That’s more like it. After slightly missing the mark in Chapter 10, which extended a meandering start to the series’ second season, The Mandalorian bull’s-eyed the womp rat this week. In less than 29 minutes, excluding recap and credits, Chapter 11 (“The Heiress”) delivered a little of everything Disney’s signature Star Wars series does well. Maybe you like The Mandalorian when it’s a procedural about Baby Yoda acting cute as Din Djarin hops from planet to planet, taking on missions from strangers, wrecking the Razor Crest, and running afoul of exotic creatures. Or maybe you prefer for the series to expand the scope of its storytelling, answer some long-standing questions, and introduce cherished figures from the franchise’s larger lore. Why not get you a Mando that can do both? “The Heiress” seamlessly blended the episodic and serialized aspects of the series in an economical, action-packed installment that deepened our understanding of Din and his enemies while introducing a new ally with a familiar face and foreshadowing further intrigue ahead.
“The Heiress” picks up where “The Passenger” left off, with Mando, the Child, and the Frog Lady—who has belatedly realized that it’s important to protect her precious cargo of appetizing eggs—en route to Trask. Thanks to the Razor Crest’s close encounter with ice spiders on Maldo Kreis—the same planet Mando visited when he captured the Mythrol in Chapter 1—the ship’s guidance system is disabled, forcing Mando to land the ship manually in a near free fall. In Star Wars, atmospheric reentry is typically (though not invariably) routine. This time, it’s a white-knuckle plunge that culminates on a comedic note, as a last-second engine malfunction swings the gunship just wide of the landing platform, like a wayward SpaceX rocket booster. A walking crane (OI-CT) that looks like it’s part AT-AT (first seen in Solo) fishes the Razor Crest and its crew out of the drink, and Mando leaves the ship with another overmatched mechanic—in this case, a local Mon Cala, whom he instructs to make the waterlogged vessel spaceworthy again.
After Frog Lady enjoys a touching reunion with Frog Man, Mando makes his way to a diner, where he orders some extremely fresh squid chowder for the Child. (Who would’ve thought that Baby Yoda would find a facehugger in his soup instead of in the Alien-esque spider egg he opened last week?) One strength of this series is that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni often find ways to reintegrate characters or items that they’ve shown briefly before. For instance, Frog Lady and Dr. Mandible made cameos in Season 1, long before they played prominent parts in Chapter 10. In Chapter 11, Mando finds a use for the Calamari Flan Greef gave him back in Chapter 1, using them to pay his waiter for an intro to a Quarren who says he has a line on the local Mandalorians.
In actuality, the Quarren has his eyes on Mando’s beskar. He lures Mando and the Child to the edge of a hold containing a nightmarish “mamacore” under the pretense of the feeding being fun for the kid, but it’s a trap. (If I ever caught a mamacore I would quickly let it go, unless my whole fake fishing business was based on feeding tourists to it and stealing their stuff.) The Quarren lashes out with his staff, Baby Yoda (ensconced in his pram) follows the fish into the mamacore’s maw—not so fun to be swallowed whole, is it?—and Din leaps in to save him, only to be trapped like Luke in the rancor pen. Whatever its virtues, beskar armor isn’t waterproof, and Din is in danger of drowning until salvation arrives in the form of a trio of jetpack-wearing Mandalorians. Din hasn’t found the warriors he’s been searching for; the warriors have found him. They make quick work of the Quarren, and one of them rescues Baby Yoda, who handles his ingestion by a massive monster as well as Mando did in Chapter 9.
If you’ve watched The Clone Wars or Rebels or read casting rumors for Season 2, you probably recognized the Mandalorian leader as Bo-Katan Kryze. She’s flanked by Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) and Koska Reeves (sighted earlier as a mysterious cloaked figure who had spotted Mando at the dock). Reeves is played by WWE’s Sasha Banks, credited here not by her ring name but by her real name, Mercedes Varnado. Bo-Katan, of course, is played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced the character and inspired her likeness in both animated series. Her first live-action appearance looks a lot like her reintroduction in Rebels.
Bo-Katan’s inclusion has huge implications for the series, so I’ll explore her backstory below. Right away, she and her comrades shock Din by removing their helmets like Cobb Vanth. Naturally, he assumes that they’re imposters too: “You do not cover your face,” he says. “You are not Mandalorian.” But Bo-Katan is as Mandalorian as they come: She was born on Mandalore and fought in the Purge, and her armor is a family heirloom. Din is the one with weird helmet habits: As Bo-Katan informs him, he’s a Child of the Watch, a member of “a cult of religious zealots that broke away from Mandalorian society” and strove to “reestablish the ancient way.”
Din’s Order’s insistence on staying helmeted in other people’s presence has always been perplexing precisely because Bo-Katan, Sabine Wren, and other canonical Mandalorians haven’t had any qualms about taking off their helmets. As I wrote in my recap of Chapter 3, “Maybe these Mandos are a different, more radical strain.” It looks like that’s the case.
The Children of the Watch may be an offshoot of Death Watch, the group Bo-Katan once helped lead. Judging by their armor, the Mandalorians who rescued the young Din from the Separatists on Aq Vetina seemed to be members of Death Watch. But maybe they were actually defectors from Death Watch who had already formed the Children of the Watch, or perhaps they split off from Death Watch at some point after rescuing Din. It’s also possible that the Children started as an effort to recruit and indoctrinate the young, which would explain Din’s Order’s emphasis on nurturing foundlings. Keep in mind, though, that Death Watch was a radical, militaristic group that opposed Mandalore’s pacifistic government. If a former leader of Death Watch thinks the Children are zealots, we can trust that they’re pretty hardcore.
It’s still strange that Mando hasn’t heard of the Children and wasn’t aware he was one of them. Maybe the first rule of Children of the Watch is that you don’t talk about Children of the Watch, or maybe certain truths were kept from foundlings. Regardless, it’s clear that some soul-searching lies ahead. Imagine learning at Din’s age that there isn’t only one “way of the Mandalore,” and that you’ve missed out on decades of fresh air, casual dining, and unhelmeted hookups because you were brainwashed by the extremist sect that (on the plus side) saved you from murderous robots. It’s a lot to take in. Din has already rejected the Bounty Hunters’ Guild and increasingly learned to think for himself, so forsaking some of the Watch’s fundamentalist dictates might mark the next step in his emotional maturation.
Although old helmet habits die hard, Bo-Katan’s revelation may prove to be good news for Omera, the sharp-shooting widow on Sorgan who had the hots for Mando and wanted to lift his lid. It might also be good news for Pedro Pascal; if Din renounces his adherence to the Way, Pascal could use his facial muscles in more than one scene per season. I’m feeling a little bit better about betting the over on five minutes of face time in Season 2.
After Bo-Katan tells him that his life is a lie, Mando, in denial, sulkily jets off with the Child, leaving the blue-armored Mandalorians to blow up the trawler. Not to go all One Perfect Shot on you, but sometimes this series is really pretty.
After escaping a watery grave, Din soon finds himself in figurative hot water, courtesy of the avenging brother of the Quarren who tried to kill him in the previous scene. Yet again, Bo-Katan and Co. rocket to his rescue and slaughter the locals. This time, Bo-Katan says she can lead Din to a Jedi in exchange for another quest quid pro quo: He has to help her steal arms from an Imperial Gozanti-class cruiser—a model often seen on Rebels that remained in use during the First Order era—that’s running guns off-world. Mando agrees and drops off Baby Yoda with the post-fertilization frog family, under strict instructions not to continue consuming their young.
Four Mandalorians (who fight like “at least 10”) prove more than a match for a full complement of Stormtroopers, whom Axe says “couldn’t hit the side of a bantha.” As I’ve mentioned before, The Mandalorian—like Rebels before it—loves to beat the dead bantha of Stormtroopers’ terrible aim, an inside joke for fans that’s kind of killed when it becomes canon. Obi-Wan—an experienced warrior—said Stormtroopers were precise, and I still wish Star Wars would make Stormtroopers great again instead of dismissing them as comic relief or cannon fodder. The Empire is much more menacing if its foot soldiers aren’t just jokes. Granted, Obi-Wan was used to clone troopers, and the troops serving Moff Gideon five years after Endor probably aren’t the cream of the crop. Neither is the deck officer (played by Conan sidekick Kevin Dorff) who “traps” the attackers in the cargo control area, where they have no trouble jettisoning the Imperial defenders like a Star Destroyer dumping its garbage.
Mando thinks he’s helping Bo-Katan raid the ship’s cargo, but after the quartet reaches its destination, she alters the deal, delivering the news with a mocking “This is the Way.” The new objective is to capture the ship, which forces the fighters to head for the bridge. (“Put some tea on,” Bo-Katan says. “We’ll be up in a minute.”) Mando takes out the last line of defense with what would be a suicide attack if not for his beskar—an explosive maneuver that earns him a grudgingly genuine “This is the Way” from Bo-Katan.
The incompetence of the Stormtroopers is balanced out by the competence of the freighter’s captain, who’s played with appropriate Imperial priggishness by Titus Welliver. Recognizing that the ship can’t be saved, Gideon declines the captain’s request for reinforcements, signing off with a chilling, “Long live the Empire.” The implication is clear: The captain won’t live long at all. He executes his pilot and security officer—who, in a refreshing change for the series, aren’t played by comedians or Mandalorian directors making cameos—and sets the ship on a collision course with the waves. For the second time in the episode, Din is in danger of impacting on the surface.
Mando and his colleagues break onto the bridge and pull up just in time to avoid disaster, and Bo-Katan quickly questions the captain about the whereabouts of the Darksaber, last seen in Gideon’s possession on Nevarro in the Season 1 finale. But instead of spilling any intel, the captain chews a suicide pill that imparts a fatal electric charge. In Chapter 7, Gideon killed the Client, confirming that the tradition of Imperial leaders offing underperforming underlings outlived Darth Vader. Maybe the captain killed himself in part because he knew Gideon wouldn’t let him live following his failure. But a strain of true fanaticism runs through both the Client and the captain, and presumably Gideon too. In their twisted way, the Imperials are as committed to their mission as the Mandalorians are; is “Long live the Empire” all that different from “This is the Way”? And as we know from the sequel trilogy, they won’t be any easier to eradicate.
Din doesn’t bite when Bo-Katan tells him that “Mandalorians are stronger together” and tries to persuade him to help her take control of Mandalore. According to the ill-informed Din, the planet is cursed, and reclaiming it isn’t part of his plan. But it’s easy to imagine his plan evolving to include the cause of her Order as soon as he completes his current quest, which got a boost from Bo-Katan’s hot tip: “Take the foundling to the city of Calodan [not to be confused with Caladan] on the forest planet of Corvus. There you will find Ahsoka Tano.” Not since Luke got directions to Dagobah and heard Obi-Wan intone “There you will learn from Yoda” have instructions to the nearest Jedi seemed so momentous.
Bo-Katan and her travel recommendation took center stage in “The Heiress,” but this was also a big week for “Baby,” as “The Heiress” director Bryce Dallas Howard habitually refers to the precious puppet. The internet turned on the Child after his genocidal diet last week. While one could accuse both Mando and the Frog Lady of poor parenting—how do you not even know how many eggs are in the only brood that can ensure the survival of your species?—the baby seems sentient enough to bear a big part of the blame for his actions. Favreau and Filoni have spoken about their desire for the baby to be incorrigible and to keep him from becoming overly cute; as Favreau said this spring, “It’s like a stray dog or having a little baby alligator or something.” But playing the egg-eating for laughs—even if the eggs are unfertilized—didn’t really land.
This week, the Child limited himself to a less disturbing diet, and Favreau placed him in harm’s way repeatedly, activating the viewer’s protective impulses. Does that mean I’m over Baby Yoda’s behavior last week? Let me put it this way: I will definitely not be buying the Funko Pop.
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Nor am I certain about whether the ever-voracious Child sees the tadpole as a friend or a food.
Fortunately, the frog species will survive. Even Hammerhead, Snaggletooth, and Walrus Man got names and backstories eventually, so here’s hoping the frog family does too. I’ll miss them and the half-assed closed captioning that accompanied their conversations.
As the frog family leaves the picture, Ahsoka (reportedly played by Rosario Dawson) enters. Her appearance this season may be a springboard for a spinoff, but it should also play a crucial role in Din’s quest. Even though she’s not technically a Jedi—she left the Order after being framed for murder in The Clone Wars Season 5—she knew Yoda well and should have plenty to tell Mando about his tiny companion. In the Rebels finale, Ahsoka embarked on a search with Sabine for missing Jedi Ezra Bridger, but that was shortly after Endor. She could be up to anything now.
In a way, I wish that Disney could have kept the secrets of Season 2 as well as it hid Baby Yoda’s existence prior to the series premiere. Imagine how big the Boba Fett and Bo-Katan reveals—and the mention of Ahsoka—would have been if the corresponding casting moves hadn’t been rumored for months. But it’s one thing to read rumors and another to see the actors and characters on the screen, however fleetingly.
You never know how this series will proceed: Maybe Mando will meet Ahsoka on Corvus and kickstart more major developments next week, or maybe it’ll take him two or three episodes to get there because he has to stop for fuel and decides to sightsee. But for now, the pace has picked up, and the expansion in scale that Favreau and Filoni foretold is finally underway.
Fan service of the week
Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta once said he disagreed with the film’s inclusion of Episode IV cantina characters Ponda Baba and Dr. Evazan because “You have to rein in that instinct to go back and put things in just because you loved them when you were a kid.” The Mandalorian hasn’t always reined in that instinct—we’ll see if Boba Fett serves some purpose beyond looking cool—but Bo-Katan’s presence isn’t just a treat for fans of Filoni’s animated series or an excuse for Filoni to shoehorn in a character he named after his wife’s cat. It makes perfect sense for her to be both a source of Mandalorian lore and a conduit to Ahsoka.
Bo-Katan, the titular “heiress,” was a Death Watch lieutenant and the leader of the Nite Owls, an elite Mandalorian unit whose insignia she, Koska, and Axe still wear. Her pacifistic sister Satine—a love interest of Obi-Wan’s—ruled as the Duchess of Mandalore during the Clone Wars, but Bo-Katan and the Death Watch sought to restore the planet’s more martial ways. She and Death Watch leader Pre Vizsla—probably a relative of Mando’s Season 1 frenemy Paz Vizsla, who was voiced by Favreau—teamed up with Darth Maul and his Shadow Collective to overthrow Satine, but Maul defeated Vizsla and installed himself as the secret sovereign of Mandalore. Belatedly, Bo-Katan realized that supporting Maul was a mistake, liberated Satine (who was subsequently recaptured and killed) and, with help from Obi-Wan and the Republic, kicked Maul off of Mandalore and took over as Regent. (Mandalorian politics are complicated.)
When the Republic morphed into the Empire, Bo-Katan refused to recognize the Emperor’s authority, and the Empire replaced her with a loyalist governor, Gar Saxon. After decades of civil war and exile, Bo-Katan allied with Sabine, and together they deposed Saxon. Sabine bestowed the Darksaber on Bo-Katan, making her Mandalore’s leader. But the Empire, unwilling to be defied, began the Great Purge, which ended in the death of most Mandalorians and, somehow, transferred control of the Darksaber from Bo-Katan to Gideon.
Although Bo-Katan and Tano initially fought, they subsequently united against Maul and parted as friends in Season 7 of The Clone Wars, which aired earlier this year. Small wonder, then, that she knows where to find her. And even smaller wonder that she’s determined to go after Gideon and the Darksaber, reunite the scattered Mandalorian clans, and lead them back to their war-torn home. But Bo-Katan is the last of her line; if anything happens to her, maybe Din will wind up wielding the Darksaber someday.
At this point in the timeline—five years after Return of the Jedi— the 40-year-old Sackhoff is a tad young to play Bo-Katan, who should probably be in her 50s. (We don’t know exactly when she was born, but we do know that she joined Death Watch as a full-grown warrior about 30 years before the events of The Mandalorian.) Then again, the 59-year-old Temuera Morrison is a tad old to play the 41-year-old Fett. As with book character Cobb Vanth, whose established backstory was slightly contradicted (or at least elided) when he made his Mandalorian debut in Chapter 9, the series isn’t letting minor canonical nitpicks stand in the way of making The Mandalorian a force that binds this galaxy together.
Expanded universe spotlight
When footage from this episode appeared in the Season 2 trailer, Trask could have been confused for Mon Calamari, the Outer Rim homeworld of the Quarren and Mon Cala. Both species have long coexisted peacefully on the water world, except for a regrettable interlude during the Clone Wars when Count Dooku and the Separatists stirred up a Mon Cala–on-Quarren civil war. The warring neighbors mended their differences before the dawn of the Imperial era, and they appear to be the dominant species on Trask, which seems to suit their preference for moist surroundings.
However, one wouldn’t think they’d be as pleased by the presence of Imperials. The Empire invaded and oppressed Mon Cala during the Galactic Civil War, which led to the Mon Cala putting their shipbuilding prowess to use in service of the Alliance. Churning out Mon Cal cruisers put the planet on Palpatine’s shit list, and he intended to destroy it with the second Death Star before Endor ended that idea. The demise of the Empire wasn’t the last time the planet paid the price for siding with the good guys: During the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order, General Hux bombarded Mon Cala again to punish the Mon Calamari for helping Leia. Maybe the Mon Calamari and Quarren on Trask aren’t aware of the Imperials passing through. Or maybe now that the Empire’s power has waned, they have bigger mamacores to fry.
Previously unseen in Star Wars
The mamacore, mercifully. A ranking of the animals/monsters from The Mandalorian menagerie that I would least like to fight:
1. Krayt dragon
2. Knobby white spider/Krykna
5. Nevarro reptavian
6. Baby Yoda