As the sixth episode of The Mandalorian’s second season opens, everything seems to be going our heroes’ way. Thanks to Ahsoka Tano, Mando has a clear destination in mind and seems so sure of his mission’s success he’s already planning how to say goodbye to Grogu (the little creature previously — if incorrectly — known as Baby Yoda). Mando’s delighted at the way Grogu now responds to his newly unearthed name and he’s steeling himself for their inevitable goodbye. “You’re very special, kid,” he tells his little friend. “We’re going to find that place you belong and they’re going to take real good care of you.” Are those tears welling up beneath that beskar helmet? We may never know.
But even if sadness awaits him, Mando clearly feels pretty good about completing his task, if not about saying goodbye to Grogu, and pretty good in general. And why shouldn’t he? The Razor Crest is looking sharp, he’s picked up that cool spear, and, after this is over, he can maybe relax a little and pick up a couple of easy bounty jobs. He is a bounty hunter after all.
Grogu’s feeling great, too, now that he has free access to the ball-like knob and, presumably, all the food he wants without stealing from sentient frog people. What could go wrong? A lot, as it turns out. Things quickly fall apart not long after the episode reveals its ominous title: “The Tragedy.” And though nothing that happens can be called “tragic” in the proper sense of the term, Mando’s quest suffers some pretty serious setbacks during this outing.
It begins well enough, however. After landing on the plains, one quick jetpack ride gets Mando and Grogu to the hilltop “magic rock” they’ve been told might summon a Jedi to their aid. For a moment, it seems like nothing’s going to happen after Mando places Grogu atop the rock. What’s worse, company arrives via a ship that will look extremely familiar to anyone who’s seen The Empire Strikes Back. It’s Slave I, the oddly shaped vessel favored by Boba Fett. This confirms what’s been heavily suggested since the first season: the bounty hunter who brought Han Solo back to Jabba the Hutt is alive and — though looking kind of rough — ready for action.
Mando decides they’re better off running than fighting but has no luck removing Grogu from the rock, encased as he now is in some kind of force field (or maybe “Force field”). That means dealing with Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison, now playing the son of Jango Fett, the character he played in Attack of the Clones). Boba Fett’s not after the Child, however. He wants the armor Mando retrieved from the Marshal in the season premiere, armor Mando believes Boba Fett has no right to since Mando doesn’t view him as a proper Mandalorian. When asked if he is Mandalorian, Boba Fett dodges the question, saying, “I’m a simple man making my way through the galaxy, like my father before me.”
Though it first seems like they’ll be settling their differences by fighting, Boba Fett has a card he hasn’t shown yet: a sharpshooter with a gun aimed at Grogu. And not just any sharpshooter, either. It’s the decidedly not-dead Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), whom we last saw lying apparently lifeless on the sands of Tatooine. With Boba Fett’s help, and the help of some high-tech stomach prosthetics, she’s recovered nicely. “Fate sometimes steps in to rescue the wretched,” Boba Fett says. And he ought to know: When we last saw him he was being swallowed by the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi.
They’re at a stalemate until everyone decides, quite reasonably, to drop their weapons and talk it out. But Mando seems intransigent when it comes to the matter of giving up Boba Fett’s old armor. Before they can reach an agreement, trouble arrives in the form of first one then a second shuttle filled with Stormtroopers.
What follows is a truly spectacular action scene, one that easily stands up to anything in the Star Wars films but also unlike anything we’ve seen in them. It’s a believable, smartly choreographed battle between three skilled combatants who have the advantage of higher ground and a bunch of heavily armed Stormtroopers who (for once) have a disciplined battle plan. That doesn’t mean the odds favor them, however.
Boba Fett’s long been a favorite character and it’s not hard to see why. He looks cool and he’s a rebel who plays by his own rules. Who can resist that? The only problem: He never really does anything cool in the movies. Han Solo more or less gets handed to him and he meets an inglorious death-by-misfiring-jetpack in Return of the Jedi. Or so it appeared. This episode almost seems designed to redeem his reputation. Morrison looks formidable wielding the pointed staff Boba Fett never got to use in the movies, hitting the Stormtroopers with such force that their armor shatters. And when he retrieves the armor, The Mandalorian finally — after 40-plus years — shows us what a fully operational Boba Fett can do, including taking down two shuttles with one rocket. (Fennec’s no slouch, either, but we already knew that.)
But just when the battle seems to have ended, the newly formed fighting trio encounter a new sort of foe: a band of Darktroopers who descend on the hill and snatch Grogu, who’s too exhausted by whatever happened in his trancelike state to do anything about it. Another problem: the orbiting Imperial ship blows the Razor Crest to smithereens, leaving only Grogu’s beloved metal ball and the beskar spear behind. It’s a bad day to be the Mandalorian.
There is some hope, however. After the dust settles, Boba Fett satisfactorily explains why he deserves the armor thanks to his lineage. He also reveals that he and Fennec believe themselves obligated to help rescue Grogu from the Empire. It’s a welcome development, but that doesn’t mean they have an easy job ahead of them. In fact, Mando believes they need at least one new recruit, so he makes a quick stop to talk to Cara Dune, who’s now officially in the service of the New Republic, for some help tracking down Mayfeld, the slippery character who betrayed him and almost got him killed during a raid on a supposedly unmanned New Republic prison transport in the first season.
Whether or not Mayfeld can help them remains to be seen. In the meantime, we get a glimpse of Grogu’s life as a prisoner of the Empire and it’s not pleasant. He’s powerful enough to fend off some Stormtroopers, but the efforts leave him incredibly sleepy. That makes him vulnerable to whatever experiments await him and to the taunts of Moff Gideon, who shows him his Darksaber and has his men put him in shackles. It’s a dark end to an episode that began on such an upbeat note. But it’s best not to despair just yet: there’s an excellent chance it’s not the last we’ll see of the little guy.
• One reason to believe that: the second season still has two episodes to go. It’s kind of hard to believe we’re at the sixth episode already, though, isn’t it? Season two has moved so briskly and, like the first season, it’s skillfully told a string of tight, seemingly self-contained stories. If it follows the same pattern as the previous season, look for these final episodes to put all those pieces together. (And a few from last season, too, as Bill Burr’s return appears imminent.)
• So how did Boba Fett get out of the Sarlacc’s belly? We still don’t know. All stories related to his escape now belong to the pre-Disney canon. It remains a blank still to be filled in.
• Moff Gideon’s looking more like a wannabe Darth Vader with each episode, isn’t he? Does he practice swooping his cape in the mirror?
• The Darktroopers first made their appearance in various Star Wars video games, another example of The Mandalorian borrowing from whatever corners of the Star Wars universe suits its needs.
• This episode was directed by Robert Rodriguez, the prolific director whose career stretches from the low-budget El Mariachi in 1992 to the beloved 2019 cult film Alita: Battle Angel. It plays like the work of someone who’s wanted to see what he can do in the Star Wars universe for a long time.
• “This isn’t a spice dream.” Star Wars has never clearly defined what spice does, but it sounds like powerful stuff.
• So did Grogu reach out to a Jedi while on top of that hill? That’s another big blank to be filled in.