The Mandalorian meets the man from aliens, Michael Biehn.


There is always an element of familiarity Disney Plus show the Mandalorian. It is set in the Star Wars galaxy, which is itself a mirror of the western genre. And Season 2 episode 5 (Chapter 13: The Jedi) brings other familiar elements: the Jedi Ahsoka Tano, the legendary 80s action star Michael Biehn, and a visual style that is heavily based on Japanese samurai stories. However, the combination of these elements still feels fresh, lively, and tremendously fun.

It is perhaps the combination of the familiar with something new that makes The Mandalorian such a convenience. That and baby Yoda. Streaming Now, Chapter 13: The Jedi watch Mando and Baby Yoda continue their adventures on a planet ruled by a lying judge straight out of an Akira Kurosawa movie. (Mild spoilers follow.)

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The Mandalorian has so far leaned heavily into the West, with his tales of gritty gunslingers competing against one another in dusty parlors. Episode 5 takes a stylish move to draw on the other major influence shaping this famous science fiction saga: the samurai epic.

There has always been a connection between these two quintessentially Japanese and American genres, as the westerns often updated the borderline fiefs of Japanese historical stories. Legendary director Kurosawa's films were translated directly: seven samurai turned into Gunslinging Western The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo turned into a handful of dollars, and in 1958 The Hidden Fortress provided the template for a small film called war of stars (or Episode I: A New Hope if you prefer).

Episode 5 wears the influence of samurai, wushu and martial arts epics on the sleeve of his flowing robe. Our space ronin hero comes to a new world where orange deserts are replaced by desolate forests and manicured gardens. Asian actors and styling nods fill this village, and Ludwig Goransson's score shows a certain Asian influence in its somber drums and pipes. Best of all, the final showdown avoids six shooters for sword and spear. Crouching Jedi, hidden ass.

The vicious magistrate is played by stunt performer and martial artist Diana Lee Inosanto, the goddaughter of Bruce Lee. It offers an intense presence that more than stands up to the other more noticeable cameos in the series.

Let's leave that big name aside for a second. You can spot this grizzled henchman too: it's just Michael Biehn! Although he's a bit underused as a one-dimensional villain, he is Terminator and Aliens Star accompanies Carl Weathers and Nick Nolte on the entertaining exhumation of retro action icons.

Martial artist Diana Lee Inosanto is a no-nonsense judge on season two of The Mandalorian.


And then there's the big one (if you're a big Star Wars nerd). The Mandalorian is sent to kill an angry Jedi named Ahsoka Tano. Tano is a key figure in the Clone Wars cartoon and other spin-offs, and a popular figure with fans. Fortunately, Rosario Dawson looks perfect – especially when lit by two super cool white lightsabers. And is it just me, or are they making a particularly satisfying percussive zhwoomp sound?

It's a slightly muted live-action debut for such a popular character that has certainly earned more than the first moment of the episode. And I would certainly have liked to see more of Tano against the Mando. What lack of suspense in their looks is made up for in Jedi-tasteful action, especially when Tano entertainingly outwits the Mandalorian's familiar box of tricks.

Tano's appearance is another example of the tightrope walk the Mandalorian creators chose to walk. I noticed a few weeks ago that the The show strikes a perfect balance between greater Star Wars continuity and a stand-alone storyCross over characters from other spin-offs, but make sure that casual viewers don't feel like they're missing the crucial backstory. Like Bo Katan in this previous episode, Tano's general backstory is sketched to fit the many supporting characters that the Mandalorians encounter in these self-contained episodes. If anything, I would have liked a little more about where she's from and where she's going, but I feel like this is in the works – especially when she opened the door to another big spin-off character, who showed up.

As an aside, it's interesting that The Mandalorian gets its Star Wars continuity from books, TV shows, and even toys, rather than movies. Instead of showing more cameos from C3-PO and Chewbacca, the show gives spin-off characters the opportunity for their first live-action appearances – and premieres are always memorable, right? With more spin-off characters popping up, the Mandalorian runs the risk of feeling broke even on his own show. But with mixed reactions to recent films, it may be time to stop referring to the creativity and depth of expanded universe titles as mere spin-offs.

Even if other flashy cameos appear, The Mandalorian still has its ace in the hole, or rather in its pocket. The title of Chapter 13: The Jedi may not refer to the person you think of as we learn more about Baby Yoda. The little green ball of adorbs-ness even gets a name, but it's unlikely anyone will call it more grogu than the child.

Baby Yoda (sorry, Grogu) continues to connect with the mando. They even toss the old ball around (Star Wars style). It's remarkable how the show tries to marry two sides of the Star Wars medal: unlike Han Solo, who wasn't much into power, this cynical gunslinger and skeptical followers of the material world not only sees but actively begins to participate in the spiritual element. By helping Baby Yoda learn (or re-learn) about the mystical connection between all of life, both of them learn about another mystical connection: the emotional connection of family, love.

Then they go and obviously murder some fools. But it was a nice moment …

Check out our recaps for all of the Mandalorian's Easter Eggs and key Star Wars continuity references:

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