The Mandalorian and Baby Grogu walk right into “The Tragedy”

Now I have this week’s Star Trek Discovery review out of the way, it’s time for my episode by episode reviews of season 2 of The Mandalorian again. Previous installments may be found here.

Also, since Star Wars is a Disney property now, may I remind you once again that Disney is not paying the royalties due to Alan Dean Foster and possibly others as well.

Warning: Spoilers under the cut!

Before the titular tragedy can occur, the episode starts with an incredibly sweet moment aboard the Razor Crest en route to Tython, as Mando is playing force-catch the ball with little Grogu. Communication between the two is improving, even though Grogu promptly drops the silver knob he loves so much, when Mando swears with joy that his kid is honing his Force abilities. “I’m not mad at you,” Mando quickly reassures the little one, before telling Grogu that he must use the seeing stone in the Jedi temple on Tython to call a Jedi and said he must go with said Jedi, because Mando can’t train him. I’m not sure whether Mando is trying to convince himself or Grogu here. Especially since it’s becoming increasingly clear that the one person in the Star Wars universe who cares more about Grogu that anybody else is Din Djarin and that the kid is exactly where he needs to be. And yes, he may never become a Jedi, but he’ll be an awesome pint-sized Mandalorian with Force powers (and maybe wielding the darksabre) one day.

Tython belongs to those 30 percent of planets in the known universe that look like the California desert. Mando quickly located the Jedi temple, which looks a bit like Stonehenge, but he cannot land anywhere near it. And yes, Tython is yet another example of a Star Wars planet that’s seemingly the size of an average small town (try locating a random place on Earth from space, without knowing where it is), but then Star Wars is hardly alone in forgetting that planets are big places. Star Trek regularly does it, too, including this week’s episode of Star Trek Discovery.

Because Mando can’t land the Razor Crest directly at the temple, we are treated to another sweet moment of Mando jetpacking up to the temple, much to Grogu’s delight. Mando sets Grogu down on the seeing stone and tells the kid to do his thing, but Grogu doesn’t do anything for the time being and Mando can’t figure out how to make the stone work either. They are interrupted by the arrival of a very familiar ship, which we haven’t seen in a long time (nineteen years, to be exact). Yes, it’s none other than good old Slave 1, the ship owned first by Jango and then Boba Fett and still one of the stranger looking ships in the Star Wars universe.

Unlike the viewer, I don’t think that Mando recognises the ship at once. However, he realises that an unknown spaceship in the middle of nowhere means trouble. And so he decides to grab Grogu and get the hell out of there. However, there is a problem. Because Grogu has started meditating on the stone and communing with the Force, which causes either Grogu or the stone or both to build up an inpenetrable forcefield (or rather a Force-field) around Grogu and the stone. So when Mando tries to grab Grogu and get the hell out of there, he is repelled by the forcefield.  And since Grogu is in a trance, he can’t hear Mando either.

Mando tells Grogu he’ll buy them both some time and goes to face the occupants of the ship. And this is when Mando – and the viewer – meets Boba Fett for the first time in nineteen years and an adult Boba Fett for the first time in thirty-seven years. He’s gained a few new scars courtesy of his time being digested inside the Sarlacc’s stomach and as well a few pounds.

Temuera Morrison reprises his role from the prequel trilogy. That is, he doesn’t exactly reprise his role, because in the prequels, Temuera Morrison played Boba’s father Jango Fett, while young Boba Fett was played by Daniel Logan, who also voiced the character in the Clone Wars series. Meanwhile, the actor who wore the armour in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was Jeremy Bulloch. However, since Boba is a clone of Jango and we’ve never seen Bulloch’s face in the role anyway, Temuera Morrison is the logical choice to play the adult Boba Fett. Not to mention that Temuera Morrison’s turn as Jango Fett was one of the best things about the prequel trilogy. So like everybody else, I was happy to see him back for good – after his cameo in the first episode of season 2.

Boba Fett has followed Din Djarin, because he’d really like his armour back, which Din repossessed from Cobb Vanth in the season 2 premiere. And since Din Djarin was planning to return the armour either to his fellow Mandalorians or its rightful owner anyway, you wouldn’t think there’d be much of a problem. However, we’re dealing with two macho warrior types here, so of course there’s conflict.

And so, Din Djarin first wants to see Boba’s Mandalorian credentials, before he hands over the armour. Boba tells Din that he’s just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe (quoting the exact words his father said to Obi-Wan, when he first met him in Attack of the Clones) and that the armour is his and used to belong to his father before him, but that’s not enough for Din Djarin, who belongs to a sect of fundamentalist Mandalorian fanatics after all. And so he demands to know, if Boba has taken the creed and if he is a proper Mandalorian.

Not that the stand-off isn’t fun – and Din Djarin’s total lack of diplomacy, when dealing with Mandalorians who are not part of his particular sect, is certainly striking – but it’s also completely unnecessary, because we later see that Mandalorian armour comes with an integrated hologram detailing the family tree of the owner, so Boba can actually prove his credentials without any problems. It’s also weird to hear Boba Fett address Din Djarin as “Mandalorian”. For while it makes sense for outsiders to call him that, since all Mandalorians probably look alike to the unskilled eye and besides, Din hardly ever gives anybody his name, Boba is Mandalorian himsel, so wouldn’t Mandalorians have some other way of addressing each other such as “Comrade”, “Brother” or whatever?

But even though the armour unquestionably belongs to Boba, it’s not certain, if he ever took the oath Din mentioned, since Boba Fett was orphaned as a kid and basically stripped the armour from the headless body of his father, after Mace Windu beheaded him. Did other Mandalorians take him in after that? Or was Boba basically left to fend for himself? At any rate, it’s interesting that Boba says that he owes no allegiance to anybody, even though we know that he worked for both Jabba the Hutt and the Empire, while Jango worked for Darth Sidious. Yes, the Fetts are mercenaries, but they’re not particularly discerning in their choice of employer. And how well exactly did Jango get along with his fellow Mandalorians, especially since Boba mentions that his father fought in the Mandalorian civil war? How much do you want to bet it was on the losing side?

At any rate, Boba Fett is sick of having his credentials questioned and tells Din Djarin to hand over the armour or the friend he brought along, a friend who just happens to be an excellent sniper, will shoot. Oh yes, and that friend just happens to be Fennec Shand, the Imperial assassin played by Ming-Na Wen, whom we first met in the season 1 episode “The Gunslinger”. Din Djarin is surprised to find Fennec Shand alive, since the last time he saw her she was apparently dead with a gutshot in the desert of Tatoorine. It turns out that Boba found her half-dead and healed her with some kind of cyborg parts, which begets the question where he got that medical knowledge?

However, Din is not afraid of Fennec, because beskar is impervious to blaster fire, which – so Din Djarin implies – Boba would know, if he were a proper Mandalorian. Boba counters that Fennec is not aiming at Din Djarin, but at Grogu. Threatening the one person in the galaxy that Din Djarin truly loves (and he does) is not a good idea, though it does make Din agree to hand over the armour in exchange for Grogu’s safety. But before it can come to that more uninvited guests arrive in the form of a transport full of Stormtroopers.

Since no one likes Stormtroopers, Boba, Fennec and Din now form an impromptu alliance. And so Boba and Fennec hold off the Stormtroopers, while Din tries to get Grogu. However, Grogu is still meditating and Din still can’t get to him, though he’s certainly trying and bangs his head against the forcefield twice. Emmet Asher-Perrin points out at Tor.com that it doesn’t make any sense that the seeing stone creates a forcefield that repeals everybody, including adoptive fathers (and for that matter, wouldn’t the forcefield have repealed Fennc’s shot, too?), and he’s right. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, though it does create an obstacle that makes it impossible for Din to just grab Grogu and leg it. And so Din Djarin has to fight it out with the Stormtrooper alongside Boba and Fennec.

What follows is an impressive extended action sequence courtesy of director Robert Rodriguez, who specialises in impressive action scenes (and really neat action comedies for kids), where Fennec uses her sniper skills and a very big rock to take out Stormtroopers, while Boba bashes their heads in with a stick he clearly borrowed from a tusken raider. What makes this scene ever so slightly disturbing is that the Stormtroopers Boba take out may well be his genetic identical twins, since Jango was the person from whose genetic material the original batch of Stormtroopers was cloned.

Since he can’t get to Grogu, Din Djarin joins the fight, deploying his “singing birds” mini-rockets. But even though Stormtroopers aren’t particularly competent, there sure are a lot of them and so Din and Fennec are eventually outnumbered. Luckily, Boba Fett has grabbed his old armour from the Razor Crest and uses it to make mincemeat out of the Stormtroopers and blow up both of their retreating transports with a single shot, too.

Our heroes have won. Or have they? For a sudden laserblast, courtesy of Moff Gideon’s Imperial cruiser, blows up the Razor Crest. Yes, Mando’s faithful ship and home is no more. Even worse, Moff Gideon dispatches some Dark Troopers – creepy cyborg-like warriors with integrated rockets – to nab Grogu who has picked just this moment to fall asleep from exhaustion. And even though Fennec and Din Djarin immediately set off to rescue the kid before the Dark Troopers can get to him, Din unfortunately took off his jetpack during the initial confrontation with Boba and Fennec and can’t rocket to the rescue. And so Baby Grogu is abducted by the bad guys.

Boba Fett immediately goes after the Dark Troopers with Slave 1, but Mando implores him not to shot, because he would endanger the kid. So Boba just follows and sees that Dark Troopers vanish aboard an Imperial cruiser. “The Empire is back”, he says in a tone that makes it only too clear that as far as Boba is concerned, this is very bad news. Uhm, Boba, may we remind you that you used to work for the Empire and that your father helped to bring it about, albeit unwittingly?

Unlike io9 reviewer Germain Lussier, I’ve never been a huge Boba Fett fan. Yes, Boba Fett looked really cool, but I never found him all that impressive in the comparatively little screentime he has in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Not to mention that Boba Fett was one of the bad guys. And unlike the various Imperial troopers and officers we see, who are there for ideological reasons or because they’re terrified that Darth Vader will force-choke them, if they don’t cooperate, Boba is purely in it for the money. So I didn’t exactly find him sympathetic. Though I do recall writing some long-lost fanfiction, where Boba takes off his helmet and turns out to be Leia’s ex-boyfriend, which makes the conflict a lot more personal.

The prequels did a lot to rehabilitate Boba Fett for me, cause we finally see where he came from and that he was yet another of the many traumatised kids the Star Wars universe has produced. After all, his father was beheaded in front of his eyes – by one of the supposed good guys, no less. And yes, Jango worked for the bad guys, but I don’t think he deserved to be beheaded in front of his kid. Especially since Jango was actually a decent father (Mandalorians in general seem to make good parents) who cared about his kid.

However, “The Tragedy” was the first time I actually liked Boba Fett. For starters, Boba is actually as awesome as his reputation for once. Cause who wasn’t whooping with delight, when Boba Fett dismantled the Stormtroopers? And besides, Boba Fett is actually behaves like a decent person in this episode, even though we’ve only ever seen adult Boba as a villain and he starts out as an antagonist in this episode, too.

That said, a lot of questions we have about Boba Fett – How did he escape the Sarlacc pit? How did he lose his armour? How did he manage to reunite with Slave-1? How the hell did he manage to rebuild Fennc? Why didn’t he just take the armour from Cobb Vanth? – remain open, because The Mandalorian is not interested in answering them. We may eventually get answers in the last two episodes of the season. On the other hand, we might not.

Someone on Twitter pointed out this post by a tumblr user named sassyresacon1990, in which they point out that The Mandalorian is at its heart a show about someone who would normally be a supporting character. Cause while Din Djarin’s story occasionally crosses with those of more major figures with bigger missions such as Bo-Katan, who wants to regain the throne of Mandalore and get back the darksabre from Moff Gideon, or Ahsoka tano, who is searching for Grand Admiral Thrawn, or Boba Fett, a character who has been fascinating generations of fans, Din Djarin steadfastly fulfills his own small mission, which is to keep Grogu safe and find a suitable home for him, even though everybody else knows that Grogu already found that home. Star Wars usually deals in big stories where the fate of the whole galaxy hangs in the balance, which is why it is so refreshing to see a story with smaller, more personal stakes told in this universe. Not that I would mind seeing all of those other, bigger stories told eventually. But that’s not the story The Mandalorian is interested in telling and that’s okay.

After the fight, a despairing Din Djarin sifting through the charred remnants of the Razor Crest, but all he can recover are the beskar lance he got from Ahsoka last episode and the shiny knob that is Grogu’s favourite toy. Din also accepts that the armour rightfully belongs to Boba and that they are even now. However, Boba insists that he and Fennec promised to protect Grogu in exchange for the armour and they will honour their end of the bargain.

And so Boba and Fennec give the now rideless Din Djarin a lift to Nevarro, where Din goes to see Cara Dune who is now officially a marshall of the New Republic, ever since a New Republic trooper gave her a badge at the end of “The Siege”.  Din asks Cara, if she’ll help him bust out a prisoner – Migs Mayfield, sniper and double-crossing mercenary, whom Din himself helped to put behind bars in season 1. Cara would love to help, but she does have a badge and responsibilites now. So Mando reveals that Grogu is in danger and Cara is in.

Meanwhile, aboard Moff Gideon’s cruiser, Grogu has woken up in a cell and he’s very lonely, very angry and very scared. However, little Grogu is also powerful in the Force and so he tosses some Stormtroopers around like rag dolls and also force-chokes them, much to Moff Gideon’s delight. Because this demonstration of Grogu’s abilities not only proves to Moff Gideon that Grogu or rather his blood is exactly what Moff Gideon needs for his nefarious plans. No, he also knows that Grogu isn’t really a danger to anybody except for a few Stormtroopers, because there’s no way to little one can escape. Especially since using the Force always makes Grogu extremely tired – he’s still a baby, after all. Moff Gideon even taunts Grogu with the darksabre, which Grogu tries to grab, because he knows exactly what it is. But the little one has exhausted himself and so Moff Gideon orders him sedated and put in handcuffs for good measure.

Now several reviewers were bothered by Grogu’s cavalier use of the Force, since using the Force to toss people around and choke them is not what good Jedi do, it’s what Sith Lords do. However, Grogu is also a terrified small kid forcibly separated from his caregiver and facing the terrible fate of being used as a bloodbank for Moff Gideon’t super-soldier program. So pardon me, if I don’t exactly feel sorry for the Stormtroopers.

Is Grogu on the path to the dark side? Well, if you frighten and abuse children, they don’t usually turn into well-adjusted adults. However, the Jedi’s mantra of “fear and anger are the path to to Dark Side” isn’t at all helpful as long as they don’t also make sure that the padawans have no reason to be afraid and angry. And let’s face it, the Jedi failed Anakin (since it would have been possible to save Anakin until well past the halfway point of Revenge of the Sith, if someone had just bothered to talk to him) and they failed Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. They’d probably fail Grogu, too, so Grogu is really better off with Din Djarin, the one person in the universe who’d literally move heaven and Earth to save him and who very likely will do so in the season finale.

I for one can’t wait.

 

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