The classic ‘galaxy far, far away’ has been consistently defined by themes of good and evil. Blues and greens are used by the Jedi, Republic, Rebellion and Resistance to symbolize their truth and goodness, whereas reds and blacks stand for the Sith, Empire and First Order, the brutal villains within the universe.
In a way, it’s both appealing and comforting that the line between right and wrong is often visible and definable in the Star Wars universe, yet “Tales of the Jedi” scraps that preconception and blurs the line by showing several instances of gray morality that counter expectations.
Released Wednesday on Disney+, “Tales of the Jedi” is a six-part episodic series covering the lives of iconic characters Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku during times of great change for both. Due to the brevity and content of the series, this review will contain spoilers, so be warned!
The opening episode is titled “Life and Death,” which alone conveys the gravity of the topic to be explored. Set on the planet Shili, an infant Ahsoka displays her earliest signs of Force-sensitivity, using the Force to save herself by taming a wild beast during a failed hunt.
By using such a realistic and gripping situation, the first episode sets an impressive standard for the rest of the series. Gone are the clear-cut situations and plots from past shows; in their place are deep explorations of characters’ intentions and strengths.
Nowadays, Star Wars is all too familiar with betrayal and mixed allegiances — as seen through the stories of Anakin Skywalker or Kylo Ren, for example. Count Dooku made a similar transition, having gone from Jedi Master to Sith Lord, yet has been shrouded in mystery throughout the canonical timeline.
Episodes 2 and 3 hone in on that unexplored part of Dooku’s backstory, and they raise some serious questions as to whether he was actually a villain or simply a misguided hero.
For instance, Episode 2’s setting is bleak and barren, similar to Sith planets such as Korriban or Exegol. Yet that could not be further from the truth, as the planet was long under the control of the Republic. Thus, the reason for the desolation of the planet was the ruling system — the Republic itself.
Likewise, in Episode 3 a corrupt Republic senator exploits the resources of the planet for his own benefit, having the Jedi assist in enforcing his wishes. This adds to the idea that the Republic was never wholly good.
Such instances of the Republic proving to be the enemy is rare, if not absent, from many prior Star Wars shows; and no doubt the change of pace lends itself well to building the context behind Count Dooku’s corruption arc.
In this situation, Dooku becomes angry and disillusioned with his own Council and the Senate, siding with those oppressed under the poor government of the Republic. It’s through these trying situations that Dooku’s own allegiances are justified, adding a layer of relatability to an otherwise easy-to-dislike villain.
Wrapping up Dooku’s story, Episode 4 cements his transition from light to dark by revealing his killing of a fellow Jedi Knight, all while being reminded of his loyalty to the Republic —something that continues to gnaw at his emotions.
Following Count Dooku’s harsh descent into villainy, Ahsoka’s story develops across the remaining two episodes, beginning with her life as a Padawan under Anakin Skywalker.
In general, Episode 5, “Practice Makes Perfect” is a brilliant 15-minute summary of the relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka. Anakin expects the best of her, and Ashoka delivers the best she can.
As the episode progresses, the clones she trains with shift from Phase One to Phase Two armor, signifying the passing of time, and eventually, the day comes for the dreaded Order 66 to be executed.
With Anakin now gone, loneliness and sadness resonate as the episode concludes. The fact that the show is able to convey so much emotion in only 15 minutes is remarkable, and although nice to finally know, Ahsoka’s backstory is no less difficult.
The final episode explores Ahsoka’s life as a hidden Jedi, with a betrayal exposing her whereabouts to the Empire and ultimately leading to her resurgence to join the Rebellion, fitting closely with events in the “Star Wars: Ahsoka” novel.
To conclude, the show is outstanding at deepening the stories behind characters in an entertaining yet powerful way, and stands as a highlight amongst animated Star Wars shows to date.