: but for a series that started out as a cartoon meant for kids, this is certainly a dramatic and unexpected heel-turn. Let me try to explain: it’s fine, it’s perfectly natural in fact, for a series to mature as its audience does and get darker as times goes along – with The Clone Wars, it’s been more than a decade since the series’ first episode aired, so quite a lot of growing has been happening in the interim, and people who watched the show as kids are now adults. What I do take issue with, at least a little, is this cheerless, hopeless ending with which we’ve been left.

Clone Wars finale
comicbook.com

Star Wars as a whole started out much like The Clone Wars did, as pure, shameless escapism; that’s exactly why it became the pop culture phenomenon that it did. But in recent years, the franchise has become….much less fun. The prequels, by virtue of being the prequels, were expected to end in tragedy, misery and inescapable despair, of course – but then you’ve got the sequel trilogy, which avoided a traditional happy ending by basically reminding us that nothing, not even victory, is ever final in this universe: no matter how many times you try to balance the Force (which is what we all thought Anakin had done, back in Return Of The Jedi), it will never work. Rogue One ended with all the main cast dead, their bodies battered into specks of cosmic ash. Now The Clone Wars ends with much of the cast dead and the survivors scattered across the galaxy, and I’m left wondering: what did we accomplish, on that journey?

Well, it’s in the finale’s title: Victory And Death. But what that title conveniently leaves out is that the victory in question isn’t really one at all, because it could have happened at any time had not Emperor Palpatine personally constructed, initiated and drawn out the Clone Wars for years by cunningly manipulating both sides, and even his eventual defeat decades later will still only be a temporary one; and the death in the title isn’t just the demise of an individual, but the collapse of a society, the utter annihilation of a way of life, of an idea, of an idealistic concept upon which the Star Wars galaxy had been built. Is that all that Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and their friends actually achieved, after all that time?

It’s at moments like these that I begin to question whether Star Wars‘ recent trend of sad, cynical endings is actually a good one, or if the franchise is even trying anymore to be comforting. It doesn’t really feel brave anymore: in fact, much like how Pixar is increasingly being criticized for attempting to exploit audiences’ emotions, I sense that Star Wars is heading down a similar path, towards a place where all their stories are designed to leave viewers emotionally devastated. I hope that’s not the case, but after watching this episode, I can’t help but feel that way.

But yeah, happy May The 4th, everybody! Honestly, I don’t want to make it sound like I was left disappointed by the finale – I thought it was hauntingly beautiful, and, if despair was the emotion the showrunners were hoping to cultivate from their audiences, they succeeded. But at a time like this, when the real world is already so dark and the future so uncertain, I can’t say I wasn’t a little discouraged by this conclusion, even though, in the end, it won’t affect my overall rating of the episode.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 11 Review!

Clone Wars Ahsoka

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS AHEAD

In its penultimate episode, The Clone Wars ties back into the events of the main Star Wars films in a way that could almost have felt jarring under worse direction – but with all the ingenuity and creative thinking that has made the series beloved by fans, this episode, fittingly titled Shattered, actually finds very clever ways to keep us, the audience, firmly invested in the stories of the series’ original characters while also throwing them into the midst of one of the films’ most memorable sequences: the brutal execution of Order 66.

Clone Wars Palpatine
slashfilm.com

All through the episode’s opening minutes, the haunting score keeps us on edge, waiting for that moment when millions of clone troopers all around the galaxy – clone troopers who, through the series’ run, we’ve come to love for their individuality – will simultaneously become mindless servants of Chancellor Palpatine (voiced here by Ian McDiarmid, using dialogue from Revenge Of The Sith) and turn on the Jedi Order with guns blazing, bringing the Clone Wars to an abrupt, violent end. After last week’s episode, where Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) was captured by the forces of former Jedi commander Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), one would expect a triumphant, victorious atmosphere – but there’s little joy or comfort to be found on the planet Mandalore as new leader Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) turns her attention to the grim task of rebuilding her peoples’ society from the ground up, and Ahsoka prepares to bring Darth Maul into the custody of the Jedi on Coruscant, while still weighing in her mind the Sith Lord’s terrible prophecies.

As I suspected, the Jedi Purge is set into motion during Ahsoka’s journey through hyperspace, moments after she has a telepathic Force vision of Anakin Skywalker‘s (partially voiced by Matt Lanter, partially using Hayden Christensen’s dialogue) turn to the Dark Side and the violent death of Jedi Master Mace Windu (voiced by TC Carson, with some dialogue by Samuel L. Jackson) during his fight with Palpatine in the Chancellor’s offices. Thankfully, The Clone Wars‘ method of showing the Purge doesn’t involve actually reenacting any of the notable Jedi deaths from Revenge Of The Sith through another devastating montage – instead, we witness the whole event through Ahsoka’s eyes, as her entire crew begins firing on her without warning, forcing her to make a daring escape. Despite the fact that, earlier in the episode, Mace Windu insists on calling Ahsoka a “citizen” rather than a Jedi and other members of the Order seem to subtly demean her for her choice to become a neutral rogue, it appears that Palpatine wasn’t willing to make an exception for the padawan whose banishment he had partially orchestrated.

Clone Wars Ahsoka
meaww.com

Ahsoka isn’t completely alone in the episode, however: during the initial attack, she can easily see that her long-time friend Captain Rex (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) has tears streaming down his face as he pulls the trigger on her with shaking fingers – meaning that, despite how effective Palpatine’s brainwashing has been, there’s still hope for any clone who can successfully remove the inhibitor chip planted inside their brain. When she unearths sealed documents and testimonies from Rex, she also stumbles upon evidence regarding the mysterious cases of Fives, who, in the series’ sixth season, discovered the plot to exterminate the Jedi far too early and was personally tortured by Palpatine to the point of madness. It’s a harsh reminder of another of The Clone Wars‘ most powerful, emotional story arcs, but a beautifully fitting way to give Fives the justice he deserves, even if it is a little too late to save most of the Jedi. The main thrust of the narrative in this episode follows Ahsoka as she tries to corner Rex and get him into the medical bay, with the intention of removing the inhibitor and freeing him.

Another character she has to free is Darth Maul himself, whom she actually saves from execution – somewhere along the line, Palpatine must have added Maul’s name to his long hit-list. Maul, even without the aid of his classic lightsaber, is still able to give Ahsoka the distraction she needs, keeping the clone troopers busy with his savage fighting techniques: he beheads people, he slices people in half, he even uses the Force to cut one man’s arm off in an automatic door. As of the end of the episode, we don’t know where he is now or what he plans to do once the ship is cleared of hostiles – will he and Ahsoka have to make a deal in the series’ final episode? Will he have already escaped by the time she and Rex are free? We have no clue, yet. But, since one of the unexpected joys of this season has been watching Ahsoka and Darth Maul put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, I really hope they get at least one final encounter.

There are a bunch of notable moments from this episode. Ahsoka and Master Yoda (Tom Kane) have their last conversation ever, via hologram: both are reluctant to say too much to the other, unfortunately, which makes their dialogue far sadder – neither one gets to say all the things that should have been said in that moment. Ahsoka also chooses to withhold the information Maul gave her last week regarding Anakin and his pull to the Dark Side: information which would definitely have been helpful just a few minutes later. There’s a cute scene where Ahsoka recruits her starship’s team of maintenance droids for help – which provides some organic cheerfulness in an otherwise dark and ominous story. The episode ends with Ahsoka connecting to Rex through the Force and locating his inhibitor chip – something which causes Rex to see through his brainwashing, convincing him to help Ahsoka. But, judging by the huge army of clones currently trying to break down the medical bay doors, I suspect the duo will need help if they’re going to escape from the starship: which is also, if I’m not mistaken, still on its way to Coruscant, the new heart of the Galactic Empire and Palpatine’s reign of terror.

Clone Wars
meaww.com

All in all, it’s been an emotional journey, and I’m excited (though also sad) that we’ll get to finish it on May the 4th, when the series finale premieres. In the meantime, we have the whole weekend to cry over the thousands of dead Jedi now littering the Star Wars galaxy, the uncertain fate of Ahsoka Tano, and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Like most Star Wars stories, The Clone Wars seems destined to end in bittersweet tragedy – but I’ve had a great time getting here. We’ve traveled from one corner of the universe to the other alongside Ahsoka, Rex, and the gang, and I’m glad we’ll at least get the chance to properly say goodbye to them as well.

Episode Rating: 9/10