I can honestly say that I thought Din’s quest for the titular Mines of Mandalore would happen closer to the end of the season, not the second episode of The Mandalorian’s third season. So colour me surprised. The episode also features what I believe to be the first-ever cliffhanger for the series, so this episode was certainly surprising. I think it had a bit of a slower start, but the back end of the episode shined in the darkness (literally).
After a pitstop on Tatooine in an attempt to get a part for IG-11, Mando ends up recruiting R5 and brings the droid to Mandalore in order to get atmosphere readings. Naturally, the skittish droid is ambushed, prompting an action scene. I sometimes find The Mandalorian does action for the sake of action and, like this scene, kind of detracts from the pacing and the plot. There was no benefit for this scene, as Mando immediately rescues R5, who in turn informs him the atmosphere is indeed breathable. Why not just have R5 state that from the get-go? Contrast this with the action scene at the front of Chapter 5 of The Book of Boba Fett, where Din wipes out a group of thugs in a meat locker. There’s so much narrative within that fight; it’s essential to the story as we learn about Din’s struggles with the Darksaber and his emotional state living without Grogu.
Din and Grogu then venture into the subterranean husk of the old Mandalorian city. Fans of The Clone Wars will no doubt recognize the architecture of the dilapidated city from the animated series. But in the mines, Din is captured by this creepy droid-creature, in what has to be the first jump scare in the series. This episode, directed by cinematographer Rachel Morris, certainly leaned into horror more than once, from its creepy vibes and macabre setting.
Thanks to Din’s tutelage of space travel (and Grogu actually paying attention to his lessons), the little green guy is able to direct R5 to Bo-Katan’s keep, who then returns to Mandalore to save Din by making quick use of the droid-creature with the Darksaber. She’s been the custodian of the sword before and unlike Din, actually knows how to use it as a former ruler with specific training. But she doesn’t get to keep the blade, it wasn’t earned, despite her qualifications.
From here, episode two of The Mandalorian s third season gets really good. I loved the conversation Bo and Din had about her father on their way to the Living Waters, where she regaled Mando on how proud her father was when she took the creed. When she reveals he died protecting Mandalore, Din stops in his tracks and utters “this is the way”. I love how powerful that saying has become. It’s now probably as iconic as “may the Force be with you” and it’s used to great effect in the series, especially in this scene. Din, bound by his own interpretation of tradition, believes dying for the planet is the greatest of honours, almost like how the Spartans in 300 believe in “a beautiful death”, but does Bo really believe that? I think she probably would’ve preferred to have a dad and Din’s comment leaves her both impressed with his commitment to his beliefs but also flabbergasted at his narrow-mindedness.
At the Livng Waters, Din removes his weapons and makes an oath before getting dragged to the depths of this very deep pool. Bo jumps down for him and upon her accession, we see the form of the mythosaur, the fearsome beast of legend within the Mandalorian culture. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, very off-brand for the show and we’re left in the depths of the planet until next week. Considering Din needs proof of his little swim, I’m going to guess he’s going to either slay or mount the beast, which will more or less put him on the path to becoming the new version of Mandalore the Great, one who will unite the scattered tribes under one banner. This is the way.
All in all, a solid and tension-filled episode that sets the stage for some grand events to come. I know the show never will, as it’s part of its template at this point, but I do wish the action carried a bit more weight or significance. Scenes like Din being ambushed at the cave’s entrance don’t really serve the show other than padding the runtime or creating the illusion of keeping the audience engaged. But as Andor showed us, you don’t need action to keep us invested, you just need good writing and I know the two shows are very different and offer different flavours of Star Wars, but I do hope The Mandalorian can rise above trivial action. Just a takeaway from this week’s episode, something that’s been prevalent throughout the series but felt particularly more noticeable today.
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