The Mandalorian is back today, and it’s a huge episode. Literally.
After the season three premiere set up plenty of story threads, the second episode picks up on the biggest thread of them all, and does so in a major way. This episode was fantastic, and there’s not really much I can say up front before getting into spoilers, so let’s dive in. And just be warned that full spoilers are ahead, and if you haven’t watched the episode yet, you’ll probably want to watch it first.
But let’s dive in to the review of The Mandalorian Chapter 18, titled “The Mines of Mandalore.”
On Tatooine, while Peli Motto cons a Rodian out of some credits to repair his speeder on Boonta Eve, Din Djarin and Grogu arrive. The Mandalorian wants a memory chip for an IG droid, but Motto doesn’t have one and says they are hard to find. She instead offers him R5-D4 to help with the quest instead, and he reluctantly agrees. From there, Djarin, Grogu, and R5 head to Mandalore. While in the planet’s orbit Djarin helps Grogu understand more about the planet, but also the planets in the system – including Kalevala, where Bo-Katan Kryze’s castle is. The trio descend to the planet, through tumultuous clouds and storms which block any communication. Emerging through, they find the ruins of a once-great planet.
R5 is first out, sent to test the air to see whether it is breathable. But when he disappears, Djarin goes after him – only to be attacked by aliens, natives to Mandalore who lived in the outskirts but somehow have survived. He has trouble fighting them off, and has trouble using the darksaber in combat, but he proves victorious. He finds R5, and they realize the air is breathable – leading him to remark that Bo-Katan was right and the planet wasn’t cursed. Djarin and Grogu head off together to explore, and they venture into the ruins of Sundari in search of the mines beneath the city. But on the way, Djarin is attacked by a menacing alien and captured. Grogu tries to save him with the Force, but Djarin orders him to get to Bo-Katan.
Grogu rushes back out of the city, and even uses the Force to dispatch one of the aliens, and makes it to the ship. He points to R5 on where to go, and the droid does the rest. Bo-Katan is upset as she watches their arrival, but when she learns that Djarin is in trouble she springs into action. She flies Grogu and R5 to Mandalore, and Grogu leads her to Djarin. She takes a moment to mourn for Sundari, and then has to fight off some of the same aliens, doing so with ease. Upon finding Djarin, she fights the alien who captured him, using the darksaber with remarkable skill to win.
In the aftermath, Djarin thanks Bo-Katan for rescuing him but says he must continue with his quest. Though she finds it to be pointless, Bo-Katan offers to show him the way. She leads him to the living waters, and he begins walking into them while reciting the creed. He’s suddenly pulled under, however, and Bo-Katan leaps in after him. She swims through the waters trying to find him, and finally does. While she’s pulling him back to the surface, she sees a large creature in the deep: the Mythosaur lives!
This episode was fantastic, and it included some moments that I never believed we’d actually get a chance to see in live-action Star Wars. But maybe the biggest surprise of them all is that we’ve already seen Din Djarin travel to Mandalore and bathe in the waters beneath the planet, and there are still six episodes left! For as much as this season has picked up with the same feel as the previous two, there’s a noticeable difference on display this week: it’s laser-focused on this main quest. When we began the episode on Tatooine, it had all the makings of another side-quest episode that sets up the larger quest… but we spent a few minutes, after which we were on our way to Mandalore. This episode wastes no time, and it’s all the better for it.
This episode is PACKED with Mandalorian history and culture, which is immensely rewarding to Star Wars fans familiar with it. I think the episode does a good job at filling in audiences who aren’t up to speed on all of that, even if it can lead to some heavy exposition at a few points. Nonetheless the main threads are established. And in a way, the episode actually repeats itself in some intentional paralleling, which I think is brilliant. First, Grogu gets a chance to see the ruins of Mandalore through Din Djarin’s eyes. Djarin has never actually been to the planet, having grown up on the moon of Concordia (which isn’t a surprise given his connection to the Watch, but I believe this is the first confirmation of that). He’s never been to the planet, but he still clings very tightly to the mythology of the Mandalorian ways. He follows the creed religiously and believes bathing in the mines of Mandalore will cleanse him of his sins. In many ways, he’s ignorant of the larger Mandalorian ways and culture, but he’s a believer in it.
Then there’s Bo-Katan Kryze, and we get to almost repeat the experience, with Grogu seeing the ruins of Mandalore through her eyes. And the way she sees things is entirely different. While Djarin never even visited the planet, Kryze’s family ruled it. She later talks about her father, which is the most we’ve learned of her history (he was killed defending Mandalore). She’s the princess, the heiress, who grew up on the planet and went through all the rituals (including bathing in the waters) but doesn’t actually believe them. (Of course, what she leaves out is that her sister was the ruler of Mandalore during the Clone Wars… and that Bo-Katan joined a terrorist group fighting against her. She conveniently leaves that part out.) Yet this Bo-Katan was also the last ruler of Mandalore, attempting to unite the people as she wielded the darksaber, only to see the Empire tighten its fist and bring the destruction we see now. So, in a way, Kryze surely feels responsible for what has happened. She looks at the planet through very different eyes.
There’s a sense in which Djarin is viewing the planet through naive, yet reverential, eyes, like viewers who aren’t familiar with the history might. And Kryze is viewing the planet through appreciative, yet saddened, eyes, like viewers who remember what the planet used to be. That’s why Djarin is thrilled that the planet isn’t dead, while Kryze sees the ruins as evidence that it is. She has memories to compare this too, and the devastation is crushing.
Speaking of Bo-Katan, though, it was EPIC to see her using the darksaber in live-action, and the ease with which she wielded it is in stark contrast to Djarin’s struggles. It’s a simple yet crystal clear reminder of her rich history: she’s been a warrior all of her life, and she once wieleded the darksaber with true belief in its legend. She has since grown disillusioned, but seeing her fight with it here was amazing. She gets some truly heroic moments, as does Grogu! A while ago Pedro Pascal teased Mando’s growing relationship with his kid by asking “who will be protecting who?”, and we see what he meant here. We get to see how his training with Luke Skywalker has paid off, but also how his training with Din Djarin has paid off too. He displays his growing grasp of the Force, but also his navigational abilities, and he gets help. It was a great moment, and this episode really established two important and evolving threads with the characters: first, it’s no longer just Djarin protecting Grogu; it goes both ways. But second, Djarin really has begun treating him like his foundling child. These are two very important developments.
But maybe the most important development comes from something Bo-Katan says to Djarin as they walk toward the living waters. As she mourns the ruins of the city, she confesses that it’s not what bothers her the most. Djarin says that it must pain her to see this, but she responds, “What pains me is seeing our own kind fight each other time and time again. Killing each other for reasons too confusing to explain. It made us weak. We had no hope to resist being smashed by the fist of the Empire.” It’s a moment beautifully poignant, and as always, Katee Sackhoff nails it. This is her finest performance yet, as she’s able to capture the sadness in ways beyond words. On this International Women’s Day, we are very lucky to have Sackhoff back as Bo-Katan, and I’m thrilled that she’s starring alongside Pascal this season.
As for her comments, though, I think it’s an incredibly important look at how Bo-Katan has grown by this point. She was once part of a terrorist group of Mandalorians fighting against their own people (including her own sister, Duchess Satine), but now she realizes all the fighting against each other made them weak. The Mandalorians are truly the greatest warriors in the galaxy, but they could never seem to stop using those skills and prowess against each other. That opened them up to an easy defeat at the hands of the Empire, which led to their people being scattered and Mandalore reduced to nothing more than a place of legends.
Perhaps that’s why Bo-Katan agrees to show Din the way to the waters even though she doesn’t believe there’s anything special to them. She gives him a bit of a hard time for not knowing the soup she provides, but at the same time she’s become more understanding of the different factions. She wants to unite them, not provoke them to more war. And even though she doesn’t believe the legends, she admires Djarin’s devotion and is willing to lead him to the mines. I think this is also why Bo-Katan tells Grogu that she knew many Jedi, and taht the Jedi and Mandalorians didn’t always used to be enemies. She fought alongside Jedi like Ahsoka Tano and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Clone Wars, and then alongside Jedi like Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus in the years leading up to the Galactic Civil War. Some Mandalorians, like Din Djarin, grew up hearing stories about how the Jedi were the enemy of the Mandalorians, but Kryze has emerged through that and knows better.
Could that be where this season is all leading? It seems that things are shifting and that the big focus of the season isn’t so much going to be Djarin’s quest to bathe in the mines but his quest, alongside Bo-Katan, to try to unite the Mandalorians? They’re scattered throughout the galaxy but are stronger together, and could we get to the point where the heiress of Mandalore (Bo-Katan), who has been immersed in tradition but disillusioned, fights alongside the believer (Din Djarin), who possess a sincere devotion to the way, while they both fight alongside a Jedi (Grogu), who has become an adopted Mandalorian foundling? The sight of Kryze, Djarin, and Grogu fighting alongside each other would be a powerful reflection of the unity that can happen if their people are simply willing to put aside their differences and unite around something greater. (Perhaps that’s even how Boba Fett, a clone who is thought to be an imposter by Mandalorians, could come into the picture too, adding yet another difference.)
Of course, no matter how disillusioned Bo-Katan has become, there is still one symbol that seems to hold special significance to her: the darksaber. It is believed that the darksaber is needed in order to truly unite the clans. She tried once and failed, having not actually won the saber in combat. But Djarin has the saber now, and I’d be ok if either he or Kryze wind up wielding it. Either would be epic, but nonetheless the darksaber, the symbol that could unite their people, is in their hands. But the episode ends on a stunning note, an epic note, and one that might just be enough to snap Bo-Katan out of her disillusionment… for in the mines of Mandalore she encounters a creature of legend that she presumably didn’t believe truly existed. A Mythosaur.
I never thought we’d actually get to see one in live-action, and even from the brief glimpse of it here, it looks amazing. For those not as familiar, the Mythosaur is a creature of particular significance in Mandalorian tales, and long ago Mandalore the Great managed to tame them and ride them. They were long believed to have gone extinct, but a song prophesied that a Mythosaur would rise up again to mark a new age for Mandalore. Maybe there’s actually a bit of truth in the legends, as Bo-Katan has now realized. The appearance of the Mythosaur is a BIG deal, not just for Star Wars fans who have waited a long time for this moment, but also for this show. Regardless of what happens with the creature moving forward, it’s supposed to indicate that maybe this is a new era for their people, and that maybe the legends are actually true.
In a way, this episode was about Din Djarin coming to realize that not everything the Armorer told him was true (the planet isn’t cursed), while Bo-Katan Kryze is coming to realize that not everything she doubted was false (the Mythosaur isn’t extinct, for instance). They’re moving toward one another, somewhere in the middle, in a place where perhaps together they could join forces and unite their people. And, well, since the very episode of the series there’s been a hint of a Mandalorian riding a Mythosaur, and maybe we’re actually going to pick up on that. Sure, Boba Fett can ride a Rancor… but I’m guessing we might see Din Djarin riding a Mythosaur, wielding the darksaber, down the road – and surely that would be enough to establish himself as the Mand’alor, uniting their people to usher in a brand new age.