“The Heiress,” the third episode of season 2 of The Mandalorian, is jam packed with connections to the past — some of them opening up completely new doors in the franchise. But that lore in Chapter 11 isn’t used to beat the audience over the head. There’s just as much subtlety in this episode as there is action, and it all serves to rekindle one of the great conflicts in Star Wars history.
Director Bryce Dallas Howard knocks “The Heiress” out of the park. It’s also the most fun I’ve seen one particular guest star having on screen in years.
[Ed. note: What follows includes major spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 3.]
The episode opens with Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) finally arriving on the watery world of Trask with a Coleman thermos full of baby frogs. The Razor Crest has seen better days and, while a Mon Calimari repairman does his best to get it back into the black, Din goes off to find a hidden covert of Mandalorians.
But the trip to find his kinsmen turns into a trap, with a crew of squid-faced Quarren attacking him and the Child while they’re heading out to sea. That’s when three blue-armored Mandalorians jet onto the deck to save the day. When the smoke has cleared, every Quarren in sight has been gunned down, the Child is saved, and Mando is finally face-to-face with his people ... or so he thinks.
Here’s where things get weird: The three Mandalorians, played by Katee Sackhoff (as Bo-Katan Kryze), Mercedes Varnado (aka the wrestler Sasha Banks, as Koska Reeves) and Simon Kassianides (as Axe Woves) all remove their helmets. It’s season 2, episode 1 all over again, and Din prepares to gun down these imposters as well.
Except, they’re not imposters. The presence of Bo-Katan seals that knowledge for the audience. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Sackhoff’s character is a big deal in the modern lore, having united the clans of Mandalore with the help of the Darksaber itself. Sackhoff voices the character on the animated series, too.
For just a moment, it’s possible that Din is the imposter, part of a long-lost tribe of pretenders to the honor of Mandalore. But that’s not the case at all. As Bo-Katan explains, Din is in fact a member of a fringe sect of religious zealots — true Madalorians, to be sure — called Children of The Watch. That he is unable to remove his helmet is just a quirk of his upbringing, but it serves to set him apart from others of his kind.
While the meeting is tense, Bo-Katan promises to help Din find the Jedi he’s searching for. All he needs to do is help commandeer an Imperial Gozanti freighter so that Bo-Katan and company can make off with the cache of weapons inside. Fans will recognize the Gozanti as the C-130 Hercules transport ship of the Star Wars universe, capable of lifting pairs of AT-ATs into battle. It’s a relic of the Clone Wars, and has seen better days. In an interesting parallel to the Mandalorian order, the Empire is something that’s taken a catastrophic hit, but hoping to remount itself. It’s a visual reminder of the tone-setting that Werner Herzog does in the series’ very first episode.
The action scene that follows is one of the series’ best, featuring four jet-pack equipped super soldiers making minced meat out of the Emperor’s finest shock troopers. And these aren’t the filthy dregs from season 1, mind you. These are fully-equipped stormtroopers in gleaming white plate, and Bo-Katan and company kill them all.
It’s in these action sequences that we see the subtle differences between Din and the other Mandalorians. Whereas Din is tentative and risk-adverse, Bo-Katan and her team boldly move toward the bridge. There’s a moment where they put a few extra rounds into stormtroopers who have already been downed, just to make sure they’re dead. As they race on, Din looks back. Even with his helmet on you can sense the shocked expression on his face. Their cruelty against the Empire gives him pause. There’s history here.
For all Bo-Katan’s skill, in the climax of the battle it’s Din who saves the day. His full suit of beskar armor protects him in a final, suicidal charge as he tosses two explosives into the last group of stormtroopers. It’s a move that earns him the other Mandalorian’s respect, and knowledge of the location of Ahsoka Tano. Rumors have been circulating since March that Rosario Dawson would play the first live-action incarnation of the character. This sounds like confirmation.
Meanwhile, Bo-Katan learns that Moff Gideon has the Darksaber, which she needs in order to retake the planet Mandalore. Din and the other three warriors part ways as friends.
So much changes in this episode, not the least of which is Din’s relationship to the Mandalorian way of life. Multiple times throughout the episode Bo-Katan throws some of his zealotry back in his face, even mockingly telling him “this is the way” at one point. Din clearly objects to her cruelty and her guile. Nevertheless, the heir to the throne of Mandalore and the lost orphan with the shiny Beskar armor share a powerful connection in this episode. It’s clearly not the last that we’ll see of these two together on screen.
With each episode in season 2, I’m continually impressed at the layers of detail and world-building going on in The Mandalorian — especially in the two episodes directed by Howard. She lends a warmth to the Star Wars characters that she puts into the frame, while at the same time creating some of the series’ most exciting action sequences.
But she also does yeoman’s work in moving the overall plot forward, and expanding the scale of the conflict. The Imperials make mention of a hidden fleet of ships, while Bo-Katan hints that there are at least a division of Mandalorians on her side.
Episode 3 serves to reintroduce the age-old conflict between the Jedi and the Mandalorians, who fought each other for centuries before the events seen in the movies — before, even, the events seen in the Clone Wars cartoons. Again, it’s all subtle; in the expressions on the faces of the Mandalorians as they eat their meal at the inn, and in the way they treat Din, who we now see as a naive, inexperienced warrior who stands apart — even from his own people.
Now, on the the forest planet of Corvus, to the city of Caladan to find a living Jedi, Ahsoka Tano.