Season 2, Episode 6: ‘The Tragedy’
This season’s shortest episode of “The Mandalorian” turned out to be the most consequential so far. In 30 breathless minutes — mostly made up of one long action sequence — “The Tragedy” offers a sudden and rapid acceleration this year’s main story line. By the end of the half-hour, Din Djarin has lost almost everything, including his ship and his tiny friend Grogu. In their stead he gains two new allies and a critical assignment. For the sake of the galaxy and to mend his own broken heart, he must get the Child back.
So much happens in this episode that it’s easy to overlook one of its biggest surprises: the return of Boba Fett. The actor Temuera Morrison appeared briefly as Boba in this season’s first episode — the one in which Mando earned back what turned out to be the fabled bounty hunter’s armor. (He also played Boba’s father, Jango, in Episodes 2 and 3 of the “Star Wars” movie prequels.) Apparently the character has been tracking our hero ever since, with the help of Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), a mercenary the Mandalorian tussled with in Season 1.
Boba and Fennec find Din on the planet Tython, long the spiritual home to the Jedi Order. While Grogu sits in an ancient temple and communes with the Force, the three rogues engage in a quick standoff before coming to an agreement. If Din will give Boba back his armor, Fenec won’t hurt Grogu.
This isn’t an easy bargain for the Mandalorian to strike because he has a code that dictates who does and doesn’t deserve to wear the armor. And here’s what Din knows about Boba: absolutely nothing. He doesn’t know about this stranger’s past association with the bounty hunter’s guild. He’s never heard of Jango Fett, the soldier of fortune the Empire cloned to make an army. When Boba describes himself as “a simple man making his way through the galaxy like my father before me,” those words don’t resonate with Mando in the same way they should with “Star Wars” fans.
I know this kind of ignorance among the characters — common to the “Star Wars” universe — perplexes and even vexes some viewers of “The Mandalorian.” I saw some grumbling online, after last week’s episode, about how Ahsoka Tano failed to mention Luke Skywalker as a potential mentor for Grogu. In the timeline of this show, it’s been only a few years since Luke helped lead the Rebels to fell the Empire. Isn’t he famous? Wouldn’t the legends of the Skywalkers and the Fetts and all the other major ‘“Star Wars” characters be known throughout the galaxy?
I’ve always considered this to be one of the strengths of “Star Wars” though, and not a flaw. Because this galaxy is so huge and so diverse, the heroes and villains often have their own agendas, independent of whatever the powerful have been planning. The characters we meet in these movies and TV series are generally reacting to whatever danger or desire is right in front of them.
That’s certainly what happens to Boba, Fennec and Din, who get pushed into an alliance when their own face-off is interrupted by the arrival of an Imperial transport filled with stormtroopers. Before long, a second shuttle joins the first. The three are facing an overwhelming opposition.
What follows is about 15 minutes of outstanding action, masterfully staged and shot by the director Robert Rodriguez, a filmmaker who has been a whiz with screen combat ever since his 1992 debut movie, “El Mariachi.” The writer-producer Jon Favreau must have given Rodriguez the simple instruction to make this episode look as cool as possible, because there’s scarcely a piece of fight choreography here that isn’t absolutely awesome, from Fennec’s backward leap off a cliff while shooting a rifle, to Din’s use of scatter-bullets to pick off multiple targets, to Boba’s handiwork with a barbed staff, shredding his enemies’ armor. (Given the stormtrooper outfit’s resemblance to what Jango’s clones wore, undoubtedly it gives Boba a special joy to destroy it.)
The sequence seems to come to a triumphant end when Boba retrieves his old armor from the Razor Crest and subsequently turns the tide. The troopers try to flee, but Boba knocks down both of the escaping shuttles with one rocket. But before Mando can thank everyone for a job well done, Moff Gideon — orbiting above Tython — has his Imperial Cruiser fire a laser that demolishes the Razor Crest. Then he sends his robotic, supercharged “Dark Troopers” down to the surface to grab Grogu, who is so tired from his effort to telepathically contact other Jedi that he’s easy to kidnap.
Boba and Fennec immediately offer to aid in the Mandalorian’s rescue effort, arguing that since they promised not to let the Child be harmed, they have a debt of honor to repay. They all zip over to Tatooine, where Din asks Cara Dune to help him find the devious Imperial sniper Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr), who used to work for Gideon. As a newly installed marshal of the Republic, Cara hesitates at first until she finds out that Grogu is in trouble. Anyone who has ever spent any time with Baby Yoda would break any law to keep the little guy safe.
Here again, the situational nature of the “Star Wars” saga comes into play. Neither Din nor Cara really know who or what Grogu is. They don’t know anything about the adult Yoda, beyond what Mando knows from a few offhand comments by Ahsoka. Most of what they know about the Jedi has come to them secondhand … and a lot of that talk has been negative.
But from the way Din talks to Grogu as they approach Tython — chuckling with joy at the kid’s very presence while also trying to convince himself that the right thing to do is to turn him over to the Jedi — it’s clear he knows the Child is one of a kind.
If only Gideon felt the same. After watching with delighted wonder as Grogu telekinetically flings stormtroopers around his cell, he then puts the exhausted Child into adorably tiny shackles and orders his subordinate to make a call to Dr. Pershing. “Let him know we have got our donor,” he says.
We’ve seen before how Gideon and his people have tried to drain the Force from Grogu, which seems like such a waste of someone so special. But that just goes to show that even the fortunate few who know what’s really going on within the “Star Wars” universe can be shortsighted. To them, everything and everybody — no matter how small and no matter how mighty — is a resource to be exploited.
This is the way:
When Boba sees Gideon’s Imperial Cruiser, he ruefully says that the Empire is back. But is it? One of the great unknowns of “The Mandalorian” is whether the Empire’s remaining representatives are organized in any systematic way or if Gideon and his minions have moved on from the old order and are now hatching some new kind of evil scheme.
Here’s another unknown: Did Grogu in fact contact any Jedi when he was on Tython? We see him collapse with exhaustion from the effort, but he’s seized by Dark Troopers before we know whether he had any success. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another Jedi this season, perhaps swooping in to save the day when all seems hopeless, as Jedi are wont to do.