With a title like The Tragedy, it was clear from very early on in this chapter of The Mandalorian that something bad was about to happen – and worse still, probably to Grogu: the adorable internet sensation formally known as Baby Yoda (or The Child as he’s also been known). It’s a fairly minimalist episode: very little happens, and there’s not much actual plot, but the focus is entirely on this extended sequence comprising of an extended action sequence and the stakes are raised, building to a dramatic cliffhanger ending.
The premise is simple enough though: Din Djarin/the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu arrive on the planet Tython, where the child attempts to contact other members of the Jedi Order from an ancient stone circle. However, the Razor Crest has been followed by none other than esteemed bounty hunter Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Fett wants his armour back. On top of this, the last remnants of the Empire have been pursuing Mando and the Child, as Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) arrives with army of Stromtroopers and Darktroopers to reclaim his prize.
I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that I’ve found this season of The Mandalorian to be a bit all-over-the-place, jumping between various stories without actually developing any of them further beyond a merely superficial level. Chapter 14: The Tragedy, however, attempts to make up for that, with a variety of small pay-offs from beginning to end. Gorgu finally gets in contact with the Jedi, Fennec Shand returns (after being severely underused in Chapter 5: The Gunslinger, and doesn’t fare much better here), the arrival of Boba Fett (teased in Chapter 9: The Marshal) and the unveiling of the Darktroopers (teased in Chapter 12: The Siege). Unlike earlier episodes, the Razor Crest doesn’t just fly away from this story at the end – instead, Mando’s ship gets obliterated by Gideon’s Imperial vessel, and poor Din is forced (get it?) to ally himself with Boba and Fennec to rescue Grogu from the hands of the Empire. It’s a narrative twist that has the potential to shake-up the entire show (assuming showrunner Jon Favreau doesn’t undo this before the end of the season), and makes for a terrific cliff-hanger ending.
Aside from the big cliff-hanger, the other big highlight of the week was seeing Temuera Morrison return as Boba Fett. Strangely, this is technically the first time Morrison has played Boba, given that he only dubbed over the character’s lines for the special edition versions of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (taking over from Jason Wingreen), and only plays Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones. That being said, Morrison brings some much-needed gravitas to the role, playing a very different kind of Boba to what we’ve seen in the films. There’s no explanation as to how he survived the Sarlaac Pit, but who needs one? I’ve never been a Boba Fett fan – I was quite happy to leave the character at that brief tease back in Chapter 9 – but this new take on the character has certainly made me intrigued to see more. His big “action hero moment” once he’s reclaimed the armour is brilliantly done, with some cool action beats and dynamic camerawork that made me forget how ridiculous he looked with the armour over his big cloak. Director Robert Rodriguez brings a “grounded” feeling to the action of the episode, feeling inherently Star Wars-y but keeping the audience on the ground, witnessing the fight from the perspectives of those on the ground, and allowing Tython to feel like a real, tangible location and not just a soundstage.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what works about Chapter 14: The Tragedy, when I’ve been a little underwhelmed by quite a few episodes this season. Perhaps it’s the simplicity, emphasising Din and Grogu’s parental relationship and building towards that huge cliffhanger ending? Perhaps it’s that the series really is starting to pay-off it’s multitude of narrative threads? Or perhaps it’s just the sight of Baby Yo- I mean, Grogu bashing a couple of Stormtroopers around in his small cell. They even made Boba Fett seem cool! All of these elements come together to make the standout episode of the season so far, and I’m very excited to see what The Mandalorian brings next.