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The Mandalorian loses control as season 2 rockets towards a finale

Illustration for article titled iThe Mandalorian/i loses control as season 2 rockets towards a finale
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Parents, this is why you never leave your adopted magic baby unattended while he’s channeling the Force, even for a moment. The Mandalorian is firing up its jetpack and zooming its way towards a finale, and Mando’s got a whole crew of legendary Star Wars fighters (plus Bill Burr) backing him as he goes to confront the series’ Big Bad, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), and save baby Grogu from the newly revitalized Empire. The most grizzled bounty hunters in the galaxy cannot resist the lil’ guy’s squinty charms—not even the legendary Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), who interrupts Mando and Grogu’s mystical quest on the Jedi’s home planet, Tython, early on.

As has become routine on the series, this week Mando was offered a quid pro quo by Fett and the newly cybernetic Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), who Fett rebuilt with a brand-new mechanical stomach after Mando left her for dead on the sands of Tatooine last season. Fett wants his armor back, and Mando’s got it stowed away on the Razor Crest after collecting it as his payment for another quid pro quo arrangement with Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) on the season two premiere. However, unlike last week, this week the negotiations/standoff went spectacularly wrong, as the tracking device the Empire put on the Razor Crest a couple of episodes back led Gideon’s troops straight to them.

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Luckily, Fett runs down to the ship to grab his armor before the Razor Crest goes to gunship heaven. That’s amid the melee that takes up a good portion of “The Tragedy,” an episode that’s light on plot but heavy on weaponry—heaven to a certain sect of Star Wars fans. There are lots of blasters, of course, including a cannon and rocket launchers. But the coolest weapon of the week is one that Fett presumably took off of a fallen enemy back on Tatooine: A gaderffii stick, the traditional weapon of Tusken Raiders, which Fett uses to smash in a Stormtrooper’s helmet (among other badass moves). Although their deal is technically done, Fett and Shand offer to stick around and help Mando get Grogu back after he’s plucked from the seeing rock at the center of the ancient Jedi temple by Dark Troopers. (Fett did say, “I guarantee the safety of the child as well as your own,” which is pretty open ended.) And that’s good, because Mando’s gonna be bumming rides for a while.

This season, we’ve seen Grogu (a.k.a The Child, a.k.a. Baby Yoda, a.k.a. Yodito) develop a personality beyond just being adorable. He’s a growing boy who’s hungry all the time, for one, and shocked some, let’s say, more sensitive viewers when he ate Frog Lady’s unfertilized eggs, even though they’re her last ones and she can’t make any more. (Everything turned out all right in the end, though.) That incident suggested an underlying recklessness, one that could be dangerous if Grogu doesn’t learn discipline as his Force powers grow. Ahsoka Tano warned Mando that Grogu’s powers could be corrupted by his emotions, and we saw a glimpse of that at the end of this week’s episode, when he threw Stormtroopers around like rag dolls aboard Gideon’s ship. Anger, as we know, is the gateway to the Dark Side, and with Grogu in the Empire’s clutches, Mando better act fast before they have a new Anakin Skywalker on their hands.

Before “The Tragedy” descends into chaos and one hell of a cliffhanger, we see a vulnerable moment between Mando and Grogu on the Razor Crest (RIP), as Mando tests his adopted son’s abilities. Mando seems to be on a rollercoaster of emotions right now, first chuckling when Grogu responds to his name (I think it’s pretty funny too, Mando), then choking back tears under his helmet in anticipation of having to say goodbye. Later on in the episode, he tries to act like he doesn’t really care, telling Fett and Shand that “The Child is gone” with the implication that there’s no use going after him now. But he does care, and although he’s not a perfect father—not to backseat parent, but he knows Grogu gets tired easily and that force field (heh) wasn’t going to last for too long—he’s trying. And he’ll keep trying, up to the one-on-one confrontation with Gideon we all know is coming. Can Darksabers cut through beskar? Asking for a mercenary friend.


Stray observations

  • This week’s episode was directed by the Robert Rodriguez of Sin City and Planet Terror fame (or Spy Kids and Alita: Battle Angel, if you’re a bit younger than I am). But aside from his signature “character looking at the camera while an explosion rages in the background” shot, I didn’t see a lot of his visual signatures here. Rodriguez is known for extensive use of green screen backgrounds in his films—he was a pioneer in the field, in fact—so it’s interesting that the majority of “The Tragedy” seems to have been shot on location.
  • Speaking of, I’m honestly not sure if I liked the setting (obviously inland California somewhere) of this week’s main firefight. On the one hand, it lacked the visual interest of the series’ more fantastical locations. On the other, stormtroopers clambering over boulders has a “kids playing Star Wars” kind of vibe that I enjoyed.
  • Temuera Morrison also played Boba Fett’s father Jango Fett in the movie prequels, which is fine because Boba is a clone anyway.
  • The depiction of the ancient Jedi temple as a Stonehenge-type structure, blended with Grogu sitting in a classic meditation posture, is the kind of lore I like to geek out on. The Jedi blend a number of ancient religious concepts and traditions, and Druids and ancient Indian yogis are good ones to crib from.
  • Following last week’s introduction of Ahsoka Tano to the Star Wars live-action universe, Vanity Fair interviewed the actor who plays her, Rosario Dawson, about a number of things—including the lawsuit filed last year by a trans man who once worked for Dawson’s family alleging that they assaulted, harassed, and belittled him based on his gender. The suit is ongoing, with two claims surrounding an alleged assault by Dawson’s mother still outstanding. (The other 18 claims were withdrawn over the summer, which could be seen as the influence of Dawson’s money on the case.) For her part, Dawson says the charges are untrue, adding, “this is coming from someone I’ve known since I was a teenager ... it really just makes me sad. But I still have a great empathy for him.” The plaintiff in the case, Dedrek Finley, said in 2019 that “I always hoped there would be some reconciliation, but when it goes physical, that’s it. You have to take a stand for yourself … not only for myself but for the community.”
  • Dawson doesn’t appear in this episode, but Gina Carano, who comes with her own transphobic baggage, does. I’m fine with her staying behind a desk for the remainder of the season.
  • In an interview with SFX magazine back in May, Rodriguez revealed that he was not Jon Favreau’s initial choice to direct “The Tragedy,” but he did jump in when his buddy—Rodriguez has appeared on Favreau’s The Chef Show, and Rodriguez in turn interviewed Favreau on his show The Director’s Chairneeded a last-minute replacement. “I mean, it was so fun, you can’t imagine what it’s like to walk on a set that has the classic look of The Empire Strikes Back,” he said. “You really feel like you just walked into your childhood. “
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