Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series, where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines the new Tales of the Jedi animated series and why Star Wars fans should make time for it.
Every once in a while, a piece of media bubbles into creation that feels specifically tailored for you. It cannot possibly be true. Movies, TV shows, and comics cannot exist for an audience of one, but this singular product in question acts like a hug more than a story or IP entry. You can’t believe others were clamoring for it, but here it is nonetheless. It’s a gift and should be treated as preciously as you sense it to be.
This week, Disney+ dropped six short cartoons onto their platform. Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is a brief dip back into the continuity established by The Clone Wars animated series. The longest episode is eighteen minutes, the shortest one thirteen. Three focus on Count Dooku’s rise into Sith tyranny. Three others explore Ahsoka Tano’s journey to Jedi and beyond. They occur before the prequels, during the prequels, and after. For as quick as they are to consume, they leave a lasting impression on the greater mythology.
Each Tales of the Jedi episode provides essential insight into the Star Wars universe. They’re character-focused, but these tiny glimpses into Dooku and Tano speak to the larger struggle facing Republic and Imperial rule. Ego rests at the center of conflict, revealing how effortless it is for any individual to tumble toward the Dark Side.
It’s hard to picture anyone going into Tales of the Jedi cold. To appreciate fully, these six episodes require significant knowledge from the prequels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. However, they’re also beautiful bite-sized morsels, certain to tantalize the uninitiated. Hopefully, the folk who’ve never watched an animated Star Wars adventure will find enough within to send them on to the rest. When they revisit Tales of the Jedi, they’ll discover what a weighty, small television season it is.
“Life and Death”
Prior to Tales of the Jedi, we knew very little about Ahsoka Tano’s journey from Shili child to Jedi youngling. The first episode opens with her birth, and we see how the Togruta people embrace her as a wonder. After a year, Tano’s mother takes her on a forest hunt. She wants her daughter to face death unafraid, a lesson the child will eventually encounter over and over again.
Tano’s mom cannot predict the sabertooth tiger creature that interrupts the hunt and carries the child off for an evening snack. The kid shouldn’t last the night, but Tano and the beast see each other as they are, beings connected by the Force. Words cannot pass between the two, but recognition as individuals is achieved. The tiger returns to the Togruta village with Tano on their back. Her family is in awe, but an elder knows immediately what this miracle means. Tano is Jedi. She must receive training at the temple on Coruscant.
We look at baby Tano the same way we looked upon the young Anakin Skywalker we met in The Phantom Menace. As he was whipping through the pod race and piloting his Naboo fighter, it was difficult to consider the Sith Lord he would become. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to see the path that will eventually lead to Tano rejecting the Jedi council and joining the Rebel resistance. Tales of the Jedi begins by underscoring the infinite possibilities we each represent. Choices are made for us, and we make choices in return. Every decision we eventually answer for.
Jedi Master Dooku and his apprentice Qui-Gon Jinn are dispatched to a desolate planet, hoping to settle a hostage negotiation. A small group has captured Senator Dagonet’s son. It should be a quick rescue for the two Jedi, but they soon realize that the villagers are starving and on the verge of death. While Dagonet enjoys a posh life on Coruscant, the people who “elected” him sit on the edge of oblivion. Dooku and Qui-Gon side with the kidnappers, as does the kidnapped son. When Dagonet arrives, he nearly gets Force-choked to death by Dooku.
We clearly see the darkness brewing inside Dooku, but we cannot hold his anger against him. What he witnessed on the planet was a horror. And the villagers calling him and the other Jedi “lapdogs of the Senate” burns with the truth. Qui-Gon pulls his master from a murderous brink, but an internal division has occurred. Dooku’s doubt and rage are ready to be manipulated by Palpatine.
A few years later, Dooku and Mace Windu investigate the death of another Jedi Master. Or at least Dooku investigates. Windu merely wants to collect a body and return to Coruscant, where a Jedi temple chair awaits him. Dooku uncovers a political plot to overthrow a senate seat. Republic reputation is plummeting in the eyes of the people, as fat cats are getting richer while the poorer populace fight for scraps.
Corruption seems apparent everywhere, and Dooku cannot even trust the Jedi at his side. The tighter Windu holds onto rules and regulations, the more out of touch he appears. Dooku can no longer toe the line. The Jedi are blinded by their duty, spending more time with politicians than those they’re supposed to serve. It’s a critical breaking point leading to the Jedi’s fear-driven descent.
“The Sith Lord”
The fourth episode takes place shortly after The Phantom Menace. Qui-Gon Jinn is dead. On Coruscant, Dooku mourns the loss of his pupil. Jedi Master Yaddle sees his sorrow and tries to relate. Dooku, having already joined up with Palpatine, ignores the emotional outreach. Sensing the hate within Dooku, Yaddle lets the Jedi wander away but follows him in secret.
Why do we never see Yaddle after The Phantom Menace? She dead. While Dooku and Palpatine are conspiring in the wake of Maul and Qui-Gon’s deaths, Yaddle pops her head in. A confrontation occurs between the two friends, and Dooku drops a massive blast door on her. She nearly escapes that fate but can’t dodge the lightsaber strike to her little green melon.
With the life taken, there is no turning back for Count Dooku. Years of doubt, witnessing injustice while the Jedi failed to intervene, created a monster. As Anakin Skywalker will be after him, Dooku is the product of the Jedi leadership’s inability to recognize darkness within their ranks. They willfully ignored the signs, refusing to listen to the citizens floundering just beyond their borders.
“Practice Makes Perfect”
Anakin Skywalker was never one to accept any way but his own. The Tales of the Jedi‘s penultimate episode pulls Ahsoka Tano from a battle droid simulation at the Jedi temple. Skywalker scoffs at the practice session, telling his padawan how easy it is to predict droid movements. It’s better to practice with clones.
We watch for many minutes as Skywalker’s clone troopers repeatedly defeat Tano in play combat (with blasters set to stun). Tano takes a licking but keeps on ticking. We never see her get the upper hand on the clones, but the episode suddenly cuts to the final moments of The Clone Wars’ seventh season, where Rex and Tano must go against a whole clone platoon, recently activated by Palpatine’s Order 66. The notion that Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, helped her prepare for such a situation is bittersweet and chilling.
Tales of the Jedi‘s last episode jumps toward the final moments in Revenge of the Sith. Bail Organa spies Ahsoka Tano at Padmé Amidala’s funeral. He asks her to join his small rebellion against the newly formed Empire. Tano denies him and runs into hiding. She’s no Jedi.
Months later, maybe years later, Ahsoka Tano is masquerading as a hired hand on a farm. When she accidentally reveals her Jedi abilities to a local, a Sith Inquisitor is sent to collect her corpse. The battle between the two is brief. Tano kills the Inquisitor with his own blade, but the action reveals to her that there’s no escaping the Empire. Their tyranny is ever-present in every corner of the galaxy.
The upcoming Ahsoka Disney+ series is set to propel Tano into Star Wars stardom. At least for the live-action-only viewers. Us Clone Wars fanatics are already obsessed.
These Tales of the Jedi moments are crucial to appreciating Tano’s journey from wide-eyed Jedi pleaser to disaffected soldier to Rebel crusader. When paired with Dooku’s fall from grace, we’re left even more enamored by her resolve and belief in the inherent goodness of others. Where Dooku slaughtered Yaddle, Tano rescued the farmboy who betrayed her to the Inquisitor. That’s her ultimate choice, and it flies in the face of Dooku’s final choice. She understands or attempts to understand the perspectives of others. Dooku bothers with no one’s outlook but his own.
Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is now streaming on Disney+.