Tales of the Jedi: Star Wars Storytelling at its Best

Charlie von Peterffy ‘24 / Entertainment Monthly Staff Writer

In recent years, Star Wars has received nothing but scrutiny from its fanbase. Since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and the creation of the first of the highly anticipated Star Wars sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans have become divided over the quality of the franchise. Admittedly, Disney has yet to handle it perfectly. The later two sequel entries, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, are constantly argued as the best or worst of the franchise. In addition, new live-action TV series such as The Mandalorian sparked new franchise fans, while others like Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett struggled to please. And recent animated attempts such as Star Wars: The Bad Batch have yet to feel firmly rooted in potential. All in all, most agree that Star Wars has seen better days. 

Fortunately, the newest animated installment, Star War: Tales of the Jedi, created by Star Wars: The Clone Wars creator and Star Wars veteran Dave Filoni, provides much-needed complexity and ardor. This six-episode series of 15-20 minute shorts covers small arcs of two different prequel characters: Sith lord Count Dooku (Corey Burton) as a Jedi before and during The Phantom Menace, and ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) at different points in her life. The series exceeds all expectations. Not only does it give compelling Star Wars stories that broaden the characters, lore, and tone of the franchise, but it creates nuanced, emotionally rich character arcs unlike anything Star Wars has achieved in the past. Thanks to stellar writing, exceptional character development, and a lot of artistic action, Tales of the Jedi spreads its wings with extraordinary vitality, vision, and versatility––a highly satisfactory experience for fans and newcomers alike.

Both stories are strong, although Dooku’s story is more robust than its counterpart. Dooku’s storyline flourishes in moral ambiguity and tragic themes from beginning to end. Viewers see an esteemed Jedi master understand the failings of order and his entire way of life. Reinforced by tragedy, viewers see a man willingly destroy what he thinks is wrong, even if that means immediate, thunderous costs. Filoni not only created some of the most complex stories seen in Star Wars, but redeemed Count Dooku as a character after his paper-thin presence in the prequel trilogy and underdeveloped story in The Clone Wars. His story arc alone is rejuvenating and thought-provoking, showing where the franchise truly shines. A few awkward pauses drag the story down, but these are too infrequent to impact the episode’s overall impact.

Tano’s story is also excellent, but it does not reach the intellectual level of Dooku’s or the same level of production quality. The second episode, in particular, lacks the three-dimensionality of the rest of the show. Filled with a few minor plot holes, odd animation choices that make characters look different than they did in Dooku’s storyline, and a slightly underwhelming character arc, it sometimes feels more like an early The Clone Wars entry. The other two episodes have similar character issues, but are much less noticeable. And to be fair, Tano arguably doesn’t need more development. Being present for many other Star Wars projects––The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian, and yet-to-released, live-action show, Ahsoka––she has already been greatly expanded. Unfortunately, the episodes also suffer from the same awkward pauses as the rest of the show, which does not help. 

Still, despite these flaws, the episodes about Tano are excellent. For starters, the performances are outstanding. Every actor present gives raw, gritty, righteous accounts. Burton successfully echoes the late Christopher Lee’s Dooku in the prequel trilogy, representing the brash, arrogant tone that Lee perfected. Eckstein continues to please in her role, showing both Tano’s lighthearted and tortured shades. The rest of the cast, whether newcomers or reprisals, stand solidly on their own, making for perplexing character interactions and intellectually fulfilling emotions. They, along with Filoni’s knack for inventive character growth and continued passion for Star Wars storytelling, make exceptionally grounded characters that satisfy viewers every time they appear.

The visuals are also impressive. Everything related to the series’ on-screen presentation exceeds expectations. Using traditional The Clone Wars animation, it feels satisfyingly familiar for old fans, as many of the characters introduced in that show appear here. The animation style dramatically benefits from new technological advances—heads look smoother, movements look snappier, and everything feels more organic. Filoni takes full advantage of these new tools to their fullest, which pays off. The one issue here is the show’s inconsistent character modeling. In different episodes, it appears that characters are animated differently. For example, in Dooku’s storyline, Jedi master Mace Windu looks strikingly similar to how he looked in The Phantom Menace. However, when he appears in Tano’s second episode, he seems as he did in The Clone Wars, which is a strikingly different appearance. The difference is unsettling and disrupts the show’s continuity. In this same episode, Obi-Wan Kenobi also looks different, and his change is even more noticeable than Windu’s. In The Clone Wars, Kenobi masters the short hair he has in Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. But in this episode, he appears to have the mullet he had in Episode II – Attack of the Clones. This is not only a big continuity issue in the show, but also a significant plothole in Star Wars overall, creating a timeline mess. Fortunately, these visual issues do not weigh down on the show heavily, but they are hard to miss.

Overall, Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is a breathtaking new series of shorts that expands on old prequel characters that desperately needed it. Dooku’s storyline redeems him as a character, fleshing him out as one of the franchise’s more complex, deeply conflicted personalities. Though not as perplexing, Tano’s storyline brings more fun, is morally provocative, and offers nuanced storytelling that fans associate with Tano’s franchise-wide arc. Plus, with all of its visual feats, the show offers much for those looking for animated vibrance. This show will likely please veteran Star Wars fans and newcomers alike.

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