The Mandalorians live by a strict code but, as this episode confirms, that doesn’t make them an exclusive club. “The Foundling,” the fourth episode of The Mandalorian’s third season, opens with Grogu undergoing training to join the Mandalorian covert currently taking refuge on a remote desert planet, and closes with the suggestion that even Shriek-hawk chicks could become members. The Mandalorians, or at least Din Djarin’s branch, take the task of adopting strays seriously and, this episode suggests, a foundling is a foundling. The covert can be a home to anyone in need. This, it appears, is the Way.
Of course, sticking around the covert comes with some expectations. The episode opens with more Mandalorians than we’ve ever seen in one place training along the shoreline. These include Ragnar (Wesley Kimmel), the young foundling we saw reciting the creed in the season premiere and, eventually, Grogu. While the others test one another with a variety of weapons, Grogu checks out the mollusks who call the beach home, presumably looking for a snack. That might explain why the mollusks flee when Din retrieves his adopted son, telling him, “Playtime’s over.”
He’s not joking. Telling Bo-Katan that if Grogu “is ever to rise from foundling to apprentice, he must learn,” he presents Grogu as Ragnar’s next challenger. The kid doesn’t expect much of a challenge, and with good reason. Grogu doesn’t wear a helmet because he can’t yet speak the code. Also: It’s Grogu, a tiny, unthreatening creature who can barely toddle from place to place. With a scoff that can be picked up from beneath his helmet, Ragnar accepts the challenge.
After one round dueling with training darts — a kind of wrist-mounted paintball rig — Ragnar learns he has underestimated his opponent thanks to Grogu’s ability to leap over his head, confuse him, then peg him with the three shots needed for victory. “Did you teach him that?” Bo-Katan asks Din, but Din can’t take credit for Luke’s instruction.
Disappointed, Ragnar wanders to the shore, where he’s snatched and taken to the skies by a Shriek-hawk, a kind of cross between an eagle and a dragon native to the planet on which the Mandalorian covert is taking refuge. (That may help explain why they have it all to themselves.) The Mandalorians give chase via jetpack only to run out of fuel. Fortunately, Bo-Katan has the wits to pursue the beast in her ship. Time for a rescue mission.
That’s not going to be a simple task, however. To keep the Shriek-hawk from eating Ragnar, they’ll need to approach its mountain lair quietly, and on foot. The Armorer tells Paz Vizsla to assemble a team. Paz doesn’t hesitate, and with good reason: Ragnar is his son.
That leaves Grogu in the hands of the Armorer, who explains some of her culture’s traditions to him while forging a new piece of armor. For the Mandalorians, the Forge is both an invaluable tool and their controlling metaphor. “It is the heart of Mandalorian culture,” she explains. “Just as we shape the Mandalorian steel, we shape ourselves.” What begins as raw ore is refined through trials and adversity and tested for flaws. And as the Armorer thuds away, Grogu recalls some adversity from his own past.
The flashback to Coruscant that follows both answers a lot of long-standing questions and raises some new ones. Grogu is a survivor of Order 66, the controversial “Kill all Jedi” initiative seen in Revenge of the Sith. We may not yet know his full origin, but the episode reveals that protecting Grogu is a top priority, one important enough for other Jedi to lay down their lives to save him. As the slaughter mounts, they at least have a plan: Get Grogu to a Jedi named Kelleran Beq, who greets Grogu as he exits an elevator with the words “Everything’s going to be all right, kid.”
A couple of things about Kelleran: He’s played by Ahmed Best, an actor most famous for playing Jar-Jar Binks, and he’s not a new character, though there’s a good chance most viewers haven’t seen him before. Kelleran was introduced as the host of Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, a Star Wars game show that debuted online in 2020. This episode finds Kelleran playing a role far removed from his duties as a genial host. In protecting Grogu, he takes out Trooper after Trooper using his dual-lightsaber skills before escaping into the Coruscant night. When the Troopers give pursuit, he outwits them again before telling Grogu that there are no other survivors and that he’s taking him to some friends. Then, Kelleran whisks Grogu into space in a sleek-looking ship.
This story, it’s probably safe to say, will be continued. But for now, the episode returns to the Armorer, who has a new piece of armor to go with Grogu’s chain mail: a Beskar rondel bearing the insignia of the Mythosaur.
As Grogu coos in approval, the Shriek-hawk hit squad makes its way to their enemy’s nest high on a cliff, moving quietly lest they become bird food. But scaling the rock that will bring them to the Shriek-hawk’s nest first requires a meal and a good night’s rest by the fire.
A bit of awkwardness precedes this. Bo-Katan, still new to the ways of Din’s covert, doesn’t know how she’s supposed to eat without taking off her helmet. It turns out, she’s not. Everyone goes off and eats privately but, as the squad’s leader, she gets the privilege of eating by the fire. As she dines alone, it’s not clear how Bo-Katan feels about the moment, but the identity crisis she’s been experiencing since spotting the Mythosaur doesn’t appear likely to end soon.
The next day the Mandalorian rescue unit makes its way up the rock — armor, heavy weaponry, and all — but Paz nearly blows the operation by rushing the rescue attempt. The nest isn’t empty after all. It’s filled with hungry Shriek-hawk chicks waiting for their mom to return with dinner. Dinner, it’s soon revealed, is Ragnar, who’s alive and well if undoubtedly a bit shaken by his time hanging out in the Shriek-hawk gullet. A fierce battle follows, ending only when a sea creature devours the Shriek-hawk, allowing Din to return Ragnar to his dad (presumably ending some of the tension between Din and Paz in the process).
Back on the beach, they receive a hero’s welcome, and Bo-Katan gets an especially warm (relatively speaking) greeting from the Armorer, who informs her she’s “done the highest honor of the Creed” by rescuing a foundling. Or is that foundlings? Rather than leaving the three hungry Shriek-hawk chicks to die, the Mandalorians have returned with them. (Is this a good idea? Only time will tell.)
Since she needs repairs to her armor, Bo-Katan gets a private audience, and a cryptic conversation, with the Armorer. When she asks to add a Mythosaur signet to complement her Nite Owl, she’s told that’s extremely acceptable. The Mythosaur is for all Mandalorians. But when Bo-Katan asks the Armorer if she could really have seen a Mythosaur beneath the Living Waters, the Armorer replies, “When you choose to walk the Way of the Mand’alor, you will see many things.” When Bo-Katan presses the issue by insisting she saw a real creature, she gets a familiar, if unsatisfying, reply: “This is the Way.”
• After a pair of longer episodes with a lot of business to get through, The Mandalorian returns to a shorter episode and a more compact story with this satisfying entry. But short shouldn’t be taken for inconsequential. The Kelleran scene plays like the first installment in the ongoing, parallel story of Grogu’s origin. What’s not clear is how slowly the series plans to dispense chapters in that story.
• This episode is directed (and directed well) by Carl Weathers. It’s his first time behind the camera of The Mandalorian since season two’s “The Siege.” Weathers has directed television fairly regularly since the mid-’90s. After Arrested Development it’s hard not to picture him keeping the budget low through some ingenious cost-cutting measures.
• Here’s a question: What if the title of the series doesn’t just refer to Din Djarin? Grogu is now a Mandalorian in training. Will it end with him reciting the Creed (possibly with some Yoda-esque grammatical inversions)?
• Paz Vizsla calls Ragnar his “son,” so Din openly treating Grogu like his child is also apparently rooted in the traditions of his Mandalorian covert.
• The Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries also flashed back to the Jedi purge that followed the issuing of Order 66. Is it possible these series are more closely related than they previously seemed? Did Reva Sevander and Grogu know each other?
• The flashback is also a reminder that Grogu is, by human standards, pretty old already.
• Best looked downright heroic in this episode. He’s been open about his difficult history with Star Wars after Jar-Jar proved so divisive, so it’s nice to see him finding another spot within the franchise’s universe.
• Does this mean that the young contestants of Jedi Temple Challenge might have died after the issuing of Order 66? A chilling thought.