Spoilers for The Mandalorian season 3 episode 2 follow.
"A great society is now a memory," Bo-Katan Kryze says of Mandalore towards the end of Chapter 18, an episode set almost entirely within the bones of the planet. Depicted in live-action glory for the first time, The Mandalorian’s version of the homeworld is a place filled with the ghosts of the past, where creatures are lurking around every corner. And ‘The Mines of Mandalore' wastes no time in setting Mando on his mission to reach the Living Waters and purge his sins, speeding up the narrative which felt a bit slow to get going in its first episode. This new setting lays the tone brilliantly for a chapter tinged with loss, and the different ways the people deal with it.
Beginning in the wake of Mando’s plan to try and revive IG-11, he heads to the galaxy’s best engineer Peli Motto, once again played brilliantly by Amy Sedaris. After seeing her swindle a poor Rodian on Boonta Eve no less, Din arrives with Grogu in tow for help finding the missing part he needs. He has no such luck, but Peli sells him her astromach droid instead for his mission to Mandalore and sets him on his way. It’s a great opening, bringing back one of the show’s best-loved characters and allowing for some light relief in what soon becomes an increasingly heavy episode.
Memories of the past
The first indication of the emotional weight behind Chapter 18 comes as Mando and Grogu travel to Mandalore. Three seasons in, Din has fully embraced the Manda-dad role as he tells Grogu of his past and teaches him how to navigate the ship – something which comes in handy later on. It’s a conversation with heavy poignancy behind it too, as Din grapples with his betrayal of the Mandalorian Creed and the burden it has placed upon him.
As the pair approach Mandalore, Din’s warning that they’ll be completely cut off from the galaxy is a good indication that this may not go the way he thinks. When R5 disappears off the scanner, we encounter the first creatures lurking on the planet – the furry Alamites. While Mando dispatches them, the danger doesn’t stop there, as he gets trapped by a cyclops-like beast. In the first hint of real peril this season, the one-eyed creature carts him off to the recesses of the tunnels as Din tells Grogu to find Bo-Katan.
A terrified Baby Yoda does as he’s told, heroically navigating to Bo-Katan’s castle to bring her to save Mando. As they arrive back, she tells the child of Mandalore’s history, calling it a beautiful civilization turned into a tomb. The conversation is a great counterpoint to Mando’s earlier confessions to Grogu. Instead of feeling pain and loss about not being connected to this place, as Bo-Katan reminisces about the past, there’s a lot of bitterness lingering beneath her speech. After her brief introduction in the first episode, Katee Sackhoff’s new jaded version of Bo-Katan is fast becoming one of the series’ most compelling parts.
The horror influence infused into the episode is kicked up a notch when the pair find Mando being drained of life deep in the caves by the cyclops creature. Mando groaning in pain while the pulsating score builds is about as scary as Star Wars gets, but luckily Bo-Katan is on hand to kill the creature using the Darksaber and save Mando. The pair lick their wounds around a fire after as they clash over creed and religion before Din explains nothing will stop him in his mission to reach the Living Waters beneath the mines of Mandalore. Bo-Katan agrees to help lead him there, telling him more about the past of Mandalore and the Empire's decision to make an example of them in the Purge.
The pair make an unlikely partnership, one devout to The Way and one who scoffs at it, but there’s no denying Bo-Katan is affected by Mando’s emotional devotion to his task. Pedro Pascal once again proves he’s the best in the business at conveying a whole depth of feeling behind a helmet as Din’s journey into the waters takes on a very moving tone. But the peril isn’t over yet as he’s pulled under the water by a mysterious creature. Bo-Katan once again saves his skin, but not before we get a chilling glimpse of the mythosaur lurking in the depths. And as we were told by the Armorer in The Book of Boba Fett, the creature foretells a new age of Mandalore…
We’re not sure where the show is taking us next, but it is certainly a tantalizing ending to leave on. After all, that’s the joy of the endless secrecy that Jon Favreau has wrapped The Mandalorian up in, anything – or anyone – could be lurking around the corner next.
The finest episodes of The Mandalorian have always been the self-contained adventures of Grogu and Mando. And while this doesn’t quite fit the bill, 'The Mines of Mandalore' captures the best aspects of it, taking us to a new part of the galaxy, deepening the connection between the characters, and giving viewers a genuine feeling of peril. But where it really excels is in nailing the emotional weight crafted in the storytelling that being three seasons deep allows.
Check out our The Mandalorian season 3 release schedule so you don’t miss any episodes. If you’re already up to date, we’re broken down where The Mandalorian sits on the Star Wars timeline and everything you need to know about The Mandalorian season 3.