An episode full of dramatic plot twists. A full array of old canon elements making a comeback. And a prompt for asking the age-old question: when is bringing back “dead” characters acceptable, and when is it too much? An in-depth look at some elements of The Mandalorian Chapter 14: “The Tragedy”.
(As always, spoilers ahead!)
The Plot Development
“The Tragedy” was packed with loads of action scenes. Combined with the dramatic revelations and ground-shaking events, it certainly made for a gripping performance.
The episode also moved the overall story forward in a clear direction. We can be more or less certain what we are going to see in the last couple of episodes: an epic showdown, likely between Moff Gideon and his Dark Troopers on one side and basically every single person Din has ever met on the other side.
Characters New Or Old
In terms of character introduction, this episode “introduced” the character of Boba Fett (after his two-second appearance at the end of “The Marshal”). The second major character was Fennec Shand, returning after her presumed demise in season 1.
Shand’s comeback was a return from the dead done right. She was a popular character who originally came with rather epic tales of her prowess and a million-credit bounty on her head. Indeed it would be a pity for her to simply die randomly on the sands of Tatooine.
What adds to the originality is that she came back changed – having become a cyborg and now also being indebted to Boba Fett. That makes the dynamic of her story and her relationship to Djarin somewhat different.
The only possible danger of such a move is that it sets a precedent for more characters coming back from the dead. Not that this is the first time, and it certainly does not beat Maul returning after being cut in half (or cloned Palpatine for that matter). That technology can bring back supposedly dead characters is nothing new in Star Wars universe, it should, however, be used sparingly.
Shand’s return is okay: it is justified both by what I said above (an interesting character whose potential has not been fully used) and by that it does not really change much objectively. This is just a place to remind the creators: tread carefully. And next time someone major dies (say, Moff Gideon) and you want us to acknowledge it, make sure that you show clearly that they are beyond recovery.
The Man in Mando Armour
Which brings us to Boba Fett. Who, after all, also came back from the dead, in a sense. Everyone who is at least a little familiar with extra-film lore, or has speculated with their friends, has at least thought about Boba possibly not being dead. Still, for the completely casual audience, it may seem a bit sketchy that this episode just featured two technically “resurrected” characters.
Boba Fett himself came back in full power. He possibly seemed even cooler than in the original films. Partly because Temuera Morrison now got to act without a helmet (something to consider for Djarin in the future, perhaps). Partly because he showed to be a killing machine even while just bashing people with the Sand People’s Gaffi stick.
If there was ever a character’s return done right, Boba may be it. The only thing that remains somehow hazy is his relationship to the Mandalorian culture. That only copies the former old canon, in which Jango’s (and by extension, Boba’s) status as a man-with-Mando-armour-but-not-really-a-Mando was something of a mess.
Dark Troopers and Legends Canon
If in my last review I suspected that the creators are just bringing expanded universe characters into live-action, the Dark Troopers are the sign of something similar. They are literally the copy of what was the main theme of some of the oldest SW video games from the 90s.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and the canon was reset, all the old stories were dumped. Many thought back then that this was the new start, possibly picking a few gems to preserve, but largely creating new, original stories. Now, it starts to look like the reset never happened. J.J. Abrams already used the least original element of the old stories by bringing back the cloned Emperor. It now seems clear that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni et al. are bringing back the “oldies” in a more calculated manner. They are targeting the nostalgic audience (probably counting themselves among them) who were SW fans during the 90s and early 2000s.
Is this a good or a bad thing? So far, it seems like the former. The Dark Troopers were introduced as a menacing, original enemy. They take the best from both Stormtroopers and the droid armies, uniting two major SW “generic enemy” concepts into one (or three, if we consider that they have jetpacks – something associated with bounty hunters or Mandalorians, who in the films were also villains).
The Two Tragedies
The namesake tragedy of the episode came in two ways. One, Grogu has now been captured and needs to be saved before the sick Imperials start extracting his blood for their experiments. Secondly, we bid farewell to Din’s iconic ship, the Razor Crest. The good side of it is that Din could now travel alongside Boba in Slave I – and that would be cool by itself.
Grogu himself has managed to tap into his powers on Tython, and it will remain to be seen whether his display has called anyone. Will we see, in the final episode, a dramatic arrival of Jedi reinforcements to help the heroes in the most desperate moment? By reinforcements, I mean likely one Jedi – which would be more than enough: Ezra Bridger and a flock of purrgil, or even Luke Skywalker (less likely, because who would play him?), or somebody completely new (an opportunity to introduce a new character. If we are talking the makers bringing back old canon characters, such a call could also draw in, say, Mara Jade. We can always dream).
Be it as it may, we are left on a bit of a cliffhanger. Grogu clearly needs to be rescued and live with a good “parent”. It has now been proven beyond doubt (last with the final scene of him throwing stormtroopers around the room) that if left unchecked, he could use his powers to harm others. He clearly is in danger of giving in to anger, hatred, you know the story.
But there is a rescue coming and we are likely going to see everyone, not only “heroes” (like Din, Boba or possibly Cara and New Republic-aligned folks) but also “villains” (like Mayfeld, the sharpshooter from “The Prisoner”) going after Moff Gideon. Certainly much to look forward to.