This STAR WARS: THE MANDALORIAN review contains spoilers.
The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 3
After a Western homage and a puppetry episode, The Mandalorian returns to its “toy box” beginnings in a mixed adventure that’s Star Wars through and through. “The Heiress” wows with some jet pack action and a surprise betrayal, but it also feels less grounded than the other episodes, and not just because of the multiple starship crashes. Bryce Dallas Howard’s direction, seemingly meant to evoke the animated series The Clone Wars, has a slipperiness that makes otherwise thrilling action a bit harder to follow than it should be compared to the show’s other relatively down-to-earth fight scenes.
“The Heiress” brings Mando a.k.a. Din Djarin to the ocean moon of Trask, where our beloved Frog Lady has a cute reunion with her husband, billed simply as “Frog Man.” A restauranteur tells Mando more of his kind can be found a short boat journey away, but it’s a trap. He’s rescued by fellow Mandalorians, including Bo-Katan Kryze, the deposed leader of the Mandalorian homeworld from The Clone Wars. Soon enough, she promises to help him on his quest to find another one of Baby Yoda‘s kind, as long as Mando joins her squad for a strike against an Imperial cruiser. After the mission, which of course ends up being more complicated than expected, she reveals the location of former Jedi Ahsoka Tano.
All of this plays quite comprehensibly for fans who haven’t watched The Clone Wars, I think: Mandalorians, Jedi, and Imperials have been defined perfectly within The Mandalorian itself. And for long-time fans, this is about as close as we’ve ever gotten to a live-action episode of The Clone Wars, for good and ill. The fight scenes especially are a dazzle of armor and blasters, some shots more comprehensible than others. A shot of Din ducking behind a bulkhead as a blaster bolt flies by, or any wide shot involving jet packs, evokes the gee-whizz wonder Star Wars at its best. But other sections, like when Mando asks the others to cover him, are a little more unclear. Maybe it was because I woke up at 6 am to watch this, but I needed to watch that scene twice to figure out whether his fellows had abandoned him or not. And exactly how many stormtroopers are on this ship?
In most episodes Din is paired with a new and usually archetypical character to bounce off of, and today it’s Bo-Katan. I love the geeky pleasure of seeing a Clone Wars character in live-action, and Katee Sackhoff does a decent job with the primarily expositional dialogue writer and showrunner Jon Favreau penned for her. Bo-Katan is a warrior above everything else. Decades ago, her sister’s death and her patriotism-shading-into-terrorism motivated her to become the leader of her planet through conquest. Bo-Katan was a strong contrast to her pacifist sister, Satine. Years later, some of Bo-Katan’s opinions have changed, but she’s still bent on taking back Mandalore, a mission she seems doomed to repeat over and over.
Through Bo-Katan we also learn some of the key differences between one sect of Mandalorian culture and Mando’s own Children of the Watch tribe. Early in the episode, she reveals that taking the helmet off isn’t a grave taboo for most Mandalorians, clarifying why Din’s people seem so different from the franchise’s other iterations of the masked warriors. I love the realization that Mando has been in a sect of religious zealots this whole time. It shows the variety of Mandalorian cultures and is a neat way to explain why no other Mandalorians in the saga have the strong taboo against revealing their faces. This reveal has some fascinating implications: Mando has been in a cult the whole time and didn’t know it! The beloved people who raised him come off as kind of weird to other Mandalorians! But the episode doesn’t dwell on this, focusing on the plot as the strike against the Imperials becomes more dire.
“The Heiress” doesn’t slow down enough to do much character work for Bo-Katan, either. Don’t get me wrong, she’s very cool. I just wanted a bit more personality. Even calling her “The Heiress” implies a new take on her role — an emphasis on Mandalorian royalty — the show doesn’t deliver on. I found myself wishing for more chemistry between her and Din — not the romantic chemistry he had with Omera in season one, but something a bit stronger in their dialogue or physical interaction to create more emotional stakes between them. I do enjoy the sense that Mando is a side character in someone else’s story, however. It even seems possible that Bo-Katan might be involved, or even take the lead, in the final confrontation with Moff Gideon.
Speaking of the villains, episode 3’s Imperials are a mix of bumbling and menacing, in fine tradition. All of their dialogue, and the contrast between the cowardly security officer and the no-nonsense captain (played by Bosch‘s Titus Welliver), was very amusing. These aren’t cool villains — at least, not until Moff Gideon appears as a hologram and things become much more frightening, both the Moff and the captain willing to sacrifice their own people to keep the Mandalorians from learning the Darksaber‘s location.
There’s just so much to talk about in this episode. I’ve skimmed over the Razor Crest crash and refurbishment that bookended the episode, plus the birth of the Frog Baby. While it didn’t bother me much while writing last week’s review, tuning into the online conversations about the frog eggs made me pay more attention to the uneven tone of Baby Yoda’s reaction to them. Bringing back the music from the first time Baby Yoda saw the eggs, before we knew he just wanted a snack, was especially weird.
I love everything about the design of the port, especially the giant walker crane that scoops the Razor Crest out of the sea. I’ve never quite lost the feeling of how the AT-ATs captured my imagination in The Empire Strikes Back, so any time a walker appears in Star Wars I just get a little bit happier, especially if it’s a creative new use for mechanical legs like this one.
But as much as I love the port and the way this episode feels seamlessly connected to the rest of the saga, I wonder whether cutting down on some of the opening vignettes might have improved the tone and pacing of the episode. Trading the Quarren betrayal for more time establishing the relationship between Mando and Bo-Katan, and letting her breathe a bit more as a character, might have made “The Heiress” feel less crowded.