Almost mythic in tone, Tales of the Jedi is a creative triumph for the 3D animators at Lucasfilm. The atmosphere here is heavy, dark, shadowy, and perhaps even hallowed. Kevin Kiner’s music mines the depths of impending doom and the animation in this series is incredibly impressive. In my view, I hope Lucasfilm will continue this series and introduce other short programs of similar quality –such as “Tales of the Sith” with episodes explaining the background of Darth Sidious, Darth Bane, Darth Plagueis and others.
Tales of the Jedi is brilliant because of its simplicity. There are three episodes about young Ahsoka Tano, and three episodes about young Dooku. These two characters are contrasted with one another –they both grew disillusioned and ultimately rejected the Jedi Order, albeit for different reasons. The episodes in the series explore what it means to be a Jedi –are the Jedi self-sacrificial heroes, or do they represent a complacent bureaucracy? Do they always nobly serve the people of the Republic, or are they agents of corruption? Is it better to live in an orderly, conservative, body politic which offers qualified peace (as in the case of the Empire); or instead in a messy, pluralistic, body political as in the hopeful peacekeeping offered by the Jedi (as in the case of the Old Republic)? Tales of the Jedi offers a nuanced perspective, allowing us to understand why Dooku left the Jedi Order to serve Darth Sidious, and also why Ahsoka disappeared during the rise of the Empire.
Episode 1 “Life and Death”
The first episode of Tales of the Jedi hails the birth and early life of Ahsoka Tano amidst her Togruti-speaking tribe. Her parents are Nak-il and Pav-ti. Here, we see scenes of tribal customs, people hunting kybucks, but this blissful existence is interrupted by an attack by a creature which tragically carries baby Ahsoka away into the forest. Her grandmother is apparently a force-sensitive mystic of sorts –a village elder who calls upon the force to rescue Ahsoka. Amazingly, baby Ahsoka manages to tame the beast and ride it back to her village using the force. When asked how this was possible, her grandmother responds, “Ahsoka is Jedi.”
Episode 2 “Justice”
This episode portrays a younger Count Dooku (Corey Burton), before he turned to the darkside, and his apprentice Qui-Gon Jinn as they land on a foggy, barren world. They walk into town (which appears to be a medieval English village), but none of the villagers want to speak with them –doors are closed, and the lights are turned off. As they walk into a bar, Dooku asks where a Senator Dagonet’s son is being held prisoner. They are then led by a Twi’lik woman to a barn where the senator’s son is being held, though the boy is actually sympathetic to the fact that he was abducted so that these benighted people could send a message, however suddenly the senator unexpectedly arrives looking like a 20th century Prussian aristocrat (the presence of Dooku on this planet was not known to the senator). A shootout ensues as Dooku refuses to stand aside for the Senator. However, he goes too far and uses the darkside of the force to destroy the senator’s troops, push aside his apprentice Qui-Gon, and force-choke the senator until he releases him in the end.
Episode 3 “Choices”
While en route to Raxus Secundus, a young Dooku (while he was still a Jedi) discusses the death of Master Katri in an ambush with Mace Windu (TC Carson). Dooku wants to break the rules of the Jedi Council and learn truth about Master Katri’s death, while Mace Windu instructs him to remain faithful to the Jedi. They arrive at Raxus Secundus in order to speak with Senator Larik. Dooku asks the Senator to revisit the spot where Katri was ambushed until it is revealed that Senator Larik’s guards killed her. As it turns out the guards had joined a group that believed Larik was using his senate seat for corrupt reasons, a rogue and resentful band of warriors, they have no trust for the Jedi or the Senate—they believe the Jedi serve to protect the rich and powerful. They are a reaction to political complacency and corruption. Only one of the guards, Semage, survives a skirmish with the two Jedi (Dooku and Mace Windu), and later Dooku offers him some friendly but cryptic remarks while he is imprisoned. He suggests that everyone must learn to “evolve” in these dark times. It is apparent that Dooku is growing skeptical of the Jedi as a legitimate peacekeeping force.
This powerful episode ends with the funeral of Master Katri. Mace Windu is then given her former council seat, much to the bitter resentment of Dooku. Why Mace Windu instead of Dooku? Because Dooku did not follow Jedi protocol and it led to the death of a Senator.
Episode 4 “The Sith Lord”
The events of this episode are concurrent with The Phantom Menace. Dooku (still a Jedi) enters the Jedi archives on Coruscant and uses the security clearance of Sifo-Dyas to delete the record for the planet Kamino (this is the planet we later learn is secretly producing clones in Attack of the Clones). Dooku’s old padawan, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) alerts the Jedi that he has encountered a Sith Lord on Tatooine (Darth maul as featured in The Phantom Menace), however the Jedi Council urges caution in lieu of causing a moral panic.
Then, this episode jumps forward in time. Dooku stands beneath a tree and he laments the loss of his former padawan Qui-Gon Jinn. Dooku blames the Jedi Council for failing to act when Qui-Gon warned the Jedi of a Sith Lord, and now he has been murdered by that very same Sith. Dooku then secretly meets with Palpatine/Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) who doubts Dooku’s loyalty. Tragically, Dooku is followed by Master Yaddle (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a lightsaber duel ensues with callbacks to Return of the Jedi. In the end, Dooku sends a massive doorway crashing down on top of Yaddle. She briefly lifts it with the force, sending aa stream blinding light at Dooku and Sidious, but it kills her nonetheless. This was a truly great episode even if the lightsaber duel was a little too reminiscent of the prequels for my taste (the fight sequence is highly choreographed to the point of being silly), but this episode explains a great deal about Count Dooku’s downfall and his decision to defect to the darkside of the force.
Episode 5 “Practice Makes Perfect”
In the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Anakin (Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi watch as Ahsoka Tano trains with a set of new training remotes. She passes with flying colors, but Anakin is unimpressed with the test itself –too many Jedi use this as a marker of success. Therefore, Anakin takes Ahsoka into a simulation with clone troopers led by Rex who fire upon her with their blasters set to stun. She fails again and again, while gaining strength each time, learning how to listen to the force and deflect all the blaster fire.
This episode ends in the future during the Order 66 crisis, as Ahsoka and Rex flee while evading scores of clone troopers, Rex hopes her training will be useful as they seem to be walking to their deaths.
Episode 6 “Resolve”
At the funeral of Padme Amidala, Ahsoka makes the risky decision to attend the ceremony while hooded and out of sight, but she is spotted by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan who helps her escape. Before he is escorted away by clone troopers, he manages to give Ahsoka a device and he instructs her to contact him in the future.
Some time later, during the rule of the Empire, Ahsoka is covertly working on a remote farm while it struggles to meet Imperial quotas. Some young farmworkers embrace the Empire since it brings peace and order, while the older farmworkers despise Imperial domination as well as the rule of fear and persecution. One day, Ahsoka prevents a pile of farm equipment from falling which would have killed a co-worker, but this leads some people to suspect that she is secretly a Jedi. A young man alerts the Empire while Ahsoka is away delivering supplies to Mont-Hella. When she returns, the farm is in flames and a fearsome Imperial Inquisitor threatens the workers with death. He charges at Ahsoka Tano, but despite not having her lightsabers, Ahsoka dodges his swinging blade, confiscates it, and slices the Inquisitor’s head off, all in a matter of seconds. Honestly, this was one of the best modern lightsaber duels in Star Wars.
The episode ends as Ahsoka contacts Bail Organa to help the farmworkers escape, and Ahsoka decides to return to fight the Empire.