I don’t think anyone saw this coming. For two seasons ‘The Mandalorian’ has followed the same structure, one akin to open world video games, where the hero has an overall goal but accepts many side missions to get there. The season three opener set us up to think we would still be following the same format and the first scene of this second episode points us in the same direction.
Once again we are heading back to Tatooine, the home planet of the Star Wars franchise, a location that the vocal minority online cry about being creatively burnt out. It’s Boonta Eve, a celebration first introduced in ‘The Phantom Menace’, and Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) is running cons from her hanger with the local Jawas. When Din (Pedro Pascal, Brendan Wayne, and Lateef Crowder – yes, all three now have credit) arrives looking for the part he needs it fix IG-11 you think Peli will have a job for him first. But no, the story takes a massive leap forward with Peli convincing Din that he doesn’t need IG-11 and selling him R5-D4 – yes, the droid with the bad motivator from ‘A New Hope’ – instead. And just like that, we are off to Mandalore – a place I thought we wouldn’t be reaching for about five more episodes.
Outside of a brief flashback in ‘The Book Of Boba Fett’, this is our first proper look at Mandalore in live action. When Din’s starfighter bursts through the turbulent clouds that are covering the planet and into the daylight we see the bombed out shell of a domed city and everything is covered in green glass that looks like it froze mid-explosion. It’s a desolate, supposedly dead planet but a place of wonder to Din who has never been to his home world before.
Din’s quest is to bathe in the living waters in the mine under the city and, like all good mythological quest, this requires him to descend into the darkness. He quickly runs into his first threat when he is ambushed by of some creatures that strongly resemble the Morlocks from ‘The Time Machine’. These feral humanoids are the first sign that Mandalore is not as dead as it is rumoured.
Out comes the Dark Saber for the first time this season and Din still hasn’t mastered fighting with it. He is sluggish and clumsy with it as he struggle with the weight. You get the feeling that if he wasn’t using it he would have torn through these creatures with ease. With them defeated he continues his decent with Grogu following along in his new pod. It’s not long until Din, who bear in mind is meant to be a master at what he does, falls into another trap. This time he is caught by a vampiric, one-eyed, General Grievous type who has the ability to detach its “head” and move between bodies.
This sets us up for Grogu to get his first genuine action scene. It’s amazing what the creators can get out of this little fella, which is still allegedly more puppet than CGI. He’s sneaking about, doing flips, racing about in his pod, and throwing a “morlock” with the force. Grogu is now more than a little green bundle that needs protecting and this is most solo screen time that he has had. He’s even flying Din’s starfighter with the aid R5. It’s amazing that this character has grown to more than just an advert for merchandise.
With Grogu doing his best Lassie impression to get Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) to come to the rescue, the episode then repeats Din’s beats through different eyes and this is where it really kicks it up a gear. Bo-Katan was the ruler of Mandalore and when her starship breaks through the clouds there is no sense of wonder but despair. In her encounter with the Morlock look-a-likes she tears through them with ease, something that makes Grogu sit up in his basket and take notice. When she fight the Grievous-like creature with the Dark Saber to rescue Din, it is light in her hand and she is agile and fast. She has the air of someone it should truly belong to.
But she is a character that has lost her faith, her kingdom, her people, and her weapon. She is willing to play along with Din’s silly beliefs and escort him to the living water but will mock and deride him every step of the way. She talks about how she bathed in the waters herself as a child, when she was a princess in the royal family, to keep her father happy and you get the feeling that, though she loved and respected him, she treated him the same way. Sackhoff does the heavy lifting here as she is the human face of the episode, acting alongside helmets, puppets and CGI and, being a veteran of such things, she excels. This character is in her second decade but with this episode we really get to know her.
It’s the ending of the episode though, that is the real game changer. Din, once again showing that he is not the smartest character, walks into the dark living waters to baptise himself but forgets the weight of his Beskar armour. Taking a step into the unknown he sinks like a lead balloon beneath the waters. Bo, without hesitation, fires up her jetpack and dives into the murky depth after him and it’s on the way back up that there is some movement in the dark. Her helmet torch illuminates a giant eye and into Star Wars canon comes a living Mythosaur, a creature from Star Wars Legends and first mentioned way back in Chapter One. The true ruler of Mandalore is destined to ride one of these mighty beasts and now you know it is going to happen.
And just like that, getting way more expression than should be possible from an inanimate helmet – thanks to veteran cinematographer but first time Star Wars director Rachel Morrison, Bo-Katan is a believer again and now our number one candidate to be The Mandalorian. There is so much potential with this character and actress that there must be a high possibility she is being set up to lead her own series.
If the introduction of Luke at the end of season two blew the doors off for the possibilities of Star Wars storytelling on television then this episode raised the roof. With one eye movement you believe this could go anywhere.