A review of this week’s The Mandalorian, “The Heiress,” coming up just as soon as I repair your spaceship with fishing nets…
Given the pace at which modern streaming dramas move, it seemed entirely possible going into “The Heiress” that Mando would spend this entire season going on wild goose chases for his people, before finally tracking down another Mandalorian in the finale, who would then send him off on the trail for Baby Yoda’s people, which would take all of a third season.
Instead, a whole lot happens in “The Heiress.” The Frog Lady was, in fact, telling the truth to Peli about her husband being near other Mandalorians, three of whom rescue Mando when a group of Quarren fishermen try to drown him and steal his armor. These Mandalorians aren’t quite what our hero expected, but they do point him in the direction of Ahsoka Tano, a key figure from the Dave Filoni-run Clone Wars series(*). At only 36 minutes, “The Heiress” is by far the season’s shortest episode yet; but, like Mando, it’s efficient.
(*) This is my periodic plea for the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars to find its way to Disney+ or another streamer.
It also opens up a few cans of worms for both Mando and the series as a whole. These Mandalorians, led by Bo-Katan, are not like any of the ones Mando knows. They frequently remove their helmets, which at first leads Mando to assume they’re appropriators like Cobb Vanth. But Bo-Katan was born on Mandalore, and explains that what Mando thinks of as their people is actually a small cult of religious zealots known as the Watch, who broke off from mainstream Mandalorian society. “There is only one way: the way of the Mandalore,” he protests, but Bo-Katan and her companions make it clear that there is more than one way.
This raises the possibility that the arc of the series will include Mando recognizing that he can be true to his creed without being quite so rigid, and that eventually he’ll feel comfortable going helmet-less in front of others. But he’s certainly not at that emotional place yet, and seems offended when Bo-Katan changes the terms of their deal in the middle of a mission. (Mando would never do such a thing.) Mando’s discovery that there are other kinds of Mandalorians with other belief systems should be a huge spiritual crisis for him. “The Heiress” mostly skips over that internal strife in favor of action — and also because Mando isn’t at the moment traveling with someone in whom he can confide. But it’s something the show will have to address more directly in time.
Then there’s the matter of Bo-Katan herself, played by Katee Sackhoff, reprising her role from Clone Wars. For the most part, The Mandalorian has functioned as a series that can be watched independent of Clone Wars, or even of the movies. There are obviously lots of Easter eggs, and elements that are much more exciting if you know all the history, but Favreau, Filoni, and company keep the storytelling so clean and archetypal that I imagine most of the entertainment value would still be there even for a viewer who’s never heard of the original Yoda, much less Midi-chlorians or Gungans.
But with the introduction of Bo-Katan (who is searching for the Dark Saber that Moff Gideon used in the Season One finale), plus Mando’s new mission to find Ahsoka, it seems we are about to get very deep into Clone Wars mythology. As someone who’s only finished the first season of that show, I’ll be curious to see if Mandalorian can serve two masters: the Star Wars obsessives and the more casual fans (if not total newcomers). For now, at least, the balance is working. I had no idea until I finished the episode and fired up my Google machine that Bo-Katan was even a pre-existing character, but the casting of Sackhoff (who got plenty of hard-edged action-hero experience on Battlestar Galactica) and her brief explanation of Mandalorian history was all that was necessary for now.
Mostly, “The Heiress” did what The Mandalorian does well, with a mix of action set pieces and Baby Yoda being adorable. The kid’s affection for the frog couple’s first hatchling may not appease everyone who accused him of genocide after his egg binge last week, but it was a nice moment, nonetheless. The oceans of Trask and the prominent use of three other Mandalorians who fight well together gave both the fishing boat battle and the one on the Imperial cargo ship plenty of liveliness, and Titus Welliver had a fun cameo as the ship’s doomed, Imperial dead-ender of a commander, who bites down on a suicide capsule rather than letting Bo-Katan take him prisoner.
It’s possible that getting to Ahsoka will take much longer than expected, and/or that she’ll be less helpful in finding more of Baby Yoda’s people than Mando hopes. (The Armorer told him to look for the Jedi, not for other members of whatever the kid’s race is.) But the idea of another way to be a Mandalorian suggests the series has plenty of places to go beyond our man’s current quest.