The latest chapter of The Mandalorian is available for streaming on DisneyPlus, and it’s a significant step up from last week’s “The Passenger” , which was, in my opinion, the absolute nadir of the series to date. You can only go up from that one. “The Heiress,” written by Jon Favreau and directed by a returning Bryce Dallas Howard, gets the mythology arc of the series back on track.
****IMPERIAL WALKER-SIZED SPOILERS!!****
The chapter opens with a bang, as Mando is forced to take the patched-together “Razor Crest” into a dangerously fast, unstable atmospheric entry on the moon Trask, in order to deliver his anxious Frog Lady passenger (Misty Rosas) and her eggs into the amphibious arms of her beloved. While that plot ends well (despite Baby Yoda’s eating the damned eggs), Mando’s own luck going forward isn’t the best. While Mando lands his banged up ship in one piece, it slips off the landing platform into the surrounding ocean. We see an AT-AT walker-style dock crane fish it out of the sea, and it’s a waterlogged mess.
Mando is met by a fishlike Mon Calamari dock worker, whom he pays a thousand credits to make the Razor Crest spaceworthy again. With the frog family reunited, Mando goes off in search of fellow Mandalorians, acting on a tip that he’d find a few in this seaside town.
Note: The fishing village by the sea on Trask is very well realized; you can almost smell the salt air; a beautiful production design by Doug Chiang. However, regarding the costumes? I thought the ichthyic Mon Calamari wearing very Earth-looking cable-knit sweaters and hip waders was a bit too on-the-nose.
Mando is unaware that his fellow Mandalorians know that he’s on Trask. We see a hooded young woman observing Mando. That woman is later revealed to be Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks), one of a new generation of Mandalorians who don’t always wear their helmets. Going into a local diner, Mando is given an expensive tip by a shady Quarren (squid-faced) server that his fellow Mandalorians are a few hours journey by sail. With that info, Mando takes Baby Yoda in his hover-pod for a brief sea voyage…
Note: I’m sick of calling Baby Yoda “the Child”, so from here on, until it gets a formal onscreen name, it’s “Baby Yoda.” Naming Baby Yoda ‘the Child’ is like calling Darth Vader ‘the Bad Guy.’
Hitching a ride on the Quarren fishing boat, Mando is once again oblivious to the danger surrounding him (he’s really been off his game this year), as the Quarren offer Baby Yoda as a snack to a giant octopus-like monster in their water-filled cargo hold! The creature swallows Baby Yoda’s pod whole, and the final part of the trap is set as Mando dives into the hold after it, only to have the Quarren activate bars over the hold’s exit. The Quarren duped the too-trusting Mando because they wanted his valuable, blaster-proof beskar armor. Mando’s suit isn’t airtight, so he is in danger of drowning, as he struggles to rescue Baby Yoda.
With Baby Yoda somewhere in the creature’s gullet, and Mando about to drown, the greedy Quarren deckhands are hit by incoming blaster fire from several flying, rocket-pack sporting Mandalorians! Mando’s people were keeping an eye on him since his arrival. His Mandlorian rescuers are the aforementioned Koska, Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides), and their leader, Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), of the displaced Kryze clan, self-proclaimed rightful heir to the throne of Mandalore. Bo-Katan and her fellow Mandalorians seek to reclaim their ‘cursed’ planet from corrupt occupiers, and reclaim the lost “dark saber” of her clan.
Note: The talented Katee Sackhoff also voiced the role of Bo-Katan in “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” animated series in various stories concerning the occupation of the planet Mandalore.
While Mando is grateful for their rescue, he is surprised that these Mandalorians don’t keep their helmets on. Bo-Katan tells Mando that’s only for “children of the watch” (i.e. fundamentalists, or zealots). Unbeknownst to Bo-Katan or Mando, the dark saber is currently in the possession of Imperial Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), as we saw in the finale of Season One. Bo-Katan seeks Mando’s help in commandeering a shipment of Imperial weapons for their cause. As Mando owes her an obvious debt, he agrees. Leaving Baby Yoda in the care of the happily reunited frog family (who’ve successfully fertilized their almost-eaten eggs), Mando joins Bo-Katan and her Nite Owls on the dangerous raid, but in exchange for learning the location of the Jedi (for Baby Yoda’s sake). Bo-Katan later tells him she’s reneging on their bargain, and that he’s being conscripted to their cause of retaking Mandalore.
The raid of the weapons shipment is a classic Star Wars moment, as the flying Mandalorians gain a toehold in the airborne cargo vessel. Initially pinned down by Imperial fire, Mando takes a couple of his own personal grenades and levels the playing field. Before long, the none-too-bright Imperial stormtroopers make some classically dumb moves, such as locking the invading Mandalorians into the cargo bay’s control center. The Mandalorians seize their advantage and open the troopers’ nearest exterior hatchway, blowing them out of the ship. The Mandalorians take every section of the ship, except for the bridge…with is held behind a locked blast door by a terrified commander (Titus Welliver) and two nervous pilots. Realizing he’s screwed, the commander consults with Moff Gideon (via hologram), who accepts that the Imperials are no match for the skilled Mandalorian hijackers. Gideon tells the commander that he knows what he has to do…
Note: I was already a big fan of Giancarlo Esposito from his days as menacing restauranteur/drug-dealer ‘Gus Fring’ in “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013). The Mandalorian also featured another “Breaking Bad” alum, comedian Bill Burr, who guest-starred in last year’s Chapter 6: “The Prisoner”.
With no options, the commander kills his two men without a second thought, pushing the pilot out of his seat to take the controls. With a stiff upper lip, the commander takes his ship into a steep suicidal dive. In the nick of time, the Mandalorians retake the bridge and save the ship (and its cargo of weapons). The armaments safe in their hands, Bo-Katan and her Nite Owls agree to release Mando from his obligation.
Before leaving their company, Mando asks Bo-Katan to fulfill her part of their bargain and tell him the name of the Jedi contact. She tells him the person he’s looking for is the Jedi Knight, Ahsoka Tano (to be played by Rosario Dawson).
Note: I must admit, when I first saw “The Clone Wars” movie theatrically back in 2008, I absolutely hated everything about it, from “Sky Guy” to Jabba’s loathsome gay-stereotype uncle Ziro. In particular, I loathed the uber-annoying character of Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein). She looked like an orange Olsen twin, and her dialogue was hideous. I was deeply turned off by “The Clone Wars” after that dismal intro, and didn’t return to it until its final few episodes, where it just blew me away. In the intervening years, I became a huge fan of “Star Wars Rebels” (thanks to a trusted friend’s advice), so I well was aware that Ahsoka Tano became much more seasoned and mature as a character. I’ve since rethought my earlier opinion of her. That said? I think recasting the character for live-action with Rosario Dawson (while potentially alienating fans) is a very smart move. Dawson is an incredible actor, not just for vocals but in physicality as well. She has a presence and gravitas that suits the dejected Jedi very well.
Meanwhile, the former egg-gulping Baby Yoda seems to have made his peace with the Frog family, and seems fascinated (in a non-carnivorous way) by the birth of their tadpoles. The Frogs have forgiven him for devouring a few of their eggs last week. Mando comes to pick up the kid, and they’re out of there…
Back at the landing platform of the Razor Crest, Mando meets with the dock worker, and asks about the ship. The Mon Calamari docker tells him they did the best they could, and that it should fly. Once inside, Mando realizes he didn’t quite get his money’s worth–there are live sea creatures in the cockpit, as well as fish netting and cables holding everything together! Mando fires up the engines, which sputter badly before achieving liftoff. Soon, the unsteady Razor Crest is airborne, but as Mando warns Baby Yoda, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride…”
You Bo, Girl.
Katee Sackhoff is back as Bo-Katan, from both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” transitioning from voice-acting to live-action. The role of warrior heiress Bo-Katan is a natural for this talented, athletic performer. This is the first time in Star Wars (that I know of) where an actor who originated a character in animation recreated that same role for live-action. I was a huge fan of Sackhoff’s work in the epic reimagining of “Battlestar Galactica” (2003-2009), where she played the (once-controversial) reincarnation of the hotshot pilot “Starbuck” (aka “Kara Thrace”).
Despite Sackhoff’s reputation for sci-fi (she also stars in the sadly dismal Netflix series “Another Life”), I’ve always thought she’d be great in a comedy; she has excellent timing, and is quite charming in person. For a sample of this, check out her cameos from “Big Bang Theory”, where she appeared as herself in Howard Wolowitz’s erotic fantasies.
At a brisk running time of only 35 minutes, “The Heiress” manages to right a listing ship in that brief time. “The Passenger” had me worried that this series was beginning to lose its path in favor of unfunny gags and over-the-top visuals, but this episode got the mythology back on track (the quest for other Mandos and Jedi), as well as a recreation of an animated fan favorite, with the promise of more to come (looking forward to Rosario Dawson’s “Ahsoka Tano”). This is the way.
“The Mandalorian” Season 2 is available for streaming on DisneyPlus, as are most of the Star Wars movies and animated TV series. To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States are around 241,000 as of this writing. Meanwhile, there’s no vaccine or even effective treatment for COVID-19 as of yet. Yes, some businesses are reopening, but the overall situation is far from safe. So for the time being, please continue to practice social safe-distancing as often as you can, wear masks in public, and avoid overly crowded outings as much as possible.
Wear a mask. It is the way.