Naturally, there are spoilers here.
Robert Rodriguez, renowned action director and digital cinema pioneer, directs the fourteenth chapter of The Mandalorian. “The Tragedy” bears an ominous title and, by the end, portends even more darkness to come.
This installment begins with Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) bringing Grogu to the planet Tython and the abandoned ruins of a Jedi Temple. Placing Grogu on the seeing stone atop the mountain, the Child activates it with the Force and lights the Jedi equivalent of a beacon, which also acts as a forcefield that keeps Mando from being able to break his concentration and grab him. As Grogu is consumed with this work, trouble comes to the Mandalorian. The first sign of trouble comes with the arrival of a familiar ship: Slave I. Though the Slave I has been in the possession of others (like Hondo Ohnaka), it’s traditionally been the ship of the Fetts, Jango and Boba. When last we saw it on screen, it had whisked Han Solo away from Darth Vader on its way to Tatooine. Presumably it stayed there until Fett needed it here.
With potential enemies on the prowl, Din springs into action to protect Grogu during his meditation. In the hills around the Jedi Temple, Din encounters Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his sharpshooting companion Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), who now has cybernetic implants to undo the damage she suffered in the fifth episode of season one. Naturally, Boba Fett wants his father’s armor back and they work to negotiate a deal. They’ll guarantee the safety of Grogu and the Mandalorian if Din returns the armor. But since Boba isn’t a Mandalorian, Din is hesitant.
Before they can discuss further, Imperial troops arrive. Din tries to break Grogu’s meditation but is rebuffed, and so the goal shifts to taking out the troops and buy the little green Force-wielder time to finish communing with whoever he was able to contact.
During the fighting and after dismantling a number of Stormtroopers with a gaffi stick, Boba Fett is able to board the Razor Crest to don his armor, finally defeating the last of the Imperial forces. But Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) will not allow this defeat without his prize. Using the turbolaser cannons on his Imperial cruiser, Gideon destroys the undefended Razor Crest and deploys his Dark Troopers to kidnap Grogu. Unfortunately, they are successful. Gideon’s Dark Troopers bring the Jedi youngling back to the Cruiser and they promptly jump to hyperspace.
Boba Fett, having reclaimed the armor of his father, offers to help Din rescue Grogu, arguing that they they’ve guaranteed the safety of the child in trade for the armor. Together in the Slave I, Din and Fett set out to gather more allies for the coming fight, starting on Nevarro.
Meanwhile, Moff Gideon continues to push his plans into motion. The episode ends with an exhausted Grogu, passed out and held in binders and the world watching, hoping he’s rescued soon.
Robert Rodriguez has showcased a knack for directing action and he’s a pioneer of independent cinema. An early ally of George Lucas’ in the march to digital film, he bought some of the first cameras that George Lucas had worked with Sony and Panavision to develop in order to shoot the Star Wars prequels. As someone on the cutting edge of visual effects and digital cinema, as well as a talented director, it’s no wonder that he was tapped to direct an episode of The Mandalorian.
Rodriguez is the sort of director who has his own fingerprint in the way he directs action and stages sequences, and it’s on full display in this episode. One could go back to his earlier action extravaganzas, El Mariachi and Desperado, to catch flourishes in the energy he brings to the gunfights and standoffs. There’s a vitality to the initial standoff between Boba Fett and Din Djarin that feels very much like his past work.
As far as the action itself, his camera angles and use of the background feel unique. In particular, the scene where Boba Fett arrives to dismantle the Stormtroopers, first with his gaffi stick and then with the full complement of his armor, feels like an iconic Rodriguez moment. Boba Fett could practically be Antonio Banderas in some of these shots.
Rodriguez is also able to explain two of the largest lingering questions from the fourth episode that were left just a bit muddled. First, he’s able to fully explain the Dark Troopers and show them in action. Second, the medal that Cara received is actually a marshal’s badge. The action is crisp and infused with the pure joy of filmmaking. It’s fun, but it all comes with a tension that befits an episode this late in the season.
The Return of Boba Fett
Many of the biggest answers and questions in this episode come from the appearance of Boba Fett himself. For those who might have forgotten, Boba Fett is a clone of Jango Fett. After his father’s death at the hands of the Jedi, he found himself under the tutelage of brutal underworld figures like Aurra Sing and Bossk. After trying to assassinate Mace Windu and pulling some jobs with another crew, he spent some time in prison, but eventually made his own mark as a bounty hunter in his father’s armor. He found employment with Jabba the Hutt and was eventually hired by Darth Vader to track down Han Solo. After taking Solo to Jabba the Hutt, he found himself in the belly of the Sarlacc pit, presumed dead. In Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath books and early episodes of the second season of The Mandalorian, we learned that his armor was salvaged by Jawas and he has been trying to get it back for some time.
Now, we see him finally making his move to retrieve his armor and take his rightful place as one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the galaxy.
This episode also answers definitively that Boba Fett is not a Mandalorian. His father might have been one at some point, but he abandoned the creed to live the life of a bounty hunter. That is, if Boba’s story is even to be believed. Both Jango and Boba remark in their appearances that they’re just simple men trying to make their way in the galaxy. When Boba says it here, it’s a direct reference to his father in Attack of the Clones. Neither lives by any Mandalorian creed and, in The Clone Wars, the Prime Minister of Mandalore explains that they’re just hired thugs. It’s likely that’s still the story, with Jango fighting as a mercenary for the losing side of the Mandalorian Civil War. It was nice to get more solid confirmation that Boba is definitely not a Mandalorian, even if his father fought beside them.
If nothing else, Boba’s story, true or not, makes it easier for Din Djarin to swallow handing Boba his father’s armor back.
What To Look Out For
This episode references a lot of the past and has a lot of cool stuff to look out for.
One of the first things we see in the episode is the remains of a Jedi Temple and its seeing stone. There’s not much left, merely a henge and a meditation rock. It’s evocative of the rock Luke Skywalker sacrificed his life on in The Last Jedi, but also has the blue-glowing runes that we saw so much in the animated installments of Star Wars. We also know that in order to tap into those temples, one has to be in command of the light side of the Force, leading us to believe that Grogu hasn’t totally surrendered to the dark side, despite his aggressive use of the Force in his prison cell.
Another thing to watch out for are the weapons used by the Stormtroopers. This is the first time on screen we’ve seen Stormtroopers using an artillery cannon. We also see them use an E-Web cannon. First seen in The Empire Strikes Back, these big guns are formidable and it’s no wonder that Fennec Shand had to use a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style boulder roll to destroy it.
One of the most exciting moments for Star Wars historians comes when Boba speaks of the Mandalorian Civil Wars. These are the wars that were first referenced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars by Obi-Wan Kenobi, and took place prior to the events of The Phantom Menace. The wars were fought between the pacifist factions of Mandalorians and the more orthodox and warlike factions, like Death Watch and the Children of the Watch. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon fought in the conflict, helping protect Satine Kryze for the better part of a year. Naturally, the more violent sectors of Mandalorian society lost, setting the stage for the status quo of the planet we saw during The Clone Wars, a status quo that caused enough upheaval to allow Maul to take control of the planet and Bo-Katan to depose him. I hope this is a promise that we’ll see more of Civil War—and more of the romance between Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Duchess Satine.
Finally, the reveal of the Dark Troopers that felt muddled originally is corrected in this episode and we get our first proper look at them. They look like a mix in design between the original Dark Troopers used in the Dark Forces video game and K-2SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Dark Troopers are what happens when you take the Terminator and make it look like a Stormtrooper. Its design definitely has its roots in Separatist Era battle droids as well, and should give Din a new reason to hate droids.
This episode offered a wonderful blend of Star Wars universe treats, paternal tenderness, and a cliffhanger that will have everyone in agony for a week.
I particularly loved the interplay between Din and Grogu at the beginning of the episode. Din saying Grogu’s name to see and hear his reaction is exactly what all of us would do. After all, that moment was so damn endearing in the last episode. It also shows a lot of growth for Din Djarin.
And while I’d still prefer Boba Fett remaining dead in this version of the canon, at least they let Robert Rodriguez bring him back and make him into the badass he really never has. Boba’s inclusion definitely raises more questions. He was never this honorable and he worked for the Empire plenty, which makes me wonder if he’s playing another angle.
This episode is pulling all the pieces together for something big as we head toward the finale. With Grogu in the hands of Moff Gideon, Din Djarin is going to stop at nothing to get him back. The end of the episode shows us that he’s going to pull together the allies he needs and this promises an explosive finale. If Bo-Katan is gunning for Gideon and Din is as well, with Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and Migs Mayfeld (and others) at his side, it should prove very thrilling.
But let’s not forget that Grogu called on the help of the remaining Jedi and it would not surprise me to see a Jedi arrive to fight in that melee. But who? There are a lot of possibilities and we won’t know until next week or the week after.
Hopefully, the wait doesn’t kill us.
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