It took them long enough.
After six weeks of sidequests and subplots and plot threads and bad pacing, The Mandalorian finally delivers the episode we’ve been wanting to see all season.
To quote one of last week’s guest stars, it’s about damn time.
Every plot thread that has been dangling and abandoned for weeks gets tied up in a bow. Every complaint I had about the season is getting addressed. (And of course it happened the week I wrote 1800 words about what was going wrong this season. Timing is everything.)
The whole episode with Dr. Pershing that they never really went back to? Resolved. IG-11? Resolved. The beskar alloy that was found in the ship after Gideon was extracted? Resolved.
This was a hugely satisfying episode that left us with a fantastic cliffhanger for next week.
Starting on Coruscant, Elia Kane is skulking around the bad side of town. Is she looking for death sticks? More imperial travel biscuits? No, she’s looking for a secret scout droid so she can talk to Moff Gideon. Yes, the rumors are true. Gideon escaped capture on his way to trial, and now he’s in a holo-chat with the Evil League of Evil, aka, The Shadow Council, which are the other surviving Imperial captains and commanders. She tells Gideon the Nevarro defeated the crappy space pirates, thanks to the Mandalorians. This disturbs Gideon, since the Mandalorians aren’t supposed to be working together.
Captain Pellaeon leads the group, and the next few minutes are a treasure trove of Easter eggs and name-drops. Pellaeon teases the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, already revealed this week in the the Ahsoka trailer. Commandant Brendol Hux (the Dad of General Hux in the sequel trilogy, he’s played here by Domhnall Gleeson’s brother, Brian) is working on Project Necromancer, aka “somehow Palpatine returned“. Hux asks about Dr. Pershing and all the clone secrets he has. Alas, says Gideon, the New Republic captured him and his secrets have been lost. Of course, we know they were lost because Kane turned Pershing’s brain into a high protein slurry, and now it’s revealed that it was at Gideon’s command. Why doesn’t Gideon want Palpatine to return, somehow? Because he’s ambitious. He wants to run the council, and probably the entire Empire, and doesn’t need any wacky clones getting in his way. He demands more TIE interceptors and TIE bombers, as well as three praetorian guards. (Those are the red-robed guards that Kylo Ren and Rey fought in The Last Jedi) He wants to crush the Mandalorians once and for all.
Back on Nevarro, the Mandalorian fleet has arrived and is causing the populace distress. They’re flying retro-fitted Imperial ships with the Mandalorian crest painted on. See, that’s fine! No way anyone could possibly fake that.
After some initial tension, the Armorer welcomes the new Mandalorians, even after they all remove their helmets. They’re going to have a feast and discuss the plans to reclaim their homeworld.
Greef Karga stops by as well to give a gift to Din and Grogu, and IG-11 walks into his office. Did they fix him? Well, kind of. The Anzellans (Hey HEY!) took out his faulty memory card and essentially turned him into an exo-skeleton that can be operated by someone tiny who can sit in his chest. Din is horrified, but Grogu squeals with delight. The whole scene has the vibe of a party at Chuck E. Cheese where the divorced dad shows up with a dirt bike to give to his 2 year old. Oh, the new droid (now called IG-12) has a little Yes/No button, which allows his to sass Din. “You’re too young for this!” “NO NO NO NO.” Grogu takes to the droid right away after a few stumbles around Karga’s office. As an added perk, IG’s long arms are perfect for grabbing snacks and keeping them out of Din’s reach. Good times.
This is fantastic, because it’s not only the most action Grogu has seen all season, it’s also very funny. It really hammers home the Din the Dad aspect, which has also been getting neglected this year. Din walking down the street while Grogu repeatedly mashes the YES button is a scene that plays out in every grocery store and shopping mall every day, with parents trying to corral rambunctious and noisy kids.
The feast goes pretty well, and after Bo-Katan explains the plan to go to Mandalore and reclaim the Great Forge, she asks for volunteers for the landing party. After Din volunteers himself (and Gundam Suit Grogu) many others follow suit, including the mercenary leader Axe Woves and big boy Paz Vizsla, with his laser machine gun.
When they arrive on Mandalore, they are greeted by a skiff that glides across the glassy surface. It turns out that there were a few survivors of the Purge that remained on the planet, waiting for Mandolorians to return. (Again, I have to question why no one came to check things out in the last 20 years or so. It seems like something you send a probe to investigate!) Even after all this time, they recognize the voice of Lady Bo-Katan Kryze and pledge fealty. These Mandalorians aren’t doing so great, as food is scarce on the planet, and the Armorer volunteers to take them back to the fleet. Bo-Katan asks the survivors if they can help them find the Great Forge. Oh, they’ll do better than that! They’ll take you right there. Hooray, plot conveniences!
At dinner that night, the purge survivors tell them what it was like during the siege. The Empire intercepted any ship trying to leave. They bombed the planet twice over. It was a message sent to the galaxy because Mandalore refused to surrender.
Well, actually, says Bo-Katan…
It turns out she did surrender. She saw the devastation the Imperials inflicted on her planet and surrendered to Moff Gideon. Mandalore would disarm and all the remaining cities would be spared. But, after getting the Darksaber, Gideon betrayed her and destroyed Mandalore anyway.
This explains so much. Why has Bo-Katan never looked comfortable as a leader? Because she surrendered and it didn’t matter, Mandalore got destroyed anyway. No wonder she has so much self-loathing and doubt. Later, Din comes to talk to her. He had no idea that was what happened. He was taught that the other Mandalorians were selfish and had forsaken The Way. Bo-Katan doesn’t think that she should hold all the clans together. There’s too much bad blood and distrust, and all she has is the Darksaber. Din tells her he’d never heard of the Darksaber before he met her, and it means nothing to him. He only cares about honor and loyalty. And that is why he serves her. “Your song is not yet written. I will serve you until it is.” Damn, Din, that’s the line that launched a thousand Etsy pages.
The next day, while in the way to the mines, Paz Vizsla and Axe Woves play some Mando-chess to pass the time. Axe objects to a move Paz makes, saying it’s illegal, Paz replies that it’s a perfectly acceptable capture. All the simmering tension boils over and these two start to slug it out. No one else intervenes, since jumping in might cause the whole ship to erupt into violence. They go back and forth, each refusing to yield, when Robo-Grogu steps in to pull them apart. “NO NO NO” He’s getting so brave! It appears Luke was able to teach him a few things about conflict mediation.
His timing is good, since as they approach the forge, yet another giant monster bursts out of the surface and destroys the skiff. (Seriously, WTF is with the monsters? Are they attracted to beskar? Is it like a pheromone?) The Mandalorians rush into the rocks and hide in the Great Forge. But they don’t have long to catch their breath before they’re attacked again, this time by a swarm of Stormtroopers that drop out of the roof of the cavern with jet packs and open fire.
So now we get to the reveal of why there was beskar alloy on the shuttle. The stormtroopers now have beskar armor (And jet packs! After all, “they fly now“.) But the Imps don’t have the know how of the Armorer, so it’s not as strong. Axe Woves flies out through a crack in the roof of the cave to alert the fleet while Paz Vizsla covers him (See? Working together already! Grogu is magic!) After the ambush, the Mandalorians rally and chase the stormtroopers back into the cave. And, again, the Mandalorians don’t seem particularly bright because I was 100% convinced this was a trap. And, sure enough…
Of course it is. They chase the troopers and find the next big reveal of the episode. Not only has Moff Gideon been mining the beskar, he has set up an entire Imperial base on Mandalore. He has a hangar bay filled with the TIE bombers and interceptors he requested. And, a whole bunch of flying beskar troopers. The blast doors drop around the Mandolorians, trapping most of them but leaving a few—like Din—at the mercy of the stormtroopers. Despite torching a bunch with his flamethrower, he is finally subdued by three troopers. Then a black armored trooper flies in. It’s Moff Gideon, in full on Vader cosplay.
He is in full preening villain mode, monologuing about how he’s perfected his dark trooper armor by using beskar alloy and putting himself inside it. He tells the troopers to take Din to the interrogation room while Bo-Katan and Grogu watch helplessly. He then asks Bo-Katan to return the Darksaber to him, at which point Bo-Katan remembers that she has a weapon that can cut through blast doors. (Again, Mandalorians are not the brightest of people.) She runs to the back hatch and starts to do so while the other Mandalorians provide cover. All (including Grogu) escape, except for Paz Vizsla. There are too many troopers for him to leave and still provide cover. He shuts the blast door and then unleashes on the troopers. It’s a very cool scene, as Paz fires until his gun overheats, at which point he bludgeons them with it. And he actually manages to kill all the troopers! Until, that is, three red-robed Praetorian guard come in to finish him. Farewell, Paz Vizsla. Your song has been written.
So now the Mandalorians are being chased by stormtroopers, Din has been captured, and is likely about to be tortured. Are…are these actual stakes in this episode? They wouldn’t kill Din…would they? Is Pedro Pascal’s contract up? Next Wednesday can’t get here fast enough! And that’s the first time I’ve said that all season.
This was, BY FAR, the best episode of the season. It’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for: fun Grogu moments, meaningful character development, cool fights, great villain work, important stakes—everything that has been missing so far. Does this make up for all the wheel-spinning and meandering side plots of earlier episodes? A little, but there must’ve been a way to dole out these moments more effectively in the build up. And I would appreciate it if the society of the most fearsome warriors in the galaxy didn’t act so darn dumb all the time by running headlong into ambushes.
Still, those are minor complaints compared to how happy this episode made me. Finally, this feels like the episodes that were the high points of previous seasons. And it’s setting up what promises to an epic finale.
RATING: 5 out of 5
GROGU CUTENESS METER: Hello, Sideshow.com? When can I put my deposit down on a 1/6 scale mecha-suit Grogu? Look, just tell me because I’m going to call every day until you do.