SPOILERS FOR TALES OF THE JEDI, READ AT YOUR OWN WILL!
The realm of Star Wars has been in a weird position as of late. Early 2022 gave us The Book of Boba Fett, which built on the titular character’s return from The Mandalorian‘s second season (with Fett being portrayed by a returning Temuera Morrison.) Summer 2022 gave us Obi-Wan Kenobi, which focused on Kenobi’s quest to protect the Skywalker children from the emerging Inquisitors. While both shows attempted to rekindle nostalgia and excitement for fans, the result has been quite mixed, from actual concerns to outright harassment from some fans. However, Lucasfilm has been pressing on, with current shows like Andor and now Tales of the Jedi pushing a new age for Star Wars.
In terms of Tales of the Jedi, the new animated show manages to recapture the tones of The Clone Wars while having a grasp on what makes the rise and fall of the Jedi Order unique in the first place. The animated six-episode show follows the stories of Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and Count Dooku (Corey Burton) throughout the period of the prequel trilogy. Throughout the show, fans get to see the rise and rebirth of Ahsoka Tano from the Jedi Order as well as the eventual downfall of Count Dooku into the dark side. However, while the show does center around the two, fans can get to see iconic and minor characters like Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson/Micheál Richardson), and even Yaddle (Bryce Dallas Howard).
One thing I can commend Filoni and company with Tales of the Jedi on is being able to handle these character-driven pieces, albeit limited through the 10-15 minute short format.
In terms of Ahsoka’s perspective, we’ve already come to know the character and her eventual rise within the ranks of the Jedi. However, Tales of the Jedi expands on Ahsoka’s story, showcasing her early childhood on Ryloth to her training with Anakin and Captain Rex (which echoes the early chemistry Anakin and Ahsoka have in earlier seasons of The Clone Wars.) While we’re able to spend more time with the character, I ultimately felt like Ahsoka’s progression had already been fulfilled and the episodes Practice Makes Perfect and Coda didn’t need to exist since we knew where Ahsoka was going. Practice Makes Perfect essentially continued to build up Ahsoka’s skill and ability, which we’ve already seen in Clone Wars, while Coda was basically what you’d expect from an introductory episode of Kenobi (seeing the Jedi outcast hiding amongst the community and being hunted down.)
On the other hand, Life and Death was a good lead-in to the series, highlighting Ahsoka’s newfound Force powers while also presenting the lesson of appreciating life and death as told by her mother. In fact, I would’ve been much more interested to see Ahsoka’s childhood in the show, whether it be her learning from her community’s elders or going through the trials of the Jedi (maybe something akin to “A Test of Strength”.) We’ve only explored the Ahsoka’s adulthood through most of the animated shows and I feel like Tales of the Jedi severely missed out on covering more of Ahsoka’s childhood. Hopefully, we could get more on Ahsoka’s beginnings in the Jedi Order through her live-action spinoff, though Eckstein continues to make Ahsoka her own.
However, in terms of Dooku, Filoni manages to create an interesting story about the character’s downfall in a way that almost made me sympathetic to the character. Even though we know where the character is headed, seeing Dooku being developed in Justice, Choices, and The Sith Lord and knowing he was coming from a good place and was close to utilizing bad ends made it all the more impactful. Whenever Dooku is present, he always wants the best for others, though his optimism is blinded by his increasing pridefulness and his twisting loyalty between the Jedi and his new master Sidious (Ian McDiarmid). His interactions with other characters, from his apprentice to his colleague Mace Windu (Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson) to even the ordinary citizens, does a great job creating this new, different side to Dooku and Burton’s performance adds on to this. I would’ve loved to see more of Dooku’s downfall being played out: if the shorts were a bit longer, with writing that continues to highlight Dooku, I would’ve been happier.
Luckily, for both Ahsoka and Dooku, the action helps lift the show as it is driven by the emotional weight the episodes have. The most impactful action sequence, for me, had to be the final moments of The Sith Lord, with Dooku’s confusion ultimately turning him to the dark side and fighting Yaddle. Sure, Yaddle was only a minor character in the prequel trilogy, but her role in this Dooku’s story was surprisingly impactful. The whole sequence between Dooku and the emotional clash between Yaddle and Sidious kept me interested in continuing the episode and the physical battle gripped me. After witnessing those ending events, I was thoroughly amazed with what was accomplished, though the later episodes could only echo what was done here.
These are the two biggest problems I have with the show: the runtime of the shorts as well as some of the writing, in dialogue and, generally, in the story structure. The runtime of each short hinders the possibilities of what you could cover in regards to the origins and the character development of Ahsoka and Dooku. As said before, the two episodes after Life and Death in Ahsoka’s story felt unneeded and her story here could have benefitted from showcasing her youth as a Jedi before The Clone Wars, which opens up to using characters from other stories the franchise has.
In both Dooku and Ahsoka’s case, there are some scenes where the dialogue feels a bit uninspired and straightforward without any chance to fully realize the chemistry. In Practice Makes Perfect, Anakin and Ahsoka’s chemistry is still there, though it feels like it was bit downplayed (most likely due to the runtime) and I would’ve loved to see a bit more of that. In Choices, we did get a sense of what Dooku and Windu’s friendship was like and the seriousness both characters hold, but it didn’t hold as much emotional weight as I was expecting. Luckily, this was made up in Justice, where the interactions between Dooku and young Qui-Gonn held up and I enjoyed seeing these two together and understanding their roles in the wider universe. As a bonus, the animated expressions from the characters helped create the subtlety the show needed, but even then, the dialogue between these characters could’ve been better.
Overall, Tales of the Jedi had so much potential to fully realize the origins and character dynamizations of characters like Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku, but falters in maintaining the emotional weight in some areas. Luckily, there are some standout sequences and scenes that carry their respective episodes, though this series could have explored a lot more in the backstories of these characters. One day, hopefully, we could see these events being played out, but for now, Tales of the Jedi remains on its own as a product for more potential.
Tales of the Jedi is now streaming on Disney+.