Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 3: The Heiress

This week on The Mandalorian we finally get a decent episode, one that's comparable to the heights of Season 1. 

As I said in my previous reviews, The Marshal was packed with annoying fan service, and last week's The Passenger was a dreaded filler episode. So it was great to finally get an outing in which something actually happened and furthered the story arc.

The Heiress was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard (son of Ron), who helmed last season's Sanctuary. Once again she does a darned good job, turning in one of the best episodes of the season (so far). Kudos!

This week's episode is notable for introducing one of the major characters from The Clone Wars animated series. Bo-Katan makes her live action debut here, generating much cheering and rejoicing among fandom. It's not the first time an animated character has graduated to live action (that honor would go to Boba Fett), but it's still pretty cool.

Last week I complained about the seemingly irrelevant Frog Lady plotline, saying that unless she was intended to become a permanent member of the cast, her introduction was completely pointless.

Welp, guess who's not becoming a permanent member of the cast? In this episode, Frog Lady's reunited with her husband and the two of them hightail it off screen, as if they can't wait to exit the episode. Which, as I said, makes her intro and very existence on the show meaningless.
This week's episode generated quite a bit of controversy over on Twitter (what else is new). It seems SJWs were highly offended (what else is new) by the fact that Bo-Katan and her pal Koska Reeves were outfitted with boob armor. Jesus wept.

Yes, it's true that the gals' armor features a slight concavity in the area of their breasts, but it's nothing overt or exaggerated. In fact it looks pretty practical to me. After all, they gotta put their tits somewhere! Otherwise they'd have to mash 'em down under flat, male chest plates.

This is one of those damned if they do, damned if they don't situations. Give the ladies boob armor and the SJWs scream that they're objectifying women. Clad 'em in the same armor as the men and they'd shriek that they were trying to reductively erase the female form. 

This is why I always point out that the internet is both the best and worst invention ever created.

Lastly, this week Manny's quest to return Baby Yoda to the Jedi is finally given focus as he learns the name and address of Ahsoka Tano.

I'm calling it right now— the rest of the season will involve him making his way to her, and we'll finally see her in the season finale. Most likely in the closing seconds.

I can also guarantee that when Manny finally finds the Jedi, he's not gonna leave Baby Yoda with them and fly off by himself. That "adorable" green Muppet is the only thing keeping Star Wars afloat these days, and Disney knows it. There's no way in hell they're gonna write him off the show, and will keep milking every merchandising dollar they can from him.

The Plot: 
After the events of last week's filler episode, the Razor Crest limps its way to the watery moon of Trask, orbiting the gas giant Kol Iben. Manny activates the landing sequence, but the heavily damaged ship descends too rapidly. He manages to gain control just a few feet from the ground. Unfortunately just as the ship's about to set down, an engine blows and it topples over and plunges into the ocean.

The Razor Crest is lifted out of the water by a crane walker. Manny, Frog Lady and Baby Yoda disembark. Manny gives a Mon Calamari dockworker a thousand credits to fix the ship and get it space worthy again. The worker looks doubtfully at the ship.

Frog Lady, her egg canister strapped to her back, scans the crowd for her husband. Somehow she spots him across the dock and they have a joyous reunion. Frog Man thanks Manny for safely delivering his wife and her eggs to him (little does he know!). Manny asks him if he's seen other Mandalorians on Trask. He directs Manny to an inn and says he can find the info he seeks there. Unbeknownst to them, a mysterious, hooded female figure watches the exchange.

Manny & Baby Yoda enter the inn and set at a table. Manny orders chowder for the Child, and asks the Mon Calamari waiter if he's seen any Mandalorians recently. The waiter introduces him to a Quarren, who says he can take Manny to his kind— for a price.

Cut to Manny & Baby Yoda, traveling aboard a trawler manned by an all-Quarren crew. One of the Quarrens asks if Manny's ever seen a mamacore, and opens a water-filled hold in the ship's deck. They throw a load of fish into the hold, and the water churns as some massive, unseen thing feeds. Suddenly the Quarren knocks Baby Yoda (in his floating bassinet) into the hold.

The mamacore then rises up (looking very much like a sarlacc) and swallows the Child & bassinet. Manny jumps into the hold to save the kid, and the Quarrens close the grate, trapping him. He tries to escape, but every time he surfaces the Quarrens jab him with harpoons and shove him back underwater.

Just then the Quarrens are blasted from above. A trio of Mandalorians land on the deck and dispatch the rest of the crew. A female Mandalorian opens the grate and pulls Manny out of the water. He tells her the mamacore ate the Child, and she jumps into the hold. They all watch as her blaster lights up the water below. Suddenly the Mandalorian emerges from the hold with the bassinet.

Manny opens the dented and damaged bassinet, and sees Baby Yoda's safe inside. He thanks the three Mandalorians for saving them.

Suddenly the trio removes their helmets, much to Manny's shock and dismay. Believing they're not Mandalorians, he demands to know where they stole their armor. The leader introduces herself as Bo-Katan Kryze, along with her companions Axe Woves (?) and Koska Reeves. 

Bo-Katan assures Manny she was born on Mandalore, fought in the Great Purge and that her armor's been in her family for three generations. She says they're members of the Nite Owls. He asks why they removed their helmets, prompting Woves to sigh and say that Manny's "one of them."

Bo-Katan explains that Manny's a Child Of The Watch— a group of old school religious zealots who broke away from Mandalorian society and want to reestablish the old ways. Manny says there's only one way— the Way Of The Mandalore. He then grabs BabyYoda and angrily flies off.

That night, Manny walks through the streets. He's stopped by a Quarren who accuses Manny of killing his brother on the boat. Manny looks around and sees he's surrounded by an entire gang of Quarrens. Just then Bo-Katan and her squad return, wipe out the ne'er-do-wells and save Manny's ass again. She offers to buy Manny a drink.

At a bar, Bo-Katan tells Manny that Trask is a black market port, and the remnants of the Empire are buying up weapons with funds they stole from Mandalore. She aims to seize those weapons and use 'em to retake her homeworld. Manny says Mandalore's cursed and everyone who goes there dies. Bo-Katan tells him not to believe everything he hears, and says Mandalorians are stronger together.

Manny refuses to join her cause, saying he swore an oath to return Baby Yoda to the Jedi. Bo-Katan says she'll help him with that— if he assists her. He reluctantly agrees.

Sometime later the four Mandalorians observe their target— an Imperial Gozanti-class cruiser. Bo-Katan says it's scheduled to depart at first light, and will slowly climb until it's out of the port's airspace. She says they can fly aboard, take the crew by surprise and capture the ship for themselves.

Before the mission, Manny takes Baby Yoda to Frog Lady's new home and asks her to watch him. He warns the Child to behave and not eat any more of her eggs. Baby Yoda watches the canister with fascination as a "tadpole" hatches from one of the eggs (!).

The next morning the Imperial ship takes off right on schedule. The four Mandalorians jet through the air and land on the ship. They easily overpower the Stormtrooper guards, hurling them into the sea. One of the troopers manages to sound an alarm before he's killed. On the bridge, the Imperial Captain says they're dealing with pirates and orders his men to seal the hatch.

Manny and the Nite Owls make their way through the ship to the cargo bay. The Captain realizes they're trying to steal the weapons in the bay, and asks his pilot how long it'll be before they can jump to hyperspace. The pilot says they can't jump till they clear the harbor. The Captain orders him to climb immediately.

Meanwhile, the Mandalorians secure themselves as they open the cargo hatch, which blows the stormtroopers out of the ship. They seal the hatch, and Bo-Katan radios the Captain and thanks him for packaging up the weapons for her. She says they'll come in handy when she retakes Mandalore. The Captain threatens to hunt her down if she jettisons the cargo, but Bo-Katan says she intends to take the entire ship.

Manny tells Bo-Katan this is more than he signed up for. She tells him to relax, saying there's something she needs in order to rule Mandalore, and the Imperials know where to find it. Manny says he's leaving, as his mission lies with Baby Yoda. Bo-Katan says he'll never find the Jedi without her help, and he realizes she has him over a barrel. He agrees to stay.

In the cockpit, the Captain receives a call from Moff Gideon. He tells Gideon the ship's under attack and requests reinforcements. Gideon says that's not an option, and tells the Captain he knows what to do before signing off.

The Captain then kills his two pilots and sets the ship on a collision course with the sea.

Meanwhile, Manny charges his way down a corridor protected by dozens of Stormtroopers and wipes them out with a couple of grenades. The Mandalorians then storm the bridge. Manny and Reeves grab the ship's controls, while Bo-Katan threatens the Captain with a knife. She demands he tell her where to find the Darksaber. He refuses, biting down on a capsule and electrocuting himself.

They manage to slow the ship and steer it back upward in the nick of time. Bo-Katan invites Manny to join them, but he refuses. She says she understands, and tells him to take Baby Yoda to the city of Calodan on the forest planet Corvus. There he'll find the Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano. Manny thanks her and flies off right before the ship heads into the upper atmosphere.

Manny returns to the Frog couple's home, and thanks them for babysitting. He returns to the docks, and is less than impressed with the Mon Calamari's repair work. He and Baby Yoda board the Razor Crest, as it shakily takes off and blasts into hyperspace.

• This week's episode clocks in at a scant 33 minutes— a far cry from the 52 minutes of the season opener. Only two episodes have been shorter— The Child and The Gunslinger, both of which were 30 minutes in length.
• Twice in this episode, characters mutter the phrase "dank farrik," which seems to be the Star Wars Universe's version of "frak," which was BattleStar Galactica's all-purpose, TV-friendly curse word.

That's kind of funny, as this episode features Katee Sackhoff, who starred on the revived Galactica.

Eh, I dunno. "Dank farrik" seems overlong and clunky to me. Plus, does the "dank" in the phrase mean what it does in English? Does it mean a "damp, musty farrik?" Give me BSG's clean and simple "frak" any day. There's no doubt what that fake curse word was supposed to mean!

• As the Razor Crest approaches Trask, we see a readout of the moon on the ship's screen. I love how the computer display is simple and relatively crude, matching the ones we saw back in A New Hope. The Mandalorian's production designers really have the whole Star Wars aesthetic down pat!

Same goes for the Gozanti cruiser's cockpit. All those gray & red panels looked exactly like the Imperial tech we saw back in the Original Trilogy

• At one point the heavily damaged Razor Crest enters Trask's atmosphere, and instantly begins heating up upon reentry. Wait, what? 
Since when is this a thing in Star Wars? For over forty years now ships have been landing on planets left & right without so much as a trace of heat or a wisp of flame. So why the sudden burst of scientific accuracy? Because they thought it looked kewl?

I can think of only one other time in all of Star Wars history when this happened— at the beginning of Revenge Of The Sith, when Anakin and Obi-Wan rescued Chancelor Palpatine and had to safely land a crippled Separatist ship on the surface of Couruscant. 

In both cases, the ships were heavily damaged. Maybe that's the reason for all the reentry heat?
• Yep, that's a Mon Calamari dock worker wearing a blue cable knit sweater. You know, that's so ridiculous that I actually kind of love it!

• Trask seems to be populated primarily by Mon Calamari and the squid-like Quarrens. Oddly enough, these two races are both the dominant life forms on their home planet of Mon Cala. I guess the two races just can't live without one another.

While it's an interesting concept for two intelligent species to develop on the same planet, it could never happen here on Earth. Humans would have wiped out the other group before they ever had a chance to rise up.

• After it lands in the drink, the Razor Crest is fished out of the water (literally!) by a crane that looks suspiciously like an AT-AT. So did the denizens of Trask repurpose an old Imperial-surplus walker and turn it into a mobile crane, or do they use AT-AT technology in industry as well as for warfare? Either way, it was cool to see it here.

• Frog Lady finally makes it to Trask with her precious cargo of eggs...

And then spends literally thirty seconds searching for her husband before finding him in the crowd. Well that was certainly a lucky break! 

Seriously, how the hell did she manage to find her hubby so fast and easily? Is there only one seaport on all of Trask, and he knew she'd have to show up there? Or did she radio ahead and tell him where to meet her?

• "What the hell, Alice? When you emailed me you said you laid twenty four eggs. I only see eighteen here. What the frak's going on?"

• As Manny arrives at the port, a mysterious hooded figure watches from the shadows. It's possible she's a character from one of the spinoff series, like The Clone Wars or Rebels. I'm not as familiar with them as I am the Original Trilogy, so at this point I'm not even gonna hazard a guess as to who she may be.

• If nothing else, it was nice to have an episode with an ocean setting and get off the freakin' desert planets for a while!

We rarely ever see watery planets in Star Wars. I think the only other time one's appeared was in Attack Of The Clones. I get why they're so rare, as it's a lot more expensive to film on the water or simulate an ocean with costly CGI than it is to simply set up a camera in the desert. That's why Manny's been to the arid worlds of Nevarro and Tatooine so many times since the series started.

• Manny hitches a ride with a ship full of Quarrens, who promise to take him to an island where he can find other Mandalorians. In reality they plan to kill him for his priceless beskar armor. At one point they open a hold in the ship's deck to show him a deadly mamacore. A couple things here:

First of all, the mamacore looks like an enormous lamprey, with a mouth that's a good six to eight feet wide. Why the hell would they be carrying such a creature in their hold? Is this like a whaling ship, and the crew captured this massive beast while we weren't looking? I don't think that's it. One of the Quarrens mentions the mamacore, saying, "She must be hungry. Oftentimes we'll feed her in the early morning, but we missed that 'cause we were goin' out of port!" That implies it's not their prey, but rather a deadly pet!

Secondly, one of the Quarrens knocks Baby Yoda's basinet off the deck and into the hold, where it lands in the water and is swallowed whole by the mamacore. But... but... why doesn't the basinet float over the water like it always does on land? Does its repulsor technology not work on water? Did the Quarren damage it when he gave it a good smack? I'm confused.

• Bo-Katan and her posse arrive and wipe out the Quarren thugs. She then rescues Manny by reaching out to pull him from the ship's hold.

Note that this scene is practically a carbon copy of the flashback in Season 1's Redemption, in which a Mandalorian warrior wipes out a squad of battle droids, and rescues young Manny by reaching out to pull him from a hidden pit.

There's no doubt in my mind that this was intentional. The two scenes are virtually identical, as the lighting's the same in both, and the figures are in the same pose.

• The Quarrens somehow get the better of Manny and lock him in the hold with the mamacore. Fortunately he's rescued by the timely arrival of three Mandalorians, who wipe out the entire crew and save Baby Yoda.

From left to right, these Mandalorians are: Koska Reeves, played by Sasha Banks, who's apparently some sort of wrestler that everyone but me is familiar with, Bo-Katan Kryze, played by Katee Sackhoff, and Axe Woves, played by Simon Kassianide, who appeared as Sunil Bakshi on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

• If you're anything like me, you're probably wondering why Star Wars fandom is going bat-sh*t crazy over Bo-Katan's appearance in this week's episode.

It's because the character originally debuted on The Clone Wars animated series, and this is her first ever live action appearance. 

Appropriately enough, Katee Sackhoff voiced Bo-Katan in both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels! That's... actually pretty cool! The production team did an amazing job translating the character to live action. They recreated her armor and even included the little LEDs on the sides of her headband!

So who is Bo-Katan? Welp, her backstory would take 50,000 words to adequately outline, so I'll attempt to be as brief as possible.

During the Clone Wars Bo-Katan Kryze was a member of the Nite Owls— an elite all-female unit of Mandalorian warriors (I guess the lone guy in their trio in this episode didn't get that memo?). She was also an officer in the Death Watch— a terrorist organization that opposed the pacifist Mandalorian government led by Duchess Santine Kryze— who just happened to be Bo-Katan's sister. 

Bo-Katan believed that Mandalore should return to its warrior origins. To that end, she and Pre Visla— the leader of the Death Watch— sought to overthrow her sister's government. Eventually they were exiled from Mandalore. The Death Watch then aligned itself with Darth Maul and the Sith and formed the Shadow Syndicate, in an effort to dethrone Satine and reclaim Mandalore (are you getting all this?).

With the help of the Syndicate, Satine was overthrown and Visla took control of the planet. Unfortunately Maul betrayed Visla and usurped the throne of Mandalore. Bo-Katan then liberated Satine from prison and asked the Jedi for help. Obi-Wan Kenobi responded but was captured by Maul, who then killed Satine. Bo-Katan and her crew then rescued Kenobi, as Mandalore erupted into civil war. 

This resulted in the Siege Of Mandalore, as the Galactic Republic arrived and drove Maul from the planet. Bo-Katan was then offered leadership of Mandalore, but was exiled again when she refused to follow the newly appointed Emperor Palpatine's laws.

Loyalists who rejected the Emperor's rule then sought out a warrior worthy of ruling their planet. They contacted Bo-Katan, and offered her the Darksaber— an ancient Mandalorian relic. Bo-Katan accepted and formed the Mandalorian Resistance, intent on retaking her homeworld.

Around then the Great Purge happened, as the Empire attacked Mandalore, confiscating most of their priceless beskar and scattering the Mandalorians across the galaxy. Apparently during this time, Bo-Katan somehow lost the Darksaber and Moff Gideon came into possession of it.

Bo-Katan is now searching for the Darksaber in order to reclaim the throne of Mandalore. 

Whew! There'll be a quiz on all this later!

The only potential problem with Bo-Katan's appearance here is her age. Roughly 31 years pass between The Clone Wars series and The Mandalorian. Let's say Bo-Katan was 25 during the Clone Wars. That'd make her 56 here! She certainly doesn't look that old in this episode. Maybe Mandalorians age more slowly?

• Whenever Bo-Katan removes her helmet we hear a "hissing air" sound effect. It's the same one used when Luke removed Vader's helmet in the third act of Return Of The Jedi. So... Mandalorian helmets are pressurized? I assumed they were just loosely fitting buckets on their heads.

Plot Hole Plugging Time! This episode does its best to explain two of the series' biggest head-scratching inconsistencies.

First up: The Clone Wars featured many Mandalorian-centric episodes, and often explored their history and culture. Oddly enough, the various Mandalorians on the show were constantly taking their helmets off. In fact they spent more time with 'em off than they did on. Same goes for Jango Fett in Attack Of The Clones.

Then along came The Mandalorian, and suddenly Manny's all "This Is The Way" and says it's against his people's creed to ever remove their helmets in front of someone.

This prompted many fans— myself included— to wonder what the heck was going on. Was the new series simply ignoring what was established in The Clone Wars? Was Disney retconning the show out of canon?

Welp, this week we finally get an answer. When Manny sees Bo-Katan and the others remove their helmets he doubts they're Mandalorians at all. When Manny refuses to remove his helmet as well, Bo-Katan realizes what's going on. She tells Manny, "And you are a Child of the Watch... Children of the Watch are a cult of religious zealots that broke away from Mandalorian society. Their goal was to re-establish the ancient way."

So there you go! Basically Manny's an Orthodox Mandalorian, while Bo-Katan & Co. are reformed. Plot hole successfully plugged!

Second plot hole: So Manny's been tasked with returning Baby Yoda to the Jedi, which is the overarching plotline this season. To that end, he's seeking out fellow Mandlorians, who he believes have the Jedi's address. In order to find more Mandalorians, he's been going on a seemingly aimless quest from planet to planet in a desperate attempt to find them.

Which all begs the question: If he's looking for Mandalorians... why doesn't he just head for his homeworld? There's probably a few million of 'em hanging out there, right? Whoops!

This week's episode makes a valiant, if ultimately lame attempt to explain this massive plot hole. 

Bo-Katan tells Manny that she plans to retake the throne of Mandalore, prompting him to say, "That planet is cursed. Anyone who goes there dies. Once the Empire knew they couldn't control it, they made sure no one else could either."

So there you go. He didn't check out the old home place because it's under Imperial control (I think?), and he believes it's not worth the risk to return. Eh, I guess I'll give 'em this one. Another plot hole somewhat successfully plugged!

• I loved this shot of Manny staring out at the exploding Quarren ship on the ocean. Every frame a painting and all that. Kudos to cinematographer Matthew Jensen for his impressive work here.

• Apparently Frog Lady's species has an EXTREMELY short gestation period! 

In the previous episode she clearly stated that the eggs she was carrying around (that Baby Yoda was snacking on) weren't yet fertilized— which is why she was desperately trying to get them to her husband. 

She then landed on Trask where she was reunited with her mate, Frog Man. The very next day Manny drops Baby Yoda off at Frog Lady's house, and the Child gazes in wonder at the delicious and fascinating eggs. Incredibly, a tadpole hatches from one of them as he looks on!

Holy crap! That means the Frog couple went to their new home, Frog Man fertilized the eggs, they went through their full gestation period and then hatched... all in a single day!

But that's not all! When Manny returns for Baby Yoda several hours later, we see he's playing with the tadpole— who's now grown to seven or eight inches in length! What the hell?!??
• Manny agrees to help Bo-Katan capture an Imperial Gozanti-class cruiser that's taking off from the seaport on Trask.

This isn't the first time we've seen this type of ship. One made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance back in The Phantom Menace. You can spot it right before the wise, dignified character of Jar-Jar Binks steps in a pile of Bantha sh*t.

• Manny and the other Mandalorians land on the Imperial cruiser and wipe out a squad of Stormtroopers. As they do so, Woves quips that "the Imperials could not hit the side of a bantha."

Sigh... Once again, this is some dangerous, slippery-slop bullsh*t. Yes, Stormtroopers are notoriously bad shots, but that's a narrative convention, meant to give the heroes a fighting chance against endless squads of soldiers. The characters within the universe should NOT be aware that Stormtroopers have terrible aim.

This is at least the third time the series has made this same joke, and it needs to stop, pronto! If the characters aren't worried about Stormtroopers showing up, then there's no reason for the audience to be either, and suddenly the series has no dramatic tension.

• More guest stars! The Imperial Captain is played by Titus Welliver. He starred in LOST as the Man In Black, as made appearances in The Last Ship and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

• Moff Gideon appears via hologram, and when he hears the ship's been boarded, he orders the Imperial Captain to destroy it (with all hands on board).

I knew Gideon would eventually return in Season 2, but I didn't think we'd see him again this soon. I have to wonder if Giancarlo Esposito showed up at the studio just to film this thirty second scene, or if they shot it in a later episode and edited it in here.

• As the ship plummets toward the ocean, Manny and the others are pinned down by Stormtroopers. With only seconds left, Manny saves the day by charging headfirst into a barrage of laser fire as he flings a couple grenades at the troopers.

So why didn't Bo-Katan or one of the other Mandalorians think of this? Is their armor not made of nearly-impenetrable beskar like Manny's? Is he the only one who could survive such an onslaught?

• Bo-Katan thanks Manny for helping her capture the Imperial ship and its weapons cargo. She honors their deal by telling him where to find the Jedi he seeks, saying, "Take the foundling to the city of Calodan on the forest planet of Corvus. There you will find Ahsoka Tano." Two things here:

First up, Ahsoka Tano was Anakin Skywalker's padawan and partner in The Clone Wars animated series, and is apparently going to make her live action debut on The Mandalorian as well. With the appearance of Bo-Katan this week and Ahsoka showing up soon, it seems like this show's rapidly turning into The Clone Wars 2.0.

Secondly, the city of Calodan is only one letter away from Caladan, the home planet of Paul Atreides in Dune. Coincidence or deliberate homage?

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