“Wonder Woman 1984” Review!

There’s a small but memorable scene in Wonder Woman 1984 in which the film’s major antagonist, Maxwell Lord (the irresistibly charming Pedro Pascal), having just worked his dark magic on the President of the United States and sparked an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union, tries to escape from an altercation at the White House only to find himself awkwardly handcuffed to Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Wonder Woman’s quick-thinking sidekick and lover. I bring this up because it’s representative of the film overall, which handcuffs itself to Pine’s Trevor and stubbornly sticks to him even as his very presence in the story demands that the entire plot revolve around him and not the lead character. The only way this metaphor could have been made even stronger would be if Wonder Woman herself were handcuffed to Trevor in this scene to reflect the film’s inability to give independence or agency to its female characters.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cnbc.com

Make no mistake, I loved Pine in the first film – and I adored the mature, elegant romance between him and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot): which was written in such a way that both characters could be strong and vulnerable with each other, and both had equal footing – with Diana clearly and effortlessly remaining the lead. Trevor’s death in Wonder Woman was a heartbreaking and powerful moment that allowed us all to see the good in humanity. And yet he’s back in Wonder Woman 1984, nearly a century after his death in World War I, doing pretty well for a guy whom we last saw get blown to bits in mid-air. Prior to the film’s release, I was as excited as anyone to see him return: in hindsight, I’m beginning to realize how foolish it was to ever attempt something that could so easily go so wrong…and did.

It’s blasphemous to even suggest, I know. The first film relied so heavily on that spark of chemistry between the two actors and their characters. But Wonder Woman 1984 had the means to substitute that timeless pairing for another one that could have been just as well-written and well-received, if director Patty Jenkins and her team of screenwriters hadn’t decided to resurrect Steve Trevor for one last lackluster hurrah: because let me tell you, everything that’s bad about this film’s flawed script, from the convoluted globe-trotting adventure to the random interlude with a Mayan shaman, feels to me like the inevitable side-effect of having to devise an excuse for how Steve was even able to come back at all.

And with the return of Steve Trevor, Diana herself gets sidelined in a story that seems almost uninterested in her as an individual. She’s got nowhere left to go and nothing new to learn, essentially. A vague theme about the importance of being true to yourself is woven throughout the film, but it’s not exactly an urgent message that Diana personally has to embrace, unlike the first film’s timely reminder to believe in the goodness of people. She was being true to herself anyway, before Steve randomly came back into her life and took over her entire storyline (oh, the parallels to Avengers: Endgame). I mean, it’s really a shame there was no way to weave this message more cleverly into the plot and romantic subplot by…oh I don’t know, making this a queer love story?

Just as DC preceded Marvel in the department of successful female-led superhero movies, many of us had hoped they’d be the first to give us a proudly and openly LGBTQ+ superheroine onscreen in the form of Diana Prince (Harley Quinn was vaguely bisexual in Birds Of Prey, and a supervillain anyway). We’ve known for some time that wouldn’t be the case, with Patty Jenkins confirming that wasn’t the story she wanted to tell. But what we get instead is a film that tiptoes around even the possibility of a same-sex romance as clumsily as Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) strides around the Smithsonian in high heels. Now, to be fair, most of the romantic tension between Diana and Barbara is more a result of the palpable chemistry between the two actresses (the quiet, ethereal Gadot and sparky, exuberant Wiig complimenting each other very nicely), rather than necessarily indicative of anything intentionally written into the script, but at the same time…come on. Both Diana and Barbara are canonically bisexual in DC Comics, and you’re telling me Patty Jenkins didn’t know what she was doing by casting a romantic filter over their awkwardly flirtatious lunch overlooking the Washington Monument, or having Barbara tumble into Diana’s arms in a subversion of a dated Hollywood romantic trope? It’s queerbaiting that only serves to underscore the fact that the rest of the movie is, in the words of one of my favorite reviewers, Valerie Complex; “aggressively heteronormative”.

Wonder Woman 1984
Cheetah | flickeringmyth.com

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the scenes that center women are the highlights of the film: from those early interactions between Diana and Barbara, to the epic prologue action sequence on the Amazonian isle of Themyscira, to a cheeky and delightful mid-credits scene. But none of these isolated scenes make up for the fact that the character arcs of both female leads in Wonder Woman 1984 (one of those female leads being a literal icon of feminism) revolve almost entirely around men. For Diana, that’s Chris Pine’s Steve, who returns with the help of an incredibly convenient plot device and plays fish-out-of-water for a while…a really long while, during an excruciating montage that exists solely to trot out every semi-nostalgic 80’s cultural trope you can imagine. Pine is still perfectly likable and has some laugh-out-loud line deliveries, but never truly recaptures what made his character so special – and thus feels like a burden the film must carry.

For Barbara Ann Minerva, it’s Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord – who is quite an interesting character, despite being surprisingly little like the young Donald Trump we all assumed he would be based on the promotional material. An oil tycoon with his eye on a legendary ancient wishing stone forged by the Gods, Lord seduces the world with his voice and power to make the impossible possible. He’s got Trumpian elements to his character, of course (among the more obvious examples: he yells “You’re hired!” at one point), but his motivations are relatable, and his charm genuine. Pascal also just oozes the kind of unshakably consistent charisma that can turn a silent, faceless gunslinger into a beloved icon, or make a dumpster fire of a movie like We Can Be Heroes shockingly entertaining.

Minerva herself does get to transform into the anthropomorphic Cheetah we know from the comics, and the CGI isn’t entirely awful as she flails about in her dimly-lit third-act duel with Diana (or perhaps Diana’s Golden Eagle armor is so distractingly awful I didn’t notice), but she deserved to be the major antagonist of this film, and not merely Maxwell’s loyal henchwoman. I’m also afraid that Wiig’s excellent dramatic performance and thrilling action sequences will be overshadowed in the larger fandom discourse.

Apart from Wiig’s notable fights (particularly her brutal takedown of a drunk man who continually harasses her on her jogging route), the action in Wonder Woman 1984 is fairly slight, with the only other standout being the prologue on Themyscira, where the Amazons compete for honor and glory in a series of challenges that test their physical abilities. If Jenkins is going to commit to having Diana only use her Lasso of Truth as a weapon (an idea I actually really like, as it reflects the character’s refusal to kill), she just has to find better ways to incorporate it into action scenes, because it can too easily come off as overly ridiculous.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cbr.com

Jenkins did make other “campy” elements from the character’s mythology work for Wonder Woman 1984, though, including Cheetah (doesn’t matter if she’s dressing up as a cat, or literally morphing into one: it’s still a hilariously campy concept), and the Invisible Jet – which comes about through a bizarre but acceptable deus ex machina. Unlike Shazam, this film isn’t trying to be goofy or funny: it still takes itself very seriously, and thus comes across as uniquely earnest for a superhero movie. In some ways, I’d say that’s one of several ways in which the movie evokes real 80’s adventure movies: both the good and the bad. The heightened sense of adventure, the not-so-great CGI you’re willing to excuse because everything happening onscreen is just so much fun, and the outdated perceptions of women and foreign nations that make us cringe deeply in our souls (we just need to collectively stop letting white American directors write North African and Middle Eastern nations into their scripts, because they’ve proven they’re not up to the task of handling those nations and their individual cultures at all well).

There’s still plenty of hope for the Wonder Woman franchise in the near future. We’re not dealing with another Crimes Of Grindelwald here (although the box-office reception would seem to disagree). But the divisive audience reactions and legitimate criticisms of Wonder Woman 1984 should hopefully alert Warner Brothers to the need to put this series back on track with better screenwriters and a stronger, more cohesive focus on women as individuals with their own storylines….even (and especially) if that means no more Steve Trevor.

Movie Rating: 6.5/10

“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

What To Expect From Tython, Star Wars’ Force-Sensitive Planet

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

The latest chapter of The Mandalorian has definitely given me plenty to talk about, from the origins of Grogu to the backstory of Grand Admiral Thrawn. But one thing which we haven’t discussed yet – and which I haven’t seen being widely discussed online – is the series’ next destination: the planet Tython, where Din Djarin and Grogu will supposedly find a mountain, a magical seeing-stone, and quite possibly a Jedi willing to help them out of a tricky situation. Ahsoka Tano didn’t provide much other information about the planet in her vague set of directions, which means she failed to warn Djarin about something that might pose a small problem, depending on what’s canon now and what’s not: Tython is one of the few Force-sensitive planets in the galaxy, and it can be downright hostile to Force-users visiting its surface.

Tython
Tython | starwars.fandom.com

Tython is not a new addition to the Star Wars universe, made up on the fly by The Mandalorian‘s creative team: it’s existed on the fringes of the current, official, Disney canon for a couple of years, and far longer in the old – and now mostly disregarded or discarded – “Legends” canon. I don’t expect the planet’s entire “Legends” era backstory to be suddenly canonized in next week’s episode, but I do think that, with this being the planet’s first live-action appearance, there will be plenty of opportunities for Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to slip in some subtly awesome callbacks to “Legends” material. And because they’ll probably only be hints at most, I thought you, dear reader, might want to go into next week’s episode prepared to quickly identify those hints.

First, though, let’s quickly go over what we know to be true of the planet Tython: i.e., what’s actually stated in the Disney canon. So far, it’s only been mentioned a handful of times, and visited just once, in an issue of the Dr. Aphra comics. Chelli Aphra and Darth Vader went there looking for the Rebel base – which Aphra, a Rebel sympathizer, secretly knew was located on the planet Hoth. Aphra was able to distract Vader and his Imperial forces on Tython for a while, leading the Sith Lord to a mysterious location known as the Martyrium of Frozen Tears, in the planet’s coldest region, where Vader was forced to confront traumatic memories of his past crimes. It’s unlikely that Din Djarin and Grogu will have any reason to visit the Martyrium themselves – though it could be useful, if we need to see any of Grogu’s own traumatic memories (such as his escape from the Jedi Temple during the Purge). The only other thing we know about Tython is that it’s located in the Deep Core (near the heart of the galaxy), and it’s one of several planets that vie for the honor of being the homeworld of the Jedi.

In the old “Legends” canon, Tython simply was the ancient homeworld of the Jedi – and, as I mentioned, it was also a Force-sensitive planet that reacted violently to any disturbance in the Force. Almost 40,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the Je’daii Order was founded on Tython by mystic pilgrims who arrived there in eight giant, flying, pyramids. Conveniently, they just happened to discover another giant flying pyramid already waiting for them on the planet (seriously, what are the odds?). These pyramids – named the Tho Yor – came to rest in various locations around Tython, where they became the foundations of the planet’s cities and temples. I’m not saying that the “mountain” that Ahsoka told Din Djarin to seek out is necessarily an ancient pyramid starship, but…wait, actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. At least be aware of the possibility. These pyramids could also serve as weapons of mass destruction during wartime, which is both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Tython
Tho Yor | swtor.fandom.com

Each of the temples built up around the Tho Yor had its own specific purpose – from martial arts, to healing, to balance. In these places of learning, the Je’daii invented and taught the philosophies that would later shape them into the Jedi Order we all know and love (do we love them? That’s up for debate: they’ve been pretty awful sometimes, no matter what canon you’re referencing). Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Before long, Tython became a battleground for the Force Wars, a conflict between two opposing factions of mystics; some still calling themselves the Je’daii, others carrying Force-powered swords and known as…wait for it…Jedi. Needless to say, the Jedi won. The planet faded in importance as the Jedi spread out across the galaxy, and it fell into the hands of the Sith a few times.

But by far the most interesting thing about Tython is its ability to detect any imbalance in the Force, and respond with deadly force whenever necessary: the planet is sentient, and can change its weather to create catastrophic Force storms and earthquakes. How it determines “imbalance” is up for debate; apparently, even the mere presence of a very strong Force-user can cause the planet to start self-destructing. In the Disney canon, it’s unclear if this is still the case. After all, Darth Vader – whose midi-chlorian count is the highest on record – didn’t face any resistance from the planet; but Grogu is possibly even stronger. We’ll see. I would be thrilled if Tython actively tried to annihilate Grogu and Din Djarin, because I don’t think they’d be in any great danger: whichever Jedi they meet on the planet would surely be able to help calm the planet and lull it back to sleep – just as the Je’daii were trained to do for centuries.

Alternatively, we know that The Mandalorian loves a good old beastie – and Tython is crawling with them, both in “Legends” and supposedly in the new canon as well. Some of the monstrous animals to look out for next week include…(*takes deep breath*)…Silik, desert-dwelling humanoid lizard beings; hook hawks, that hypnotize unwary travelers with enchanting singing before gouging their eyes out; carniverous Manka cats, armed with tusks; giant Saarl worms, a distant cousin of the Sarlacc; vicious, bat-like Blood Spites, which exist in the Disney canon already; shaggy Uxibeasts; tentacled Gelfish; and acid spiders for good measure, just in case you wanted more after Chapter 10 gave us an entire arachnid army. Depending on where Din Djarin lands the Razor Crest, he’ll find plenty of creepy-crawlies to fight off while Grogu does the magic hand thing and tries to call up some of his old Jedi pals.

Tython
Tython | swtor-life.com

As for the actual seeing stone referenced by Ahsoka, I can’t find anything like that in the surprisingly extensive records about Tython. I suspect this is an entirely new invention, but it could also be the last remnant of one of the Je’daii Temples built around the Tho Yor pyramids. Either way, it obviously has a strong connection to the Force. It’s unclear how Ahsoka Tano even knows about it, but it’s possible she and other Jedi survivors visit the planet often, which is why she believes Grogu will be able to contact one there. There’s a small risk that Grogu will accidentally contact a Sith or other Dark Side user, and an even bigger risk that Moff Gideon will ambush Djarin and Grogu there (he’s been tracking the Razor Crest since Nevarro), so one has to hope there’s a Jedi on standby somewhere. I’m not sure how this whole thing is supposed to work: can Grogu summon Jedi instantly to his location? Do they have to sit on the mountaintop and wait? I guess we’ll find out next week.

What do you think? Are you excited to see Tython? How similar do you expect it to be to its “Legends” counterpart? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Who Is Thrawn? The Star Wars Villain, Explained.

As I mentioned while reviewing yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, I am a huge fan of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. I love the entire crew of the Ghost; I get a kick out of seeing Rebels references and Easter eggs pop up anywhere from Rogue One to The Rise Of Skywalker; and today, when it was teased that a major cliffhanger from the Rebels series finale will finally be resolved, I nearly screamed out loud because it’s about time. Whether it happens in future seasons of The Mandalorian or an entirely new spinoff series starring Ahsoka Tano (and Sabine Wren?), we are going to learn the whereabouts of one of Star Wars‘ most enduring antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And, probably, the lost Jedi Ezra Bridger. This could not get any better.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | barnesandnoble.com

(No wait, actually it could. Please, Disney: cast Rahul Kohli as live-action Ezra Bridger. It’s the fan-cast that dreams are made of, and I will accept nothing less).

So let’s break it down. Even though we went over the basics in my review, I still feel like I have more to say (I always have more to say about Rebels), and anyway, it seems like fans of The Mandalorian are going to need more than a passing knowledge of Thrawn in order to fully understand what he could be up to, so many years after his initial disappearance at the end of Rebels.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, born Mitth’raw’nuruodo, was one of the Empire’s most terrifyingly efficient military leaders and strategists during the fight to suppress the rebellion. He’s been around in Star Wars canon for a long time, first appearing in the 1991 novel, Heir To The Empire. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and erased much of the old canon (now called “Legends”), Thrawn was nearly lost forever – but Dave Filoni swooped in and rescued the fan-favorite character from oblivion, giving him a key role in Star Wars: Rebels as the series’ main antagonist, and ultimate big bad. With his innate ability to strategize several steps ahead, and foresee every plausible outcome, the red-eyed Chiss alien commander is more like a super-computer than a living creature; his most “relatable” quality is his affection for art, which he steals from the worlds he plunders and assembles into a massive private collection.

In the waning years of the Galactic Empire, Thrawn’s attention was turned towards the remote planet Lothal, home to some of the Empire’s most valuable industrial centers. There, shortly before the battle in which the Death Star plans were stolen, setting off the events of A New Hope, Thrawn clashed with the Rebel forces led by Lothal native Ezra Bridger, a young Jedi with a deep connection to animals. All of Thrawn’s intricate plans were foiled by Bridger saving the day in a heroic, and completely unpredictable, act of self-sacrifice – by summoning an entire army of purrgil space whales from the other side of the galaxy. The purrgil grabbed both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger in their tentacles before shooting off into hyperspace at lightspeed, to a destination unknown. The moment leaves everyone – including the audience – in stunned silence, but Bridger’s actions end up saving Lothal: reeling from the loss of Thrawn, the Empire gives up on the backwater planet and turns its focus towards other, more urgent targets, while the core team of Rebels are free to go their separate ways, starting new lives.

Thrawn
Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren | starwars.fandom.com

And as for Bridger and Thrawn…well, nobody knows. But Dave Filoni has confirmed that both characters survived the space-crossing. Most likely, they exited hyperspace somewhere in the outermost regions of the galaxy (or perhaps even further afield?), and have now spent the last decade or so trying to find their way back. The final scene of Rebels picks up with one of Ezra Bridger’s former crewmates on the Ghost, Mandalorian graffiti-artist Sabine Wren, some years after the fall of the Empire; as she embarks on her own journey to locate Bridger and finally bring him home to Lothal. We know she has help from Ahsoka Tano, who made a promise to Bridger before his disappearance that she would find him. And now, thanks to The Mandalorian, we know a little bit more about Tano’s involvement in this very personal quest.

The general consensus amongst fans is that The Mandalorian‘s latest episode takes place just before Ahsoka and Sabine team up in that final scene of Rebels. It makes sense: the episode ends with Ahsoka learning the new whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn from one of his acolytes, which could give her some hint of where to find Ezra Bridger as well, or at least where to start looking. But if Thrawn is back (and apparently already conspiring with his old allies), that means the New Republic has more pressing concerns than finding Bridger – the Grand Admiral could very well be the mastermind behind other Mandalorian villains like Moff Gideon, and the driving force behind the plan to rebuild the Empire, making him the biggest threat in the galaxy. As I said in my review, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that The Mandalorian is all leading up to the story of how Thrawn created the First Order from the remnants of the Empire. This would even line up with Thrawn’s original story arc in the “Legends”, where he set up his own secret empire, united the remaining Imperials in the wake of the Empire’s fall, and battled the New Republic. Much like Palpatine in The Rise Of Skywalker, he cloned himself and became something of a recurring threat long after his actual death.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | usatoday.com

Ezra, meanwhile, can’t be too far off. In fact, The Mandalorian dropped a subtle reference to him in this latest episode, with the sudden (and suspiciously random) appearance of a loth-cat in the streets of Calodan. Loth-cats are native to Lothal, and act as Bridger’s spirit guides throughout Star Wars: Rebels, communicating the will of his planet’s thriving ecosystem. They’re cute and all, but their semi-mystical powers and connections to the Force make them even more fascinating. Interestingly, this is the second loth-cat to show up in The Mandalorian: the first having almost eaten Baby Yoda (back when he was still Baby Yoda) in season one. Is a pattern emerging?

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Thrawn return to Star Wars, and make his live-action debut? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

6 Characters Who Could Have Saved Grogu From Order 66

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Today’s episode of The Mandalorian was practically overflowing with Star Wars deep lore, including several big reveals, Easter eggs, and hints and teases of even more exciting things to come. But whereas many of those things (like Ahsoka’s future, and the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn) may be explored in spinoff series’ down the line, the true identity of Baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – and the details of his mysterious backstory are almost sure to be explored in The Mandalorian itself. So let’s discuss the new biggest mystery surrounding Grogu’s past: who saved him from Order 66.

Grogu
Grogu | insider.com

Thanks to Ahsoka Tano, we now know that Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in the last years of the Old Republic. He was mentored by many Jedi Masters, and presumably became fairly strong in the Force – but in the intervening years between the fall of the Jedi Order and his reappearance in The Mandalorian shortly after the fall of the Empire, he has somehow forgotten much of his Jedi training and distanced himself from the Force. Ahsoka explains that this is because Grogu is afraid of something; probably the trauma of having survived the Jedi Purge and the execution of Order 66, when Emperor Palpatine turned on the Jedi and slaughtered all but a few in a massive bloodbath. In one of Revenge Of The Sith‘s most memorable sequences, Palpatine’s disciple Anakin Skywalker stormed the Jedi Temple and murdered pretty much everybody, including children. But somehow, Grogu survived the Purge, thanks to an unnamed rescuer who got him out of the Temple and kept him hidden from Anakin, Palpatine, and the long arm of the Empire for years. While the Emperor continued his hunt for Jedi survivors with the help of Darth Vader and a small army of Jedi traitors known as Inquisitors, Grogu remained alone in a secret location until somehow being brought to the attention of ex-Imperials in the aftermath of the Empire’s collapse. The rest is history.

But now, let’s look at a few characters who could have been Grogu’s secret savior (and one or two who definitely weren’t) – and who could be very important players in The Mandalorian‘s future storylines, as we continue to explore the child’s backstory and purpose.

Grogu
This is not the face of someone about to rescue a baby | express.co.uk

6: Anakin Skywalker. This is a bizarre theory I saw making the rounds on social media, though it seems very out of character for young Skywalker. In Revenge Of The Sith, we saw Anakin go from senselessly murdering children in the Jedi Temple to mowing down an entire Separatist council, Force-choking his wife, and trying to kill his mentor. I’m not sure there’s any space in between those events for Anakin to suddenly have a change of heart, randomly decide to spare a single padawan‘s life, and then go back to being an out-of-control killing machine. In his later years, as he witnessed first-hand the horrors he had helped to bring about, Anakin quietly (and sometimes subconsciously) started helping his enemies in small, secretive ways – such as destroying a Jedi holocron that would have supplied Palpatine with the names of every Force-sensitive child in the galaxy: which means that, technically, older Anakin actually did save Grogu’s life. But young Anakin? Not a chance.

Grogu
Yaddle | starwars.com

5: Yaddle. The Mandalorian introduced a new complication in the story of Yoda’s female counterpart, Jedi Master Yaddle, with Ahsoka Tano stating definitively that, in all her time as a Jedi, she’s only ever known one other member of Grogu’s species, besides Grogu himself – Yoda. It’s a big slap in the face to all of Yaddle’s fans, who are still waiting for her to return. She hasn’t been seen in live-action since her very first appearance in The Phantom Menace, and it’s been way too long if you ask me: especially since the current canon doesn’t provide any information about Yaddle’s fate in the Purge (and, in fact, hints that she survived). So why doesn’t Ahsoka know about her? Well, Yaddle is believed to have retired from her post on the Jedi High Council before Attack Of The Clones, meaning that Ahsoka might have never come into contact with her if she left the Temple completely. But if that’s the case, that means Yaddle probably wasn’t anywhere nearby when Anakin attacked and Grogu needed saving. So I think we have to rule her out as a likely option, but take comfort in the fact that it means Yaddle’s survival is even more plausible!

Grogu
Shaak Ti | aminoapps.com

4: Shaak Ti. I feel kind of sorry for Master Shaak Ti – who, coincidentally, filled Yaddle’s seat on the Jedi High Council. Ti was given a very important role in the Jedi hierarchy, overseeing the training of the Clone armies on Kamino. But in this role, she failed to thoroughly examine the nefarious secret behind the purpose of the inhibitor chips hidden inside each Clone soldier, despite all the warning signs. It would have been cruelly poetic if she had been killed by one of those same Clones at the same time as most of her fellow Jedi, but she was actually murdered by Anakin Skywalker himself: impaled while meditating in the Jedi Temple. That would seem to rule her out as a potential Grogu savior, but she did record a final hologram message before her death telling any surviving Jedi to rise up and rebuild the Order – so clearly, she knew what was going on before Anakin got to her. Could she have had time to rescue Grogu in that brief space of time and make up for many of her failings? Possibly. I doubt it, but never say never.

Grogu
He…survives this? | starwars.com

3: Mace Windu. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Mace Windu literally one of the first Jedi to die in Order 66? Doesn’t the Emperor personally kill him, with help from Anakin? Well…maybe. Windu’s death is something that’s been debated in the fandom recently, with some (including Samuel L. Jackson himself, and George Lucas) theorizing that such a powerful Jedi could have withstood losing a limb, being electrocuted by Force lightning, and then getting thrown out a skyscraper window. This is Samuel L. Jackson we’re talking about here, so I’m prepared to buy that. And if he did survive his apparent death, maybe he could have gotten back to the Jedi Temple before Anakin and rescued Grogu: though I’d be interested to hear his reasoning for why only Grogu warranted saving. This theory raises a lot of questions. Too many, if you ask me. But if it means we get SLJ/Baby Yoda content, I’m prepared to forgive even the most random of retcons.

Grogu
Yoda | observer.com

2: Yoda. We still don’t know whether Yoda and Grogu are related in any way, despite being two of only three known members of their unidentified and incredibly secretive species, but Yoda would definitely have known who Grogu was during the child’s time in the Jedi Temple. He probably also selected some of Grogu’s Masters, and might have taken a role in mentoring the child – when Ahsoka mentioned Yoda’s name in her conversation with Din Djarin, Grogu’s ears immediately perked up, indicating that he recognized the name, at least. Yoda was one of the wisest and most far-seeing Jedi: if Grogu has any huge relevance to the overall story of Star Wars, it wouldn’t be surprising if Yoda knew that well in advance, and decided to protect the child from harm so he could one day grow up to become…whoever he becomes. Yoda did visit the Jedi Temple the morning after Anakin’s attack, so he could have found Grogu, if the child had hidden during the assault on the Temple. But why wouldn’t he have taken Grogu with him to hide on Dagobah?

Grogu
Jocasta Nu, the galaxy’s coolest librarian | themarvelreport.com

1: Jocasta Nu. If anybody had the motive and means of smuggling Grogu out of the Jedi Temple, it was Jocasta Nu. The elderly Jedi librarian who briefly interacted with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack Of The Clones may not have been of much assistance when trying to track down Kamino, but she became instrumental in rescuing and preserving Jedi knowledge after the Empire rose to power. According to the new Disney canon, she was able to escape from the Jedi Temple on the night of Anakin’s attack with a treasure trove of books, holocrons, artifacts – and potentially one stray padawan? Nu tried her best to locate other surviving Jedi, particularly Force-sensitive children; a list of whose names she kept in a valuable holocron. Although Darth Vader eventually killed her, she didn’t fail entirely in her goal: Vader destroyed the holocron without telling Emperor Palpatine of its existence, and the information Nu snuck out of the Temple provided the blueprint for Luke Skywalker’s later attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order. And it’s possible that, if she was Grogu’s savior, she may have played an even more important role in saving the galaxy.

As you can probably tell, there aren’t a whole lot of Jedi who could have saved Grogu: some of the ones on this list were probably either too far gone to the Dark Side, too far away, or just too dead, to help out. It’s possible this is a completely unimportant conversation, too: maybe Grogu was rescued by someone random, a Jedi we’ve never met before in any story. But I don’t think so. The way this reveal was set up – combined with the revelation that more Jedi are coming in future episodes of The Mandalorian – makes me think we will learn the identity of Grogu’s savior, and it will be someone we already know. It also makes me think we’ll be getting flashbacks to the attack on the Jedi Temple: just like the flashbacks we saw of Din Djarin’s own childhood trauma, and the slaughter of his people by Separatist battle droids, in The Mandalorian‘s first season.

So what do you think? Who saved Grogu? Somebody on this list? Somebody completely different? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 13 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AND STAR WARS: REBELS AHEAD!

Mere moments after The Mandalorian‘s thirteenth – and most eagerly-anticipated – chapter opens, we are introduced to Rosario Dawson’s live-action Ahsoka Tano, rising up out of the nocturnal fog with her twin lightsabers flashing on and off, hot on the trail of one of her enemies. And like me, your first reaction to this might be that it’s too soon for the episode to reveal her character, that you’re not yet prepared, that you haven’t had time: but that’s because we’ve all been under the (completely wrong) impression that Tano’s debut would surely have to be the biggest reveal in this entire episode, no matter what else happened. That is very much not the case. In fact, if I had to make a bet, I’d wager that any and all Ahsoka Tano discourse will dwindle out long before the uproarious debate about several other, arguably more urgent, reveals – including Baby Yoda’s birth name. This episode gives you absolutely no time to process any one of these reveals before dropping another bombshell on the audience, which makes the whole experience even more thrilling for a viewer (especially if, like me, you’re watching at three o’-clock in the morning and trying to stay quiet while also wanting to scream to the heavens because OMG WAS THAT A THRAWN NAMEDROP?)

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | polygon.com

Yes, yes it was.

But before my head actually explodes, let’s dial things back. Let’s start out with the most predictable and least shocking of all the reveals, which, ironically and a little bit tragically, turned out to be Ahsoka Tano. Over the course of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Tano gradually became one of the most well-written, complex, and compelling characters in all of Star Wars canon, growing from a reckless, free-spirited Jedi padawan, to a disillusioned cynic who left the Order rather than be complicit in its crimes, to a Rebel leader and a mentor for heroes like Ezra Bridger. The Mandalorian picks up with her shortly before her final Rebels appearance, still on Bridger’s trail after his mysterious disappearance (although he’s not the only missing person she’s following, as it turns out). Tano is once again entrusted to the care of her creator Dave Filoni, who directed this week’s turbulent, action-packed chapter.

It’s hard to find any glaring faults in Rosario Dawson’s performance, although the design of her striped lekku horns leaves much to be desired: somehow they went from ornate and almost waist-length at the end of Rebels to being short, soft, and rounded again, like they were in Clone Wars, and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Dawson has many of the character’s mannerisms down to a science, from her smirks and side-eyes, to the way she runs slightly hunched-over. She doesn’t perform quite as many gravity-defying leaps or twirls as her animated counterpart, but her action scenes are impressive nonetheless – and she has plenty of them. Her twin lightsabers, gashes of white light in the oppressively dark fog of Corvus (when Bo-Katan said it was a forest planet, she neglected to mention it was a petrified forest on a lava flat), are strikingly beautiful weapons as always. The only major difference between animated Ahsoka and live-action Ahsoka is her voice, which has up until now been consistently provided by actress Ashley Eckstein. Dawson’s voice is deep where Eckstein’s was higher-pitched, and the change is significant and hard to grow accustomed to in just forty-five minutes, especially when we’ve spent so much time with Eckstein as Ahsoka, and her unique voice has become such an intrinsic part of the character’s identity.

And, although I can’t believe I have to be saying this a second time, it is worth remembering and acknowledging that Rosario Dawson is still under fire for alleged transphobia, something that can’t be taken lightly. But whereas her Mandalorian castmate Gina Carano foolishly decided to make her petty transphobia public on her social media, Dawson’s case is more complicated, as it involves a severe allegation – that Dawson violently attacked a transman in her employ – that supposedly happened behind closed doors, and is thus much harder to prove. All but two of the charges filed against Dawson were dropped a few months back, but many fans still find it hard to support Dawson until more information is available, and that’s totally valid. No matter how you ultimately decide to process this information, it’s important that you know about it.

Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal), meanwhile, knows nothing about Ahsoka Tano except what Bo-Katan told him about her location on Corvus, in the city of Calodan. By the time Din Djarin and Baby Yoda reach Calodan, Ahsoka has already had to leave the city, and is now lurking in the forests just outside its walls, picking off her enemies one by one and slowly working her way towards the heart of the city, and its ex-Imperial Magistrate, a woman named Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto, channeling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon era Michelle Yeoh very effectively), who wields a beskar steel spear and is withholding some very valuable information about her former masters. Elsbeth immediately enlists Din Djarin to hunt down and kill Ahsoka for her in exchange for her Mandalorian spear. But when Djarin does find Ahsoka, the two only exchange a few blows (and Djarin nearly scorches her with his trusty flamethrower, but whatever) before they both hesitantly lay down their weapons and agree to help each other. Like all of us, Ahsoka is immediately entranced by Baby Yoda, and wants to know more about him.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | indepent.co.uk

And thanks to her ability to communicate with Baby Yoda via the Force, we actually get some solid, though incomplete, answers to our many questions about the child’s backstory and place of origin. But most shockingly, we also learn his given name. He couldn’t just be Baby Yoda forever, I suppose. Now, one can see the wisdom in Disney’s decision to name him “The Child” in all of The Mandalorian’s marketing – it seems they were trying to give him the most boring moniker imaginable, so that when the time came for the big name reveal, audiences would willingly make the transition. But just as they never realized how big a sensation The Child would become, they never realized how the entire fandom would instantly disregard “The Child” in favor of a hashtag-friendly nickname we all collectively decided upon: Baby Yoda. And now, a season and a half into the show, we’re being asked to give up the nickname/social media phenomenon that helped to fuel this show’s popularity in favor of a new name…Grogu.

Grogu is a short, simple, and kind of adorable in its own way. Who knows, it might even catch on with the fandom (though, from what I’ve seen, reactions to this reveal have been mixed). But the fight between the Grogu separatists and the Baby Yoda loyalists will be long and brutal, and I honestly don’t see how Grogu – despite being a truly cute name for a cute character – can beat out Baby Yoda, which has become so solidly cemented in the public consciousness over the past year. Personally, I hope both stick, because I’m not quite ready to let Baby Yoda go (though I will use Grogu from now on).

In-universe, though, he’s officially Grogu. He even answers to that name, which will make the Mandalorian’s parenting a lot easier from now on. And in his conversation with Ahsoka, Grogu feels comfortable enough to open up about some other details from his traumatic past – like how he apparently used to live at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant until the very end of the Clone Wars, at which point someone got him out of the Temple. Although nobody mentions the Jedi Purge or Anakin’s slaughter of the Temple’s younglings, it sounds like Grogu was snuck out during that night of bloodshed – Ahsoka notes that Grogu is still very afraid of something. Without any more information to go on, we’re still left with gaps in Grogu’s story that don’t make sense: like how he ended up in the pirate camp where Din Djarin found him in the season one pilot. Or, for that matter, how Ahsoka herself managed to live at the Jedi Temple for years without ever coming across the baby (it’s theoretically possible he joined the Order after she left, but there’s hardly enough time between then and the end of the Clone Wars for him to have been trained by “many Masters”, as Grogu says he was). The reveal that he came from the Temple doesn’t even necessarily suggest a connection with Jedi Masters Yoda or Yaddle: the Jedi took in hundreds upon hundreds of Force-sensitive children from every corner of the galaxy. He could be anyone.

At the very least, Grogu’s background as a Jedi-in-training will give him an advantage as he begins the learning process again and reconnects with the Force. Ahsoka practices with Grogu, helping him use the Force to levitate small rocks, but the child is stubborn – and too attached to Din Djarin for his own good, Ahsoka quickly determines. And so, after a single training session, Ahsoka politely informs Din Djarin that she can’t risk mentoring Grogu, and tells him in no uncertain terms to seek help elsewhere. Ahsoka’s own mentor and best friend did succumb to the Dark Side because of his powerful love for another, so she’s certainly entitled to be wary of any sort of “attachment”, something expressly forbidden by the old Jedi code. But in my opinion, this whole situation felt far too contrived for my taste, and out of character for Ahsoka. After all, Ahsoka knew about Anakin Skywalker’s love for Padmé, but she never actually found out that was what drove him to the Dark Side. And considering how she rejected the Jedi Order and its outdated rules pretty firmly in The Clone Wars, it seems odd that she’d now be so adamant about adhering to their traditions, so many years after the Order fell.

But The Mandalorian needs a way to write her off the show somehow, because apparently we don’t get to spend more than one episode with any new character. First, though, Din Djarin agrees to help Ahsoka storm the city of Calodan and defeat Morgan Elsbeth. And it’s a good thing he does, because we, the audience, get to witness a truly spectacular duel between Ahsoka and Elsbeth in the latter’s water-garden (while Din Djarin confronts Elsbeth’s henchman in a very suspenseful staring contest): and what’s more, we finally find out why Ahsoka is so intensely interested in this remote planet when the former Jedi asks Elsbeth point-blank where to find Grand Admiral Thrawn. Cue me, a Star Wars: Rebels fanboy, screaming at the top of my lungs. Thrawn, the chief antagonist of Rebels, went missing shortly before the events of the original trilogy, after being ensnared in the tentacles of a purrgil space whale and carried to an unknown location somewhere in the outermost reaches of the galaxy. Ezra Bridger, the young Jedi protagonist of Rebels, went with him – sacrificing himself to defeat Thrawn and put an end to the Grand Admiral’s schemes. Fans have always known that neither Bridger nor Thrawn died: but at the same time, we still don’t know where they went, or whether they’ve spent the intervening years trying to work their way back towards civilization. But now, thanks to her encounter with Lady Elsbeth, it looks like Ahsoka has the intel she’s been looking for – and despite leaving The Mandalorian for the time being, she may be back: this time, perhaps with her traveling companion Sabine Wren, another Mandalorian and former Rebel whom we know she eventually enlists to help find Bridger.

The Mandalorian
Thrawn | syfy.com

The big question, though, is whether we’ll meet Thrawn in this series, or a future spinoff – because I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for him to appear now. Although he failed in his attempts to obliterate the Rebel Alliance, he became a truly menacing villain thanks to his innate ability to play the long game, staying several steps ahead of his opponents at all times and only being defeated thanks to a truly unpredictable act of heroism. But if Ahsoka has reason to believe he’s back, that probably means he’s begun conspiring with other ex-Imperials. I would not be at all surprised if we eventually learned that Thrawn is as much one of the masterminds behind the First Order’s rise to power as his master, Emperor Palpatine.

But for the time being, the race to hunt down Thrawn is still merely a tantalizing subplot. The main plot is heading to the planet Tython, where Ahsoka tells Din Djarin he’ll find an old Jedi Temple – and maybe, just maybe, some other Jedi. No hint of whom that might be (share your own theories in the comments below), but I expect we’re about to be in for another big reveal.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Is The Mandalorian’s Midi-chlorian Plot Twist A Risk Worth Taking?

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian was…not my favorite, for several reasons. I’m over Gina Carano as Cara Dune, I’m growing tired of so many repetitive side-quests, and I’m ready for Baby Yoda to become something more than Din Djarin’s adorable accessory…but one thing that I did find genuinely fascinating and admirable about the episode was showrunner Jon Favreau’s borderline-reckless bravery and confidence, on full display for everyone to see. With a single, subtle reference, he has brought back midi-chlorians, one of the most controversial and universally hated elements of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, and managed to weave them so deeply into the story that they’re sure to be addressed more directly in the near future as they influence The Mandalorian‘s plot moving forward (if The Mandalorian‘s plot ever moves forward, that is): and now Favreau has to hope that the goodwill he’s built with fans will carry him unscathed through the inevitable firestorm. If he’s lucky, he’ll find the fandom more welcoming to his interpretation of midi-chlorians than they were to George Lucas’ introductory explanation of the concept twenty years ago.

The Mandalorian
forbes.com

Personally, I don’t expect Favreau to suffer any major consequences for bringing back midi-chlorians, though I do think he could risk damaging The Mandalorian‘s popularity with hardcore fans. Let’s just say, midi-chlorians aren’t something from the prequel trilogy that I think anyone was begging to be reminded of anytime soon, though they have popped up sporadically in Star Wars canon since their appearance in The Phantom Menace. They tend to lead to prolonged philosophical arguments about the nature of the Force: which you might think sounds like fun now, but trust me, you don’t want to be around when Star Wars fans start arguing about…well, anything really. Whether it’s a debate about midi-chlorians or the Skywalker surname, this is one fandom that has always had a massive and well-documented problem with toxic trolls, gatekeepers, bigots, and the like.

Before we go any further, though, I feel obligated to break down some midi-chlorian history and biology for you. Imagine for a moment that you’re Baby Yoda in school on Nevarro; grab a bright blue macaron cookie, and settle in for an explanation of one of Star Wars‘ most complicated, convoluted concepts.

Midi-chlorians, most in-universe scholars agree, are sentient microbes that concentrate inside the cells of every living creature in the Star Wars universe. Most people don’t have very high concentrations of midi-chlorians in their bodies: 2,500 or lower is agreed upon as the normal amount per cell for an average human being in Star Wars. But the more midi-chlorians you have living inside of you, the more attuned you are to the Force (Anakin Skywalker, for example, had over 25,000 midi-chlorians) and the more likely you are to be picked up by some random Jedi passing through town. In fact, during the reign of the Old Republic, that was one of the main objectives of the Jedi Order: taking blood samples from kids around the galaxy, and testing them for midi-chlorians. Now, something important to remember is that midi-chlorians aren’t actually the Force – rather, they act as a conduit between the Force and their host body, translating the will of the Force to their host. The host also has to put in work focusing their mind and looking inwards so as to be more attuned to their own midi-chlorians, and thus more open to the will of the Force. It’s unknown whether the midi-chlorians actually created the link between the Force and living creatures, or whether the Force created midi-chlorians to establish that link (if it’s the former, it leads to some disturbing questions about why the midi-chlorians have an agenda of their own that seems to overpower the free will of their host bodies; but if it’s the latter, why wouldn’t the Force have distributed midi-chlorians more fairly throughout the galaxy?). Midi-chlorians also have a wide range of other bizarre, and only vaguely defined, powers: such as the ability to create life. This has led to speculation that Anakin’s abnormally high midi-chlorian count was a result of him being conceived in his mother’s womb by the midi-chlorians, Immaculate Conception style – and again, we’re getting into troubling territory regarding free will and consent, since Shmi Skywalker doesn’t seem to have gotten any say in this matter.

The Mandalorian
wallpaperflare.com

It’s this ability to create and potentially preserve life that caught the attention of the Sith and led to them manipulating midi-chlorians for a variety of evil purposes. Eternal life, for instance, was one of several goals that Emperor Palpatine lusted after – and almost achieved. In The Rise Of Skywalker we discovered that Palpatine was able to survive his death in the explosion of the Death Star II, and since it’s never been fully explained how he managed that (except that it had something to do with clones), it’s been speculated that midi-chlorian manipulation was involved. Now, it looks like The Mandalorian may be trying to retroactively provide more information on this issue – as well as the backstory of Palpatine’s mutant science project, Supreme Leader Snoke (whom I mistakenly referred to yesterday as a clone of Palpatine, when he is in fact a clone created in someone else’s image by Palpatine).

When Din Djarin and his team infiltrated the ex-Imperial fortress in yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, they stumbled upon a top-secret cloning facility being operated by Dr. Pershing, a character last seen in season one, whose backstory is largely clouded in secrecy but involves the Kaminoan cloners. Pershing was a minor character, whose agenda in season one was being hindered by having to work alongside “The Client”, an Imperial bureaucrat who didn’t seem to have a very high regard for the doctor’s work, and was mostly concerned with finding Baby Yoda and killing him as quickly as possible. But it seems that ever since the season one finale, with The Client now dead, Pershing has found a more receptive audience in ex-Imperial killing machine Moff Gideon. Unfortunately for Din Djarin, both Pershing and Gideon are working towards a common goal: getting their hands on Baby Yoda, and using him – somehow – to bring about the return of the Empire.

Dr. Pershing isn’t at the fortress when Djarin and his team stage their attack, but they do find a hologram message from Pershing to Gideon’s headquarters, where the doctor gives a progress report on his work, and seems to confirm that, with just a single blood sample he was able to obtain from Baby Yoda back in season one, he’s been trying (so far unsuccessfully) to transfer the child’s midi-chlorians to other beings: all of whom now resemble deformed vegetables lined up in tanks. Pershing never utters the word “midi-chlorian”, but he specifically states that recapturing Baby Yoda is essential because the Empire is unlikely to find any other test subject with a higher “M-count” – a subtle, but unmistakable, reference to the midi-chlorian count. Pershing doesn’t state an exact number that we could compare to other notable Jedi (if Baby Yoda has a higher M-count than Anakin Skywalker, he’s by default the most powerful Force-user on record), but it seems that the child is extremely valuable to the Empire.

But why? What are they doing with all these experiments? Well, we don’t know just yet: but from the context, it certainly looks like Pershing and Gideon are trying to create a small clone army of Force-users, with a small assist from Baby Yoda’s midi-chlorians. The logistics of how a Force-user’s midi-chlorians can be transferred from one person to another is a subject of debate in the fandom – but as I mentioned, we have seen Palpatine successfully clone himself (or something) with his Force powers intact, and we know he created multiple clones of Snoke, a Force user. In The Mandalorian, we possibly even see the very first proto-Snoke in development on Nevarro: according to musically-minded Star Wars fans, his theme plays over a scene in the cloning facility where the camera zooms in on a distorted specimen who has a facial scar very similar to the one sported by Snoke. I have mixed feelings about the revelation that Snoke might have been created using Baby Yoda’s blood, but it’s a twist, alright. What’s more concerning about all this is the implication that this experiment on Baby Yoda was the Empire’s first step towards doing…whatever they did to bring Palpatine back in physical form…and that Baby Yoda’s blood might have been part of that process.

The Mandalorian
starwars.com

If all goes well, this might also be the first step towards making midi-chlorians popular with fans. When George Lucas introduced the complicated idea in The Phantom Menace, audiences were justifiably confused about why the Force – which, until that point, had seemed like an intangible, spiritual construct – suddenly had a nonsensical scientific explanation: one which seemed to contradict the guiding principle of the original trilogy by suggesting that the Force isn’t something that anybody can wield with the right training, but instead requires you to have a specific number of symbiotic microbes in your blood before you can even take the next step towards becoming a Jedi. It ruins the magic, in a way. And it’s so complex that nobody can figure out exactly what the midi-chlorians are or what they’re capable of, because nobody behind the scenes has ever conclusively answered either of those questions. If The Mandalorian is going to bring back midi-chlorians, it’s going to need to put in the work to explain what they are, what they do, and why we shouldn’t hate them.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea, or a bad one? Are you still trying to figure out the difference between a midi-chlorian and a Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 12 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

The hype for The Mandalorian‘s second season has never been higher than after last week’s episode, probably the best in the entire series, when audiences met The Clone Wars‘ Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time, and were promised an upcoming encounter with another fan-favorite from the animated Star Wars universe: Ahsoka Tano, former Jedi turned Rebel spy. But the eight-episode series has found time for another side-quest this week before we actually get to meet Ahsoka – and although it’s a side-quest that does eventually tie back into the actual plot, towards the very end, it might be the final straw for some people. This latest episode hasn’t made it into the top trends of the day on Twitter and it probably ranks among my least favorite “chapters” thus far. The slow pace, something I had hoped to grow more accustomed to this season, still just feels obnoxious and inorganic to me – seriously, how many times are we going to repeat the same exact storyline of Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) trying to find a mechanic?

The Mandalorian
Cara Dune, Din Djarin, and Greef Karga | gamesradar.com

The Mandalorian has never been great at moving the plot forward. When it does move, it takes baby steps. And some people really like that, which is fine. Some people think it gives us more time for worldbuilding and character development; which, to some extent, it does. But never enough, in my opinion, to justify the series’ tedious pacing. The only character who has any development this week is Cara Dune (Gina Carano), and, well…that’s a whole other messy situation.

Gina Carano, a WWE wrestler turned actress, has proven to be more damaging to the Star Wars franchise than I’m sure anyone behind the scenes at Lucasfilm could have anticipated. Last year, when she made her debut in The Mandalorian, she was generally well-received by audiences: sure, she wasn’t all that great an actress, but the driving concept behind her character was intriguing, and it seemed like a fairly decent bit of stunt casting. That was last year. These past few months, Gina Carano has been using her social media platforms (including her newest one, alt-right conspiracy theory forum Parler) to spread dangerous misinformation about everything from the Black Lives Matter movement, to voter fraud, to COVID-19. She got into a prolonged Twitter war with the transgender community after mocking the use of pronouns and putting joke pronouns on her bio. Bizarrely, she also celebrated the birthday of a YouTuber who has attacked her liberal Mandalorian co-star Pedro Pascal in a series of rant videos. I can’t be sure what else she’s said and done more recently, as she blocked me on Twitter not long ago, but I think you get the gist: she’s wildly controversial, and many of us feel that her and her baggage have no place in Star Wars. In some ways, Cara Dune has herself been tainted by the actress’ personal views, and it’s hard to not feel extremely uncomfortable whenever she’s onscreen.

But whether or not Gina Carano sticks around (there has been a steadily growing movement to have her replaced), Dune looks likely to stay – and with a different actress in the role, one who doesn’t make fun of marginalized communities or attempt to undermine democracy, perhaps I’d find her more interesting. After the first season finale, Dune became the Marshal of Nevarro under the administration of Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, who also directed this week’s episode), and we now get to see her doing his dirty work as a brawler, before being approached by her former allies in the New Republic (by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, no less) and asked to come back and help root out the last Imperials scattered across the galaxy. Although Dune turns down the offer, she seems indecisive, and if she does decide to rejoin the Republic, that would be a good setup for future stories: especially since there’s still a lot of gaps in our knowledge about the New Republic, and how it took over from the Empire, especially in the worlds on the Outer Rim. What Dune would be leaving behind, however, is a good job on a world that seems like it might become a bustling trade hub in the near future, thanks to Din Djarin.

The Mandalorian
tvfanatic.com

Djarin gets involved in this week’s side-quest mostly out of necessity, after having to land on Nevarro for more repairs (his initial attempt to put Baby Yoda to work ends up getting the child electrocuted), leaving his ship with a suspicious mechanic, and reuniting with Dune and Karga, both of whom he bonded with during his adventures in season one. Karga’s been trying to clean up his act and turn Nevarro into a more respectable planet than it once was: he’s even built a school in the remains of the old saloon where he and Din Djarin battled the Empire. But the one thing he hasn’t been able to do is infiltrate the ex-Imperial fortress outside town where a small garrison of stormtroopers are still hiding out – and that, of course, is where Djarin comes in. He can’t really turn down Karga’s offer, after all. And so, after leaving Baby Yoda at the aforementioned school (where Baby Yoda spends most of the school day using the Force to steal cookies from his unsuspecting classmates), the squad set out in a speeder owned by the very same Mythrol alien (Horatio Sanz) whom Din Djarin took captive in the season one pilot. Froze him in carbon, if I recall correctly, and sold him off for a hefty reward. You would think this might lead to more awkwardly humorous interactions between the two now, but that is unfortunately not the case.

The break-in at the fortress has its moments (including one obviously unintentional blunder, when a Mandalorian crew-member wearing a wristwatch is partly visible behind Greef Karga at exactly 18:54). There’s a riveting chase scene involving speeder bikes and TIE fighters. A small volcano erupts. But by far the most notable events take place in the secret laboratory deep within the fortress: where Din Djarin uncovers a recent hologram message from season one’s minor antagonist Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the ex-Imperial official who has made it his mission to recover Baby Yoda at all costs and…well, we don’t know what he intends to do with the child after that. Presumably something involving cloning, Pershing’s specialty, since the laboratory in the fortress is filled with rows of tanks containing strange, malformed humanoids – including one that some fans think might be an early prototype of Supreme Leader Snoke, a major villain in the sequel trilogy, revealed in The Rise Of Skywalker to be a mutated clone of Emperor Palpatine.

Pershing’s experiments seem to have been developed using a single blood sample he obtained from Baby Yoda back in season one: a blood sample which, in his words, contains an abnormally high “M-count”. While this reference might go over some fans’ heads (it went over mine at first, that’s for sure), this is a nod to one of the most controversial elements of the prequel trilogy: midi-chlorians, ingredients in a person’s genetic code which determine that person’s strength in the Force. The whole concept of midi-chlorians was extraordinarily unpopular back in the day, since it seemed to undermine the idea that the Force was something anyone could wield, so The Mandalorian can’t have brought them back without a very good reason. What seems most likely is that Gideon and Pershing are trying to clone Force-users – perhaps the early stages of a plan to resurrect Palpatine – and understanding midi-chlorians would be essential to getting to the bottom of this nefarious plot. All of this sounds very complicated and very exciting: which makes it even more disappointing that we still don’t have any clear answers, even after this new reveal. If anything, we just have more questions – since the return of midi-chlorians necessitates a re-evaluation of the Force, and more heated arguments about who can and can’t use it.

The Mandalorian
Snoke | inverse.com

In the end, the fortress comes down and Nevarro is saved. But Din Djarin has unintentionally landed himself in more trouble, since it turns out that the mechanic he hired is actually a spy working for Moff Gideon, who somehow anticipated the Mandalorian’s arrival and had a tracking beacon ready to attach to the Razor Crest so that Gideon can now follow Djarin and Baby Yoda to their next location – which, presumably, will be the city of Calodan on the forest planet of Corvus, where Djarin has an outstanding appointment with Ahsoka Tano. What are the chances?

(Before I close out this post, I want to briefly inform my readers that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, the date on which we mourn the transgender lives lost to transphobic violence and bigotry: thus making Gina Carano’s return to Star Wars on this solemn date all the more noticeably awkward and uncomfortable, considering that her own statements and actions – whether intentionally transphobic or willfully ignorant – have made members of the trans community less safe.

To my cisgender readers: please know that being asked for your pronouns isn’t some ridiculous request or an opportunity to make a joke, but is instead a harmless and important sign of allyship with the trans community. My pronouns are he/him/his, for example. And to my transgender readers: please know that I stand with you, and I will listen to you and learn from you, as I continue to strive to make my blog a safer and more welcoming place for people of all gender identities).

Episode Rating: 5/10

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 11 Just Made Din Djarin Interesting

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.

The Mandalorian
Mandalorian Nite Owls | gamespot.com

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).

The Mandalorian
Bo-Katan | meaww.com

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.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | nme.com

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

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 10 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Without Timothy Olyphant around to steal all his screentime or hog his spotlight, Baby Yoda successfully reclaims his spot as the true star of The Mandalorian – apologies to Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), our actual Mandalorian protagonist, but there’s simply no way he can compete with the adorable pint-sized little green alien. But under Peyton Reed’s so-so direction, nobody wins: not Djarin, who is forced to spend much of the episode cleaning up after his tiny sidekick; not Baby Yoda, who isn’t yet the Force wielder many of us expected him to become after the first season’s finale; and not The Mandalorian as a whole, which seems to have settled quite comfortably back into its usual routine and doesn’t look likely to shake things up anytime soon.

The Mandalorian
digitalspy.com

If I absolutely had to choose a winner from today’s episode, it would be Amy Sedaris, who returns for what I truly hope is not her final appearance this season. The episode picks up on Tatooine where we left Din Djarin last week – speeding back to Mos Eisley with Boba Fett’s armor in tow and no closer to finding any Mandalorians (though, as I and many others have noted, he may not have to find any, since possessing Boba Fett’s armor might unintentionally bring them to him). Sadly, he doesn’t actually run into Boba Fett, whom we saw last week watching the Mandalorian from afar: instead, after a brief but humorous scuffle with a group of bounty hunters who are still looking for Baby Yoda (something that doesn’t alarm Mando nearly as much as it probably should, since it could mean his Imperial enemies are already on his trail again), he and the child make it back to Mos Eisley and meet up once more with their lovable mechanic Peli Motto (Sedaris), who is even funnier and more roguishly charismatic than she was last week, or in season one – a quip about roasted Krayt dragon meat goes over particularly well, and I have to give Sedaris props for keeping a completely straight face while speaking in a frog-like alien language. She has quickly become an indispensable asset to The Mandalorian, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t take on a larger supporting role. Hopefully, with Boba Fett presumably still on Tatooine, Din Djarin will have to return there eventually.

This week, her impact on the story is critical, as she points Djarin in the direction of a friend (the aforementioned frog alien, played by Misty Rosas) who has a tenuous but possibly vital connection to some Mandalorians on another planet – where the frog lady herself is headed on a personal mission of her own, since she has an entire tank of her eggs that need to be fertilized and a husband waiting for her return. It’s unclear what she’s been doing on Tatooine all this time with her eggs, and whether the Mandalorians that her husband supposedly knows will turn out to be frauds like Cobb Vanth, but it’s the best lead Din Djarin’s got. And so he, Baby Yoda, the frog lady, and a tank of frogs as yet unborn set out, quickly leaving Tatooine behind and heading into more frigid climates. Sorry, Boba Fett, your time will come. Hopefully.

The Mandalorian
aliens.fandom.com

The mission goes badly, as one would suspect, and it’s not long before Din Djarin’s ship, the Razor Crest, crashes into an icy cavern. Remember how we saw this in the trailer, and some of us (a.k.a. me) thought this planet was Hoth, and some of us thought it was Ilium, the ancient kyber crystal planet of the Jedi? Yeah, no. It did turn out to be the home of hundreds of thousands of giant ice-spiders though! You can imagine how I, an arachnophobe, absolutely loved that! Soooo much better than finding some silly old kyber crystals, or Jedi temple ruins, buried beneath the ice. For those who want to know more about these spiders (why???), you’ll be pleased to know they are a new addition to the Star Wars universe, but their design is borrowed from the giant spiders that were once intended to inhabit Yoda’s planet of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back (and would have fit in perfectly there, considering it’s the same movie that gave us starship-eating space whales, parasitic space bats, and bloodthirsty space yetis), but which eventually became the almost indestructible Krykna of Star Wars: Rebels. Luckily, these particular spiders are much easier to kill than Krykna, but no less nightmarish – they come in all different sizes, move at high speeds, and their leader almost takes down the Razor Crest. Luckily, Din Djarin and his passengers are rescued by some quick intervention from a pair of New Republic X-Wing pilots who were previously chasing the Razor Crest but who come back to help out – and both pilots are super cool cameos. Dave Filoni, one of the top creative minds at Star Wars and a director on The Mandalorian, is one of the pilots, reprising a cameo role from season one (clearly competing with Peter Jackson’s carrot-eating man in the Middle-earth Cinematic Universe for most times a director can cameo as a single character in their respective franchise), but the other pilot is none other than Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, whom I recognized immediately since I happen to be a massive fan of Kim’s Convenience, the popular Canadian sitcom in which Lee stars.

With the spiders gone, Din Djarin is able to patch up his ship to the best of his abilities, and the little crew continue their journey – notably missing a few of the frog lady’s eggs, which Baby Yoda periodically steals from her tank over the course of the episode and eats. He’s also the reason we get the absolutely-necessary-and-not-at-all-trauma-inducing spider attack, after eating a spider egg. And trust me, I get it; stress eating is in right now. Not sure stress-eating various species’ eggs is quite as popular, but I’ll excuse that. My problem with Baby Yoda over these past two episodes is that he’s done nothing but cause trouble and look cute for the camera. By this point in season one, he had already started using the Force, and everybody had already come up with their own theories about who or what he was, who his parents were, whether Yaddle had anything to do with it, so on and so on. And sure, he’s still an infant; he shouldn’t have to be wielding the Force every few minutes (and we’ve seen how it exhausts him to do so, sometimes). But surely a little bit of Force magic wouldn’t be too much to ask for, at least to keep the conversation about Baby Yoda going? If this season is going to repeat the slow-burn storytelling of season one, it has to do something to make that choice worthwhile. You can’t end your season one finale on a massive cliffhanger and then wait until your season two finale to ever address it! You can’t just introduce Boba Fett and then not mention him again! I mean, you can, technically, but it hardly seems fair.

The Mandalorian
Zero | hnentertainment.co

The closest thing we’ve got to a Boba Fett reveal this week is the return of a season one antagonist, the bounty hunter droid named Zero (voiced by Richard Ayoade), whom the Mandalorian unceremoniously blasted to bits before the droid could kill Baby Yoda. Bizarrely enough, it looks like Din Djarin never had time to dispose of the droid’s various disassembled body parts, since the frog lady finds them sitting in a pile on the Razor Crest and uses them to build herself a translator, making her conversations with Din infinitely easier. It’s really just the droid’s disembodied head that’s been fired up again, so I doubt he’ll be able to cause any mischief, but it’s still something to keep an eye on in the future. Not quite Boba Fett, I’m aware.

But don’t lose hope! Next week, if the frog lady’s information is accurate and her husband isn’t missing or dead by the time Din Djarin reaches their destination, we’ll probably be meeting up with some Mandalorians – or at least people claiming to be Mandalorians, for purposes that could be innocuous…or nefarious. It’s possible they could be characters like Bo-Katan Kryze or even Sabine Wren, but even if they’re not, remember that fraudulent Mandalorians can turn out to be scene-stealers too, as Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth proved to us all. Fingers crossed, folks; fingers crossed.

Episode Rating: 5/10