The Mandalorian and Baby Grogu Visit “The Mines of Mandalore”

Welcome to the latest instalment of my episode by episode reviews of season of The Mandalorian. Previous installments may be found here.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut!

The episode opens not with Din Djarin and Grogu, but with an aerial view of Mos Eisley on Tatooine on the eve of some kind of local festival. Since this is Mos Eisley, the festival involves racing landspeeders. And everybody’s favourite dodgy mechanic Peli Motto is running a scam, repairing damaged landspeeders who their parts stolen by Jawas. She charges the landspeeder owner (here a Rhodian, i.e. Greedo’s species, in very colourful garb) a premium for quick repairs and parts replacement and then turns around to buy the parts back from the Jawas who stole them.

Peli’s lucrative, if not quite legal operation is interrupted by the arrival of Din Djarin and Grogu in their snazzy starfighter (which still doesn’t have a name). She quickly chases away the Jawas to welcome Din and Grogu, who is so happy to see Peli that he uses the Force to somersault into her arms. Of course, Peli babysat Grogu several times, so he knows and clearly likes her. Nonetheless, it is notable that Grogu’s world is clearly expanding and now encompasses people other than his Daddy. We will see more of that later in the episode.

Din has come to ask Peli, if she can procure a memory circuit for IG-11 for him. Unfortunately, Peli cannot procure such a circuit, because IG droids are no longer in production and parts are hard to come by, which is basically what Babu Frik said in the previous episode. However, Peli has the perfect alternative and sells Din a battered R4-D5 droid – in fact, the very same R5-D4 droid that blew a fuse, when Owen Lars tried to purchase him in A New Hope, opening the way for the meeting of Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 and setting the entire plot in motion.  Unlike R2-D2, R5-D4 is not an adventurous droid at all, even though Peli persuades Din that he was “built for adventure” and “used to work for the Rebellion” (well, he did, kind of). And because Peli likes Din, she even modifies his snazzy starfighter so that R5-D4 can sit in the doid port, while Grogu gets to ride in the cockpit with Daddy.

Not that I’m not happy to see R5-D4, but I still wonder what the point of the whole plan to resurrect IG-11 was, if Din is so easily persuaded to just use another droid. And considering that Greef Karga offered him a spanking new droid last episode, I honestly wonder what the point of the whole memory circuit excursion was aside from checking in with Peli Motto and giving Amy Sedaris another welcome guest appearance. io9 reviewer Germain Lussier has similar questions.

However, now that the droid issue is settled, Din and Grogu are off on their main mission, namely to visit Mandalore, so that Din can bathe in the sacred waters and be redeemed in the eyes of his cult of fundamentalist Mandalorians. On the way there, Din continues giving Grogu baby’s first lessons in space navigation and points out, “Here is Mandalora, this is Concordia, the moon where I grew up and this is Kalavela, where we visited Bo Katan.” Those lessons will come in handy later in the episode. And by the way, am I the only one who thinks it’s funny that the fundamentalist Mandalorian splinter group in which Din grew up lived on a moon whose name means “unity” in Latin?

We also learn that Din has never actually been to Mandalore, because the planet was bombed to smithereens before he could make the pilgrimage there that used to be expected of all Mandalorians. However, Din assures Grogu that Mandalore used to be a beautiful world, something it very obviously isn’t in its current state. Instead, Mandalore is beset by atmospheric storms, much of the surface is fused into green glass and what remains of the cities is in ruins. The Empire truly did a thorough job destroying Mandalore.

Din lands his starfighter on what looks like a lake of glass and sends out R5 to take some readings and determine if the atmosphere is breathable. R5, who is decidedly not built for adventure, isn’t particularly happy about this, but he does trundle off, only to promptly vanish behind some glass shard rocks. Grogu is clearly worried, but Din assures him that R5 is fine, only for R5’s signal to vanish from the cockpit scanner. So Din seals up his helmet and goes out after him.

It’s nicely shot and tense scene, as AV-Club reviewer Sam Barsanti points out, but I still wonder what the point of it all is. Of course, when planning to explore a planet that was literally nuked from orbit, it makes sense to run an analysis of the atmosphere for radioactivity, toxic substances and possible changes to the composition of the atmosphere, all of which could poison or kill anybody setting foot on the planet. However, why doesn’t Din scan the atmosphere from orbit? Does his ship not have the relevant equipment, even though an atmospheric scanner would appear to be a supremely useful bit of equipment in a galaxy where people are regularly forced to land on not particularly hospitable planets? Or did the magnetic disturbances caused by the Imperial bombing that make interstellar communication impossible also disable orbital scans? Finally. if Din can just seal up his helmet – again a very useful function – why send out R5 and not take the readings himself?

Of course, it all happens for the sake of drama and excitement, like a lot of things in this episode just happen because they’re cool and exciting. And so Din is immediately attacked by Morlock-like humanoids (we later learn that they are called Alamites and used to be native to Mandalore before those weird armoured humans showed up) and barely manages to fight them off with the Darksabre. I’m not the only one who noticed that the Alamites look a bit like the Morlocks from the 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine, by the way. reviewer Emmet Asher-Perrin noted the resemblance as well.

Once Din has dealt with the Alamites and rescued R5, he sends the droid back to the ship and fetches Grogu, because Din has by now scanned the atmosphere and realises that the air is breathable and neither radioactive nor toxic. So Mandalore is not cursed, as the Armourer and her cult believe.

Din and Grogu now venture into a cave and come upon a chasm with the civic centre below. Was the civic center buried during the bombing or was it always underground? And why does the supposed civic centre look more like some kind of ruined industrial facility? And what precisely do Mandalorians need a civic center for anyway?

At any rate, it’s a long way down and Din and Grogu navigate the drop via jetpack and floating crib respectively. Once they’ve reached the bottom, they move deeper into the ruins in search of the holy waters. And since this is Star Wars, the ruins are of course populated by random monsters, because there is no ecological niche in the Star Wars universe that is not populated by a random monster. We’ve already met the Alamites and down in the ruins, there are crocodile-dragon hybrids lurking in sewer pipes.

There are also other, far more dangerous threats down here, as Din learns when he finds a Mandalorian helmet in the ruins and makes the mistake of picking it up, which triggers a trap to spring shut. The trap was laid by a weird spidery monster droid with a single eye, which drags Din to its lair, where there’s a pile of Mandalorian armour and weaponry. The one-eyed droid disarms Din and sticks him into a cage on a spit. The big monster droid then opens up to reveal a smaller scittery monster droid, which starts draining Din’s blood.

Now every reviewer praised the monster droid’s creepyness (and indeed it is supremely creepy), but the big question is: What precisely is that droid, what is it doing in the ruins and what does it need Mandalorian blood for? Armour I could understand, since Beskar is one of the strongest materials in the Star Wars universe, but blood? Once again I suspect the answer is that the thing is only down there, because vampire droids are cool.

Grogu climbs out of its crib and tries to use the Force to free Daddy and is almost caught by the vampire droid. Din regains consciousness long enough to yell at Grogu to get out of there and find Bo-Katan.

So little Grogu escapes from the creepy ruins in his floating crib, dodging the flying dragon-crocodile creatures and Force punching an Alamite. He returns to the starfighter and points at the planet Kalavela on the map screen, indicating to R5 that he wants to go there. So Din’s space navigation lessons did pay off.

On Kalavela, Bo-Katan is still lounging on her throne, clearly intending to beat King Randor of Eternia, the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, Skeletor and several Game of Thrones characters in the informal “Sitting around on thrones” championship. A droid of the same type as K-2SO from Rogue One approached and announced that an unscheduled ship has landed. Bo-Katan looks out of the windows of her Brutalist castle, sees Din’s starfighter on the landing deck and stalks off, declaring that she will deal with him once and for all. Personally, I expected that Bo-Katan would tell Din to get lost and never bother her again, but Germain Lussier points out that it’s also possible that Bo-Katan was planning to kill Din and get back the Darksabre she needs to become Queen of the Mandalorians.

But whatever Bo-Katan was planning to do, her anger evaporates once the canopy opens and Grogu hops out, clearly upset. Bo-Katan orders her droid to plug into R5’s memory to find out where the ship and the droid have been (since Grogu can’t talk enough to tell Bo-Katan what’s up) and takes off to Mandalore with Grogu and R5 in tow to rescue Din.

Based on the trailers, I had expected Bo-Katan to be the main antagonist for season 3, since Din has the one thing she wants and needs most, the Darksabre. That said, Bo-Katan did help Din and saved his and Grogu’s bacon twice in season 2. And though she disapproves of Din and the fundamentalist beliefs of his Mandalorian splinter group, she nonetheless genuinely cares about the welfare of the scattered people she would rule. And so she does not hesitate to come to Din’s rescue a third time.

Bo-Katan is visibly shocked when her ship breaks through the clouds and she finally sees what Mandalore has become. “This used to be a beautiful world,” she tells Grogu, “And my family ruled it all.”

The camera then follows Bo-Katan and Grogu down into the bowels of the ruined city. In many ways, it’s a repeat of the trip we already saw  Din and Grogu undertake. However, the repetition also shows how very differently Bo-Katan and Din deal with the threats that face them. And so Bo-Katan does not blunder upon the Alamites like Din, but sense their trap and proceeds to kick Alamite butt. Grogu is clearly impressed. “Did you think your Dad was the only Mandalorian?” Bo-Katan asks the little one.

Bo-Katan is also the one who supplies the name Alamites for the Morlock-like creatures. She tells Grogu that they used to live in the wastelands of Mandalore. And if the Alamites survived the bombing of Mandalore, Bo-Katan wonders who or what else might have survived.

Bo-Katan also asks Grogu how good he is with the Force and tells him that she used to know quite a few Jedi and that they used to get along quite well and fought the Empire side by side. One of those Jedi would be Aksoka Tano, who is of course a friend of Grogu’s as well.

Grogu and Bo-Katan reach the place where the spider vampire droid thing is sucking the blood out of Din. Bo-Katan attacks the droid and the droid fights back. But then Bo-Katan spots the Darksabre lying on the floor, grabs it and begins to dismantle the spider vampire droid. Unlike Din, who has trouble controlling the Darksabre and sometimes seem barely able to lift it, Bo-Katan has no trouble at all. But then, she probably had a lot more practice wielding the Darksabre.

Bo-Katan dismantles the spider vampire droid, but the head and the eye scitter off. She then proceeds to free Din who comes to just in time to warn her of the big trap droid. Bo-Katan makes short work of the droid by slicing it in half with the Darksabre.

We next see her, Din and Grogu, they are sitting on a ledge. The injured Din is resting, Grogu is puttering about and Bo-Katan is making a traditional Mandalorian meal called pog soup for Din. Turns out that Din has never had pog soup due to not growing up on Mandalore. Bo-Katan finds this hard to believe since most Mandalorian kids have pog soup from Grogu’s age on. As for what pog soup is, has a handy recipe for a blended vegetable soup that sounds pretty good actually. That said, I wonder how Bo-Katan came by fresh vegetables and spices in the middle of a post-apocalyptic ruined city. The coconut milk at least could be explicable by “she found a can that survived the bombings”. Maybe Mandalorians carry emergency heat-and-eat packages of pog soup around.

Bo-Katan is eager to get away from the dead planet and offers Din a lift back to Kalavela, but Din refuses to leave until he has bathed in the sacred waters. Bo-Katan tells him that she finds his faith in those old fairytales almost endearing and that there is absolutely nothing special about those waters, but she still agrees to accompany Din, because he’ll never find the waters on his own.

We get an interesting contrast between Bo-Katan who is extremely jaded about all the lore and myths of Mandalore and Din Djarin who not only believes in all the myths, but also takes them absolutely literally. This is partly due to their very different upbringings. Bo-Katan grew up as a daughter of the ruling house and had a privileged look behind the curtain. She clearly does feel a responsibility for her people and wants to reunite them, but she is also jaded and knows that the myths and lore and the bath in the sacred waters (which she was required to take as a daughter of the ruling house) are just opium for the people. Though it is notable that Bo-Katan is not immune to superstition and refused to take back the Darksabre, when Din offered it to her. Meanwhile, Din grew up as a member of a fundamentalist splinter group and believes every single word of Mandalorian lore. “Without the creed, what are we?” he tells Bo-Katan at one point.

When Din, Grogu and Bo-Katan finally reach the sacred waters, there’s basically just some stone steps leading down into murky water as well as a memorial plaque which notes that this is the very spot where Mandalore the Great wrestled and defeated a Mythosaur, which is why the waters are sacred. The whole thing is rather anti-climactic – and Bo-Katan clearly relishes Din’s reaction. So the only reason why Mandalorians take a dip in this specific pool is that the founder of their sect fought and defeated one of the monsters that are so abundant in the Star Wars universe. And indeed, the stylised crest that many Mandalorians have on their armour represents the Mythosaur that Mandalore the Great fought, though Din and Grogu have their own crest, the Mudhorn they fought together all the way back in episode 2. Coincidentally, the fact that fighting giant monsters is so crucial to the Mandalorian history and religion also explains why there is so much fighting of giant monsters in this show.

Anyway, Din wades into the sacred waters in full armour (somehow I doubt it’s supposed to work that way) and begins to recite the Mandalorian creed, when all of a sudden something pulls him under. Bo-Katan does not hesitate, but dives in after Din and rescues him for the second time in this episode. The water is murky, but just before Bo-Katan pulls Din out, she sees a giant eye in the dark water. Could it be… the legendary Mythosaur?

Wow, that was quick. Based on previous seasons, I had expected Din and Grogu to meander about the galaxy some more before finding a memory circuit for IG-11 and then meander about even more before finally taking that redeeming bath in the Mines of Mandalore. At any rate, I didn’t expect Din and Grogu to reach the Mines of Mandalore by episode 2.

At any rate, since Din has fulfilled his quest – though I’m not sure if it counts, because he never finished reciting the creed before the Mythosaur showed up – the rest of the season will deal with something else. Maybe Bo-Katan and Din will team up to reunite the Mandalorians and resettle their old homeworld. At any rate, I did like their chemistry in this episode.

I had also expected Bo-Katan to be the primary antagonist of the season, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her and Din working together and sort of bonding. I also love it that Din continues to be not particularly good at most things and that he needs quite a bit of rescuing. Emmet Asher-Perrin calls Din a damsel in distress here and that’s absolutely right. It’s also a nice reversal of expectations that Bo-Katan is not just the more skilled Mandalorian, but also has to save Din’s arse several times.

All in all, this was another fun episode, even if it left a lot of loose ends, such as “What exactly was the deal with that spider vampire droid?”

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One Response to The Mandalorian and Baby Grogu Visit “The Mines of Mandalore”

  1. Pingback: The Mandalorian and Baby Grogu step aside for “The Convert” | Cora Buhlert

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