“The Mines of Mandalore,” the second episode of The Mandalorian’s third season, begins with an act of misdirection from the unscrupulous (but endearing) Peli Motto. By the end, it’s starting to feel like this season has also involved some misdirection. Last week’s premiere set up a season seemingly devoted to Din Djarin and Grogu’s long, arduous journey to the Living Waters beneath the mines of Mandalore. But by the end of this episode, that journey has been completed. What’s more, Din and (perhaps even more significantly) Bo-Katan are placed face-to-face with living proof that the foundational myth of Mandalore is more than just “children’s stories.” They’ll undoubtedly return changed people, if they return at all.
But first, Din has to discover that getting there might not take all season, but it won’t be easy, either. It also requires him to continue his tour of old friends. First stop: Mos Eisley, where he hopes Peli (Amy Sedaris) can help him track down the IG memory unit he needs to bring IG-11 back from the dead. Prior to his arrival, Peli has other business to attend to since it’s Boonta Eve and the town is full of suckers, er, tourists. At the shop, she has a Rodian customer whose speeder is missing a bunch of hard-to-find parts that she can get for him, but it’s going to cost him, particularly if he wants them in a hurry. After he leaves, a bunch of Jawas show up with those exact parts. What an incredible coincidence! “Paint ’em so they look different,” Peli tells the little thieves.
We knew Peli wasn’t exactly a straight shooter, but this is the first confirmation that she’s an outright criminal (if a fairly harmless one). Still, at least she’s a rogue with the best interests of our heroes at heart, most of the time, anyway. The N1 Starfighter she supplied them has worked out pretty well (and probably saved their lives in the previous episode). And it’s not like Peli would do anything that would endanger Grogu, who greets her with some leaping skills he must have picked up during his time with Luke. She can be trusted, at least up to a point.
Still, while her shop has a lot of weird stuff, it doesn’t have everything. When Din and Grogu arrive, she’s quick to tell them she can’t give them the part they’re looking for, and even the Jawas can’t help. (“Hey, grandpa. They haven’t made those in a while.”) But Peli does have a slightly scuffed-up astromech droid named R5-D4 she can let them have, even if R5 isn’t exactly eager to head out to the stars despite being, as Peli puts it, “built for adventure.” (This might be an exaggeration.)
R5’s cowering suggests otherwise, but Peli’s not being entirely dishonest here. We never learn how R5 ended up on Tatooine in the original trilogy, but Peli’s story that he served in the Rebellion is entirely plausible. And, once aboard, R5 does get the job done, despite Peli’s warning not to rely on him too much because “his circuitry’s a little fragile,” a caveat issued against the din of bursting fireworks.
One title card later and Din, Grogu, and R5 have reached their destination, but Din warns the little guy that it’s not the planet it used to be. “It was once green and beautiful back when the songs were written,” Din tells Grogu. It’s not that now, but maybe there’s still some of that old world left. Maybe even some of the wonders that inspired the songs in the first place. Regardless of what they find, everything Din tells Grogu suggests he’s keeping the faith, telling Grogu about how a Mandalorian has to know their way around and understand maps and calling Mandalore “the homeworld of our people.” Even so, Din’s a first-time visitor to the place. This is a true pilgrimage for him.
Getting there, however, isn’t a smooth ride thanks to an atmosphere wrecked by the Great Purge (and cut off the planet’s communication from the rest of the galaxy in the process). And Mandalore’s no picnic once they arrive, either. Din sends R5 out to get an air sample only to see the droid disappear from his scanner, failing to fulfill the one job they bought him to do. Undeterred and maybe worried a little bit about his new droid companion, Din seals his helmet and decides to investigate for himself, even though it means leaving Grogu behind.
That’s probably just as well. In the cavernous ruins of Mandalore, he’s greeted by what appears to be a group of club-wielding Mandalorian troglodytes (we’ll learn the group’s name and deal a little later in the episode) who put up an intense fight but prove no match for Din and his Darksaber. Once back at the ship, he learns, thanks to R5-D4, that the atmosphere is breathable. There might be hope for this ruined planet after all.
It certainly looks hopeless, however. As Din and Grogu explore the Civic Center in search of the mines, they find only desolation (and some unfriendly-looking sewer lizards). Heading deeper into the earth, Din stumbles across ruins of the old civilization, including a Beskar helmet. This, unfortunately, proves to be bait for one of the oddest creatures the series has featured so far: a tiny, malevolent, scuttling animal that operates mechanical exoskeletons of various sizes depending on its needs.
It’s a neat idea and a scary one, too. Whether or not the creature is intelligent (and the jury is out on that), it certainly can’t be reasoned with and it has malevolent designs on Din. Imprisoned on what appears to be a spit, Din orders Grogu to “Get to Bo-Katan,” which he then does but only after getting past every threat Mandalore has to offer (with some help from the Force).
Once on Kalevala, Grogu finds Bo-Katan still brooding on her throne. This raises a question: Is this how she spends all day, every day? Does she at least take a moment to work on the crossword or something? While the episode offers no answers, Bo-Katan does spring into action when she sees Din’s ship and not because she’s happy to see it. “Maybe I didn’t make myself clear the last time,” she says as it lands. “I want to be left alone.” But when she finds only Grogu in the cockpit, she doesn’t waste time before heading to his rescue.
Retracing Din’s steps, Bo-Katan walks the streets of Sundari and delivers history lessons to Grogu between fights. Lesson One: Mandalorians and Jedi weren’t always at odds with each other. In fact, she used to be friends with some. This is interrupted by the arrival of more troglodyte creatures, which leads to Lesson Two: They’re called Alamites, and they used to live only in the wastelands outside the boundaries of civilization. But, like raccoons moving into an abandoned house, they’re not creatures of the wasteland anymore.
Bo-Katan then takes out the mecha creature tormenting Din (and seemingly extracting his bodily fluids). It isn’t easy and requires using the Darksaber, which must surely inspire mixed feelings. Nonetheless, Bo-Katan gets the job done and prepares a nice dinner for the liberated Din. Despite identifying as Mandalorian, he’s never tasted the meal Bo-Katan has prepared, pog soup, seemingly a staple of the Mandalorian homeworld.
This provides a segue for Lesson Three: a chapter from recent history that helps explain Bo-Katan’s cynicism (beyond her short-lived reign and the abandonment of her followers). After scoffing that there’s nothing special about the Living Waters, she talks about the pain of witnessing Mandalorian infighting (including, it’s implied, the conflict caused by the Children of the Watch) and how the royal family she was born into regarded the Creed and other rituals as “theater for our subjects.” But when Din earnestly replies, “This is the way,” after Bo-Katan tells him her father “died defending Mandalore,” even she’s touched by the moment. Maybe her faith isn’t as dead as she believes.
Bo-Katan is clearly struggling, which might be why she invests her recitation of the plaque commemorating the location of the Living Waters, including “ancient folklore” of the “Mythosaur lair,” a reference to the legendary creature Mandalore the Great is said to have tamed and whose appearance inspired the skull signet that became a symbol of Mandalore. All she can do is scoff.
Din, however, has a different reaction. He removes his weapons and other items and wades into the water and begins reciting the Creed, only to be interrupted by something drawing him under the water. Leaping to his rescue, Bo-Katan finds the last thing she suspected to see: a water-dwelling beast that looks a lot like the Mythousaur she just described.
• This episode was written by Jon Favreau and directed by Rachel Morrison, an ace cinematographer (Fruitvale Station, Mudbound, Black Panther) who’s increasingly focused on directing in recent years. It’s, understandably, a pretty great-looking episode and another reason to be excited about her upcoming feature debut, the sports drama Flint Strong.
• There’s something intriguing going on with the way others talk about Grogu and Din. Peli expects the two to be together (and is quickly proved correct), and Bo-Katan throws around terms like “your kid” and “your dad” without Din correcting her. In the previous episode, Greef Karga took it as a given that if Din were to settle down, Grogu would settle with him. And when Din calls Mandalore “the homeworld of our people,” it’s not clear if he’s including Grogu in that “our” or not.
• It’s great to see R5-D4 in action, even if that action mostly involves a lot of nervous shaking. His appearance in the first Star Wars movie is brief but intriguing enough to prompt multiple generations of fans to wonder about him. In reality, he does basically seem to be a lesser (but endearing) R2-D2. Even if he wasn’t on a mission from Obi-Wan Kenobi, Art would be the better choice for the moisture-farm job.
• Hats off to whoever is behind the Alamite design. They look like a lost idea from the original trilogy.