Mando returned, and we returned to the groove with lots of lore. While Season 2 expanded parts of the Star Wars universe at times, this season already feels far more Din (Pedro Pascal) & Grogu-centric. It’s good to note that Pascal’s vocal performance can illuminate the importance of the expanding lore and exposition. While there was a lot in episode 1, it did not drag as others episodes have in the past. “Chapter 18: The Mines of Mandalore” is another background lore episode, but proves fruitful for our ongoing adventure. Directed by the Oscar-nominated Rachel Morrison, “The Mines of Mandalore” is one of the prettiest episodes of the show to date.
The Recap “The Mines of Mandalore
On Tatooine, Pelli Motto (Amy Sedaris) barters with a Rosina about a ship repair. When he leaves, Pelli calls in the Jawas to repair the ship, alluding to the fact they stole the broken parts, to begin with. Din and Grogu land the ship and ask for the missing IG memory circuit they need. Unfortunately, none are available, while Pelli pitches using R5-D4 instead. Din decides to give it a shot, and with R5 in the cockpit, they fly away from Mos Eisley as fireworks explode in the night.
The ship arrives at Mandalore, and Din tells Grogu about the storied planet. He admits he’s never been himself, pointing out that he was raised on Concordia, a moon of Mandalore. Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) is not far away, on another planet in the system. Din reminds Grogu he must always know how to navigate with maps. It’s the only way to ensure they’ll never be lost.
Din takes the ship into the atmosphere. Din explains the fusion bombs dropped on Mandalore have disrupted the magnetic field of the planet. From the surface, their communication is useless. He drops R5 down to the planet to take samples of the air to ensure it’s safe to step out of the ship. When R5D4’s signal disappears, Grogu begins worrying. Din steps out of the ship to go find him. Grogu watches from the cockpit, worried about Din.
Looking for R5, Din steps into a cave. However, there are creatures waiting, having taken R5. Din fights the creatures, drawing the dark saber to defeat the last few. He saves R5, and they head back to the ship. Based on his readings, the air on Mandalore is breathable.
Din and Grogu head back into the cave, and they fly down to the Civic Center. They continue to descend deeper and deeper into the caves towards the mines. Creatures watch from the shadows. They descend further into the caves.
In the dirt, Din finds a Mandalorian helmet. As he looks at it, a giant grabs him. The droid lay beneath the sand, springing the trap and locking him in a cage. Grogu warily follows them through the caves and watches from a distance.
The giant droid puts down the cage it’s captured Din within. The machine stops and lays down, only for a creature to emerge from within. A lanky robotic creature with one eye and a vibro sword emerges. He disarms Din, with Grogu still watching from the shadows.
When the creature leaves, Grogu tries to rescue Din but is stopped when the creature hears metal rattling. Din tells Grogu to get to Bo-Katan immediately, and Grogu runs. Using his floating bassinet, he flies through the caves and avoids the creatures. One final monster jumps in his way, but Grogu force pushes him out of the way. He reunites with R5, and they fly to Bo-Katan.
Unaware of Din’s capture, Bo storms out of her castle to make him leave. When she sees Grogu alone, she realizes something is wrong. They download the data from R5 and fly back to Mandalore. as she flies over the ruins of the planet, Bo-Katan grieves for what used to be.
Grogu and Bo embark, with R5 staying on board to track their progress. They too walk through the caves and into the mines, just as Grogu and Din had earlier. Looking over the city ruins, Bo removes her helmet. She refers to the once great civilization as a tomb, and they descend to the bottom of the caves. With the creatures still waiting, Bo needs to push Grogu to help her find Din.
As they continue into the caves, Bo reveals there was a time when the Jedi and Mandalorians fought side by side. Given his escape, Bo assumes Grogu is quite strong with the Force. She suddenly stops and pushes him back. Bo shoots out at the ceiling, causing it to cave in and drop monsters down as well. She takes care of them quickly, impressing Grogu. She tells him they were Alamites and used to live in the surface wastelands between Mandalorian cities.
The one-eyed android stabs Din, using a droid to suck a liquid out of his body. Before the droid can continue, Bo shoots it and begins fighting the one-eyed android. It electrocutes her, but she grabs the dark saber from the ground. She uses it to stab the one-eyed android, seemingly killing it. However, when she goes to check on Din, the head crawls to the larger robot body and attacks. Bo once again fights it off with the dark saber, killing it this time.
Din wakes up to Bo and Grogu around a fire. Bo makes pog soup and again laments about Mandalore’s destruction. She insists they go back to the ship, but Din plans on continuing to the mines. Bo thinks he’s mad but agrees to take him to the Living Waters.
They wander the ruins of Mandalore, discussing the problems of their culture. She waves away the power of the creed. She believes it was all for show, despite the power she once held. Bo reveals her father died defending Mandalore. Din responds with a simple “this is the way.”
They reach the Living Waters, a grand hall with a large pool. Bo reads from a plaque celebrating Mandalore the Great who rode the Mythosaur. The Mythosaur skull became the symbol of the planet.
Din lays down his weapons to step into the Living Waters. He recites the creed as he steps further into the water but is grabbed by something beneath the surface. Bo leaps into the water, searching for him, and finds him at the bottom of the pool. As they rise, a giant eye opens. It appears a Mythosaur lies below. They emerge and crash on the shore, with Bo-Katan seemingly shaken.
An Oscar nominee for Cinematography, Rachel Morrison really puts her stamp on this episode. Despite being in darkness and its fairly repetitive structure, Morrison actually makes Mandalore legible. Most of this stems from the establishment of clear locations, despite the grandeur. This helps advance the lore for those who have never seen this planet before while highlighting the tragedy. Many will draw comps to the Mines of Moira from The Lord of the Rings, which is not exactly how I would have expected the world to look. Yet the influence is undeniable.
Beyond the scale, Morrison handles some interpersonal moments with real grace. Watching Grogu overcome his own fears was huge. At the same time, the action setpieces were very fun. The iconography, including the dusty helmet in the dirt, was excellent. There is storytelling and visual flare throughout the episode that stems entirely from our relationships between characters and their relationships with the symbols of their culture.
For Filloni and Favreau, the jury has to be out. If much of the lore comes back into focus later in the season, then the episode used its time wisely. If not, there was an awful lot of time spent on very deep lore in service of nothing. Considering we went down into the cave with Din, just go out of the cave with Grogu, and then return down the cave a 2nd time with Bo-Katan, the repetitiveness did begin to weigh on the episode.
The episode does an excellent job of also showing Grogu’s growth as a figure in this franchise. Once merely known as Baby Yoda with weird powers, Grogu can clearly handle himself. He grows stronger at every moment. The empathy he shows for R5 was a new shade for him. Grogu continues to grow and showcase that he could be a figure we follow for decades in the film and television universe. Letting us feel that growth is important. We’re starting to stray away from Lone Wolf and Cub, because Grogu very clearly delivers Bo-Katan as the savior this time around.
Bo-Katan also digs deep to pull out unique aspects of herself here. She could have let Din die, removing a potential claim to Mandalorian leadership. Bo comes through a second time, using the dark saber to save Din two additional times in the darkness. She proves an empathetic leader on her own terms, even though she could have grabbed the saber and left him to die.
Her awareness that there may be a Mythosaur at the bottom of the Living Waters was extremely important as well. Riding the would be a huge deal for Bo, potentially strengthening her claim far more than the Dark Saber ever could. If this show is about the rise of a new Mandalorian dynasty, that creature could pay huge dividends for the future.
On a final note, it was actually insanely great to see R5 make a little appearance. In Star Wars: Legends lore, R5 knowing blew himself up so that R2 could join C3P0 and Luke on Tatooine. Yes! It’s that droid! He then went on an illustrious career as a spy for the rebellion. This seems to be confirmed when Pelli Motto just straight drops that knowledge. We’ve seen droids have not had the best of luck in The Mandalorian, so we beg Filloni and Favreau to protect our guy R5 at all costs.
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