Tales of the Jedi, a former Expanded Universe comic book series in the 90s, now a season of six shorts animated in the style of The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch, had its unofficial premiere at Star Wars Celebration in May 2022. During the panel hosted by Amy Ratcliffe, Dave Filoni showed the first episode, “Life and Death,” which told how Ahsoka’s family discovered she was Force-sensitive. I did a mini-review of that in my initial thoughts on the Tales of the Jedi panel.
I had hoped the series would be six stories involving other Jedi throughout the Star Wars timeline. However, the series would only focus on two Jedi, Count Dooku, and Ahsoka. Despite my disappointment, I recognized that one of these characters badly needed backstory and development. The other was Dave Filoni’s favorite creation.
And so Tales of the Jedi is a half triumph and half retread. Since these six episodes only follow two Jedi during and post-Clone Wars era, I will break down the episodes per character journey. The tales go chronologically from Ahsoka’s birth to joining a fledgling Rebellion with a fantastic
Count Dooku (Justice, Choices, The Sith Lord)
Dooku’s story falls between Ahsoka’s, so we get his three in a row, to significant effect.
Dooku is a character that has been around for almost 20 years in the Star Wars Universe with very little to show for it. People will object and point to The Clone Wars, but what additional depth did that series provide on the Count of Sereno? The series mainly focused on Ahsoka, Captain Rex, Anakin, and Obi-Wan during the years between Episode II and Episode III after Dooku was introduced poorly in Attack of the Clones. And, spoiler alert, he was beheaded early in Revenge of the Sith, so there was still a big mystery of what drove Dooku from the Jedi Order.
Within 40 minutes of Tales of the Jedi, we get a complete story of how Count Dooku went from an undervalued member of the Jedi Order to the next apprentice to Palpatine after Maul’s death. And it starts on a mission with his Padawan Qui-Gon Jinn to a planet to rescue a Senator’s son. The two are unprepared for a starved town that kidnaps the boy out of desperation, trying to force Senator Dagonet to represent his people properly. Although the boy does not blame the townspeople, the damage is done as one of the hungry villagers gives the location to the Senator for food.
Dooku and Qui-Gon have no choice but to defend the townspeople against the Senator and his army. Angered by Dagonet’s lack of empathy and willingness to fire upon his people, Dooku lapses to the dark side, Force-choking the Senator before his son and Qui-Gon intervene.
In the end, things seem to be changing as Dragonet’s guards (possibly under the direction of his son) are treating the townspeople’s wounds and distributing supplies. But Dooku wonders if it will hold, but his Padawan gives him hope.
However, by the time of the next episode, “Choices,” that hope has become jaded. Dooku and Mace Windu are on their way to Raxus to retrieve the body of Master Katri, who was killed in an apparent attack on their Senator, Larik. Dooku does not believe the story and goes to Raxus with one goal: To find the truth.
Mace is all protocol and, even though he can sense the Senator is hiding something, wants to take the information to the Jedi Council before acting. Dooku asks the guards and Senator to take them to the site where they were attacked and, after questioning the guards, discovers that they killed Katri. The guards execute the Senator before the two detain one guard and kill the other in battle.
The head of the guard, Semage, says the Senator was selling off Raxus piece by piece from Coruscant and not acting in the interest of the people. When Mace asks why Semage didn’t trust the Katri, the guard puts it to him plainly:
It all sounds too familiar to Dooku, and he is even more disheartened learning that Mace will be taking Katri’s Council seat, which plants more doubt in Dooku’s head about the Council.
And you feel for Dooku. You can see why someone would become disenfranchised from the Jedi Order in these two episodes. In both instances, he sees corrupt Senators who drive their people to commit violent acts in desperation and the Jedi Council not motivated to challenge the Senate.
The first two Dooku episodes lead to his final betrayal of the Jedi Order. In “The Sith Lord,” we see an older Dooku deleting Kamino files from the Jedi Archive and commissioning a clone army under the name of former Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. This episode occurs during The Phantom Menace. We see a pleasant exchange between Dooku and his former apprentice Qui-Gon after the latter has reported his discovery of a Sith on Tatooine. Qui-Gon’s concerns have been disregarded overall by the Council, much like many of Dooku’s concerns.
Dooku is heartbroken over Qui-Gon’s death and meets with Palpatine in secret, or so he thinks. Master Yaddle, who is in The Phantom Menace but never appeared after the film, is the observer in Dooku’s descent into darkness. The story answers, heartbreakingly, what happened to the Jedi Master.
Overall, these three Dooku episodes are a perfect example of the best of Star Wars. Quick but poignant storytelling with clear themes and memorable character moments and action. And so much comes from animation (despite the constant disrespect from corporate executives, it is nice that Lucasfilm and Disney have remained dedicated to the medium.
Over his three episodes, we see Dooku receiving little support from the Order, questioning the Jedi Order’s ties with the Senate, and grieving his former Padawan. However, it is still a mystery how one goes from the ineffectiveness of the Jedi Order to truly help the galaxy’s most vulnerable citizens to becoming a Sith Lord with no regard for human life and constantly seeking power. However, this is part of Dooku’s story that we needed to see on screen as animation again helps fill in significant gaps left in the Prequel Trilogy.
Ahsoka (Life and Death, Practice Makes Perfect, Resolve)
Dave Filoni has explored and will continue to explore Ashoka during and after the Clone Wars. The upcoming Ashoka series will follow the former Jedi during The Mandalorian timeline as she continues her search for Ezra Bridger. The series will continue Ashoka’s live-action debut. Why he decided to put out additional Ahsoka material before her series (while also miraculously shoving her into The Book of Boba Fett) is hard to understand.
Like Dooku’s tales, Ahsoka’s stories have a unifying theme. In her first year, Ahsoka’s mother, Pav-ti, teaches her not to run away from conflict but to face it head-on. In “Life and Death,” Pav-ti takes baby Ahsoka (yes, there is now a baby Ahsoka in the world) on a hunt, telling her to take in the surroundings and honor the life surrounding them. Things don’t go as planned after Pav-ti successfully shoots a kybuck; a Sabertooth sneaks up on them and attacks Pav-ti. Instead of backing down and trying to run with Ahsoka, her mother recognizes that she has to try and face the predator to give them a chance at survival. While she manages to fight off the sabertooth long enough for her husband and villagers to arrive and help, the sabertooth grabs Ahsoka and runs into the woods, leaving her mother and father devasted.
Of course, Ahsoka does not die but communicates with the sabertooth, and the creature returns her to the village unharmed. Wondering how this could happen, the village spiritual leader, Gantika, replies that Ahsoka is a Jedi.
Ahsoka’s lush Targruta village is a stark contrast to how we meet Dooku, who is on a desolate planet with citizens starving to death due to neglect from their Senator. And even though Ahsoka leaves her family early to join the Jedi Order, this moment probably imprinted how she views the world and faces adversity.
Ahsoka is living in balance, while Dooku is surrounded by imbalance.
Ahsoka continues to evolve in “Practice Makes Perfect” when Anakin gives her a test off the path of the traditional Padawan practice drills. Instead of battling practice droids, Anakin sets her up with a more practical test- fighting clone troopers. Ahsoka has to dodge and deflect a circle of troopers with blasters set to stun. The short time jumps from her Padawan days to the aftermath of Order 66 in “Victory and Death.” Curious but not unintentional that the beginning of Ahsoka’s story is titled “Life and Death.” Still, this is an odd story to tie into the final episode of The Clone Wars. “Practice Makes Perfect” seems more like Filoni attributing Ahsoka’s improbable escape to Anakin’s training when it should have leaned more on the friendship between her and Rex. It also strangely denigrates the Jedi who did fall during Order 66 as not being trained well enough.
But the story does show Ahsoka’s open-mindedness when learning new things, which has also been key to her survival. A skill that is put to good use in the final short “Resolve.” There is justified controversy to this last story concerning character changes that I will discuss separately, but story-wise, this acts as a condensed version of the Ahsoka novel.
When Ahsoka attends Padme’s funeral in secret, Senator Bail Organa notices her and invites her to join the Rebellion, which Ahsoka turns down but leaves the door open to change her mind.
Sometime later, Ahsoka is working on a farm when she outs herself as a former Jedi when she decides to save a young woman from death by hay bales. The brother, an Imperial sympathizer, alerts the Empire and brings an Inquisitor to the village. Shockingly, the Inquisitor rewards the brother by burning down their village, not seeing the Jedi he was promised. Ahsoka comes in to save the day but not before the Inquisitor recognizes her and comments that she’s supposed to be dead. That could tie into the finale of The Clone Wars, where Vader finds Ahsoka’s lightsabers in the snow. We did not get any dialogue or insight into what Vader was thinking, but it is not farfetched that he assumed she was dead (which is confirmed in Rebels). Naturally, the Inquisitor (the Sixth Brother in the novel but only named Inquisitor in the credits) has to die. The family has to be relocated, which leads to the reconnection with Bail Organa and her joining the Rebellion.
Overall, it is easier to adapt a story from existing material than to create new tales of other Jedi within different timelines; but let this first season be a practice run. If they do another season, it would be a waste to focus on someone like Ahsoka, Anakin, or Obi-Wan. Somewhat understandably, Lucasfilm is hesitant to touch upon The High Republic until they decide if they want to attempt to translate that content to another medium. Likewise, Lucasfilm has been avoiding post-Sequel Trilogy content, possibly waiting until the three main leads are willing to return. But Tales of the Jedi can include stories set in between the novels in The High Republic or between the Sequel Trilogy films. The only hindrance is that those eras are out of Filoni’s comfort zone, which seems set in the Prequel and Original Trilogy era. Filoni was only Executive Producer of Star Wars Resistance which was set during the Sequel Trilogy. So the question is can Filoni adapt and venture outside his comfort zone to write stories set in different eras or hand over the pen to another writer who can?
Even though I am admittedly lukewarm about dedicating three episodes to Ahsoka, overall, Tales of the Jedi is a revelation for Star Wars canon shorts. And another successful transplant from the Expanded Universe.