Tales of the Jedi is Dave Filoni’s newest Star Wars series. So of course I was on board! But did TotJ live up to Filoni’s previous work? Read on to find out.
Tales of the Jedi is a 6 episode mini-series which chronicles the divergent paths of ex-Jedi, Ashoka Tano and Count Dooku. These characters get 3 episodes a piece to flesh out their backstories and offer new insights to their respective arcs across the franchise.
Let’s get my worst critique out of the way: the show stumbled out the gate with a beautiful but dull first entry. We’re introduced to Ashoka’s birth family and home world, and follow a failed hunting trip wherein Ashoka faces her first life or death scenario (of many). The episode is short, and it’s message is important to Ashoka’s character, yet it still runs long for its premise.
Ashoka’s mother walking through the woods, or chatting to relatives about cultural traditions takes up the majority of this plot. Subsets of fans will love the immersive look into Star Wars’ alien societies, but more will wish we saw an episode with older Ashoka.
Still– episode 1 acts as a demonstration for the series’ best elements: painting-like backdrops, fluid and visually-pleasing animation, and passionate story-telling. I swear Star Wars animation gets better with each new show! The artists hone their craft, and gift us with superior versions of their work each year.
Ashoka’s other stories were just… good. I know this character well already, and have seen her defy all types of hardship. So I expected a fresh angle on Ashoka’s psyche. But episodes five and six told me nothing new about her. They merely fill in vaguely defined narrative gaps between The Clone Wars and Rebels. Or they, in some cases, offer interesting though not strictly necessary retcons to the canon.
I’m not saying there’s no place for such stories. They’re well-executed stand-alone episodes which offer good entertainment value (minus the first) and give us more of a character we enjoy. But I didn’t come away feeling like we NEEDED them.
Dooku’s episodes, however, are top-tier Star Wars content! These are prequel instalments done correctly. I knew Dooku’s general backstory, and vaguely why he became a Sith, but concrete answers proved elusive before this series (in current Disney canon, that is). Tales of the Jedi episodes 2-5 offer a clear and tragic tale of Dooku’s fall from grace, pre-Phantom Menace.
This trilogy wowed me, and proved Tales of the Jedi worthy of existence. It also, for the first time, made me sympathize with Dooku! You too will understand, by the end of this arc, why he betrays the Republic and Jedi order. And you probably won’t even blame him.
Dooku’s story is emotionally nuanced, politically complex, and forces us to ponder moral questions for which there are no easy answers. How extreme are you willing be to fight for your ideals? Can a broken system be mended, or must it be torn down from without? Are bad actions in the name of a greater good justifiable?
His last episode in particular features one of the most powerful images in Star Wars. Score, scenery, and emotion combine for a rousing gasp of hope! It genuinely moved me in ways I did not expect.
Bolstering the animators are the talented voice-actors. Ashley Eckstein and Corey Burton especially impress, as the leads. Burton in particular provides his (arguably) finest performances as Count Dooku! The other stand-out was Bryce Dallas Howard’s empathetic take on Jedi Master Yaddle.
Tales of the Jedi also features multiple surprise cameos! I should have seen them coming, but they shocked and delighted me nonetheless. Without spoiling anything: they elevate Tales of the Jedi’s “legitimacy” and “authenticity” in the over-all franchise– from a certain point of view.
TotJ seems to be about the wildly varying paths an ex-Jedi can take. They’ve got chips on their shoulders, bitterness towards the order, and wishes to live independently of how they were raised. But Ashoka represents the lighter side of ex-Jedism: she lives by her teachings without the order’s restrictions– effectively co-existing alongside them. Whilst Dooku represents the darker path: he vengefully tosses aside the Jedi code and builds beliefs in direct opposition to it.
The episodes are structured in to take us on a journey of understanding: we are first shown a moral play about the value of life (a core ideal of Jedi). The next three episodes walk us through a Jedi’s disillusionment with the order, and its many failings. The final two offer examples of an untarnished Jedi way, which proves the order’s ideals still have potential to thrive.
I can’t say Tales of the Jedi makes this structure obvious though. Dooku and Ashoka’s stories appear disharmonious when you watch TotJ as a whole. I only noticed their thematic parallels upon reflection. Casual viewers are sure to be more confused. TotJ’s writers ought to have made more clear why THESE stories comprised Season 1.
The above successes and stumblings of course stem from the brain of Dave freaking Filoni (and fellow writers). This man is George Lucas’ true Star Wars successor. You’ll have trouble convincing me different.
Filoni is the franchise architect’s protege, and friend, and understands the world like few others at Lucasfilm. Filoni clearly gives a damn– about Star Wars and its fans. I may not like every bit of everything he produces, but Filoni makes good Star Wars and good TV in general.
Tales of the Jedi is a flawed mini-series. Its disjointed in execution. Yet it’s thematically rich, its best moments rank among Star Wars’ most affecting, and the BTS talent excels in their crafts!
Tales of the Jedi is Pretty Darn Good, and I strongly anticipate S2.
LISTEN TO “CLOSE UP WITH RYAN AND JOE” FOR MY SPOILER REVIEW!
What’s the best Star Wars animated series? What did you think of Tales of the Jedi? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,
Fint innlegg, jeg har delt det med vennene mine.