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The Mandalorian Chapter 13 gives us a Baby Yoda origin — and a clear look at the future

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Star Wars: Rebels is now essential viewing

Grogu aka Baby Yoda aka The Child in The Mandalorian Chapter 15, using the Force Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

There was no wasting time in The Mandalorian chapter 13. “The Jedi” gets right to … the Jedi.

But the teed-up reveal of a major Star Wars character wasn’t the only bombshell awaiting Thanksgiving-dinner-comatosed fans: Season 2, episode 5 gave us the clearest look yet into the origins of Baby Yoda aka The Child aka Actually He Has a Real Name and If You Were One with the Force You’d Know What It Was. And in what might be the most lore-heavy episode yet, director-producer Dave Filoni solidifies every part of the Star Wars canon, including his animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels, as essential to understanding the the current mainstream side of the franchise.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoiler for The Mandalorian episode “The Jedi.”]

Chapter 13 finally whisks Din Djarin and The Child off to Corvus, where two episodes earlier, Bo-Katan (another Clone Wars import) instructed the Mandalorian to find the Jedi Ahsoka Tano. And he does rather immediately! Rumors that Rosario Dawson had been cast as the fan-favorite warrior broke over the summer, and many wondered how significant a role she’d play whenever she turned up. A brief cameo? A glimpse from the shadows? Under the eye of Filoni, who had previously hinted at reviving the character in April during the conclusion of The Clone Wars, there was no holding back: The episode was an Ahsoka story through and through, as much as a milestone in Din’s journey.

Ahsoka has a lot to share with Mando and the The Mandalorian audience — and share she does. When The Mandalorian arrives to Corvus, he’s hired by the local overlord, an ex-Empire leader named Morgan Elsbeth, to hunt down Ahsoka, who is terrorizing her troops and chasing some coveted knowledge. When Din crosses paths with the Jedi in the woods of the planet, he quickly flips sides. (Morgan didn’t win any favors by visibly torturing her Corvusians with electric shock pillories, another vestige of the animated canon.) With Ahsoka out of attack mode, Din introduces the Jedi to his Force-sensitive surrogate Child. That’s when the midi-chlorians really start poppin’.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian holding two white lightsabers Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Though The Child can’t speak, Ahsoka communicates with the lil’ stinker through the invisible channels of the Force, and we get his full backstory. The Yoda-looking being’s name is Grogu, and he’s old enough to have been raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Ahsoka learns through her telepathic connection. “At the end of the Clone Wars, someone took him from the temple. Then his memory becomes dark. He seemed lost. Alone.”

The Mandalorian season 2, episode 4 added more fuel to the fire that the Empire was hunting “Baby Yoda” for his blood, either as the basis for a new cloning operation — teased by the return of the Kamino uniform from Attack of the Clones — or something even more nefarious. We know thanks to Rise of Skywalker that the Empire/Palpatine was behind the creation of the Force-powerful Snoke, but we don’t really know how it was all possible. The Mandalorian is positioned to answer those not-that-pressing questions. The fact that Grogu has ties to the prequel-era movies and Clone Wars shenanigans only makes him more of a target for the Empire’s old practices. Is he an actual clone of Yoda born from that era? Is he Yoda’s kid (a hint of “Yoda’s Theme” in the soundtrack makes the head-gears turn)? Who ushered him off Coruscant? Maybe the upcoming Obi-Wan-centric Disney Plus series will fill in some blanks...

Din hopes Ahsoka will consider training Grogu in the ways of the Force. She declines. For those who aren’t familiar with the deep conflict of the character, the reasons why aren’t entirely clear. She simply tells The Mandalorian: “His attachment to you makes him vulnerable to his fears. His anger [...] I’ve seen what such feelings can do to a fully trained Jedi knight. To the best of us.”

Ahsoka and Darth Vader Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

In the early days of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka was apprentice to none other than Anakin Skywalker. A loss of faith in the rigid Jedi ways saw her cut ties with the Order, but wherever life took her, she maintained an allegiance to Anakin. Even after Darth Sidious initiated Order 66, and news of the eradication of Jedi reached her hears, she couldn’t believe her former master was one of hands working to dismantle peace in the galaxy. But in the final episodes of The Clone Wars, the truth became clear, and Ahsoka went into hiding. The final scene of Filoni’s animated series, which aired this past May, brought all the tragedy to a head, and connected emotional dots between Ahsoka’s eventual face off with the one and only Darth Vader. Though The Mandalorian takes place many years after her revelations, and also after she came and went from the timeline of Star Wars: Rebels, Ahsoka harbors the trauma of Anakin’s fall to the dark side. The scene works whether you know the backstory or not, but for those who’ve followed Filoni’s expanded universe storytelling over the years, it’s a chilling payoff.

After dropping the Baby-Yoda’s-Real-Name bombshell, Ahsoka continues to carve out the Star Wars universe as it pertains to the bounce back of the Empire. Morgan Elsbeth, her adversary on Corvus, has information on Imperial bigwigs that she’s ready to kill to obtain. One assumes Morgan has ties to Moff Gideon, who we learned last week has a battalion of super soldiers ready to deploy on The Mandalorian’s ass (not to mention the coveted Darksaber).

But anyone who knows Ahsoka from Star Wars: Rebels understands the one quest she’s truly relentless about: the location of her former Jedi-in-the-making pal Ezra Bridger. At the end of Filoni’s second animated series, Ezra, in a heroic moment, sends an enemy ship zipping off into the unknown of hyperspace — which also sends him into the unknown of hyperspace. A series coda finds Ahsoka working with Sabrine Wren, a true Mandalorian like Bo-Katan, teaming up to locate their friend.

When we pick up with Ahsoka, she’s still looking for Ezra. And we know it because, after a vicious two-sabers-vs-Beskar-spear battle with Morgan, the Jedi holds her glowing white blade to her opponent’s neck and demands to know the location of her boss. And it’s not Moff Gideon. The name that comes out of her mouth sent every Star Wars EU fan’s jaw to the floor: “Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”

Thrawn. Thrawn! Created by acclaimed Star Wars novelist Timothy Zahn in the pages of 1991’s Heir to the Empire, Thrawn is a blue Chiss war strategist and quite possibly the most beloved villain to never hit the live-action screen. Though decanonized after Disney bought Lucasfilm and retired all of the pre-Force Awakens EU, Filoni brought Thrawn back to become the ultimate adversary in Star Wars: Rebels. The Admiral was on board the ship that Ezra sent flying off, and assumed dead. Clearly that’s not the case, and Ahsoka hopes to track him down in order to locate Ezra — and hopefully cut off any chance of an Empire revival.

True to The Mandalorian, the lore catnip doesn’t interfere with the action. “The Jedi” successfully translates Ahsoka’s dynamic fighting style to the screen, including a battle stance that recalls her shoto saber style. Dawson plays the role with meditative fury, which is right in line with the Rebels era version of the character. And Din gets his own Western-style moments in a shootout with one of Morgan’s henchmen. It’s a perfect, and little bit surreal, blend of all the modern tones of Star Wars.

Ahsoka’s appearance in The Mandalorian appears to be fleeting, at least in season 2 (if Thrawn returns, one assumes the Jedi will, too). She won’t train Grogu, suggesting Mando’s bond is stronger and therefore more worthy of leading the young Jedi on his true path. That means Din has another assignment, and is headed to Tython. Known as an ancient Jedi safehaven, the planet has only appeared in passing mention in The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary and the pages of Marvel’s Doctor Aphra comic book (where the main character led Darth Vader in one lark). But true to Filoni’s recanonizing instincts, it’s also a place with deep ties to Darth Bane and other Sith history.

Grogu shakes Ahsoka’s hand before jetting off with the Mandalorian Image: Lucasfilm

What will it mean for The Mandalorian’s adventures? While the series has mostly remained in the blasters-and-speeders, tech-heavy side of Star Wars in the first one-and-a-half seasons, any action on Tython promises to enter the mystical, which Filoni was more than happy to explore in The Clone Wars and Rebels. Ahsoka tells Din that, on Tython, he’ll find a Jedi temple in ruins, and at the top of a mountain, a seeing stone. By placing Grogu there, “a Jedi may sense his presence and come searching for him.”

But which Jedi? There seem like two contenders: Luke Skywalker, who in the post-Return of the Jedi timeline is looking for Force-wielding newbies to train (though that plot would require Mark Hamill stepping back into the role). Or it could mean pivoting The Mandalorian into a true sequel to Rebels, with the live-action introduction of Ezra Bridger. If Thrawn is headed to the show, it’s only natural that the Jedi who ruined his plans will show up. [Ed. note: As one reader noted to me, perhaps there’s some Jedi:Fallen Order crossover potential to all of this, in theory.]

With “The Jedi,” creator Jon Favreau and Filoni declare that viewers need to do their Star Wars homework to completely keep up with the high-stakes drama at hand. This is not just the story of a Mandalorian figuring out “the way”; in Din’s hands, and in Grogu’s future, lies the power that will forever shape the universe into what we know from The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker. Now there is no such thing as the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” and the holy trilogies of the big screen. It’s all one saga, it’s all one nerdy lore, and it’s all happening on the biggest show on the planet.