After last weeks Dave Filoni helmed, Rosario-Ahsoka debuting, Kurosawa inspired, name dropping episode, this week’s Chapter 14 had a lot to live up to. Crazily enough, depending on tastes, I think some people might like this episode more than last week’s. Last week was lightsabers this week was blasters.
It’s funny that since the second episode of this season (spiders and Frog Lady to jog your memory) premiered we sort of classified that as an adventure of the week ‘filler’ episode and have been expecting another since then. Chapter 14 was essentially the last time one could appear, as next week we ride into the penultimate episode, and there was no way you could call this episode filler (it almost changes the perspective of the second episode as well, redefining it as the fun, adventurous ‘season one-esque’ episode of this season).
I’ll keep this spoiler free for as long as I can. This episode is fantastic and the amount crammed into the short 34 minute runtime is astounding. We may have been able to guess parts of what was going to happen but not that it would come together like this.
This episode was directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Form Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids) and his style shines through. Rodriguez loves his violence and it shines through here as he pushes the limits of what Disney+/Star Wars can handle: Helmets crack, people are stabbed and, of course, there’s a little body augmentation in the form of a human with droid parts for a stomach. He also pushes the visual effects limits in this episode with explosions galore, Force magic, and aerial scenes as well.
This episode has character reveals, plot progression, and of course, as the name suggests, tragedy. So let’s get into some spoilers. We say it every time but please go watch this episode then return because it really is a very special episode in so many ways!
The cold open for this episode is a demonstration of how far Mando has come as a person. He’s talking with Grogu, repeatedly saying his name and laughing at the fact that this child now actually responds when he calls. He takes away the ball so he can see him Force-pull it back, tells Grogu how special he is and we can hear how sad he is at the idea of letting Grogu go when they find him a teacher. It’s always great for Pascal to say more and to see the progression of our title character from the stoic, silent type he was.
The first surprise of the episode is that after Ahsoka told them to go to Tython last episode, they go straight there: no side-mission, no setbacks. They set down on the planet and make their way to the temple on top of a hill, We’re there within the first five minutes of the episode! Quickest Mando mission ever.
Temple is probably a stretch as this is an ancient boulder surrounded by big rocks. Mando himself asks Grogu ‘Does this look Jedi to you? While it certainly isn’t the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, It does feel true to the Jedi of old: practical, unencumbered, and at one with nature.
Grogu is placed on the rock, needing to reach out to the Force and maybe a Jedi that can teach him will receive this call. Here we get a one-two on reveals. A noise is heard and Mando turns around and….
a million fan voices cried out in unison, ‘it’s happening’. Slave I, the ship of Boba Fett, is arriving. The payoff for his brief appearance at the start of this season is coming! I instantly thought this would interrupt our Jedi finding storyline but Mando turns around and we have our answer….
Grogu has chosen to reach out to the Force and is now in a meditative state surrounded by a force-field (see what I did there) that Mando can’t get through. Din Djarin is going to have to face whatever comes his way while Grogu gets his Jedi on. I was so excited by this, having multiple threads of the story progress at the same time really takes this shows narrative to the next level.
Mando goes to investigate this new intruder and a stand-off happens. He learns that this cloaked man wielding a Tusken Raider Gaffi stick is Boba Fett and he doesn’t want the child, he wants the armor Mando found on Tatooine, his armor. He’s not alone though, Fennec Shand, the bounty hunter from last seasons Tatooine episode is alive. I’m always excited when Ming-Na Wen is in something so I was very happy to see her return.
Everyone stands down, with Djarin removing his jetpack at Fett’s request (leading to maybe the only obvious issue in the episode). We learn Shand was saved by Fett when she was left for dead and is now in his service for that (she also shows her machine innards, replaced after she was shot – as close as body horror as Rodriguez is going to get directing Star Wars). In exchange for his armor, Boba Fett agrees to the safety of Djarin and Grogu, considering the bounty on their heads is even higher. It’s a deal but really a veiled blackmail, they won’t hunt them in exchange for what Fett wants.
In amazing fashion, the third storyline comes into play as the Empire has tracked them and arrives. Mando runs to find the child while Fett and Shand go to investigate the imperial transport that has landed. Here’s my one issue with the episode, Mando doesn’t pick up his jetpack, which essentially is the ‘convenient mistake’ that influences a lot of the following plot. He then proceeds to run up the hill he flew up 20-minutes before! Things happen as the plot needs in TV and we have to accept that sometimes.
Shand and Fett prepare for battle and the troop transport’s door descends and out of it comes…..endless cannon fodder. What must have been a very cramped transport of Stormtroopers rush out and attack as Shand picks them off. As they close in we learn one simple thing: Boba Fett might not be the same man he was when we saw him fall into the Sarlacc Pit but he is just as deadly. It’s just him, a stick, and a bunch of Stormtroopers.
The whole fight scene is really well choreographed and gives us a mix of close-up combat, blaster-fire, explosives, and a massive boulder decimating Stormtroopers (think Raiders of the Lost Ark if Indiana Jones hadn’t been quite as fast). Then Fett sees it. The Razor Crest, just parked there with it’s door open (Mando needs to take better care of his stuff).
A second troop carrier arrives, Mando still can’t reach Grogu through the energy-field and goes back to help Shand. The two are surrounded with no way out. You know it’s about to happen but it doesn’t make it any less cool. Boba Fett descends clad in his iconic armor for the first time on-screen since 1983.
We saw Cobb Vanth wearing the armor earlier this season, to odd-fitting and comical effect and it takes a second to adjust your brain since Boba is wearing the armor over his black robe rather than the….khaki pants…he usually wears (which makes sense because if he’d been wearing the exact same under-armor clothes 5+ years later that would have taken me out of it). The second he starts dropping bodies though, all doubts fade away, and I’d say I may even prefer his black robe look to his classic look! Fett isn’t just a blaster guy though, he drops a detonating charge, has knee missiles (if you’ve seen it you know what I mean) and then uses his backpack rocket to destroy both the retreating troop carriers in mid-flight. I’m glad the rocket is getting good use (and not just choking kids in the 70’s).
The fight appears to be over, then one blast from the sky descends and destroys the Razor Crest. Now it’s a running joke that Mando’s ship is kind of a bucket of bolts and he’s constantly needing to get it repaired, but I don’t care how many pit-droids you’ve got or how many Mon-Calamarian’s with cute knitted sweaters you throw at it, that ship is gone.
The damage doesn’t actually look that bad in the screenshot above…
That’s better. I don’t care what galaxy you’re from that’s gotta hurt. This was a genuine shock and really does suggest that the whole series status quo will change for season 3. It’s fantastic acting and camera work that when we see Djarin’s reaction we can tell the real loss he feels losing the ship: the memories, possessions, and his home, are gone. He pulls himself together in an instant and goes to Grogu.
As they rush up the hill to the child (again, why would Mando ever leave his jetpack behind?) Moff Gideon, aboard his Imperial Cruiser, launches the Dark Troopers (first seen in the 1995 video game Dark Forces). These state of the art combat droids we saw Gideon overseeing a few episodes ago, while looking cool, don’t actually do much. They fly down from the ship, surround Grogu (who is now out of his Force trance and asleep), grab him and fly back to the ship, which then escapes. However, they are menacing and cool looking enough to peak interest to what we’ll see from them later in the season.
Mando sifts through the ashes and finds two things, the ball Grogu loved so much and the beskar spear from the previous episode. Boba Fett then reveals more about himself, his connection with the armor and that his father, Jango Fett, was once a foundling, the same as our hero, and fought in the Mandalorian civil wars.
This is pretty loaded information because we don’t know much about Jango prior to his life (and death) in Attack of the Clones, so finding out he was a foundling for The Watch and part of the civil war opens up a really interesting narrative to tell (and I’m sure it will be at some point). In canon, including The Clone Wars, there are mentions of Jango not being a true Mandalorian. Speculation was that maybe he’d stolen the armor but we’re now finding out more about the split in their culture and the muddied facts of what makes someone a ‘real Mandalorian’. Interestingly, between Din Djarin, Boba and Jango on one side and the focus on Mandalore in The Clone Wars/Rebels, we’ve spent significant time with both parts of the culture.
The hype train for the final two episodes begins as Boba and Shand claim they are in Mando’s debt until the child is safely with him, as that is the deal they struck in exchange for the armor. The team fly to Nevarro and Mando speaks with Cara Dune, a marshal for the New Republic now. She looks up Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr’s character from last season, the guy with the gun coming out his backpack) in the New Republic prison records. He’s there and Mando wants to break him out, he’s the only one that can find that Imperial Cruiser.
In the final scene of the episode, Moff Gideon has a talk with Grogu, stuns him and puts him in handcuffs so he can’t use his Force powers. The scene itself is ominous but really just reinforces what we already knew, Grogu is to be the donor in whatever freaky experiments Gideon is doing with Force users.
I can’t believe that episode was only 34 minutes long, so much was crammed in and so many threads converged and moved the story forward. We not only saw Boba again, we got him in the armor, found out more of his backstory, and got closure on what happened to Shand. Grogu completely reached out to the Force and we can only assume put the call out for a Jedi to find him, and the Empire caught up with the duo and got what they wanted.
On a Boba Fett note, when characters we know appear in new series/films etc. it’s natural for us to feel a want for them to be in line with what we’ve seen before, to expect consistency in writing the character, but characters, like people, do change, Weighing that change vs. consistency is the burden of writers playing in a shared universe like Star Wars. What’s interesting about Boba Fett is, in current canon, we don’t really know that much about him as an adult. We see him as an innocent child losing his father in Attack of the Clones, then his hatred and pain towards Mace Windu and his becoming a bounty hunter at a young age in The Clone Wars, but then nothing. We don’t see him again until he appears in the original trilogy and the comics surrounding them; always portrayed helmeted, stoic, and ruthless. Bluntly, we don’t know what he’s like outside of work and outside of the badass silent type that made him so iconic in the original trilogy.
One of the coolest things about this episode is getting to know Boba as an adult, and what sounds like, a different man than the one in the original trilogy. His insistence that ‘I give my allegiance to no one’, that while his armor is important to him, his fathers ties to the Mandalorian’s aren’t. Also, ‘but fate sometimes steps in to rescue the wretched’ seems to hint that this Boba might not be the ruthless bounty hunter he once was, but something more.
We’ll have to wait and see but the fact that the Boba Fett/Mandalorian team-up continues is extremely unexpected, exciting, and leaves us only wanting more. This episode ticked all the boxes for me but I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know.
A few thoughts for your Spice Dreams:
-‘I’m a simple man making his way through the galaxy, like my father before me.’ Prequel fans faint from excitement.
-I loved that we saw a Stormtrooper captain with the orange shoulder cover here, as well as what looks like an explosive expert with the same design as the flametrooper last season but in yellow.
-The episode title being ‘The tragedy’ is a gut punch that kept me on edge all episode, anticipating the worst.
-The loss of the Razor Crest means Zero the droid is truly gone and no more Richard Ayoade voicing him, which is always a loss.
-Would I be pumped for a Boba Fett/Fennic Shand spin-off? Yes. Yes I would.