Katee Sackhoff Will Join “The Mandalorian” As Bo-Katan!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS AND THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD

When a franchise is as divided and fragmented as Star Wars is, it can be a welcome relief to find evidence of continuity between that franchise’s various offshoots. Katee Sackhoff, the voice-actress behind the role of Bo-Katan on The Clone Wars, joining the cast of the second season of Disney+’s live-action phenomenon The Mandalorian might not seem like too much of a big deal: in fact, to some it might seem obvious, even predictable. But for someone still terrified that Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be officially decanonized and all its cast of characters recast as soon as the series ends, it’s like a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
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Sackhoff is, however, an obvious choice to portray Bo-Katan, whom she has voiced in several seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars – the fan-favorite character is a Mandalorian rebel aligned with the violent Deathwatch terrorists when we first meet her, but she quickly develops into a fascinating, nuanced woman, who hatches an elaborate plan to win her home planet back from the clutches of Sith Lord Darth Maul and his loyalists. After the death of her sister, the Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan becomes steely and frigid, but more devoted than ever to the Mandalorian way of life. By the end of The Clone Wars, she’s become the leader of Mandalore, and in Star Wars: Rebels, we see her accept the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian patriotism, and embrace her destiny as the heroine who will unite the various Mandalorian clans. Sounds like she should be a pivotal figure in a story about the Mandalorians, right?

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Unfortunately for Bo-Katan, we also learned in The Mandalorian that her destiny was unfulfilled – as the villain Moff Gideon was seen wielding the very same Darksaber in the season finale, with no explanation of how or when he obtained it. It’s very likely that Bo-Katan was killed prior to the events of the series and the Darksaber taken from her, meaning that any role she may have in these upcoming seasons of The Mandalorian could be limited to appearances in flashbacks. But the Bo-Katan fan in me desperately hopes she somehow survived the brutality of the rebellion and the war against the Galactic Empire, not only because she’s a fun character who deserves a prominent role, but because Katee Sackhoff is a very underrated actress who could benefit from the exposure in what has proven to be Disney+’s most successful original series.

Bo-Katan is only the latest in a steadily growing line of animated characters making the jump to live-action: others, however, like former Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Mandalorian Sabine Wren, have been or likely will be recast for their appearances in The Mandalorian‘s highly anticipated second season (Tano and Wren are also rumored to appear in just one episode of the season, which will serve as a backdoor pilot for their own spinoff series: if that is true, it makes sense why Disney and Lucasfilm would want to cast bigger, more recognizable talent for the roles). Boba Fett will also make his return to Star Wars in the upcoming season, though it is believed he will only have a small role.

The Mandalorian
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Assuming that Bo-Katan did, in fact, survive her fateful encounter with Moff Gideon or his forces, she could conceivably run into Din Djarin and Baby Yoda while on the hunt for Gideon and her stolen Darksaber. The character lends herself nicely to cool action sequences – thanks to her jetpack, secret weapons and martial arts prowess – and I’d be eager to see her take on Gideon in a fight. If it’s only through flashbacks, and the outcome of the fight is predetermined, then so be it…but I really do think there are many more things that could be done with her character, and I hope that’s taken into consideration before a decision is made to kill her off.

So what do you think? How do you feel about seeing Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time ever, in The Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Rosario Dawson Is Ahsoka Tano In “The Mandalorian”!

By a bizarre coincidence, the same day that Ahsoka Tano made her hotly-anticipated return to The Clone Wars in the series’ final season, news also broke that the former Jedi warrior would make her very first live-action appearance in the second season of The Mandalorian on the Disney+ streaming platform. The report, since verified by a number of other sources and trades, states that actress Rosario Dawson will portray Tano in the Star Wars spinoff, which will find Pedro Pascal’s titular Mandalorian and his adorable sidekick Baby Yoda hunting for the few living Jedi spread out across the galaxy in the aftermath of the Empire’s fall.

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Obviously, Ahsoka Tano is exactly the type of character one would expect to run into the duo, so the fact that she’s showing up isn’t surprising at all (especially considering that Dave Filoni created Ahsoka’s character for The Clone Wars and is now part of The Mandalorian‘s creative team). Along with Luke Skywalker (and possibly the oft-forgotten Yaddle), Ahsoka is one of only a couple of Jedi who were still around during the time period between the fall of the Empire and the beginning of the sequel trilogy. But now that she’s supposedly making her live-action debut, the reaction has been…mixed, to say the least.

That’s not because people dislike Ahsoka. The optimistic, idealistic Jedi started out as Anakin Skywalker’s opinionated apprentice and went on to become a nuanced, introspective character betrayed by her own faith. Forced to survive on her own without friends or family, Ahsoka quickly became one of the Star Wars franchise’s most beloved heroines. The controversy surrounding this casting has everything to do with the actress chosen to play the coveted part.

Rosario Dawson, best known for her roles in Daredevil, Rent and Alexander (and for being the girlfriend of 2020 Presidential hopeful Cory Booker, whose campaign she endorsed), was the subject of a shocking lawsuit last year: an openly transgender man employed as a handyman by Dawson and her mother, and charged with renovating the family’s Los Angeles home, claimed that both women subjected him to verbal and physical abuse, which included repeatedly misgendering and mocking him. Their harassment of him apparently culminated in Dawson and her mother restraining the man while beating him up and threatening to kill his pet cat, before allegedly stealing his cellphone. The victim claims all of these events had to do with his gender identity, and the case, if verified, would incriminate Dawson as a violent aggressor guilty of a serious hate crime.

Rosario Dawson
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As of yet, there is no other evidence to suggest that Dawson is transphobic, and we only know a little about her views on the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. The alleged victim was said to have been close with the Dawson family before coming out as transgender, when they only knew him as a lesbian woman, and this year, Dawson appeared to come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself. However, the allegation has had long-lasting impacts, and has made the casting of Ahsoka Tano a tumultuous and hostile occasion rather than a joyous one, as it should have been (and probably could have been, with any other actress). Unfortunately, even (or perhaps, especially) if no further evidence comes out against her, there’s simply no way of determining whether Rosario Dawson is transphobic or did commit a hate crime, and so this case will loom over The Mandalorian like a dark cloud. What with the show having just recently united Star Wars fans in their love for Baby Yoda, it would be a shame to disunite the fandom once again over something as serious as this.

What do you think of the casting of Rosario Dawson? Would you have cast someone else in the role of Ahsoka Tano, and how would you feel if the gentle, lovable character was played by someone who may or may not have committed serious crimes (for reference, I’d be really angry and disappointed)? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 8” Review!

The final episode of The Mandalorian‘s first season on Disney+ is quite appropriately titled Redemption – for not only does the title work in-universe, but it’s also an amusingly apt reflection on the fact that Redemption very literally redeems the slow-paced series’ many mishaps. The plot itself often seemed like an afterthought while Mando (Pedro Pascal) and his tiny, adorable sidekick Baby Yoda traveled the galaxy, stopping in at random planets to marvel at the visual spectacle and meet new friends – or enemies. But in the season finale, masterfully directed by Taika Waititi, the story is rich, thrilling, entertaining and emotional; the characters feel more fleshed-out than they have appeared previously; and, most importantly, Baby Yoda is the cutest we’ve seen him yet.

And that’s all I’ll say in the non-spoilers section. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, but plan to, then turn away now! SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The finale is chock-full of plot twists and gasp-out-loud revelations, but none more bewildering than the fact that Taika Waititi, who has never directed a Star Wars property previously, is somehow able to ease into the director’s chair for Redemption with all the graceful assurance of Dave Filoni, who at first glance would seem the natural choice to bring this series home to its epic (and thankfully, only temporary) conclusion. Waititi’s work here is surprisingly understated: you’d be hard-pressed to find any clues that this episode comes from the mind that brought you crazy, colorful comedies like Thor: Ragnarok or Jojo Rabbit (though it is amusingly unsurprising that the finale stars Waititi’s own character, assassin turned nurse droid IG-11, in a particularly prominent role). Obviously, directing a single good episode of TV doesn’t warrant immediately getting a three-picture deal with Lucasfilm, but hey, why not give Waititi a shot at his very own Star Wars trilogy?

Another surprise that boggled my mind, at least, was that Mandalorians are cool – for what I feel is the first time, despite everyone else in the world idolizing the very ground that Boba Fett walks upon. And one of the coolest things about them (apart from jetpacks and flamethrowers) is that they’re not a specific race of people, as Cara Dune (Gina Carano) reveals during an emotional moment in the episode: they’re a creed. Not only does it reinforce a particularly Rian Johnson theme in Disney’s Star Wars, that anyone can be a Mandalorian without having to have been born one, but it also makes the Mandalorians seem a lot more noble – in an extended flashback sequence which haunts our protagonist’s mind, we witness a squad of the flying, armored warriors acting as human shields for wounded refugees trying to escape from brutal droid-warfare: and it is revealed that during this battle, a young orphaned boy named Din Djarin was rescued by these Mandalorians and taken to safety with them – that boy was our very own “Mando”, whom I guess we can finally call Din Djarin? We’ve actually known that name for a while (Pedro Pascal ever-so-slightly spoiled it last month), but it’s only now canon, meaning I can only now use it. Yes, the Mandalorians are still vaguely cultish, and more than a little creepy, but at least they’re not solely defined by characters like Jango and Boba Fett anymore, or even just the term of “bounty hunter”. Djarin’s other biggest secret, his face, was also finally revealed in this episode…and, well, it’s Pedro Pascal’s face. I’m not entirely sure what we were all expecting, but honestly, that reveal was a bit underwhelming. It’s not like his face was even altered in any way: he didn’t have any scars or third-degree burns to speak of, no missing eyes or other distinguishing facial features. Not even a different hair color.

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Djarin’s secrets weren’t the only ones brought to light: IG-11 is revealed to have been entirely reformed by Kuiil’s repairs, riding in to rescue Baby Yoda from a couple of monstrous stormtroopers who amuse themselves by punching and mocking the adorable little infant – the droid then straps The Child into a baby-backpack and goes on a killing spree around Nevarro, mowing down stormtroopers. He later sacrifices himself to rescue the whole team, self-destructing and blowing an entire legion of enemies sky-high. Baby Yoda himself is given his own hero moment when he faces down a flamethrower-wielding stormtrooper and deflects the attacker’s fire back at him: there’s a couple more reveals about his character, but I need to address those separately. Then there’s Cara Dune, whose home planet is revealed to be Alderaan (Princess Leia’s planet, infamously blown to pieces by the Death Star in A New Hope), thus explaining her undying grudge against the Empire. Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) turns out to have been an ex-Imperial himself, though that big secret falls a little flat due to the fact that we barely even know Karga, and have always been on-the-fence about whether or not to trust him and his Bounty Hunters Guild, anyway.

The person doing a lot of this dramatic-revealing is none other than Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who is being set up to be the series’ big bad, and Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis. Gideon toys with his victims as they shelter in the burnt-out rubble of Werner Herzog’s lair, spilling their secrets to the world and promising them tantalizingly good deals if they’ll only hand over Baby Yoda. We never do find out what Gideon or Herzog wanted with The Child (and, come to think of it, we never even found out Herzog’s character name or purpose in the story, before he was unceremoniously murdered in the assault on his hideout), but considering how despicably evil Gideon is revealed to be, I’m going to assume it’s not because either of them just wanted cuddles and hugs. Gideon is also shown to have an alarmingly dangerous arsenal: not only can his tiny little handgun pierce through beskar steel, but the Moff is also a trained TIE-fighter pilot capable of handling his own in a dogfight. Oh yeah, and he just so happens to be in possession of the one black lightsaber in the entire galaxy, no biggie.

The lightsaber in question, better known as the Darksaber, has never been seen in live-action before this day, though it was seen in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, which gave us a couple clues about the saber’s history. It was crafted by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian Jedi, during the reign of the Old Republic, and has since meandered across the universe, through the hands of a number of notable peoples and individuals, including the belligerent Mandalorian Clan Vizsla (to whose ranks Din Djarin appears to belong), the legendary Sith Lord Darth Maul, and Nite Owls leader Bo-Katan, who was the last known person to wield the blade, almost a decade before we seen Moff Gideon crawl from the wreckage of his TIE-fighter with the weapon in hand. The Darksaber is something of a mystical item, bestowing upon its wielder the title of Mand’alor, or leader of the Mandalorians – Gideon certainly has a fascination with the religious order, having been personally involved with eradicating them during the Great Purge and keeping tabs on those who survived. And now that he’s back on his feet, we can safely assume Din Djarin and Baby Yoda won’t be safe from his murderous rage anytime soon.

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But for the moment, Din has a more urgent problem to worry about: while visiting his old friend The Armorer (Emily Swallow), he was gifted a number of odds-and-ends, including his very own jetpack, a personal sigil, and custody over Baby Yoda – which, apparently, is something that The Armorer can just hand out to anybody she feels like. But there’s a catch: while she tells Djarin to protect and train the baby (and even bestows upon them a title, the “Clan of Two”, which seems to hint at Star Wars’ common theme of duality), she also instructs him to seek out the child’s people – it’s not clearly indicated whether she’s referring specifically to Baby Yoda’s birth-family, or the Jedi in general, but it’s obvious that this will be a central plot-point in the series’ second season. But honestly, as much as we all want to see a whole planet of Baby Yodas, I think I’m just as excited to see The Child training as a Mandalorian – just so long as Din Djarin doesn’t try to make him wear a ridiculous helmet of his own: Baby Yoda’s adorable, expressive little puppet-face will not be hidden from the world, not if I and the internet have anything to say about the matter.

For the record, I think there’s a decent chance that we do actually see the home-planet of The Child’s species in The Mandalorian, and that the Jedi sage Yaddle will be revealed to be his mother. I know, I know, Yaddle is presumed dead – but there’s never been any conclusive evidence that that is the case, and honestly, she deserves so much more recognition than she gets. You know what, I’m just gonna say it: I think Yaddle is a better character than Yoda. Come at me, Yoda stans!

We’ve been left with a number of pressing questions from the season finale, but a bunch of mysteries have also been resolved, and we’ve left Din Djarin and Baby Yoda in a good place, all things considered. What did you think of the finale? Are you excited for Season 2? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 7” Review!

Minor SPOILERS For Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Ahead!

The penultimate installment in The Mandalorian‘s (sometimes) epic journey dropped last Wednesday, so as to avoid having to compete with Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker‘s Friday release date, but I am only just getting around to reviewing the suspenseful episode today. And I’m pleased to announce that, while the series has moved too slowly up until now, director Deborah Chow once again manages to send a jolt of tension into the story’s creaking mechanics just in time for the season finale.

The episode opens with The Mandalorian (voiced by Pedro Pascal: it was revealed recently that Pascal himself only occasionally portrays the masked and armored mercenary physically) receiving an urgent message telling him to return to the city of Nevarro with his precious cargo, the adorable Baby Yoda. But Mando, still finding time for detours in all the chaos and fast-paced action, first makes brief stops to two other planets to recruit former ally Cara Dune (Gina Carano) as additional muscle, and blurg-herder Kuiil (Nick Nolte) as a babysitter for The Child. But things don’t go entirely according to plan, and everything that happens next is one big spoiler – and for once, I actually mean that. This episode actually does have some twists and turns, and one shocking cliffhanger ending.

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The first big surprise comes when Baby Yoda uses the Force to try and choke Cara Dune as she arm-wrestles the Mandalorian on his ship. The action is undeniably defensive on the Baby’s part, as he was obviously just trying to protect Mando from what he thought was real physical harm, but it still leaves the audience reeling: yes, Baby Yoda is capable of actually killing someone with the Force already, and isn’t afraid to use his powers. Not much later, he uses the Force to heal a wound dealt to Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in a battle with giant bats. This is even more alarming than the Force-choke incident – Baby Yoda is one of only two (possibly three) characters in the current Star Wars canon to possess Force-healing abilities, the other(s?) being revealed in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. That would seem to suggest that Baby Yoda is very powerful and very unique, and it’s no wonder that the Empire wants him – we just don’t know what they plan to do with him.

But we will find out soon enough: after entering Nevarro and finding the city overrun with ex-Imperial stormtroopers, Mando, Karga and Dune come face-to-face with Werner Herzog’s mysterious character, still known only as The Client, while Kuiil takes Baby Yoda and rides as fast as possible back to the Mandalorian’s ship. But while Mando’s plan initially seems to be successful, as he guns down an entire squadron of stormtroopers and seemingly kills Herzog’s character, Kuiil isn’t so lucky. Stormtroopers intercept the mustachioed alien’s communications with Mando and hunt him down even as he tries to escape: the episode leaves us with a heartbreaking final shot of Kuiil’s tiny body, still smoking from a fatal laser blast, lying just a few feet from the spaceship. And Baby Yoda? The stormtroopers have him in their grasp.

Mando and his little team aren’t in great shape either, going into the finale. Their story leaves off with them barricaded inside Herzog’s lair, while dozens of stormtroopers surround them on all sides – far more than the “four” bodyguards that Karga had warned them about going into the mission. And that’s not even the worst of it: arriving in a majestic Imperial TIE-fighter, resplendent in military uniform, is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) a new character to the Star Wars universe, but not wholly unfamiliar either: A New Hope introduced fans to Peter Cushing as the menacing Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the first Death Star, and there have been a couple other “Moffs” here and there, grand or otherwise. Gideon, with his battalion of special death-troopers, certainly looks like one of the ex-Empire’s most senior officials. Whatever he is, his intentions are clear: he wants Baby Yoda, and, knowing the Moffs, he’s probably prepared to blow up the entire city of Nevarro to get his hands on the adorable little creature – I mean, can we blame him? Poor guy’s probably been scouring the internet for good-quality Baby Yoda plushies and has finally snapped and gone after the real deal. That’s a perfectly legitimate villain origin story.

Other highlights from the tense episode include the return of IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), the assassin droid whom Mando slew in the very first episode. Kuiil reveals that he found and repaired the droid, and that the former bounty hunter no longer remembers his past life of brutality and violence, and is now a willing servant, farmhand and waiter. But the droid’s eerie interactions with his killer suggest that maybe IG-11 is just waiting for his chance to strike.

As we wait for the eighth and final episode in the series, I think it’s about time we started considering how many of our pressing questions can logically be answered in a forty-minute finale: will we learn who Baby Yoda is, and what the Empire wants with him? Will we learn anything about the state of the Empire at this point in time, and will it help to clarify certain elements of The Rise Of Skywalker? Will more of the Mandalorian’s former friends and enemies make an appearance one last time, or will it just be him, Dune, Karga and Yoda against the world? Will Mando remove his mask, give us a hint of his shadowy backstory, or explain why he hates droids so much? Was it Moff Gideon who approached Fennec Shand’s body on the sands of Tatooine in Episode 5, or was that another, as yet unknown character? We’ve got a lot of questions, and Episode 7, aptly titled The Reckoning, has only added more to the mix.

Fingers crossed that the finale can answer at least a couple of them.

Episode Rating: 8/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 6” Review!

While I was not fond of Rick Famuyiwa’s first episode of The Mandalorian, The Child, I feel he has done much to redeem himself in the story’s newest entry, The Prisoner, which sees our protagonist finally become…well, the protagonist. Though the episode does absolutely nothing to course-correct a show that still has no throughline, it at least gives us great action sequences and an eerily suspenseful prison-heist storyline to distract us from that detail: at this point, it seems highly unlikely that the show’s first season will do anything beyond the established formula of having each episode begin with The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) either having to fix his spaceship or earn money (money he never seems to use), achieving his goal by means of a detour or side-quest, and then leaving for another corner of the galaxy. While it’s not exactly thrilling, it’s at least got impressive world-building.

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And finally, it just might have a hero. Our lead character, the masked, emotionless, practical Mandalorian, has been set up as an enigma over the course of the last five episodes – but at the same time, he’s also been shown to be a rather clumsy fighter (in Famuyiwa’s previous episode, he was nearly killed by a rhino and humiliated by a pack of Jawas) and somebody who doesn’t tend to think ahead. But now, armored with beskar steel and armed with flamethrowers, garrotes and “whistling birds”, the Mandalorian is finally getting a chance to stand on his own two feet for once. The subplot in which he finds himself entangled today requires him to lead a small group of scoundrels and thugs into a New Republic prison-cruiser to free a dangerous hostage – and Mando actually works out a plan, executes it very well, and, when the tables turn, fights back with courage, wits, and a flair for the dramatic previously seen only in characters like Han Solo.

Baby Yoda is as cute as ever, and seeing his life constantly endangered by ruffians and ignorant idiots (one of whom even has the audacity to drop him!) is grounds for legal action against Disney. Famuyiwa appears to be the only director on this show who’s actually paying attention to the fact (that he introduced, in episode 2) that the Child is force-sensitive, giving him a cool little mission of his own in this chapter that makes him feel like his own character – one whose arc may very well be leading up to something, and at the very least is the cutest thing to come out of the Star Wars franchise since…actually, no, Baby Yoda is the cutest thing in the Star Wars franchise, period.

We need to talk about the episode’s big twist and ending, though, so let this be your warning that there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

After being commissioned by an old friend named Ranzar Malk (Mark Boone Jr.) to rescue a prisoner from the clutches of the New Republic, Mando is forced to take with him a band of strange, suspicious ruffians, all of whom seem to want him dead. Most notably, Natalia Tena portrays his former…lover? girlfriend?…a Twi’lek alien mercenary named Xi’an, whose hissing breath and throwing knives (not to mention, you know, the purple tentacles sprouting from her head) make her an instant classic, even if she is a bit grating after a while. It’s not a surprise that this crew doesn’t have Mando’s best interests at heart – it is a surprise, however, when they free the prisoner, Xi’an’s brother Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who it turns out was imprisoned due to the Mandalorian’s interference. Mando gets shoved into a prison cell while his treacherous co-workers flee, trying to make off with his ship. But apparently they didn’t reckon with Mando’s newfound ability to pick locks by dismembering droids: he escapes and hunts them down one-by-one in a delightfully dark game of cat-and-mouse. All the while, assassin droid Zero (Richard Ayoade) is busy hunting Baby Yoda through Mando’s spaceship, having discovered the infant’s importance to the Bounty Hunter’s Guild. Thankfully, Mando is able to lock up his former friends and get back to his ship just in time to shoot the droid dead – but interestingly, Baby Yoda goes to use the Force just before the Mandalorian’s fatal shot, prompting questions about which character actually killed him.

But Mando doesn’t just want to get back at the traitors for trying to hurt his adorable little baby – he wants vengeance, and he gets it, big-time. Flying back to Malk’s base, Mando delivers up the promised prisoner, as well as a little parting gift: a New Republic tracking beacon that quickly alerts an entire squadron of X-Wing fighter pilots to the base’s location. Mando gets out of range just before the entire place is blown to pieces. It’s the first time we’ve gotten a glimpse of what the New Republic looks like after the Empire’s fall – and honestly, they look about the same as when we last saw them (except that these particular X-Wing pilots just so happen to be played by Mandalorian directors Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow).

Possibly the best part of the episode was seeing characters trying desperately to unmask the Mandalorian – and failing miserably. Even after being taunted and mocked (and even called a Gungan, the worst possible insult in the Star Wars universe), Mando steadfastly refuses to ever remove his iconic helmet. Whether that’s because of plot purposes or because Pedro Pascal simply doesn’t want to have to actually film any scenes, we don’t know and probably won’t find out until the show’s final episode – if even.

So, The Prisoner doesn’t add much to the series’ tenuous idea of a plot, and whether or not characters like Xi’an will turn up again sometime in the future is still an open question: but it does give us an incentive to care about the Mandalorian himself – which, uh, probably isn’t a bad idea, considering that five episodes in, he was undeniably the most boring thing about the show named after him. We’re nearing the first season’s conclusion, and hopefully it’s an epic ride.

Episode Rating: 8/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 5” Review!

After four episodes of waiting impatiently for Ming-Na Wen to arrive onscreen in The Mandalorian, she’s finally here – in a big way. This episode is her’s just as much as it is Baby Yoda’s. In fact, even old Mando himself manages to make a decent case for why he should still be considered the protagonist of the show named after himself. I know, it’s all a bit shocking.

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The fifth chapter of the hit streaming show, fittingly titled The Gunslinger, brings Mando and Baby Yoda to the familiar planet of Tatooine after their ship is damaged in a shootout at the beginning of the episode. Amateur bounty hunter Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) enlists Mando’s help on a difficult mission while mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) humorously parents the intergalactic infant superstar Baby Yoda. While I went into this episode more than slightly worried about the show’s slow-pacing and meandering storyline, I emerged with a renewed optimism regarding the final three episodes. Chapter 5 still goes off on a tangent and leads our heroes into a side-quest, but it also introduces a couple of new concepts and characters that, hopefully, are destined to stick around for a while longer and have some purpose in the plot (the pilot episode’s killer droid IG-11 and last week’s kind-hearted mercenary Cara Dune, while heavily promoted in the show’s marketing, have still only appeared in one episode each).

This episode also leans heavily on fanservice and callbacks – from the sparkly, unrealistic explosions in the opening dogfight, strongly reminiscent of A New Hope‘s pyrotechnics; to the setting on the iconic desert planet of Tatooine, and the appearance of Tusken Raiders, the Mos Eisley cantina, and pit droids. But director Dave Filoni has put a fun new spin on each of these elements (with the exception of the cantina, which is underutilized: we’ve seen so many space pubs in Star Wars by this point that the darkly-lit lair is hardly unique anymore, especially without Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes providing alien jazz). Toro Calican even dresses like Han Solo and sits in the very same booth as him, with his legs stretched across the table in Solo’s classic style – but don’t fear: Calican, despite also being a Corellian mercenary, proves himself to be a radically different character in the episode’s final minutes.

Speaking of which, we now have to talk about SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

"The Mandalorian: Chapter 5" Review! 7
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The big surprise in this episode is Ming-Na Wen’s appearance as fearsome assassin and former Hutt employee Fennec Shand, who is on the run in the deserts of Tatooine. Considering the way that the locals seem to have dealt with the stormtrooper threat, by mounting their heads on pikes in the streets of Mos Eisley, it’s understandable why she’d want to make a getaway. But she’s not able to escape before Calican and The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) come after her: Calican for fame, Mando for money. Though they capture her after a brief fight (which is, unfortunately, set in the middle of the night, making it hard to appreciate Wen’s real martial arts prowess), it’s not the end of her story. After trying to get Calican to free her from her shackles in exchange for her help in killing Mando and stealing his expensive suit of beskar steel armor, and then getting shot for her efforts, Shand is left supposedly dead in the desert, while Calican takes her advice and lays a trap for Mando, even going so far as to try and kidnap Baby Yoda in a heart-wrenching moment of terror. But while Calican is now dead dead (don’t ever mess with the enraged single father of a celebrity baby), Shand is possibly alive to fight another day: The Gunslinger‘s final scene shows a mysterious, cloaked character wearing metal spurs approaching her body. Who is it? We have no idea yet, but this mystery will hopefully be explained soon: as for whether Shand is still alive, we can only hope and pray. Her character, and Wen’s excellent performance, is already a series highlight.

And the Mandalorian himself? You know the drill by this point: he fixes his ship, and takes off for a destination to be determined next week. Baby Yoda is unharmed after the…sixth? seventh?…attempt on his life, but continues to be absolutely adorable. But for whatever reason, I’m willing to excuse the fact that this is the fourth episode in a row to end this way – Filoni’s direction, and the subtle hints and teases of another emerging storyline, have me feeling intrigued about Mando’s next destination, and what host of enemies and one-and-off allies he’ll find there. I think it’s about time we caught another glimpse of Werner Herzog’s antagonistic character, or ran into some Imperial survivors who might know something about Baby Yoda’s true identity, and why the Empire wants him so badly. Remember, that story was supposed to be this show’s throughline, once upon a time. We’ve all been so distracted by Baby Yoda memes, I think we’ve forgotten this thing has a plot.

As long as it has Ming-Na Wen, though, I’m happy.

What did you think of the episode? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 8/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 3” Review!

It’s impossible to talk about this episode of The Mandalorian without making reference to some spoilers, in contrast to last week’s episode, which saw Pedro Pascal’s armored bounty hunter and internet sensation Baby Yoda team up to take down a rhino and do basically nothing else for half an hour. At the end of that episode, titled The Child, the Mandalorian was last seen boarding his spaceship with Baby Yoda in tow, presumably escorting the adorable little green puppet back to his client, the mysterious mastermind played by Werner Herzog. So where does the story pick up this week?

Well, that’s where the spoilers come into play, so if you haven’t seen the episode, you should definitely do so – I know! I’m actually recommending this show now! That’s because director Deborah Chow has actually managed to revitalize my interest in the Mandalorian’s character arc, and his interactions with Baby Yoda, which are the emotional heartbeat of this story so far.

"The Mandalorian: Chapter 3" Review! 8
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When the episode begins, however, the Mandalorian is forced to make a very tough choice about Baby Yoda’s future: face-to-face with Herzog’s nameless (but unmistakably evil) Imperial client, the Mandalorian – even in-universe, every other character has taken to calling him Mando, so I’m going to do the same, despite my concerns that the name is instead in a disparaging, rather than respectful, way – ends up handing over the adorable little green baby in exchange for a handful of metal slabs that he turns into more armor (and another shoulder-pad to match his current one) with a little help from Emily Swallow’s character, The Armorer. Just as before, Mando gets flashback visions while the Armorer is busy making his new suit of armor; visions which, as before, show a child (presumably him?) being rushed through a war-zone by frightened parents and placed into a bunker. Now, though, we get a tantalizing new glimpse of what happened – barely moments after being carried to safety, an explosion rocks the underground chamber and baby Mando looks up to see the bunker doors thrown open to reveal an intimidating killer robot – one of the B2 super battle droids from the Star Wars prequels, if I’m not mistaken.

We still don’t know why the Mandalorian gets these flashbacks when he’s at the armory, but we do get some insight about the workings of Mandalor culture – emphasis on cult, as the small group of secretive warriors seem to be. With their semi-religious reverence for weaponry and their deference to the weapons-maker, it looks like the way of Mandalor lies in battle and the glory of warfare. Our protagonist, the Mandalorian, is up for a promotion, it seems, for killing the big rhino in the last episode, and the Armorer asks him if he’d like to choose a signet engraved with said rhino’s image – an honor he respectfully refuses, as he had help in killing the creature “from an enemy”, i.e. Baby Yoda.

But the Mandalorian has a heart of gold, or at least something other than Beskar steel, which everybody else in the galaxy is willing to sell their souls for: rather than move on with his life and go hunt down other innocent people for money, he decides to turn around and save Baby Yoda. Helped along by his new, impenetrable armor and his highly-advanced weapons (such as “singing birds”, which is basically a volley of poison darts hidden in one’s glove), the Mandalorian is successful in his mission, and breaks an unconscious Baby Yoda free of creepy Doctor Pershing’s nefarious operating table. Pershing swears up and down he was trying to keep Baby Yoda alive, but the Mandalorian ignores him and goes looking for Herzog’s character – instead, he finds a whole bunch of stormtroopers, whom he dispatches (thanks to those singing birds and a couple of flamethrowers), before making his escape. As of right now, we still have no idea where Herzog’s character has gone, and we’re still no closer to learning his true identity.

So the episode’s titular Sin has been repented for, but the Mandalorian isn’t quite out of the woods yet – or should I say, out of the grungy city full of hundreds of other bounty hunters whose tracking fobs all light up and start pointing the way towards the fleeing Mandalorian. That little predicament (undoubtedly sparked by Herzog, wherever he is) leads to a confrontation at the spaceport between Mando and a crowd of angry killers, assassins and mercenaries led by Mando’s…friend?…Greef Karga, played by Carl Weathers. While it seems at first like little Yoda might use the Force to get them out of trouble, it turns out to be Mando’s other Mandalorian friends who arrive with jetpacks and laser-machine guns to save the day – well, night. And after briefly confronting Karga and throwing him out of his spaceship, Mando and Baby Yoda take off once again to destinations unknown.

And I, as the skeptical audience-member unimpressed with the series’ previous installments, am left feeling very pleased with what I just watched. It was complete, but gave us enough hints and unsolved mysteries to keep us guessing. It was more compellingly acted, though Pedro Pascal is still fighting a losing battle with his helmet (which, according to his character, he has never removed in all his life: he did hesitate slightly when asked if he had ever had it removed for him, though – why, pray tell, is that even a question one asks of someone?).

Next week, we should find out where the Mandalorian and his infant quarry are headed, and what Herzog plans to do about them. I hope we also finally get to see Ming-Na Wen in next week’s episode, since the show is still conspicuously Ming-less.

What did you think of the episode, and what theories do you have about the series in general? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 7/10

 

Greef Karga (Carl Weathers)

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter Two” Review!

"The Mandalorian: Chapter Two" Review! 9
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Okay, so a quick rundown of everything that happened in Episode 2 of The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Chapter 2: The Child.

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. That was quite possibly one of the most inconsequential episodes of television I’ve ever watched. I don’t even feel like spoiler tags are necessary for this review, but here’s your quick warning anyway. SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to call them spoilers. Honestly nothing happened.

The episode picked up where the last one left off, with The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) escorting baby Yoda through the desert. The two are immediately attacked by other mercenaries, whom the Mandalorian dispatches without trouble. The rest of the episode follows the pair as they hunt down a group of Jawa aliens who had ransacked the Mandalorian’s spaceship for parts, leaving the bounty hunter and his cargo trapped on the desert planet. Finally, the Mandalorian reaches an agreement with the hostile scavengers: in exchange for the needed parts, he will bring them an egg from some sort of alien rhino monster. He does so, just barely surviving the experience, and the trade happens: with the help of the alien Kuiil (Nick Nolte), he fixes his spaceship and leaves the planet with baby Yoda.

And that’s it. There’s one big “reveal”, but it’s predictable: during the fight with the alien rhino, the Mandalorian is beaten up and on the brink of death when he is saved at the last moment by baby Yoda, who wields the Force, allowing the Mandalorian the time he needs to regain his footing and plunge a knife into the monster’s flank. At which point baby Yoda falls asleep, apparently exhausted by the effort. And all that would be hugely exciting…if the baby in question wasn’t obviously a miniature version of one of the greatest Jedi masters of all time. Whether this Yoda is a clone or a child of the original, it was kind of inevitable that he/she (we still don’t even know its gender!) would have the same powers as the previous Yoda. Honestly, I was expecting a couple of clues, or at least some hints or teases, of what’s to come. But instead we got an entirely pointless escapade with the Jawas, just so we could confirm something that pretty much everybody already guessed was coming.

And beyond that…literally nothing. This little side-quest did not need to be an entire episode – it could have been summed up in maybe five minutes at most. Unless, of course, the Jawas and the Egg have some important part to play later on in the series: though, the Jawas did eat the Egg immediately after receiving it, so it might be a bit late for that.

As we wait for the next episode, I have to wonder what was the point of Chapter 2, and how much longer we’ll have to wait before something of consequence happens. Now that the Mandalorian is finally on the move again, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before something happens: but, in a show that just wasted a half-hour episode on Jawa scavengers, nothing is certain.

Everything frustrating about the first episode is made even more annoying in the second: the Mandalorian himself is, in fact, more clumsy and incompetent than before – he’s easily defeated by the Jawas (the Jawas, who even the notoriously lame stormtroopers were able to kill with ease in A New Hope), and the big rhino almost succeeds in killing him. He’s just not a particularly interesting protagonist as of right now, and this episode does nothing to change my perception of him.

So…until next week, Star Wars fans. Let’s hope that when we rejoin the Mandalorian and baby Yoda, they’re actually doing something important.

Episode Review: 1/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 1” Review!

The first segment of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s The Mandalorian is an intriguing introduction to a darker, grittier corner of the Star Wars universe, doing a whole lot of worldbuilding, establishing a compelling mystery spanning several planets, and leaving viewers with plenty of questions.

"The Mandalorian: Chapter 1" Review! 10
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Set sometime after the fall of the Empire in The Return Of The Jedi, the series presents us with a region of deep space that seems unaffected by the peace and prosperity we saw blossom across the universe in Jedi‘s celebratory finale. The aliens and humans we encounter in the pilot episode are barely scraping by, surviving only by hunting down their enemies and killing them – or hiring others to do so. The nameless protagonist played by Pedro Pascal, known only as the Mandalorian (or “Mando”, as he is disparagingly called in one space cantina), is supposedly one of the most legendary bounty hunters in the parsec, though he does surprisingly little to earn that reputation in this episode: the action sequences are few and far between, and the big battle at the end of the episode is really just a whole bunch of red laser-bolts dancing wildly across the screen, leaving the Mandalorian himself with little room to prove his own tactical or military prowess. His uncomfortably awkward encounter with an alien monster named a Blurrg undermines the character even further. As of right now, I can’t understand why everyone is so terrified of the Mandalorian, or how he has somehow established such command in the bounty hunter guild he works with – but his ally, the hunter droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), while undeniably more malevolent, is even more clumsy, so perhaps this is a trait shared by all of Star Wars‘ bounty hunters – even the mighty Boba Fett fell into a Sarlac pit, after all.

It’s an unpleasant reality, but Pascal’s Mandalorian is simply not as interesting as some of his co-stars in the first episode, who receive far less screentime but far more personality and character. Even the Armorer, a female Mandalorian who designs a shoulder pauldron for the Mandalorian (I get that they’re a secretive people, but names would be really helpful right about now), is marginally more interesting than him: Mandalorian culture in general is something that I’d love to see explored in greater depth as the series progresses – though at present, there’s a much greater mystery unfolding, one which definitely takes precedence over “why are shoulder-pads so important to the Mandalorians?”

Werner Herzog plays the Mandalorian’s nameless client, who appears to be a survivor of the Empire’s demise: he commands a host of trigger-happy stormtroopers, and is working closely with a suspiciously enthusiastic scientist named Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). The two men employ the Mandalorian to hunt down a dangerous target on the other side of the galaxy, though neither is willing to give many details about their prey – save that Pershing wants it alive at all costs. We’ve known for quite some time that this series could give us crucial details about how the fallen Empire rebuilt itself into the First Order that currently threatens Rey and the Resistance: if I had to make a guess at this early stage, I would assume that Pershing and his mysterious friend have something to do with that. And I’ve even got the beginnings of an idea as to why that might be, but it requires us to get into spoiler territory – so without further ado, here’s your SPOILER WARNING!

At the end of the episode, after the Mandalorian and IG-11 have broken into an alien base on a desert planet, they come face to face with the unidentified asset they’ve been hunting via tracking fob. And while some of us might have been expecting their target to be a prominent Star Wars character such as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Princess Leia, they are instead greeted by…a tiny floating cradle. It would have been absolutely outstanding if the cradle’s occupant had turned out to be baby Rey, but no…

It’s baby Yoda.

Now, The Mandalorian takes place after Yoda’s death, so obviously this isn’t the Jedi Master himself – which means there are only a couple of reasons why this character would even be introduced, and why the Empire would be so desperate to hunt him/her down and capture him/her. It could be that Baby Yoda is a completely unrelated member of the Jedi’s same species (which, let’s face it, isn’t likely). It’s possible that Baby Yoda is Yoda’s child, which is at least theoretically plausible. But I happen to think this baby is none other than Yoda’s clone: an infant messiah who the Empire might want to capture for two reasons – firstly, because letting it live isn’t exactly Imperial protocol; and secondly, most importantly, because at this point in the Star Wars timeline, with the Empire collapsing into ruin across the galaxy, with the forces of evil on the run, the Sith Lords are desperate for something to restore their greatness and glory. What better way to do so than to bring back Emperor Palpatine himself – something we know will happen in The Rise Of Skywalker – through use of cloning technology? Why else would a scientist be so desperate to get his hands on the seemingly harmless child? Why else, unless he wanted to study the secrets of cloning and use that technology to resurrect the Emperor?

But the Empire didn’t count on Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian being a kind-hearted softie who can’t bring himself to hurt the baby when he confronts it – even killing (or at the very least injuring) IG-11 when the droid tries to “terminate” Baby Yoda. The episode ends with a powerful shot of Baby Yoda holding the Mandalorian’s hand, staring up at him with adorably naive eyes and making cute cooing noises. I don’t know what to expect from Episode 2, but somehow I don’t think that the Mandalorian will be responsible for taking the baby back to the Imperial baddies.

Aside from Baby Yoda, the episode’s finale leaves us with a couple of big questions. Is IG-11 really dead? Will the Mandalorian be able to escape with Baby Yoda? – his Ugnaught guide Kuiil (Nick Nolte) was adamant that people who enter the desert don’t come back alive, but the Mandalorian seems to have taken care of all of the infant’s alien guardians pretty easily. As for the Mandalorian himself, who is he? Glimpses of his backstory as a war refugee played in a montage while the Armorer was designing his shoulder-pad, so it looks like Pascal’s character might have had a tragic past during the Clone Wars.

When all is said and done, the series’ pilot episode is merely good – with hints and teases of better material down the road. At the very least, it’s worth watching for Ludwig Göransson’s beautiful score, which sounds almost more fantasy than sci-fi. And with characters like Ming Na-Wen’s assassin Fennec Shand yet to appear onscreen, there’s plenty to look forward to in later episodes.

Episode Review: 7/10

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“The Mandalorian” Trailer Review!

The Mandalorian, which is being hailed as a “visionary” new chapter in the Star Wars saga, has a lot of responsibility on its caped shoulders: as the flagship original series for Disney+, it needs to pull in viewers fast, and hold their attention across a span of several weeks. Does its second – and presumably final – trailer succeed in attracting customers to the new streaming platform?

Well….

I’ll say this: if you were already hooked by The Mandalorian after the first trailer, I assume this trailer will pique your interest even further. But this isn’t the type of trailer that tries to expand the prospective demographic; it doesn’t reach out to a new target audience or even tease any big reveals that could entice general audiences. No, if you like Star Wars – you’re going to have to watch this show. If not…well, I guess there’s always that Lady & The Tramp remake.

Even for Star Wars fans, this trailer doesn’t really have a whole lot to say: it’s mostly just quick glimpses of hand-to-hand action and a couple of important-looking-people walking around, zooming across the desert on little hoverbikes, etc. Nothing too revolutionary. It does promise a bit of backstory for the First Order, and it shows us what the galaxy was like in the days after the return of the Jedi (based on the trailers, I’d say it seems to be relatively the same as it always was, except without nearly as many storm-troopers – since a lot of them have seemingly been killed by the native populations of the planets they subjugated, and have had their heads mounted on spears. Yep, this is just your average family-friendly Star Wars adventure!)

But maybe that’s all on purpose. Rumors say that The Mandalorian is loaded with spoilers, so much so that Disney won’t even be showing episodes of the series to the press before its premiere on Disney+ launch day, November 12th. Perhaps we’ve seen so little because there’s so much that can’t be shown yet. Fingers crossed, right?

So what do you think of the trailer? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 5.9/10

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“The Mandalorian” Trailer!

In the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s original Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, Star Wars goes dark, gritty and mature, alien mercenaries engage in some brutal space warfare, and, most shockingly, storm troopers finally learn how to fire a gun properly!

There’s not a whole lot to actually discuss, but that’s perhaps the beauty of this trailer: it’s simple, hauntingly so. We’re only treated to two lines of dialogue, but the music and atmosphere are allowed to say more than words ever could. Set in an era between the original Star Wars trilogy and Disney’s series of sequels, the Disney+ show will follow a Mandalorian mercenary (who, apparently, isn’t Boba Fett? I haven’t been paying attention) somewhere on the “outer reaches of the galaxy”, where the war between the New Republic and the First Order is only a distant rumor – yeah, right. Give it a few episodes, watch how fast we start seeing characters from the sequels show up. Not that I’m complaining. Have I mentioned that I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi? It’s a pretty good movie.

As someone who’s still reacquainting myself with the trappings of this topsy-turvy franchise, I have to admit: this catches my interest. Maybe it’s just because I’m still susceptible to stories about space gangsters and pirates. I don’t really know, but it looks good. It gives me hope that this whole Disney+ venture isn’t a disaster: in fact, it might be a worthy competitor to Netflix and HBO Max in the near future.

And as for Pedro Pascal, the show’s lead, well, he doesn’t actually appear from underneath his helmet and armor in the trailer, and he doesn’t even speak either line of dialogue, so…I don’t really know what to expect from him. He looks menacing – or, rather, his armor does. Pascal himself still looks like the lovable, tragically doomed Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones to me.

The first episode of The Mandalorian is set to arrive on Disney+ on release day, November 12th, so that’s something to look forward to. Mark your calendars, folks! How do you feel about the trailer? Do the grittier aspects of Star Wars appeal to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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