Hera Syndulla May Be Star Wars’ Replacement For Cara Dune

I honestly couldn’t have been happier when this story popped up on my timeline last night: not only do I finally get an excuse to rave about Hera Syndulla, one of my favorite characters in the entire Star Wars universe (most of my favorite characters in Star Wars either originate in animation, or made the jump from live-action to animation and were improved in so doing), but I also get to address a deeply hilarious story that broke a few weeks ago, while I was on hiatus thanks to appendix surgery – the story of Gina Carano, and the string of wildly bad decisions that led her from Lucasfilm (and a paycheck of $25,000 to $50,000 per Mandalorian episode) to the Daily Wire, where she can now pursue her true calling as a figurehead for contrived right-wing outrage and an accomplice in Ben Shapiro’s attempt to get back at Hollywood for his own failure to make it big as a screenwriter.

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | syfy.com

Although Gina Carano long ago blocked me on Twitter, her history of harmful and downright hateful comments is well-documented public record – and in the past, I have tried to draw attention to this history, particularly her comments mocking people in the trans and nonbinary communities. For Disney, however, the final straw was a series of antisemitic images posted by Carano, followed by an Instagram story claiming that being a modern conservative is akin to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Carano was dropped from her contract with Lucasfilm later that day (too late, in my opinion; though Disney had apparently given up on her back in November), and the atmosphere on Twitter late into the night was celebratory. The joy of watching accountability in action even helped me power through the next morning’s predictable influx of enraged trolls shedding crocodile tears over the same actress they had branded as an “SJW” before they found out she was a bigot like them.

Carano’s future post-Lucasfilm is unimportant, and honestly we’d be wise to pay her no attention. But here’s the thing – for a long time, Carano was set to lead the Rangers Of The New Republic series heading to Disney+ in the near future, reprising her role as Rebel mercenary Cara Dune from The Mandalorian. But by the time Rangers Of The New Republic was officially unveiled at Disney Investors Day in December, Disney had already basically scrapped that plan in light of the controversy surrounding Carano’s social media presence. This has apparently left Lucasfilm in a predicament, as Rangers Of The New Republic is supposed to be an integral element in a multi-series crossover event planned for the streaming service, and Disney doesn’t want to simply recast the character and move on (and honestly, while some fans would prefer that approach, there’s been such a concerted effort by the right-wing to “claim” Cara Dune that I wouldn’t wish that burden on any incoming actress).

Hera Syndulla
Cara Dune | polygon.com

Enter Hera Syndulla. A new rumor from LRM Online¬†claims that Disney is looking at their back-catalog of Star Wars characters for a potential Cara Dune replacement going forward, and is considering picking Hera, the wise-beyond-her-years Twi’lek pilot and military strategist introduced in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels and briefly glimpsed in the Star Wars: Squadrons video game. One reason for this, LRM Online notes, is time constraints: it’s easier to introduce a character with an established backstory and an existing fanbase than it is to write a wholly original protagonist. Hera Syndulla, who was a major character throughout the series’ four extraordinary seasons, certainly fits the bill in that regard.

But there’s another reason: Rebels‘ creator Dave Filoni is one of the key ingredients in Star Wars‘ string of recent successes on Disney+, and he is set to produce and direct many of their upcoming series’. Filoni has already done an admirable job of bringing several beloved animated characters into live-action, including Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano, and The Mandalorian season two revealed that other Rebels-exclusive characters are on their way to live-action too, such as Admiral Thrawn and – presumably – Ezra Bridger. Hera Syndulla was bound to show up at some point, and I’m honestly surprised this wasn’t considered sooner, given that an Andor series is coming up that will intersect with her time as a Rebel.

Rangers Of The New Republic, however, would deal with events after the original Star Wars trilogy – and by that point in the timeline, we know surprisingly little about Hera Syndulla’s whereabouts. She served in the New Republic as a general and earned her own flagship, hunting down ex-Imperial terrorists all while raising her son Jacen Syndulla on her own (because it’s not Star Wars unless there’s a single parent somewhere: not that I have any complaints about that). That’s pretty much the extent of our knowledge, leaving plenty of gaps for the Rangers Of The New Republic screenwriters to fill in with original content. As long as her character’s quiet nobility and fierce compassion remain intact, I would be hyped for this. Voice actress Vanessa Marshall could easily reprise the role in live-action, being the right age and already bearing some physical similarities to the character (minus the lekku and green skin).

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | starwars.com

As a big fan of Rebels, there’s nothing about this news that doesn’t excite me – Hera Syndulla is always a win, especially when her inclusion would make Rangers Of The New Republic my most-anticipated Star Wars series at the moment. For comparison, when Carano was supposedly attached to star, this series rested at the very bottom of my tier-ranking, and I was perfectly prepared to leave it there.

But what do you think? Would Hera Syndulla make a perfect protagonist? Is that even a question that needs to be asked? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Finale!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

How The Mandalorian‘s second season finale will be judged largely depends on what happens next, in either the sequel season it sets up with a not-so-subtle cliffhanger ending, or the spinoff it teases in an unexpected post-credits scene (or…are they are one and the same?), because what we got is very clearly not the resolution to a self-contained original story, but rather the prologue to a wider saga spanning the Star Wars universe. But right now, for this one blissful moment, my feelings are deeply conflicted yet generally positive…because you simply can’t do what The Mandalorian season two finale did in its closing minutes, and not excite the Star Wars fan in me.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian | deadline.com

Just as in season one, when Din Djarin (voiced and played by Pedro Pascal) had to assemble a team to defeat the unnamed Imperial client on Nevarro (the true identity of whom will likely remain one of the series’ many minor, irritating, unsolved mysteries), this season’s finale revolves around assembling a small gang of heavily-armed misfits and saving Baby Yoda – or Grogu, or The Child, or whatever you want to call him. Djarin had already gained the allegiances of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano). The last piece in the puzzle is the Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), who plays a pivotal role in the events of the finale, even though…well, it’s complicated, in a weird and somewhat unsatisfying way.

It’s nothing, however, compared to the intricacies of Mandalorian societal structures, which continue to grow increasingly messier the more we learn about them – today culminating in a face-off between Bo-Katan and Boba Fett where the two are barely able to resist from killing each other on the spot. The reasoning for that goes back a long way, to the animated Clone Wars series, in which it was revealed that most Mandalorians regard the entire House of Fett as outsiders to their creed and community – and Boba specifically as something entirely alien, due to the bounty hunter having been created inorganically as an identical clone of his father, Jango. Bo-Katan, who cast stones at Din Djarin for unknowingly belonging to a group of religious fanatics, now taunts Boba Fett with questions about his “donor”, and comparing him to other clones she’s known (and yes, that’s extremely hypocritical and uncharacteristic of her, since clone armies were instrumental in putting her in power after the Siege of Mandalore), causing a scuffle between Fett and Bo-Katan’s second-in-command, Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks). Fett, in turn, is utterly dismissive of Bo-Katan’s goal to unite the Mandalorian clans behind her and retake their ancestral home planet of Mandalore, which the Empire supposedly desecrated. In the end, the promise of finally being able to confront Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and win back the Darksaber is what convinces Bo-Katan to join: though Din Djarin valiantly tries the “they-took-the-Child” route with her. It’s worked for everyone else, and it seems to be almost be enough for Bo-Katan, but the show is painting her as a low-key antagonist to Djarin for whatever reason, so they can’t have her be too kindhearted.

This is one of two instances in The Mandalorian so far (the other being Ahsoka’s refusal to train Grogu because of attachments) that I would be tempted to classify as character assassination if the term hadn’t been hijacked by trolls who use it broadly to mean anything that ever happened in the sequel trilogy. There’s a difference between character assassination and character development that a lot of people don’t get: and Luke Skywalker’s journey in The Last Jedi, for example, is a textbook example of the latter. Character development is organic and typically serves a thematic purpose; whereas assassination is a shortcut used lazily to rush the story forward (in Ahsoka’s case), or to force a conflict where there was none (in Bo-Katan’s case). What’s particularly frustrating is that audiences who don’t know Bo-Katan from the animated series’ will now remember her best as the borderline ruthless, prejudiced, ambitious-to-a-fault schemer she is here.

Laying out an elaborate strategy for how to infiltrate Gideon’s star-cruiser, the gang sets out in a small Imperial shuttle stolen from its previous pilot (played by Thomas Sullivan, whom I immediately recognized from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The Mandalorian somehow has time to flesh out his character, and give him a pointless back-and-forth with Cara Dune, where he manipulates what I guess are supposed to be her traumatic memories of the destruction of Alderaan. The event has now been referenced twice this season, and, leaving aside the fact that Carano’s acting does nothing to convey the trauma of its aftermath (the dialogue literally mentions her shedding a tear, while Carano’s eyes are dry), it’s honestly just weird that people keep bringing it up in-universe.

Omid Abtahi briefly reprises the role of Dr. Pershing, the other occupant of the stolen shuttle, but there’s no time to interrogate him about Grogu’s exact midi-chlorian count. The fact that he was on his way to and not from Gideon’s cruiser bodes well for Grogu, as it implies he may not have had a chance to extract any further samples from the child (Gideon later confirms he’s taken his own samples of the child’s blood, but, well, that will be insignificant in the long run).

Director Peyton Reed is at his best while orchestrating the high-stakes, action-packed break-in – a stark contrast to his Ant-Man movies, which have mostly been low-stakes, filled with comedic action scenes and sight gags. Between this and the exhilarating spider chase he directed earlier in The Mandalorian‘s second season, he’s definitely given himself an upgrade before his next Marvel film, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. His exceptional use of each character’s individual strengths makes for a very memorable string of fight scenes, and there’s a real sense of urgency and danger, even though most of our heroes are encased in beskar steel, which is nigh on impossible to shatter, dent, or damage in any way.

The Mandalorian
Din Djarin and Grogu | polygon.com

Din Djarin finds this out the hard way when he singlehandedly takes on Gideon’s elite platoon of robotic dark troopers – even with one of these super-sized metal juggernauts repeatedly hammering his face backwards into a wall with the force of a small battering ram, it’s the wall that gets broken to bits and Djarin who escapes unscathed, thanks to his beskar steel helmet. Hilariously, he’s then able to temporarily eliminate the dark trooper threat by blasting them all out an airlock.

While Bo-Katan and her all-female team storm the ship’s bridge looking for Gideon, Djarin accidentally but predictably encounters the Moff personally guarding his most prized possession, Grogu, with the Darksaber in hand. Finally, we can see why Lucasfilm hired Giancarlo Esposito for this role, as the ex-Imperial sneakily manipulates the conversation, feigning disinterest in the Mandalorian political situation while freely offering the child to Djarin. Although Djarin initially buys into his lies, it takes all of five seconds for Gideon to reveal his true colors and start hacking ferociously at Djarin with the Darksaber. The beskar steel gifted by Ahsoka Tano finally comes in handy, allowing Djarin the means to fight back in one of the series’ most hyped-up duels. The whole sequence is over suspiciously quickly, however, and Gideon is soon captured and dragged up to the bridge after being disarmed by Djarin.

When they reach the bridge, we find out just how cunning Gideon has been – possibly at the expense of established Star Wars canon. It was revealed a while ago in Rebels that, to wield the Darksaber and claim it as one’s own, one must first defeat the previous owner in combat. Or, at least, that was the case until Sabine Wren yielded the Darksaber willingly to Bo-Katan…who soon after lost it to Gideon himself, and spent years hunting him down, trying to make up for her failure and render her claim to the sword irrefutable. Gideon, by intentionally losing to Djarin, has now created a situation where Bo-Katan “can’t” take the sword unless she wins it in combat…from Din Djarin. Except she can. Sabine Wren set the precedent. Djarin offers it to her several times, only for Gideon to interject each time with a gleeful reminder of how Mandalorian law supposedly works. My best guess is that Bo-Katan blames her willingness to defy tradition and take the sword freely for all her failures, and for that reason won’t do so again. This whole thing is weirdly reminiscent of the Elder Wand debacle in Harry Potter.

It’s at this moment that the dark troopers return, flooding back onto the ship and charging towards the bridge, all while Gideon gleefully torments his captors with quips and boasts. His menace is rather undercut, though, by the sheer stupidity that compels him to grab a blaster and aim for Bo-Katan, who, reminder, is wearing beskar steel. He gets knocked unconscious by Cara Dune, and that’s literally the last we hear of him. A humiliating defeat for a villain that had just come into his own.

In the chaos, a single X-Wing fighter appears out of nowhere, heading for the cruiser. At first, I assumed it had to be the New Republic, come to save the day and convince us that a Rangers Of The New Republic spinoff series is actually necessary, but once the ship is confirmed to be flying solo and lands without communicating with the bridge, I figured I knew who its occupant had to be. Reed draws out the big reveal, forcing you to agonize and wrestle with your emotions and your “this can’t be happening” impulses, even as all the visual clues add up. And the brutal, beautiful suspense makes it that much more conflicting when the smoke clears, each and every dark trooper has been obliterated, and the person standing there is indeed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)…but is also very much not.

The CGI replacement for young Luke – which uses Hamill’s digitally de-aged voice and likeness – is perhaps not quite as unnerving as the CGI Princess Leia in Rogue One, but nowhere near the seamless, stately elegance of CGI Tarkin in the same film. CGI Luke’s eyes are haunting and slightly unfocused, and his voice doesn’t quite seem to match the movement of his lips. He is, of course, revealed to be the Jedi that Grogu contacted back on Tython, but when they meet at last, Grogu waddles over immediately – only to spend most of the scene talking to Luke’s sidekick, R2-D2, in an excited chirping language matching the droid’s beeps, boops, and bops, while CGI Luke stands to the side; his ghastly top half purposefully out of frame, his lower half standing too still, like a background character in an animated movie.

The Mandalorian
Luke Skywalker and Grogu | menshealth.com

Disturbing digital effects aside, the Luke reveal is emotional and brilliantly executed, and it makes sense that he’ll be the one to train Grogu in the ways of the Force. But of course saying goodbye is hard: and so Djarin removes his helmet willingly, revealing his face to Grogu for the first (and hopefully not last) time. The puppet’s tiny claw reaches out to touch Djarin’s cheek, wide eyes take in every feature of his face…and yes, those muffled sobs you hear are mine. What can I say? I love character development.

And with that, CGI Luke sweeps Baby Yoda into his Ken doll arms, and takes off, concluding the second season of The Mandalorian. So much is still unresolved! Moff Gideon is defeated, Din Djarin commands the Darksaber and must now either embrace a new destiny or pass it on to Bo-Katan, and Grogu is headed to Ach-To, I guess. Oh yeah, and Boba Fett and Fennec Shand are getting a spinoff (or maybe just taking over The Mandalorian), which we’ll discuss in greater detail, in the second half of my finale review.

Because this show is so frustrating, one just wasn’t enough.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 15 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Waking up at three o’-clock in the morning every Friday to watch a new episode of The Mandalorian was a strangely calming experience for me until today, when I already had so much that I still needed to cover from the Disney Investors Meeting last night that I simply didn’t feel the drive to fast-track a Mandalorian review and risk missing the hype train for shows like WandaVision, Loki, and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, none of which have actually released yet – but all of which somehow feel like they’re moving quicker, and at a more consistent pace, than The Mandalorian. We’re heading into the season two finale next week, and somehow we still seem to be moving at a snail’s pace in terms of plot, spending an entire episode searching for a code to track down Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).

The Mandalorian
Din Djarin and Boba Fett | electricbento.com

Thankfully, the series is picking up speed with regards to character development – particularly for protagonist Din Djarin (voiced and, today at least, played by Pedro Pascal), who removed his helmet. Such a simple action would have no consequence on pretty much any other series, but on The Mandalorian, where Djarin’s helmet (or, to be more precise, his facelessness) is an integral part of his religion and his personality, it’s a really big deal. And in the few minutes that he’s completely unmasked and vulnerable to the world, Pedro Pascal uses every single moment of screentime he’s got to convince you of why this is such a dramatic and intense milestone in his character arc. As you may recall, I spoke very highly of the episode earlier this season wherein Bo-Katan Kryze gently pointed out that Djarin’s strict rules regarding his helmet are derived from a group of religious zealots who were technically traitors to Mandalorian tradition: the exception to the rule, not the norm. And today, when Djarin took off his helmet because he had to, because his love for Grogu outweighed his commitments to his faith, it was as if we finally got payoff…something that The Mandalorian has been all too eager to tease, and far too unwilling to actually see through to the end.

I firmly believe Pedro Pascal could have handled that entire sequence on his own, and been completely fine: every subtly fearful facial expression he was wearing was clearly telling the story of a person whose entire life had been built on a set of core values that he was now being forced to break, and the anxiety rolling off him in waves was palpable. But I must say, I welcomed the addition of Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr) as a comedic and surprisingly dramatic foil to Djarin. Mayfield started out as an enemy of Djarin’s – no surprise there: Djarin locked him in a New Republic prison cell – but over the course of this single episode built a slow but powerful bond with Djarin, becoming the only living person to have seen his face. And rather than crack a joke about it, Mayfield was startlingly sincere in the aftermath, promising Djarin he would forget he ever saw anything.

The Mandalorian
Migs Mayfield | comicyears.com

Although I suspected last week that the majority of today’s episode would revolve around trying to rescue Mayfield from prison, that portion was blissfully short: turns out, Cara Dune (Gina Carano, once again doing the smirking thing) and her recent promotion to “Marshall of the New Republic” is useful for something, as she was able to fake a New Republic order freeing Mayfield from a life of slave labor. Dune, unfortunately, tags along as Mayfield and Djarin begin staging their operation to break into an ex-Imperial fortress and steal the information about Gideon’s location…though it’s really Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to strategizing, and Boba Fett’s icy stares make it very clear who’s boss on the Slave One. As a fan of The Clone Wars, it made me pretty happy to see how far Boba Fett has come from his childhood, when he used to desperately try and hold entire crews of older, more experienced pirates together under his leadership, only to inevitably have them turn on him.

Once the small crew reaches their target destination, Djarin and Mayfield don the disguises of Imperial stormtroopers (with Djarin swapping one helmet for another offscreen, before Mayfield can catch a glimpse of his face) and unwittingly get caught up in a scuffle with pirates. There’s some great comedy in this sequence, provided by an increasingly frantic Mayfield, while Djarin – and director Rick Famuyiwa – delivers on the action, staving off the pirates in a violent race against the clock. The conclusion to the fight, with Imperial TIE-fighters swooping in to save the day, is unexpected and delightfully ironic. Best of all, it’s the first display of mutual trust between Djarin and Mayfield (who is a lot more likable than he was in season one, thanks to better writing, and a much better performance by Burr).

Inside the Imperial fortress, that bond of trust is tested again as Mayfield comes face to face with his old commanding officer, a cold-hearted elitist by the almost-purposefully-German-sounding name of Valin Hess (Richard Brake). Mayfield still suffers from PTSD due to having witnessed Hess’ intentional slaughter of his own men during Operation: Cinder, a slash-and-burn policy carried out by radical Imperials in an attempt to destabilize the galaxy in the wake of their defeat. Panicking, Mayfield tells Djarin that he has to carry out the rest of the mission – which involves a facial scan at a network terminal. And that’s when it finally happens: Djarin removes his helmet. It’s the emotional and thematic conclusion of the episode, though the story isn’t over.

After recovering the necessary data, Djarin and Mayfield are ambushed by Hess, who insists on buying them both drinks as a reward for their bravery against the pirates. A few minutes and one bone-chilling conversation about “the greater good” later, Mayfield shoots Hess point-blank in the chest and chaos erupts at the fortress. There’s an escape sequence, Fennec Shand and Cara Dune pick off stormtroopers, and the Slave One tears through TIE-fighters like butterflies. All in a day’s work for the Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian
Migs Mayfield | tor.com

The episode concludes with a slightly anticlimactic resolution for Mayfield (who just…walks off into the jungle, as if he’s not a wanted man on this specific planet for killing an Imperial officer), and a suspenseful interaction between Djarin and Gideon, where the Mandalorian calls up his old nemesis via hologram and proceeds to repeat back the same threatening speech that Gideon gave him in the season one finale. Gideon is stunned silent by the offensive gesture, but I doubt it’ll be long before he’s readying his defenses and preparing his elite shadow-troopers for battle. Djarin currently only has the help of Fett, Shand, and maybe Dune if she doesn’t decide to bail on him at the last moment because she’s still technically working for the New Republic. We haven’t heard anything about Bo-Katan or Ahsoka coming back, so for now…Djarin is seriously outnumbered.

Heading into the finale, I’ll admit I’ve had a fun time watching these characters grow more and more messy and complex over the past several episodes. In large part, that’s been due to the incredible performances from Pedro Pascal, Giancarlo Esposito, Temuera Morrison, and Ming-Na Wen, which have kept The Mandalorian lively and entertaining even as it’s ground to a halt in places. With many more seasons sure to come in the next few years, I’m excited to see where the series can go from here, and how it can continue to build on the characters at its core; since its actual story is fairly hit-or-miss.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 14 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Well, in case you were wondering, I don’t regret writing an entire, extensive, blog post detailing the geography, history, and ecosystem of the Jedi planet of Tython, because it was extremely fun to write. That this is the first episode of The Mandalorian that doesn’t really do a whole lot of worldbuilding is both surprising (considering the setting which, as you know from my post, is rich with Star Wars lore) and saddening (for the same reasons). There are fans who are currently annoyed because Tython is no longer in the Deep Core of the galaxy, and has instead been moved to the Outer Rim – contradicting even the new, official, canon – but I’m just disappointed that the set design was so small-scale this week. There’s one ring of standing stones, a measly excuse for a mountain (I mean, maybe it was just a very crumbled Tho Yor? It’s open for interpretation), and a severe lack of wild beasts. And don’t even get me started on how there were no Force-storms.

The Mandalorian
Din Djarin and Grogu, out for a joyride | electricbento.com

But hey, I begrudgingly respect Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) again, so there’s that!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that Boba Fett has never been one of my favorite Star Wars characters, and I didn’t squeal with excitement when he was teased in The Mandalorian‘s season two premiere because…I just didn’t find him all that interesting. He was the first Mandalorian introduced to the galaxy far, far away, so I suppose he deserves some kind of recognition for that – but he’s become outdated by other, far cooler Mandalorians, who have graced our screens since: even by his own father, Jango Fett, whom we saw in Attack Of The Clones. And no matter where Boba Fett showed up, whether it was in Return Of The Jedi or several excruciating episodes of Clone Wars, he always came off as stubborn and stuck-up to me. In fact, seeing his childhood in Clone Wars made it obvious that he had always been an arrogant, entitled, bully. He never changed or developed, and that made him boring.

So, unsurprisingly, the reason why he finally worked for me in this chapter of The Mandalorian is because Temuera Morrison (who previously played Jango Fett) brings a regal, commanding screen presence to this role that the character has never had before, as well as a maturity and sense of growth. Boba Fett was once little more than a banged-up suit of armor, but now he actually feels like a character: and an interesting one, too. He’s been humiliated countless times in the past – in fact, it’s become something of a running joke – but it feels like the writing has allowed him to learn from those mistakes at last, rather than simply erasing them from existence so he can be “cool”. It’s far cooler, in my opinion, for him to have undergone some serious character development during his time as a desert rogue.

But of course, that doesn’t mean the old banged-up suit of armor can’t still be important. In fact, it plays a major part in the awkward interactions between Din Djarin (our Mandalorian, voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) and Boba Fett, as it turns out Fett has been tracking the Razor Crest all the way from Tatooine (side-note: Temuera Morrison’s pronunciation of Tatooine as “TATween” is an extremely soothing vocal experience), hunting the armor that belongs to him…though why he didn’t take it from the far less experienced Cobb Vanth is a mystery to me. Tython was as good a place as any to finally corner Djarin, and better yet, this episode wasn’t already staked out for the live-action debut of a Clone Wars character, and/or a back-door pilot for an eventual spinoff (though Boba Fett is getting a spinoff, for which I am now a little bit more excited). Fett is initially disinterested in bargaining for the armor, and even threatens the Child as an intimidation tactic, telling Djarin that he has an accomplice with a sniper’s rifle trained on the baby.

The Mandalorian
Fennec Shand and Boba Fett | comicsbeat.com

It doesn’t take long for Djarin to figure out that accomplice’s name and identity: Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), the same sniper he encountered on the sands of Tatooine back in season one. But she was far too awesome to bleed out at the hands of a wannabe gangster like Toro Calican, and it seems that Boba Fett patched her back up again with some new metallic upgrades. And while her debut episode in season one was so dark that you couldn’t see her amazing orange-and-black costume, this episode takes place in broad daylight and allows us a much better look at the character.

But anyway, back to the armor. Din Djarin is once again clueless, and completely makes a fool out of himself in front of one of the most revered Mandalorians in the galaxy, demanding evidence that Boba Fett is actually Mandalorian before he can give him the armor. And despite how awkward it all is, and how badly it reflects on Djarin, I kind of love that Djarin never shuts up about history and tradition, yet seems to know extremely little about his own culture’s history, and is constantly being called out on it. He’s definitely bold: I’ll give him that. Meanwhile, Boba Fett has an entire genealogy and Fett family history embedded in the chain code of his armor. Remember when I said after Chapter 11 that Din Djarin and his clan being revealed as the odd ones out in Mandalorian society made him a lot more interesting? This is the perfect payoff to that setup.

Just as the situation is cooling down and Din Djarin has finally struck a deal with Boba Fett to give him the armor in exchange for help protecting Grogu (who by this point has already reached the seeing stone and is seated there, encased in a protective Force bubble), Imperial stormtroopers arrive. Director Robert Rodriguez, whose previous credits include Alita: Battle Angel, delivers on brutal, fast-paced, action, and stunning visuals. He gives us the Din Djarin/Fennec Shand team-up I knew we needed the moment I first saw her character, though Shand gets plenty of solo moments to shine – and Ming-Na Wen, who played a Marvel superhero on seven seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., gets to show off her extensive fighting skills and agility. Rodriguez’ inventive use of Boba Fett’s legendary armor also deserves praise: especially since, last time we saw Fett using his jetpack, he was careening into a sarlacc pit (too soon?). Fett reclaims the old suit a bit prematurely, sneaking into the Razor Crest during the chaos and stealing it from among Djarin’s possessions – dangerous, but still easier than trying to educate Djarin about Mandalorian history. Like Djarin, his suit also comes equipped with a version of the “whistling birds”, and in his time on Tatooine he’s also picked up a Tusken Raider staff, which he uses viciously. There’s something so refreshing about watching Mandalorians smash large, heavy objects against stormtrooper armor.

Fett also owns a gunship, none other than the Slave One itself, and…well, I don’t know how he got his hands on it again, but I’m willing to go along with it because the Empire blows up the Razor Crest after the first wave of stormtroopers is unsuccessful, and Din Djarin is now in need of a ship. We all made fun of the Razor Crest, and how it needed to be repaired every ten minutes: but I do feel bad that it’s now just a heap of burning scrap metal, far beyond repair. The episode is aptly subtitled The Tragedy.

If that were the only tragedy, I’d probably manage. But it’s not. As many had guessed online given the short amount of episodes left in season two, Grogu is captured by dark troopers (the giant, hulking droid troopers teased at the end of Chapter 12), moments before Djarin and Shand reach the seeing stone to intercept them. As they fly back to the Imperial star-cruiser hovering in Tython’s atmosphere, we can just see the itty-bitty baby staring down at Din Djarin with wide eyes. This is the kind of tragedy that hurts. But of course, it gives us a clear direction for the remaining two episodes: and direction is something The Mandalorian has sorely lacked up until this point.

The Mandalorian
Cara Dune and Din Djarin | starwars.fandom.com

Collecting what little he can from the wreckage of his old ship, including the beskar steel spear given to him by Ahsoka Tano last week and the strangely significant metal ball that has been Grogu’s favorite toy for ages, Djarin determines to rescue the baby: and both Fett and Shand swear to help him since technically they never fulfilled their end of the deal, to protect the child. For some reason, they immediately pack up and head back to the planet Nevarro, where Djarin enlists the help of Cara Dune (Gina Carano, whose permanent smirk is growing extremely tiresome), now an official New Republic marshal, to locate a currently incarcerated individual whom Djarin hopes will be able to track down Gideon: Miggs Mayfield (Bill Burr), Imperial sharpshooter turned deadly mercenary. Djarin turned him in to the New Republic back in season one, and it appears Mayfield has been stuck doing heavy labor ever since, so I’m not sure what bond of friendship exists between the two that Djarin thinks he can exploit. Mayfield, you may recall, thought that Grogu was either Djarin’s pet or illegitimate child, so I don’t think the promise of being able to help the baby will be quite enough in this case.

And speaking of Grogu, he’s stuck in a holding cell on the Imperial starship; but his subplot is far from over. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) arrives to interrogate the baby, only to find that Grogu is using his re-awakened Force powers to violently bash in the heads of his stormtrooper guards. Gideon is quickly able to subdue the exhausted infant, but doesn’t reveal any ulterior motive beyond what we already knew – he wants Dr. Pershing alerted immediately that the Empire has recovered its “donor”: for more on that, see my post regarding midi-chlorians. He does reveal the ancient Darksaber to Grogu, marking its first appearance since the season one finale. It takes this show a long time to pay off its various hints and teases.

The big question now is whether or not Grogu was able to contact anyone through the Force while seated on the seeing stone. Tython may have been a big disappointment, but if Grogu was able to summon a Jedi (or even better, a whole bunch of Jedi), the side-mission there might not have been in vain.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10