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!
In my review of the last episode of The Mandalorian, I said that I expect the various plot strands to come together eventually and in this episode they begin to do just that.
The episode opens on Nevarro, where Greef Karga is discussing his plans to improve the city by ensuring that there is a better and faster connection between the trade district and the spaceport. The planning meeting is rudely interrupted, when Gorian Shard, the Swamp Thing/Moss Man/Evil Seed type pirate king we met in the first episode of the season, appears above the city in a spaceship that’s straight out of the 1970s/1980s Chris Foss illustration and starts firing.
Greef Karga evacuates the population to the wastelands of Nevarro, since the pirates seem intent on attacking only the city and not the people. So far, Nevarro’s nameless capital seems to have been home to some twenty thousand to fifty thousand people. However, the evacuees Greef Karga addresses are only maybe eighty to a hundred people. We later see that part of the population – including the Anzellan droidsmiths and the Salacious Crumb creatures living in a tree – remained in the city, but there are still way too few people here, as Emmet Asher-Perrin points out in their review at Tor.com.
Greef Karga sends a message for help to Captain Teva of the New Republic, since Captain Teva offered Greef Karga and Nevarro the New Republic’s help. The focus now switches to Captain Teva (and stays with him for most of the episode) who returns from patrol to a place called Adelphi Station and is handed Greef Karga’s message by the barkeeper in the officers’ mess. Teva declares that the New Republic should immediately dispatch help to Nevarro, but another New Republic officer – a big purple-pink alien – points out that the New Republic is swamped with requests for aid and that help will arrive too late, if at all.
At io9, Germain Lussier points out that the big purple-pink alien is actually an Easter egg, because this particular alien is called Zeb Orrelios and was a member of the main cast of the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. Tor.com’s Emmet Asher-Perrin also recognises Zeb Orrelios and also points out that he happens to be gay.
Captain Teva, however, is determined to make good of his promise to Greef Karga and tells Zeb Orrelios that if the New Republic won’t respond to requests for help, he will personally go to Coruscant, because then they cannot ignore him.
Captain Teva proceeds to do just that and so the special effects team can use that nice Coruscant background again, though Captain Teva does not put in a pit stop at the mountain top. Instead, he heads straight to the New Republic headquarters – a vaguely Art Deco looking skyscraper we also saw in “The Convert” – to see the person in charge, one Colonel Tuttle. The actor playing Colonel Tuttle seemed familiar, though I couldn’t place him. A quick search revealed that his name is Tim Meadows and that he has an impressive resume of mostly comedic roles. So far, The Mandalorian has had a remarkable number of comedians among its guest cast. But then, comedians are usually good actors, even in serious/semi-serious roles, because comedy is harder than drama.
Colonel Tuttle seems rather fazzled. He has too much work, too many emergencies to deal with and an office droid keeps dumping more work on his desk. He agrees to see Captain Teva and listens to his request for aid to Nevarro, but then he realises that Nevarro is an independent world that hasn’t yet joined the New Republic (and doesn’t want to, at least according to Greef Karga). And since the New Republic is underhanded as it is (Why? There were plenty of rebel pilots and troops and there must be plenty of lower ranking Imperial troops and pilots, who were not involved in war crimes, still around, too), they will provide aid to the member worlds first. Captain Teva is not satisfied with this, because he believes that the New Republic should help everybody in need. Not to mention that there are a lot of odd things happening in and around Nevarro, including the fact that Moff Gideon and his forces used to hang out there. That same Moff Gideon, who is rumoured to have vanished en route to his war crime trial.
The conversation is interrupted by the appearance of another officer and it’s none other than Elia Kane, Moff Gideon’s former communications officer who pretends to be repentant and reformed, but was last seen overseeing the brainwashing/lobotomy of Doctor Pershing. Captain Teva sees the anmesty program badge on Elia’s uniform and is immediately suspicious of her – and rightfully, too, because Elia is up to something, though we’re not quite sure what. Elia confirms his suspicions by pointing out thzat withholding aid will maybe show those uppity independent worlds like Nevarro the value of joining the New Republic. Captain Teva points out that this sounds like something the Empire would say. He also points out that Elia didn’t join the New Republic of her own free will, but that she was captured. “I was liberated,” Elia replies. Yeah, that’s how they always put it. Teva storms off. If the New Republic won’t help Nevarro, he’ll find someone who will.
The next time we see Teva he’s landing his X-wing on the shores of the lake on the planet that looks suspiciously like the South-Western US and is the current home to the Mandalorian splinter group led by the Armourer. Captain Teva cautiously emerges, well aware that he’s being watched – through the scopes of multiple rifles – and that the Mandalorians don’t like strangers and like authority figures of any kind even less. He approaches the cave, his hands spread wide, and calls out that he means no harm, but that he needs help.
Finally, Paz Vizla appears in the mouth of the cave to tell Captain Teva to get lost. When Captain Teva refuses to get lost, more Mandalorians, including Din and Bo-Katan, appear and want to know how in the universe Captain Teva found their latest hideout. Teva replies that someone among their number is a former member of the Rebellion and told him. The Mandalorians of course want to know who the traitor is and who trundles forward but R4-D5. So Peli Motto was actually telling the truth when she told Din that R4 used to work for the Rebellion. Apparently, there’s a theory that R4 deliberately blew a fuse back in A New Hope, so Owen Lars would purchase R2-D2 instead, allowing the little droid to seek out Obi-Wan and deliver Leia’s message.
Captain Teva hands Greef Karga’s message to Din and tells him that his friend is in danger and in dire need of help. Before he takes off, he also tells the assembled Mandalorians that he knows they’ll relocate anyway, but that they have his word that he will never reveal their location to anybody. I believe him, too, and so does Din. If “The Convert” showed us the dark side of the New Republic, Captain Teva is an example of the good side and of what the New Republic should stand for.
Of course, the question is: Why do the Armourer and her flock relocate every time somebody finds them? Living underground made sense in the days of the Empire, when Mandalorians were a persecuted minority (though Boba Fett was able to operate openly). But the Empire is gone and while the New Republic isn’t everything it’s cranked up to be, I doubt that they are actively persecuting Mandalorians, since they have neither a motive nor the resources to do so. So why are the Armourer and her people so paranoid about being found? Do they have powerful enemies that we know nothing about or are they simply paranoid about something learning the location of their hideout, because “this is the way”?
Captain Teva takes off and the Mandalorians retreat to their cave to debate what to do now. Apparently, in order to be allowed to speak in a Mandalorian meeting, you have to hold the Armourer’s hammer, which is a neat worldbuilding detail. Din is speaking and explains that while Greef Karga and his bounty hunters attacked the Mandalorians (and likely killed some of them) to capture Grogu way back in season 1, the real villain was the Empire in the form of Werner Herzog and Moff Gideon. Din also notes that he and Greef Karga get along really well by now and that Greef has promised him a tract of land on Nevarro. If Din were to take him up on the offer, the Mandalorians could live out in the open again and their children could play in the sun. At this point, the camera cuts to Grogu, who is watching Daddy with adoring eyes.
Paz Vizla speaks next and points out that many Mandalorians suffered and died to protect Grogu against Greef Karga, the bounty hunters and the Empire. So why in the universe should they help Greef Karga? “Because we’re Mandalorians, that’s why”, Paz Vizla roars to everybody’s surprise. At any rate, I was surprised, because so far Paz Vizla had been portrayed as a rival of Din Djarin’s and even tried to kill him in The Book of Boba Fett a.k.a. The Mandalorian, season 2.5. io9‘s Germain Lussier and AV-Club reviewer Sam Barsanti seem surprised as well, even though Paz Vizla did express his undying gratitude to Din, after Din helped to rescue his son last episode.
Now this isn’t the first time that The Mandalorian has introduced a character as an antagonist and/or villain, only for them to turn into an ally of Din’s. In fact, there have been several examples so far, starting with Greef Karga himself as well as Boba Fett, Fennec Shand and even Bo-Katan, who was strongly hinted to be the main antagonist for this season in the trailer, but turned out to be anything but. Maybe turning enemies into allies is Din’s true superpower.
So the Mandalorians are off to Nevarro. Din and Grogu travel in Din’s starfighter, while everybody else travels aboard Bo-Katan’s ship, since they seem to have no other spaceships, which begets the question just how does the Armourer relocate her flock every time things get too hot for them? Does she charter spaceships or hire an intergalactic moving company?
The retaking of Nevarro is thrilling, though fairly straight forward. Din and Bo-Katan attack Gorian Shand’s ship from the air, while Bo-Katan drops off the rest of the Mandalorians Starship Trooper style to retake the city house by house and block by block.
At first things go well. The pirates are easily overwhelmed, since they are drunk and don’t expect a counterattack, but they quickly muster the resistance. Those citizens still left in the city – including the Anzelllan droid smiths and the colony of Salacious Crumbs living in a tree – help the Mandalorians, warning them of ambushes. A bunch of pirates manage to set up heavy artillery on the balcony of Greef Karga’s old office and hold back the assault for a while. However, the Armourer has snuck into the building and makes short work of them, using her tools as weapons and being absolutely badass. I’m not the only one who enjoyed the Armourer showing that even though she may be the spiritual and political leader of her people, she still is a warrior who can hold her own against any of them. nerds of a feather reviewer and friend of this blog Haley Zapal enjoyed it, too.
While the Mandalorian infantry is retaking the city, Din and Bo-Katan are attacking the pirates from the air. Gorian Shard rants and yells a lot, while holding on to his old-fashioned nautical steering wheel on the bridge of his Chris Foss style pirate ship. Shard orders his gunners to the gun ports and also launches the small pirate fighter craft we saw in the first episode of the season. However, Bo-Katan and Din make short work of Shard’s forces.
One of the small craft is piloted by Vane, the pirate who was the sole survivor of the landing party that harassed Greef Karga in the first episode. When the battle gets too hot, Vane calls Shard, tells him it was an honour to serve under him and flies off to fight and plunder another day. I’m pretty sure that we haven’t seen the last of this guy.
As for Gorian Shard, his first mate, who looks like every first mate in every pirate story – clad in a striped shirt and a bandana – only that he’s an alien, tries to urge Shard to leave or at least evacuate the ship, which is under fire and damaged, in an escape pod. However, Shard has no intention to evacuate. He is a pirate captain, after all, and like every good captain, he will go down with his ship. And so he tries to crash his fatally stricken ship into the city, but misses and crashed into the mountains behind the city instead. The ship goes up flames. Is this the end of Gorian Shard? Time will tell, I guess. After all, we didn’t see the body.
Greef Karga is happy that Din came to the rescue of Nevarro and that he brought along friends. True to his promise to Din, he gives the Mandalorians a large tract of land and also lets them know that they are welcome on Nevarro and free to live out in the open. It’s a win-win situation for both sides. The Mandalorians get a new home to call their own and Greef Karga get a aready-made defence force that can handle anything from pirates to Imperial remnants (cause you just know that Moff Gideon will turn up again) and even the New Republic itself, should it come to that.
While everybody is celebrating, the Armourer asks Bo-Katan to accompany her. They head for the catacombs of the city, where the Mandalorians lived, when we first met them, and the Armourer takes Bo-Katan to her old forge, causing Bo-Katan to reminisce about the great forge on Mandalore. What is it about the Armourer’s forge that causes people to have flashbacks?
The Armourer tells Bo-Katan that whether it’s the great forge on Mandalore or her old forge in the sewers of Nevarro, the purpose is always the same. And then the Armourer tells Bo-Katan to take off hr helmet. Bo-Katan is more than a little confused – after all, the Armourer is so very insistent on Mandalorians never taking off their helmet. The Armourer, however, says that it’s okay. She believes that Bo-Katan really did see a mythosaur, which means that she is the chosen one who can walk both in the fundamentalist world of the Armourer and her people as well as the wider world of more secular Mandalorians. Bo-Katan is the one who can reunite and rebuild Mandalore.
Of course, Bo-Katan is the heir to the throne of Mandalore and she’ll probably make a better ruler than Din Djarin, even though Din has the darksabre. Din, however, isn’t really a politician or a leader and doesn’t want to be either. He’s mainly a Dad and his sole focus is making sure Grogu grows up well. It’s also telling that the two Mandalorian leaders we’ve seen, Bo-Katan and the Armourer, are both women, since it suggests that the Mandalorians are actually a matriarchal culture. At first glance, it seems surprising that a warrior culture like the Mandalorians would be matriarchal. On the other hand, the most important thing for all Mandalorians seem to be the foundlings, the children that they raise. And it does make sense for a child and family-focussed culture to be matriarchal.
The Armourer and Bo-Katan emerge from the catacombs, Bo-Katan still without her helmet. Paz Vizla is outraged – she has taken off her helmet. The Armourer, however, tells him that it’s okay, that Bo-Katan belongs to both worlds and that she will go and bring other more secular Mandalorians to their new home on Nevarro.
The episode ends by checking in once more with Captain Teva, who must have flown twice across the galaxy by now. He is on patrol, when he finds a New Republic ship floating in space. He boards and realises that the ship was a prison transport and that the crew and guards are all dead. Nor was that ship transporting any old prisoner – no, it was transporting none other than Moff Gideon. So he really did vanish on route to his war crime trial – because he was broken out of a prison transport.
And who could have broken Moff Gideon out of the prison transport? Elia Kane and whatever network of supporters Moff Gideon still has would seem to be the most likely suspects. However, the evidence Captain Teva finds points in a different direction. Because embedded in the hull of the prison transport is a piece of beskar, which suggests that Mandalorians were the ones who broke Moff Gideon out of prison and killed a bunch of New Republic personnel in the process. Oooohhhh….
Okay, so that beskar thing is the most obvious false flag operation since the claim that a bunch of Ukrainians not affiliated with the Ukrainian nor any other government chartered the yacht Andromeda, somehow procured military grade explosives and blew up the Nordstream 1 and 2 pipelines. And yes, I’m furious about the Nordstream sabotage, about our government’s total lack of interest in finding out who is responsible and about the fact that so many of my friends still support the government I strongly suspect is responsible and that they don’t seem to give a fuck. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
As for why the beskar was obviously planted, first of all, Mandalorians don’t just leave beskar lying around. It’s a rare and sacred material, so if beskar pieces lost in battle are at all retrievable (and lodged in the hull of a spaceship is definitely retrievable), the Mandalorians will retrieve and recycle them.
Of course, it is possible that Mandalorian mercenaries (and quite a few of them seem to have become mercenaries) freed Moff Gideon on behalf of someone else. But it’s far more likely that Moff Gideon’s supporters or even his superiors (since I’m pretty sure he was not the top brass either) freed him and planted the beskar to point the finger at the Mandalorians and turn public opinion against them.
Come to think of it, didn’t Bo-Katan lose a shoulder pauldron during the mission to rescue Ragnar Vizla from the mama raptor? The piece of beskar that Captain Teva finds is about pauldron sized and Mandalorian pauldrons are conveniently emblazoned with the symbol of their clan. So maybe someone is trying to frame Bo-Katan, whom we know has powerful enemies with access to Imperial tech.
It seems that the rest of this season will be dedicated to rebuilding Mandalorian culture on Nevarro on the one hand and to figuring out what the happened to Moff Gideon and who the powers behind him are, cause – to quote Qui-Gon Jinn – “there’s always a bigger fish” .