SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!
So…what is the way, exactly?
The mysterious “Way”, the unbreakable creed by which The Mandalorian‘s protagonist Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) lives, and which, as far as we know, mostly exists to forbid him from ever removing his helmet in the presence of others, was well-established and cemented by the end of The Mandalorian‘s first season: but fans of Star Wars‘ animated offshoots The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have always known something sounded a bit fishy about this “Way”, which never stopped previous Mandalorian characters in either of those canon TV series from removing their helmets freely and frequently.
And today, The Mandalorian finally addressed that lingering continuity error by revealing that, as many of us had suspected for some time…Din Djarin is kind of weird, even by Mandalorian standards.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – jumping the shark, or the mamacore, if you will. Best to start at the beginning, with Din Djarin piloting a very damaged Razor Crest towards the estuary moon of Trask, still ferrying Frog Lady (voiced by Misty Rosas) – who, to be fair, is keeping her cool under extremely disturbing circumstances. Luckily for the fandom, which can now finally take a break from the lively and occasionally heated debate about whether or not Baby Yoda intentionally committed genocide by devouring several of Frog Lady’s unborn children on last week’s episode (and whether or not that forebodes a turn to the dark side in his near future), the infant isn’t given an opportunity to eat any more eggs. Instead, his insatiable appetite finds other victims this episode; mostly small, tentacled creatures.
The crash landing on Trask goes about as well as you’d expect, which is to say it’s a complete disaster and Frog Lady is nearly killed one more time before finally reuniting with her husband – who is alive! That’s doubly fortuitous because it means that (a) Frog Lady’s entire species will not be wiped out of existence despite Baby Yoda’s best efforts, and (b) because this husband of hers is able to lead Din Djarin to a friend, who gets in touch with another friend, who supposedly knows some Mandalorians. This friend-of-a-friend’s deal involves a not-at-all suspicious boat ride across the open ocean with a sea monster (a mamacore, to be precise) in the cargo hold. Din somehow doesn’t find this alarming at all, and unsurprisingly ends up in the aforementioned cargo hold, drowning, with a bunch of Quarren pirates trying to strip him of his precious beskar steel armor, while the mamacore swallows Baby Yoda in his tiny motorized cradle.
The father/son bonding moment is broken up by some swift intervention by a trio of rogue Mandalorians wearing dark blue armor and jet packs. Their leader, instantly recognizable long before she’s unmasked due to the distinctive markings on her helmet, is none other than Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, making her long-awaited live-action debut, played by the same actress, Katee Sackhoff, who has voiced her for years in both The Clone Wars and Rebels. It was in Rebels that we last saw Bo-Katan, wielding the famous Darksaber and preparing to unify her warring peoples for an assault on Imperial-occupied Mandalore, her ancestral homeworld. The Darksaber has passed from her hands to others, and the Empire has now fallen, but the years that have passed since her appearance in Rebels have done little to change her iconic look – somehow, the costume department for The Mandalorian even nailed her strange, choppy, red bob haircut. But when Bo-Katan and her team remove their helmets is when things get weird, because Din Djarin almost immediately has a freakout moment and flies off with Baby Yoda, convinced his saviors aren’t really Mandalorians at all. I’m not sure how the Mandalorian education system works, but you’d think someone as well-traveled as Din Djarin would at least have heard stories about Bo-Katan, the sister of Mandalore’s former duchess and herself once its leader, after the end of the Clone Wars. But, as Bo-Katan rather scornfully points out, Djarin is a “Child of the Watch” – a signifier that, shocking as it might seem for fans of the show, confirms that Djarin is a member of a group affiliated with Death Watch, the super-violent, jingoistic, religious extremist militia group that was formed during the Clone Wars to oppose Duchess Satine’s peaceful rule. Bo-Katan herself was once a high-ranking member of the group, but left after Darth Maul got involved with Death Watch, and instead formed her own group called the Nite Owls. It appears she (understandably) doesn’t have warm feelings towards the people who stayed with Death Watch, and the people they in turn recruited into their ranks, like Djarin (who was only a child during the Clone Wars, and didn’t actively choose the way of the religious extremists).
Djarin isn’t having any of it and makes his escape, so hastily and awkwardly that he doesn’t even have time to retrieve Baby Yoda’s floating cradle. There’s no going back for it now – Bo-Katan blows up the entire ship when she leaves. It’s a small tragedy: that cradle wasn’t just a practical item that saved Baby Yoda from some dangerous situations; it was also a last keepsake by which to remember the hospitality and honorable sacrifice of Kuiil, the Mandalorian’s friend from season one. Without it, Din Djarin is now forced to carry Baby Yoda around in the crook of his arm everywhere he goes.
To add insult to injury, Bo-Katan’s Mandalorians return just a few minutes later to save Djarin again, after the brother of the Quarren smuggler who tried to kill him randomly shows up to avenge his sibling’s death. Over a drink and a cup of hot, steamy…sentient tentacles, the Mandalorians start to ease up, and we get some insight into what Bo-Katan is doing on Trask with her compatriots, who include Simon Kassianides as Axe Woves, and Mercedes Varnado (better known by her stage name, Sasha Banks, or her wrestling alias, The Boss) as Koska Reeves. Banks wasn’t playing Sabine Wren after all, as many people had guessed after seeing the second season trailer – nor was she a solitary Inquisitor, as some believed. All in all, her role turned out to be small but fun: and yes, she’s a better actress in her few scenes with minimal dialogue than The Mandalorian‘s resident anti-mask, conspiracy-peddling transphobe, Gina Carano, was in the series’ entire first season. The trio’s mission is to stockpile weapons and gear for an eventual assault on Mandalore, which Bo-Katan hopes to retake – she does have a valid claim to the throne, after all, and until recently was in possession of the weapon that would have solidified that claim: the semi-mythical Darksaber, which we the audience know is currently being wielded by Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis, ex-Imperial fanatic Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).
Without many other options to choose from, it’s not long before Din Djarin has reluctantly signed on to help Bo-Katan and her squad in exchange for information about the Jedi – whom he also knows nothing about and needs help finding. The mission is a fairly simple job on paper, breaking into a cargo ship manned by some ex-Imperials and stormtroopers, but the potential danger means Djarin first has to stop by Frog Lady’s house and leave Baby Yoda in her care. Baby Yoda is always being dropped off places while Djarin does the dirty work, and that formula is growing a bit tiresome – I’m still waiting for the day when the child will actually be able to fight alongside his father, with his own itty-bitty little lightsaber and Force powers. Alas, today is not that day.
(On the other hand, it’s probably for the best, because Baby Yoda isn’t around to witness what has to be the biggest slap in the face to Din Djarin during an episode that mostly consists of Djarin being slapped around and otherwise humiliated: when Bo-Katan gives him an order and then follows it up with “This is the Way”, stealing his sacred catchphrase in a way that seems to be subtly poking fun at his strict, old-fashioned code. I don’t know what they call that in Star Wars lingo, but here we call that a burn).
The mission itself is a lot of fun to watch, and director Bryce Dallas Howard keeps it suspenseful even though the outcome is predictable: it’s a fight between four Mandalorians and probably around thirty or forty stormtroopers, so obviously the odds are in the Mandalorians’ favor. Even the ship’s conniving Imperial Captain (played by Titus Welliver) can’t do anything to slow down his attackers, despite an urgent call with a completely disinterested Moff Gideon to beg for reinforcements and then a last-ditch attempt to crash the ship into the ocean; though he does ultimately kill himself (in the most eerily Nazi way you could imagine, by biting down on a poison pellet in his cheek) before Bo-Katan can wrestle any information out of him about the Darksaber’s whereabouts. The whole incident sets up several new plot lines I can’t wait to see continued over time. We’ve all just assumed that Din Djarin will have to face off against Gideon at some point – but Bo-Katan’s arrival makes it far more likely that, if anyone is going to take him down, it’ll be her. She’ll definitely stick around: she’s far too important a character to only appear once, and we still have to see what happens when she and her now very heavily-armed team head to Mandalore to overthrow a government.
As for Din Djarin, he chooses not to follow them, because he still has an oath to lead Baby Yoda to the care of his own people, or at the very least a Jedi. He gets his next coordinates from Bo-Katan: the city of Calodan, on the forest planet of Corvus – an as yet unexplored location in the vast Star Wars universe, but supposedly home to one former Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. Let the fandom discourse begin anew, because Star Wars is about to welcome actress (and alleged transphobe) Rosario Dawson into the fold as one of the saga’s most popular and interesting characters – an extremely controversial choice, to put it lightly.
But of the many repercussions this episode will have, one of the biggest (and subtlest) is that Din Djarin is finally interesting again. Up until now, The Mandalorian has positioned Djarin as a gold standard Mandalorian, a prime specimen of the group. He’s also been – for the most part – a fairly noble hero, who operates according to the tenets of his faith, putting his people’s needs first and respecting tradition above everything else. Revealing that Djarin’s “Way” is actually not the Way after all heightens the stakes dramatically, placing Djarin in a very uncomfortable position, challenging his faith and forcing him to reconcile with his clan’s past crimes. Whether Djarin knew about those crimes or not is still up for debate (he didn’t seem to know who Bo-Katan was, and he had never even heard of Jedi, so I don’t put it past him), but either way he’s been put in a deeply personal predicament.
But of course, because this is still really the Baby Yoda show, the episode ends with the child eating yet another tentacled creature, one that seemed much too large for him to tackle, but, hey, what can I say? He’s a growing…unknown type of alien, and he needs sustenance! Be glad he’s out of his baby-eating phase.
Episode Rating: 8.5/10