As The Mandalorian’s stakes have gradually risen with each episode, the series’ connections to the Star Wars franchise’s larger epic narrative have grown stronger, particularly as characters like Bo-Katan and important items like the Darksaber have been incorporated into the plot.
Few surprising twists could have matched the gravity of the Child/Baby Yoda’s reveal in season one, so The Mandalorian’s most recent episode instead took a much more straightforward and hyped up approach.
After namedropping Ahsoka Tano earlier this season, “The Jedi” finally brought Anakin Skywalker’s one-time apprentice — previously only seen in animation — into The Mandalorian’s fold. Not only that, the episode revealed a surprising amount of new information about the Force-sensitive Child — real name, Grogu. “The Jedi” almost immediately delivers on its title as it introduces you to an older Ahsoka on the planet Corvus where she’s on the hunt for Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), the Imperial Magistrate currently controlling the city of Calodan. Because Ahsoka’s presence threatens Elsbeth’s control of the city, she resolves to hire Mando to deal with her “Jedi” problem, and it’s in him and Ahsoka meeting that the story becomes one of The Mandalorian’s more significant episodes.
Longtime Clone Wars and Rebels fans might have bristled some at Elsbeth identifying Ahsoka as a Jedi considering her decision to leave the Order during The Clone Wars, but in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, executive producer Dave Filoni and actress Rosario Dawson explained how the title is a matter of perspective. Speaking about where the character is at generally in terms of her skill sets and worldview, Filoni described her as a master of her craft at this point because she no longer really needs to rely on others all that much to carry out her self-determined missions.
“A wandering samurai character is what she really is at this point,” Filoni said. “I’ve always made comparisons to her heading towards the Gandalf stage, where she is the one that has the knowledge of the world and can help others through it. I think she’s reached that point.”
Filoni pointed out that while Elsbeth’s identification of Ahsoka might not be accurate in the technical and most pedantic sense, it speaks to the reality that people in the Star Wars universe don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of Ahsoka’s life or the dealings of the Jedi Order. Much in the same way that Cobb Vanth’s second-hand Mandalorian armour shaped the way that people perceived him, everything about Ahsoka — from her lightsabers to her use of the Force — leads to people reading her as a Jedi.
“[Fans] all focus very hard on the line, ‘I am no Jedi,’ from Star Wars: Rebels, but it’s undeniable that she’s trained by the Jedi,” Filoni said. “I think to most observers she is very Jedi to them. I would argue in some ways — by being so selfless and rejecting a lot of paths that would have given her power — she’s more Jedi-like than even some characters who claim to be Jedi.”
Dawson echoed Filoni’s feelings and agreed that Ahsoka embodies everything that’s good about the Jedi despite her own tumultuous history with the Order. “She had left that Order under duress, and she’s just been finding her way,” Dawson said. “And since the very beginning, the way that has been pulling her is to be vigilant, and to be brave, and to be wise, and to always have her eye set on rooting out evil. And I think that’s one of the reasons why so many love her. It’s why I love her.”
In the wake of Katee Sackhoff reprising her role as Bo-Katan, casting was one of the biggest questions surrounding The Mandalorian’s Ahsoka, especially considering how active and vocal in the Star Wars space actress Ashley Eckstein (who voices Ahsoka) is. According to Filoni, Dawson’s casting was borne out of early musings from the Star Wars fandom about what she might be like as Ahsoka, and as season two’s story began to come into focus, Dawson became the top choice for the role.
But in the months following the initial fan-casting, a number of Star Wars fans were troubled by allegations leveled against Dawson and her mother in 2019 by Dedrek Finley, a family friend who worked for them as a handyman. While he alleged that they physically assaulted him, and verbally abused him in ways that including misgendering him, Dawson had remained fairly quiet. But both Ahsoka’s arrival and the Star Wars fandom’s recent tendency toward questioning actors’ off-screen behaviour prompted the actress to express to Vanity Fair that while she knows where people’s concern comes from, she stands by her position that the accusations are baseless.
“But I mean, as we’re seeing right now in these past months, and just recently actually, the truth is coming out,” Dawson said, referring to Finley’s decision to voluntarily withdraw 18 of the 20 claims against Dawson and her mother without a settlement. “Every single claim of discrimination has been dismissed by the person who made them, and as you’ve said, the fact that this is coming from someone I’ve known since I was a teenager, the better part of my life, and who my family was trying to help as we have many times in the past, it really just makes me sad.”
Dawson added that the reason “all of the discrimination claims were dropped is because they didn’t happen,” but the last of Finley’s two claims, which both focus on an alleged physical alteration, are scheduled to be decided by a judge next month.
The Mandalorian’s next episode drops this Friday on Disney+.