Tag Archives: Disney Plus

Nuclear Family banner ad

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E5 “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

Writer/director Dave Filoni begins “The Jedi,” the fifth episode of the second season of The Mandalorian on a dark, bare landscape with trees and walled city. Dystopia is in the air, for sure. And, then, instead of holding her back for a teaser at the end of the episode, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) emerges from the darkness dual-wielding lightsabers and takes down the goons of the magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto). It’s one of many beautifully choreographed action sequences in “The Jedi” and a worthy live-action introduction for this popular character from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The scene also sets the episode’s stakes: either Ahsoka Tano leaves Corvus, or Elsbeth will start executing her own people that she tortures in front of her own bonsai tree/koi pond sanctuary.

Of course, Mando and The Child are utterly unaware of the situation on Corvus when they land in the middle of the aforementioned woods with giant creatures idly grazing around them. They get some tense questions at the city gate (Mando smartly conceals The Child/treats him like a pet.), don’t get any answers or conversation at all from the inhabitants of Corvus, and are finally brought before Elsbeth, who offers Mando a staff of pure Beskar to kill Ahsoka Tano and gives him her coordinates. Mando and Ahsoka Tano have a short fight, but she immediately knows that The Child is Force-sensitive and communicates with him telepathically in a touching silent sequence. She also learns his real name, Grogu, and a bit of backstory, including that he was trained on the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, escaped after the Great Purge, and has been wandering the galaxy and suppressing his true origins ever since.

The next day, Ahsoka Tano tests Grogu in his Force abilities, but he is held back by his anger, pain, and attachment to Mando, who uses a part of his ship to coax him to use his telekinesis. Because of all these factors, Ahsoka Tano refuses to train Grogu, but ever the deal-maker, Mando gets her to change her mind if he helps her liberate Corvus from Morgan Elsbeth and her hired gun, Lang (Michael Biehn). This leads to some great stealth action, a heavy dose of anti-fascism, and a thrilling duel between a Beskar staff-wielding Elsbeth and Ahsoka Tano. Inosanto is a highly-skilled martial artist and Bruce Lee’s granddaughter so her stances and moves are fluid and realistic.

"The Jedi"

Because she is his own co-creation and also integral to the overarching plot of The Mandalorian, Dave Filoni spends a lot of time with Ahsoka Tano, and she even gets her own mini-storyline apart from Mando and The Child that features yet another a nerdy Easter Egg and makes it seem like “The Jedi” is a backdoor pilot for a show with her as protagonist. Dawson plays Ahsoka Tano with a fierceness and also a sense of sad nobility as she is one of the last Jedi in the universe and had to watch her mentor, Anakin Skywalker, go to the Dark Side. Anakin’s name is never mentioned in the episode, but every time she mentions “anger” and “attachment” in the context of Grogu, you can tell that it’s not the usual Jedi line. She wants Grogu to have a good, long life and not follow the road down to the Dark Side. Maybe, he just wants to be a cute kid and not the next hope of the Jedi as one of only three members of Yoda’s (He finally gets a name drop.) species that have appeared in Star Wars canon.

Even though Ahsoka Tano (and honestly Morgan Elsbeth) steal the show, I love the character work that Filoni does with Mando in “The Jedi”. Every named character thinks that he will act according to traditional ways/factions, but he surprises them. Morgan Elsbeth gives him a little speech about the traditional rivalry between Mandalore and the Jedi and thinks that will sway him to work for her, but in actuality, he’s smuggling a little Jedi under his cloak. Later, in the episode, Lang sees him as a fellow gunslinger, appeals to his pragmatism to abandon a lost cause, and go home. However, this doesn’t work on Mando, who as we’ve seen throughout The Mandalorian, is an altruistic person, especially in regards to his relationship with Grogu. Filoni takes time to show Mando free the prisoners with the help of the old magistrate and make sure that they’re safe inside before he begins his fight with Lang while Ahsoka Tano duels with Elsbeth.

Mando isn’t a traditional hero, but he helps those who he feels are exploited by the very complicated post-fall of the Second Death Star society. However, with the torture and executions, Elsbeth is a pretty obvious baddie and a total fascist and war profiteer, who was able to afford her pure Beskar staff thanks to exploiting planets to make ships for the Imperial fleet. Seeing Ahsoka Tano kick her ass is quite satisfying, and there is real tension in the fight scene as Elsbeth disarms her and even gets a staff to her throat. Tano and Mando really have to use tactics to retake the city like the old faking his death so he sneak in and occupy the assassin droids and other goons while she quickly infiltrates Elsbeth’s sanctuary.

“The Jedi” really feels a lot like classic Star Wars with a plot about resistance against an authoritarian government with a side dish of fate, destiny, free will, and all that other stuff. But, maybe, Grogu has (silently) experienced so much trauma in his life that he doesn’t want to follow the traditional, Joseph Campbell monomythic path. Thankfully, Ahsoka Tano has experienced similar trauma over the years, and because of this and the bond she can see between Grogu and Mando, she reneges on her promise while giving them intel on a planet where Grogu can choose his fate once and for all. On the surface, it seems like a cop out to have Ahsoka Tano show up, be cool, and not end up training Grogu, but it’s grounded in her character and her experiences even if it continues The Mandalorian‘s RPG plot structure.

Finally, it would be a big omission to not praise the visuals and shot choices of director Dave Filoni and cinematographer Baz Idoine (He did second unit work on Rogue One.), who make Corvus an utterly hopeless and closed off place with its light brown, smoky color palette. Whenever Ahsoka Tano’s lightsabers ignite, it’s like just a glimpse of hope, and Filoni and Idoine linger on the post-liberation celebration like it’s a mini-version of the big one at the end of The Return of Jedi. The mist combined with the training that Ahsoka Tano does with Grogu also create shades of Dagobah and Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker faced his own doubts and didn’t respond to Yoda’s teaching very well. These little visual and sound cues have been a fun part of The Mandalorian Season 2 as the different writers and directors have used them to comment on Mando and Grogu’s journey, not just as fanboy Easter Eggs.

With its insights into Grogu’s emotions and backstory, a fierce, yet vulnerable performance from Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano, and operatic storytelling from writer/director Dave Filoni, “The Jedi” is the strongest hour of The Mandalorian Season 2 yet even with an ending that’s a little rocky. It puts the to-this-point self-contained relationship between Mando and Grogu in the context of the larger Star Wars mythos as well as being a crowd-pleasing good versus evil story with unlikely heroes, who traditionally would hate each other’s guts.

Overall Verdict: 8.8

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E4 “Chapter 12: The Siege”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

Mando checks in with some old friends, The Child heads to (pre) school, there’s a couple twists on some old Star Wars set pieces, and honestly, everyone ends up in worse trouble in The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 4 ” Chapter 12: The Siege“, written by Jon Favreau and directed by Carl Weathers. With its planet/adventure of the week plot structure, The Mandalorian doesn’t have an ensemble cast, but it does have a couple of interesting recurring guest actors. Weathers and Favreau use them nicely in this episode and also provide more commentary on the post-fall of the Empire universe as the New Republic struggles to connect with the Outer Rim (Even though its greatest hero is from there!) and the remnants of the Empire engage in a very Star Wars form of eugenics to try to get back in power.

In this episode, Mando goes to the planet Navaro (Where the pilot and a bit of the previous season took place.) to finally get the Razor Crest repaired and travel to Corvus to meet the last scion of the Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. These days, Navaro is pretty law abiding thanks to Marshal Cara Dune (Notable transphobe, anti-masker and general conspiracy theorist Gina Carano) and Magistrate Greef Karga (Weathers). There’s a school, commerce, and Karga has even employed former Mando bounty, Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) as his accountant to work of his debts. (Think Suicide Squad, but number crunching.) However, on the other side of the planet, there’s an Imperial base with a lot of heavy weaponry, and while Mando is waiting for his ship to be fixed, Dune and Karga rope him into blowing its reactor and bringing peace to the planet with Mythrol acting as hacker, lockpick, and getaway driver.

Mythrol’s getaway driver status is short lived when the team discovers that the base isn’t your run of a mill, but a lab where Imperial scientists are running very unethical tests and experiments on subjects using The Child’s blood. However, they’ve run out and need to recapture him again so this episode becomes a lot more complicated than blowing up a base over a lava pit and going home. As soon as Mando hears The Child is in danger, he jets off to protect him while Dune, Karga, and Mythrol end up in a speeder chase in the Star Wars equivalent of a Ford F-150. You can feel Weathers and cinematographer Matthew Jensen‘s glee in this sequence, which goes full Grand Theft Auto and escalates to TIE fighters and wraps up in a very A New Hope way.

My favorite part of “The Siege” was the adrenaline-filled third act where Imperial scout troopers actually behaved cleverly for once and may have actually gotten the upper hand if they weren’t so fanatical. (See last episode’s cyanide pill popping.) However, Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau spend the first bit of the episode showing the change and growth that Mando, Dune, Karga, and even Mythrol have gone through since last season. Dune has gone from a mercenary and prize fighter to a sheriff, who can keep the peace with her blaster and physical combat skills while Karga is back to his old respected government job ways instead of running numbers and bounties. However, he’s got a little bit of edge as evidenced by making Mythrol take all the big risks during the Imperial Base caper. Mythrol is still cowardly and wants to make an extra buck, but his new job keeps him in line. Dune and Karga’s goals have gone from trying to make a buck and forget about their more traditionally noble or heroic pasts to helping others and creating a safe “green zone” on where folks can live a life free from New Republic policing and bureaucracy and Imperial fascism.

And Mando has changed the most. He’s gone from treating the Child like a bundle, nuisance, or McGuffin to straight up treating him like a son. For example, in the beginning of “The Siege”, Mando tries to walk The Child through fixing something on Razor Crest because the little cutie can fit in tight spaces. However, this is a little advanced for him, and honestly, Mando should have just let him do the sci-fi western equivalent of holding the flashlight. Weathers and Favreau even riff on the dread “first day of school” when Karga tells Mando to drop him off at the classroom while they go on their mission. Weathers inserts a lingering shot of him looking away as The Child immediately gets into mischief and uses The Force to steal a classmate’s snack. Mando’s motivation is keeping The Child safe, happy, and hopefully one day, reconnected with others like him. This is a hell of a thing to build a TV show around and demonstrates why so many folks have emotionally connected with The Mandalorian.

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

The Mandalorian Season 2 continues to be in conversation with previous iterations of Star Wars, and after last week’s detour to Clone Wars and Rebels, we’re back to the original trilogy. Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau go full fanboy (But not in a toxic way.) and insert in all kinds of goodies like the aforementioned speeder bike chase, blowing up a reactor a la Endor, the classic gunner heads up display used in Vader’s TIE fighter and the Millennium Falcon, and in a touching moment even though Carano doesn’t quite sell the emotion, Alderaan. The inclusion of these elements create a nostalgic reaction in viewers that helps some of the themes that Favreau is exploring go down easier like the Rebels transformation into New Republic beat cops. I mean, we go from Han Solo and Wedge Antilles to some protocol spouting guy in an orange jacket using the death of all of Dune’s friends and relatives on Alderaan to recruit to “join the force”. I find the politics and tension of this era of Star Wars history really fascinating, especially when Favreau gives us this boots on the ground view although the information about Mandalorians is interesting too and places Mando in a larger context beyond “lone badass with a soft spot for a cute, occasionally bratty kid.”

“Chapter 12: The Siege” has a tense chase scene, a pleasant performance from Carl Weathers as Greef Karga and continues to show the bond between Mando and The Child in a sweet, occasionally funny way as it’s interesting to see Pedro Pascal change his body language and movements from sharing some soup with him to gunning down stormtroopers and pulling off crazy maneuvers in good-as-new Razor Crest. However, Jon Favreau undercuts this fancy flying and uses the last moments of the episode to have Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon raise this season’s stakes with a slight eyebrow movement. He’s a great villain, Mando knows he’s alive now, and I can’t wait for their rematch down the road.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E3 “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E3 "CHAPTER 11: THE HEIRESS"

Like the previous installment of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” features The Child being gluttonous, yet adorable and eating every weird alien tentacle thing in sight. However, it also further the quest for the Jedi plotline while placing Mando and The Child’s journey in the context of a much bigger world as they finally encounter some Mandalorians, but they’re not the most, shall we say, sympathetic to his quest and have designs on ruling Mandalore. Step one in their plan involves lots of piracy and stealing imperial weapons.

Bryce Dallas Howard immediately flexes her directorial chops with a gorgeous shot of Mando, Frog Lady, and The Child’s ship sputtering towards the water planet of Trask. (If you like Mon Calamari, this is the episode for you.) Everything that could go wrong goes wrong as the ship ends up covered in kelp and badly in need of repairs so it’s out of commission for the whole episode. But hope can be found even in the most bleak situations, and Howard and writer Jon Favreau give us some payoff for Frog Lady as she reunites with Frog Man and their kids while Ludwig Goransson channels his inner John Williams for a sweet, stirring score. The relationship that Mando formed with them in the previous episode ends up being important as they babysit The Child while he goes on the dangerous mission part of the story and also teach him that frogs are friends, not food.

For the rest of the episode, there aren’t really as many tender human moments except for Mando jumping into the belly of a mamacore when he gets double-crossed by some Quarren (Aka the squid looking guys) fishermen, who want his beskar armor, and have no intentions of leading him to other Mandalorians. But he ends up being found by three Mandalorians: Bo-Katan (A charismatic Katee Sackhoff), Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks), and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides). They take out Mando’s captors with precision and ease and rescue the child too. Howard captures their dynamic, fluid sense of movement compared to their opponents, and then shows they’re a little different when they remove their helmets, which is something completely against Mando’s belief system.

Speaking of belief system, the helmet removing and initial conversation between Bo-Katan and Mando sets up “The Heiress'” main theme, which is religious fanaticism. Apparently, Bo-Katan and her crew see Mando as a “zealot” and his views and mission to reunite The Child with the Jedi as restrictive. There’s a coldness between them even though Mando does agree to have a drink with them, mostly, because they’re his only lead as he isn’t super impressed by Bo-Katan’s aspiration to re-take Mandalore. He does show a grudging respect for her when she talks about being present at The Great Purge and having an armor passed down from generations. He is cool with helping them get weapons off an imperial freighter in exchange for information about the Jedi.

Except Bo-Katan doesn’t want to just steal weapons, she wants to steal the whole damn ship. Bryce Dallas Howard and Jon Favreau create some interesting parallels between her group of Mandalorians and the freighter’s crew led by the Imperial Captain (A stone-faced, yet really fun Titus Welliver). First of all, there’s this obsession with a return to a supposed Golden Age, which is the Galactic Empire for the Imperials and Mandalore for Bo-Katan. The Captain and his crew sign off with “Long live the Empire” when Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) refuses to send them reinforcements and would rather die than give the ship up to the Mandalorians.

Their sense of self-preservation has been overridden by their fanaticism. This extends to Bo-Katan and her crew, but they are much better fighters with Bo-Katan getting a thrilling sequence where she basically stabs a bunch of stormtroopers in close quarters combat. They have a single-minded cause and the skill to back it up, not unlike Gideon with his Darksaber at the end of last season.

Howard gets some bits of dark comedy from the reaction of basically the Imperial middle management to the report that the Mandalorians are onboard. She lingers on them sweating bullets as they realize that stormtroopers who “couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bantha” are the only thing standing between them and the Galaxy’s most ferocious warriors. The Stormtroopers do have fancy repeating blasters that even the odds for a little bit, but they’re no match for Mando, who is willing to put his body and Beskar on the line for a group of people he was duped by and strongly disagrees with.

The Mandalorian' Season 2, Episode 3 Review: 'The Heiress' Brings Back A  Fan Favorite

However, his real motivation comes into focus at the end of the episode where he warmly looks at The Child playing with Frog Man, Frog Lady, and their new baby and has an actual destination even if his ship is still on its last legs and crawling with some weird critters. (Hey, more food for The Child.) Jon Favreau never loses sight of heart of The Mandalorian, which is the bond between The Child and Mando, and they use the connection to the bigger Star Wars lore (Clone Wars and Rebels in this instance.) to add richness and stakes to their journey and explore themes like extremism and tradition with the help of cool armor and jet packs.

Finally, I have to give kudos to Favreau for being able to succinctly introduce Bo-Katan, her motivation, and the additions to the Mandalorian lore in a way that’s easy to follow for viewers who didn’t see those episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels while keeping the episode moving and not getting bogged down in exposition. I mean, that unyielding eye contact from Katee Sackhoff works all by itself.

“The Heiress” is a welcome return to form for The Mandalorian with versatile direction from Bryce Dallas Howard, who ably handles the big wide shots of planets as well as the intimate violence of hand-to-hand combat and a magnetic and storyline deepening guest performance from Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan. This episode is just a good time with plenty of action, adorable moments with Mando and The Child, and reminders of the complex world outside their quest.

Overall Verdict: 8.5