5

NOTE: trying to keep this in such a way that spoilers are all hidden. Where the editor doesn't allow it, I make indirect references.

In season 2, episode 5 of the The Mandalorian, Ahsoka Tano

fights Morgan Elsbeth, a ruthless former minion of Grand Admiral Thrawn. She has quite a struggle on her hands. In fact, she even loses one of her weapons before finally having the upper hand.

Why did she seem to have such difficulty?

  • Tano is known as a highly-skilled Jedi (*). She even fought her former master to a near standstill (in SW Rebels)
  • Her opponent was not a Force user, as far as we know (**)
  • said opponent had only a spear, albeit made of Beskar

Leaving aside TV/movie dramatic effect, some possible explanations include:

  1. Tano is a lot older or some unknown injury has affected her

Counter: we know pretty well how old she must be, and if anything, a quick googling shows Togruta to live somewhat (though not massively) longer than humans. The way we otherwise saw her "go about her business" shows no indication that she's handicapped by anything.

  1. Contrary to fantasy literature, sword vs weapon opponent used actually benefits the latter

Counter: the only place I've ever read about this was in Wheel of Time, where it was a plot point that the "greatest swordsman ever" lost to a peasant wielding a similar weapon and one of The Heroes similarly pummels a pair of highly trained swordsmen with this sort of weapon. No idea if R.Jordan pulled this out of nowhere (he certainly did with other things, such as all things equestrian)

I find none of these really satisfying. Am I missing something?

(*) OK, she is not strictly speaking a Jedi. She even says so. She never rejoined the order after being cast out on false accusations.

(**) She is from Dathomir. A world steeped in the Dark Side and home to nice folks like the Nightsisters and Darth Maul. Maybe picked up a few things? And maybe

she is at least latently Force sensitive

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    Even General Grievous should not have been competitive against the least powerful Jedi. He can't attack if he's floating helplessly. So this is a huge in-universe pothole. A regular person can be choked with the force but is immune during duels seems very inconsistent as the question points out. Dec 31 '20 at 4:35
  • 1
    I'd like to point out that there's no confirmation of Elsbeth being from Dathomir. A claim made by a makeup artist with no other reference does not a backstory make. Dec 31 '20 at 4:44
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    Unfortunately, as with Cad Bane facing off against Anakin or Mace Windu versus Jango Fett, the answer appears to be "to preserve drama and have interesting fights." At the level Ashoka was at near the end of Rebels, 50 soldiers armed with melee weapons would have barely given her trouble. We saw in The Clone Wars that a mid-tier Jedi with Sith pretensions was able to give the run-around to dozens of clone soldiers with blasters. If two Inquisitors trained by Darth Vader were not a match for her some decades before, a single person, no matter how well trained, would be in trouble.
    – Adamant
    Dec 31 '20 at 4:47
  • @lucasbachmann - General Grievous is a heavy cyborg who constantly keeps the pressure on his opponents using his cybernetic enhancements and locks himself down with his claws, and lifting someone and holding them up is not easy for most Force users. I do not think most Jedi could pick him up in the middle of combat and hold him there without risking a lightsaber or three to the chest. Indeed, a relatively weak Jedi should have a significant advantage against him, however, not because of Force telekinesis, but rather because they can see the future in combat (to an extent) and he cannot.
    – Adamant
    Dec 31 '20 at 4:54
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    @Mithorom - It's just that when your opponent can see the future, sense what moves you are about to make, enhance their physical abilities, and literally throw you around with telekinesis, their being more tired and on unfamiliar territory is not going to cut it.
    – Adamant
    Jan 2 at 4:00
5

While I don't think there is anything in-universe to explain this yet, there are a couple of points armchair speculation can bring up.

A spear has a longer range than a sword, and therefore can provide a strong advantage when properly used. We can assume that as a high-ranking Imperial leader, Elsbeth probably was well trained in combat with various weapons. A spear also allows attacking with both ends, which can make it as fast, or sometimes even faster than attacking with two swords like Ahsoka. Using a rebound off an opponent's block to attack with the other side of a spear creates very quick and powerful combos in a fight. Two separate swords do not gain the same speed benefit (although it is close), instead gaining the ability to have two completely separate angles of attack. The fact that the spear is made of Beskar also allows it to properly block lightsabers, meaning the typical negation of defense lightsabers provide doesn't happen in this fight.

If we accept that Elsbeth really is a top lieutenant of Thrawn, she would have training similar to his own. He was able to fight against Jedi during Star Wars Rebels, and would be smart enough to expect or share similar training with his officers. He trained against multiple droids at a time that look like prototypes of the Dark Troopers or variations of security droids like K2-S0, so perhaps Elsbeth also used similar training techniques to make sure she was in top fighting shape as much as possible.

These two points together and you have a highly-trained, well equipped enemy. Even a strong Jedi will need to be cautious and

Ahsoka clearly wasn't calm during the fight, while making demands and interrogating her opponent.

This means their connection to the Force may have been at a low point during the fight, which would cause them to struggle.

Losing one of her lightsabers would make her realize she's struggling and needs to calm down, strengthening her connection to the Force and allowing her to win the fight.

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  • Yes, your first point was the one I was alluding to as my own possible explanation.
    – Marakai
    Jan 1 at 1:16
2

"A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules." "The duel was based on a code of honor."

The only one who breaks the rules is Elsbeth's second. Honor is also why Mando, Asoka's second, is waiting outside and has no intention of interfering. I don't think she uses the force at any point other than perhaps the fancy flip.

No tricks; no weapons; skill against skill alone.

In the beginning of the episode she says,

"You will learn nothing from me."

Apparently, after being

honorably defeated in single combat, she reconsiders.

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    "I find none of these really satisfying" - then you should demand satisfaction.
    – Mazura
    Jan 1 at 16:13
  • This is a better answer, if true. But were they doing a formal duel?
    – Adamant
    Jan 2 at 3:58
  • I too wonder if this was a formal duel. They did not make a prior agreement to try to kill each other like civilized people.
    – Rob
    Jan 2 at 12:08
  • Everyone knows duels are prestigious with a long and glorious tradition.
    – Mazura
    Jan 2 at 12:26
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The intention to interrogate her and take her alive was one of the reasons why I thought the fight was harder than her other fights.

Look at what Asoka is normally up against: blasters or weapons she can easily cut through. That's what most Jedi actually experience in most combat. But in every instance where the opponent has something that doesn't fit into one of those categories, it's automatically a more difficult fight and a much rarer instance. This is true across the Star Wars universe. And it's why

She even fought her former master to a near standstill

Because it was standard lightsaber vs. lightsaber against an opponent she was prepared not to underestimate.

Then there's the weapon itself:

as a spear it's longer than a lightsaber. In the specific instances where a Jedi does fight someone with a melee weapon that CAN standup against their lightsaber, it's generally, but not always another lightsaber. It's also what they train against. So you have the above--the fact that it's rarer (upping the difficulty of the encounter) added to the fact that Asoka's strategy is going to automatically be geared towards a different kind of weapon.<

There's also her mental approach at first:

Asoka's angry and doesn't take the time to feel out what strategy would be best against a type of weapon she doesn't normally see. She could have even lost, but she slowed down to see what she was doing wrong.<

But we don't know for sure:

Elsbeth's training and force sensitivity. There's speculation and info from shaky sources, but it's an X factor, certainly. We do know that she's associated with Thrawn, and that guy, cannon sources or old, non-cannon books, is always a threat to Jedi.<

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  • There's some overlap between your and @Kadima's answer plus each with some extra good points. How do I select All Of The Above as accepted answer? 😏
    – Marakai
    Jan 1 at 1:19
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    @Marakai choose hers as she was in first! thank you tho!! Jan 3 at 4:37
  • I will, thank you!
    – Marakai
    Jan 3 at 9:50

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