Star Wars fandom is a nuanced thing. There are those, for example, who love The Rise of Skywalker, and there are, on the other hand, those who are wrong. Similarly, there are people who think the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series rank as the best Star Wars content out there. And without those two shows, it’s certain that the fabric of the Star Wars canonical universe would be far more drab.
But whether this episode, The Heiress, really lands for you is going to come down to how you feel about Dave Filoni’s creations and his animated outings. If you haven’t yet seen this week’s episode, we’re going to utterly spoil it, so consider yourself duly warned.
First up, we have Mando arriving on Trask. I’ve been to the seedier side of the seafood-shilling docks in Seattle during some majorly shitty weather, and let me tell you, it’s Trask all over. Sub out the hipsters for surly Quarren and you’ve got yourself a pretty functional analogue. But it was remarkable to see yet another grimy side of the unseen underbelly of the Star Wars universe.
The Mandalorian – The Heiress Review
It’s great to pan away from Tatooine, birthplace of legends, and towards the sketchy, salty shores of Trask. And that’s where the Razor Crest hobbles, carrying Frog Lady and her eggs. After a truly lovely reunion with Frog Lady and Frog Man, and a truly odd bit of fumbled delivery from a Mon Calamari dock worker, Mando resumes his primary goal: find the Jedi. Get The Child to his people. Continue upon the path of being a de facto father to his green-skinned, big-eared stepkid.
Mando is, in short order, betrayed by a crew of Quarren fishermen, and rescued by… yep, more Mandalorians.
Now, look. I’m not a Filoni obsessive. I find that the less you explain, and the less you dress said explaining up in truly awful animation, the more mystery and wonder there is in the Star Wars universe. But because I did my homework, I recognized the armour on display. These Mandalorians – Filoni’s Mandalorians – look less like the Beskar-ensconced sentinels of The Mandalorian, and more like the bright action figure versions from the animated shows, albeit scuffed and decidedly real.
And then, wham! Katee Sackoff.
Starbuck herself. Of Battlestar Galactica fame steps up. And she’s Bo-katan.
In Clone Wars, Bo-Katan was a member of the Mandalorian Death Watch, a group of fanatical terrorists. Here, in a bravura performance, Sackoff’s Bo-Katan drops a bomb. She and her offsiders refer to Mando’s group, The Watch, as a “group of religious zealots” when Mando reacts with shock to the trio removing their helmets. Bo-Katan’s deal with Mando is this: help her take back a shipment of Mandalorian weapons from an Imperial ship about to leave orbit, and she’ll help him find the Jedi.
What we’ve learned about Mando by now is that whilst he might grumble, he is an honourable man. He saves Frog people, adopts children in need, and protects his friends. He puts principles and honour above all else. By the time The Heiress is through, Bo-Katan (the titular Heiress) has lied to Mando about the mission, revealing she’s actually going to need him to steal the ship. When he points out that this wasn’t part of the deal, she sarcastically sneers “this is the way”. We then find out that the real reason she’s after this particular ship? She’s going after the Darksaber, the ancestral Mandalorian lightsaber we last saw being wielded by Gus Fring… I mean, Moff Fring.
Dammit! Moff Gideon.
That’s a little more deception that I’m now used to from this apparently principled people. Bo-Katan tells Mando what he needs to continue his quest, true. But having already lost the Darksaber, is Bo-Katan really who you want leading the Mandalorians in their quest to take back their homeworld? Because if this show were an audition for a worthy heir to the Darksaber… you’re watching him every week.
The Heiress is also a very short episode, clocking in at 36 minutes. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean I was left wanting more from what is shaping up to be a killer second season. Oh, and before I inadvertently bury the lead… the Jedi Mando is headed to see? Ahsoka Tano. Another Filoni creation, Ahsoka has legions of fans and was Anakin’s apprentice during the Clone Wars. In Rebels, she became part of the resistance against the rising tide of the Empire, and if the casting rumours are true, we could be in for a real treat.
I initially had mixed feelings about this episode leaning so heavily on Filoni’s stable of characters and lore. I like the muddiness, the clean Western-style tropes being leaned on. Those aren’t Filoni’s area of expertise. But under the deft pen of Jon Favreau and the greatly improved direction of Bryce Dallas Howard (my god, she’s come a long way since her episode last season), it works. It really does.
In short, The Heiress does two things particularly well. It proves this season of The Mandalorian is capable of delivering better airborne action sequences than most feature films, and it raises the intriguing possibility that whilst the Mandalorians may have lost their way a little, THE Mandalorian continues to find his.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+.