‘The Mandalorian’ Review: The Stakes are Raised in Action-Packed ‘Chapter 14’

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 5, “Chapter 14 – The Tragedy.”]

Boba Fett is back!

OK, so that’s not the only thing that happened in the latest installment of “The Mandalorian,” but even in an episode that was chock-full of surprises, the legendary bounty hunter’s return was easily the highlight. Like last week’s stellar episode, “Chapter 14 — The Tragedy” gave Mando (Pedro Pascal) an excuse to team up with a fan-favorite “Star Wars” character for all sorts of action scenes while continuing to push the season’s central narrative forward. As for the episode title, there were indeed several tragic events throughout its 30-minute runtime, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

“Chapter 14” opens with Mando and Grogu (the puppet formerly known as Baby Yoda) en route to Tython to hopefully find a Jedi who can properly train Grogu in the ways of the Force. The duo’s bonding has been highlighted throughout Season 2 and “Chapter 14” emphasizes how far they’ve come since Mando unwittingly encountered Grogu in the series premiere back in 2019. It’s hard to discern Mando’s emotions underneath all that armor, but his little laughs every time Grogu immediately responds to his name and actively listens to him belie the fact that he has a clear affection for the child. That said, Mando also understands that that the ways of the Force, or “Jedi stuff,” to use his terminology, are beyond his understanding and is determined to complete his mission for Grogu’s sake, even if it means losing his best friend.

And so, they land on Tython. It’s a bit of a disappointment that the live-action debut of Tython mostly serves as just a bland mountainous backdrop for the action that ensues — Tython holds significant lore value for the franchise and was the planet where the Jedi Order originated — but that’s a minor complaint, given the episode’s tight pacing and myriad other strong points.

As for the ensuing action, little time is wasted before Mando and Grogu’s excursion goes sideways. Grogu eventually begins meditating on the stone the duo were seeking, and something happens. The results of Grogu’s attempt to reach out to a Jedi will presumably be revealed at a later date but in the meantime, Grogu is surrounded by some sort of force field while meditating and Mando discovers a peculiar ship preparing to land nearby.

As franchise fans will immediately recognize, that peculiar ship turns out to be Boba’s Slave I.

Boba’s (Temeura Morrison, who portrayed Jango Fett, AKA Boba’s father, in 2002 film “Attack of the Clones”) entrance is handled with the enthusiasm one would expect for such a legendary character: Slave I descends on the planet, followed by Mando ducking from a storm of warning shots from an unseen assailant. Boba speaks off-screen before appearing as a hooded figure, then reveals himself to Mando in full and curtly explains his presence. Boba’s face reveal might not quite the same impact as Ahsoka’s first appearance in last week’s episode — it’s not like Boba ever revealed his face in the original “Star Wars” film trilogy and the character doesn’t don his iconic armor until later in the episode — but Morrison’s embodiment of the bounty hunter is so perfect that it hardly matters.

Boba has been tracking Mando to acquire his armor, and he brought another popular character along to finish the job. Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), the elite assassin who was seemingly left for dead in the show’s first season, was saved by Boba — yes, those boots at the end of Season 1’s fifth episode were indeed being worn by Boba —  is his new partner, and still has a score to settle with Mando. Some brief but necessary exposition is dumped for Mando and viewers who are unaware of Boba and Fennec’s history, and the three quickly agree to put aside their differences when a small army of Stormtroopers descent on the planet.

And with that, episode director Robert Rodriguez (making a superb “Mandalorian” directorial debut) loosens the reigns for around 11 minutes of nonstop action. Mando, Fennec, and especially Boba get their moments in the action spotlight and there’s a commendable mix of the expected blaster shootouts and usage of more eclectic murdering tools, such as a giant boulder and Boba’s Gaderffi stick traditionally used by Tusken Raiders (Boba’s brutal melee sequences are especially satisfying, but man, watching Stormtroopers get clubbed to death really makes their supposedly top-of-the-line armor look utterly pathetic.)

Things are going well for the protagonists. Then Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) Star Destroyer obliterates Mando’s ship with a single shot.

Mando’s ship has been through hell in Season 2 and watching it get blasted to pieces in an instant was a genuinely unexpected punch in the gut Mando likely cared more about that ship than anything else, sans his armor and Grogu.

Mando can barely register his loss before Gideon sends a squad of Dark Troopers (the Battle Droids hinted at earlier in the season) after Grogu. The Dark Troopers don’t get much screen time, but their sinister presence is further elevated by an pulse-pounding theme by Ludwig Göransson, whose consistently fantastic work on “The Mandalorian” cannot be overstated. The Dark Troopers whisk Grogu away and Mando is left without his ship or his friend. “The Tragedy,” indeed.

Given that Boba and Fennec failed to hold up their end of the deal — Mando would surrender his armor if Boba and Fennec protected Grogu — the trio make peace and set off to Navarro to see if Cara Dune (Gina Carano) can find a lead on Gideon. Mando’s next target — and presumably the focus of next week’s episode — is revealed to be Mayfeld (Bill Burr), the crude ex-Imperial who appeared in Season 1.

As for Grogu, the episode’s closing scene shows the creature angrily flinging two Stormtroopers around with the Force while Gideon observes nearby. Much like the brief scene in “The Mandalorian” Season 1 where Grogu Force choked Cara Dune during a harmless arm wrestling match, there’s something terrifying about watching the little creature violently use his considerable Force powers due to his emotional state — it’s almost like Grogu is an untrained baby version of Yoda. (Gasp!)

There’s still no telling exactly what Gideon’s plans for Grogu are or whether Boba and Fennec will appear in the season’s remaining two episodes, but “The Tragedy” has set the stakes higher than ever for Mando.

Grade: A-

New episodes of “The Mandalorian” Season 2 debut Fridays on Disney+.

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