clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The ‘Mandalorian’ Chapter 20 Recap: “The Foundling” Takes Us Into Grogu’s Past—and Back to the Show’s Sweet Spot

A narrative course correction back to our favorite characters and a surprising (and satisfying) answer to a long-standing question put a season that’s still running a little low on propellant back on track

Disney Plus/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

How could Jon Favreau follow up the longest episode of The Mandalorian—a roughly hour-long edition that featured a mid-episode detour to Coruscant sandwiched between stints with Bo-Katan, Grogu, and Mando, closing at the covert? How about with the shortest episode of The Mandalorian—a roughly half-hour-long edition that also featured a mid-episode detour to Coruscant sandwiched between stints with Bo-Katan, Grogu, and Mando, closing at the covert?

“The Foundling,” directed by Carl Weathers and written by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, echoes some aspects of last week’s widely panned “The Convert,” right down to the fancy flying and the excursion to Monument Plaza. However, whereas Chapter 19 banished the series’ core characters for the bulk of the episode—which, among other shortcomings, earned “The Convert” the series’ lowest IMDb user rating to date—Chapter 20 keeps the focus on our favorites: Bo, Gro’, and ’Do. That narrative course correction, combined with a surprising (and satisfying!) answer to a long-standing question, gets The Mandalorian back on track as Season 3 hits the halfway point, though the season as a whole, like the Mandalorians’ jetpacks, is still running a little low on propellant.

If it weren’t for the fact that the audience would have walked out on a Dr. Pershing–only episode, last week’s brief BoGroDo scenes would have paired well with the ones in “The Foundling.” This episode picks up where last week’s left off: on the unidentified planet that I’m starting to wish would be named, just so I could stop calling it “the unidentified planet with the Mandalorian covert.” Whatever it’s called, it’s a popular place: Every time we get a glimpse of the covert, the Children’s ranks seem to have swelled, despite their constant culling by the local wildlife. (More on that in a moment.) I don’t know how the Children are getting the word out to their scattered members or attracting new recruits—especially in light of the planet’s supersized predators—but the covert isn’t looking so covert anymore. At the clan’s current rate of exponential growth, it’ll be a match for Moff Gideon by the time he turns up.

The episode opens during a Mandalorian munitions test and sparring session that reminded me uncomfortably of middle school wrestling lessons. Some of the Children are firing into the water, which surely won’t attract unwanted attention from the massive, Mando-eating alligators that live there. Others tussle with each other to earn XP and level up their clan rankings. Grogu sits off to the side, surrounded by rocklike protrusions. It looks like he’s prepping for some Luke-like levitation, but the “rocks” reveal themselves to be crabs, and Din reveals himself to be the kind of dad who doesn’t want his son to play peacefully by himself. (More uncomfortable reminders for me. This sequence is triggering.) “If he is ever to rise from foundling to apprentice, he must learn,” Mando says.

Grogu doesn’t seem so sure that he wants to rise from foundling to apprentice, if advancement is contingent on shooting other apprentices—specifically Paz Vizsla’s son, a fellow foundling who has the very Viking name “Ragnar”—with darts. “Don’t worry,” Bo reassures Gro, sounding more maternal than ever. “My dad was the same way. He’s just proud of you.” The fonder Bo gets of Grogu, the harder it gets not to ship her and Din. Not that I’m trying hard not to.

Din doesn’t just want Grogu to add to his armor set; he also wants to show off that his son has superpowers. And Grogu does harness his Force skills (and his training with Luke) to vault over the darts after Din assures him, “It’s OK. Show them.” Given that Grogu’s (grimace) high M-count has caused him to be hunted for the past quarter century, or roughly half his life—remember, he’s AARP eligible—it’s no small thing for him to show off a Force leap when company’s around. That he does is a testament to his trust in Din, as well as to his commitment to Clan Mudhorn and the Mandalorians at large. Tarre Vizsla, creator of the Darksaber, was a Mandalorian who joined the Jedi; Grogu is doing a reverse Vizsla.

Speaking of Vizslas: Ragnar is wandering by the waterside, contemplating his loss to a baby, when he’s snatched by a frickin’ raptor that comes out of nowhere. In case you’ve lost track, this is the second time in four episodes that poor Ragnar—who went ahead with his helmeting even after his previous near-death experience—has been attacked by a beastie with no apparent provocation. If I were him, I would stop standing in the monster-attack zone. (That’s an understatement: If I were him, I would stop occupying this planet, posthaste.) Though it might be handy to have him around as Mythosaur bait when the covert inevitably relocates to Mandalore.

The most disconcerting development isn’t the raptor attack; it’s the clan’s practiced reaction to the raptor attack. “Follow it to its lair,” Paz Vizsla says, as if he’s done this before. And in fact, he has: “It always gets away,” he says, when he runs out of fuel while in hot pursuit. Always? How often has this happened?! (Pretty often, judging by the empty helmets in the raptor’s nest later on, not to mention the line “It will kill the foundling if attacked. It has happened before when it has taken others.”) I get that Mandalorians are accustomed to roughing it, but maybe move somewhere else? Set up a security system or some motion sensors? Tell the kids to stay inside? This shouldn’t be the Way!

While everyone else is flying on fumes, Bo hops in her ship and travels in style to the raptor’s lair, before returning to organize an expedition back to its nest. That’s Grogu’s cue to take center stage—he’s big enough to train against apprentices, but not, it seems, to save them (even though his connection to animals might make him an ideal choice for this mission). But because the flashback that follows is so significant, let’s tie a bow on Bo’s part of this episode before we get to Groges.

En route to the raptor, the rescuers stop for food, campfire stories, and sleep. As Bo quickly learns, this crowd doesn’t do communal meals; no roasted marshmallows for Mandalorians who can’t take off their helmets in polite (or impolite) company. The only way to snack without becoming an apostate is to split up, but Bo gets pride of place: “You are the leader of the war party,” the elder Vizsla says. “You have the honor of staying by the fire. This is the Way.” It’s a great relief to see Bo’s (or anyone’s) head again, and it’s telling that Paz falls in line so fast: Mandalorians respect strength, and the Mythosaur would boost Bo’s if she claimed it.

As two separate, almost-identical conversations inform us—am I imagining it, or are this season’s scripts extra repetitive?—the members of the Mandalorian posse can’t use their jetpacks to ascend to the eyrie, lest they alert the raptor, which would then kill Ragnar. Instead, they climb up a cliff face in full armor, in the sun (which seems extremely strenuous), and end up alerting the raptor anyway. It’s just as well because Ragnar is in the raptor’s gullet—he’s fine, folks!—as snug as Luke in a tauntaun’s intestines (or Boba in the sarlacc’s) and ready to be regurgitated to feed the raptor’s three cute kids. After Papa Paz gets scooped up, a chase ensues as the fliers use their lassos to force the raptor to release both Vizslas. The ensnared raptor then plummets to the sea, where an alligator surfaces to snap it into pieces, Targaryen-style, thereby orphaning three raptor chicks and possibly making my editor cry. In saving one foundling, the Mandalorians have created three more, making the Armorer the Mother of Raptors. (Don’t worry, Mal—these cultists seem like really responsible pet parents.)

This side quest serves a story purpose in that it smooths over the tension between Paz and Din and, more importantly, elevates Bo back into a leadership role while further integrating her into the tribe. It also, however, highlights one of Favreau’s go-to tricks as a screenwriter: When in doubt, summon a massive monster. There might have been more subtle ways to make Bo see the virtues of the Way (as a prelude to a philosophical compromise, perhaps?), but why opt for the subtle approach when you can use your big budget to make flying Mandalorians lasso a raptor? Especially when it all looks as good as the dogfight did last week?

After the tribe hails the raptor killers/adopters with a round of huzzahs, the Armorer pulls Bo aside. “You’re in need of a repair,” she tells Bo, adding, “I can replace what’s missing, but not with its modern refinements.” Reader, I don’t think she’s speaking solely about armor of the physical kind. The Armorer is bolstering Bo’s spirits by replacing her broken belief system with the good ol’-fashioned Creed.

In a sign of her creeping conversion, Bo asks for a Mythosaur signet on her replacement pauldron. Then she comes clean, telling the Armorer that she’s seen a real-life Living-Waters Mythosaur—not a vision of one, but the genuine article. “When you choose to walk the Way of the Mand’alor, you will see many things,” the Armorer says, inscrutably. Bo, a bit miffed, reiterates that she’s not talking about many hypothetical things. She’s talking about one thing—namely, a non-imaginary Mythosaur. “This is the Way,” the Armorer answers, which must be a useful stock response when you’re trying to humor someone without being rude. (One wonders whether there’s such a thing as Armorer-client confidentiality, or whether word of the Mythosaur sighting will spread.)

If there’s anything surprising about the Mandalore story so far—aside from how quickly we met the Mythosaur—it’s how chummy Bo, Din, and the Armorer are. They could, of course, have a falling-out over any number of matters in the second half of this season: clan leadership, Darksaber possession, helmet policy, Mythosaur strategy, how to handle Gideon or Mandalore. But for now, they’re one big, happy cult, poised to tackle any non-alligatoraptor-related threats that may soon surface.

Grogu is prepared for battle, too, having added a comically oversized rondel to his beskar collection (a little late to block Ragnar’s darts). “You will grow into this rondel as you grow into your station,” the Armorer tells him, perhaps slightly overestimating his species’ adult size. But the headline here isn’t Grogu’s latest accessory; it’s that we finally find out how he escaped the Jedi Temple. If we’ve learned anything from the first few seasons of this series, it’s that when you want to get lost in an agonizing reverie, you’ve got to go to the Forge. There, the sight of beskar being melted down, the sound of hammers and tongs, and the scent of Eau de Living Waters make the traumatic backstory seep out. After years of speculation about how he eluded destruction during Order 66—His own latent powers? Special dispensation from Palpatine or Vader? An assist from a famous Jedi, à la Luke in the second-season finale?—we now know the truth. Grogu got rescued by Jar Jar. Sort of.

Grogu was saved by a surviving Jedi, though not one with a household name: Kelleran Beq. Beq first appeared in a web-only game show for children called Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge—basically Star Wars–flavored Legends of the Hidden Temple. Only 10 episodes of the Lucasfilm-produced series exist, and they aren’t on Disney+, so Beq wasn’t much mentioned as a candidate to make the Mandalorian leap and pluck Grogu from harm’s way. In retrospect, though, Grogu’s savior feels fitting, because Beq—who serves as the host of the series—is played by Ahmed Best, best known to Star Wars fans as the actor who provided the voice and motion capture for frequent prequel punch line Jar Jar Binks.

The backlash to Jar Jar, and the harassment and racist invective hurled Best’s way, caused the actor to contemplate suicide. His live-action return to the franchise in 2020 via Jedi Temple Challenge was heartening—but Best saving Grogu’s life in the flagship show of Star Wars completes a touching turnaround to his off-screen Star Wars story, in light of what he went through. Grogu’s ascent in a turbolift to the Temple’s exterior, where he’s greeted by Beq, calls back to Luke’s ascent to the bridge of Gideon’s ship in Season 2. Master Beq, a Padawan supervisor known as the “Sabered Hand,” shows off his saber skills and his piloting acumen as he whisks Grogu away from Temuera Morrison–voiced clones of the 501st Legion. (On Jedi Temple Challenge, Beq carried a purple lightsaber, which was intended as a tribute to Mace Windu—another Jedi who was sometimes put forth as a candidate to save Grogu. On The Mandalorian, Beq wields both blue and green blades, possibly to avoid Mace-recasting confusion.)

Although “The Foundling” doesn’t explicitly invoke Jar Jar, the episode hints at his contribution: That Nubian yacht parked on a platform by “some friends” of Beq’s, which Beq and Grogu use to escape from Coruscant, may well belong to Naboo’s own Senator Binks. If so, there’s a chance that Jar Jar may have played some part in the formation of the Hidden Path, the underground network that ferries Force-sensitives to safety, as shown in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Leave it to Filoni to continue the rehabilitation of Jar Jar, a process started in The Clone Wars and continued in the books. However you feel about Jar Jar all these years later, it’s hard to hold anything against the bombad Gungan who gave Grogu a new lease on life.

As with “The Convert,” the title of this episode could refer to multiple characters. We now know how one of them, Grogu, was saved for the first time, but there’s plenty of his history left to tell—and his future remains in motion, too. Given his connections to characters from all three trilogies of the Skywalker Saga (not to mention his potential to live long beyond it), the little green guy is shaping up to be a vergence in the Force for the franchise: not just a cute way to move merch, but also a central figure that Star Wars stories swirl around. For now, he’ll have to figure out whether he wants to take on a new type of apprenticeship after recently rejecting one with Luke. And The Mandalorian, which went back to its core character trio and its creature-feature, swashbuckling bread and butter after a one-week deviation in character and tone, will have to throw more threats at him and his friends in the four weeks to come.