Friday, March 24, 2023

Recap: Mandalorian Episode 20—The Foundling

A fun monster-of-the-week episode filled with tender moments and an incredible cameo.

Episode 20 of The Mandalorian opens back on the Nevarro covert as its denizens engage in some good, old-fashioned Mandalorian Crossfit. They’re warriors, so it makes sense that rugged training and weapons handling is most likely a daily part of life. It just seemed a little funny watching them target practice into the lake all at once.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Baby Yoda

It’s also time, we learn, that Grogu begins his Mandalorian training. Spurred on by his proud dad — and encouraged by Bo-Katan, whose father did the same thing — he absolutely embarrasses what is probably a 9-year-old while sparring. Turns out you never, ever bring a Jedi to a Mando fight.

Jokes aside, this scene really made me think critically about Grogu in a way that I hadn’t in a few episodes. His cosmic cuteness can often overshadow him, sometimes to the show’s detriment. We’re starting to get glimpses of him with agency, not just a sweet silent young thing that Mando adoringly totes around. 

He has Jedi training, which he willfully left. Now, he’s following in his father’s footsteps joining another, equally arcane and weird religious cult. But does he really want this? Or is it just out of love for his dad? Will he eventually don a helmet as he commits to the creed, depriving us — and Disney’s profits forecast! — of his huge eyes and adorable little face? 

Hello, Monster of the Week!

As if the defeated 9-year-old isn’t already humiliated by losing to a 50-year-old, 12-inch little green guy, he gets snatched up by a monstrous, dragon-like pterosaur. The adult Mandalorians fly out in pursuit Iron Man-style, only to run out of rocket fuel a few miles out from camp. But know who’s smart? Bo-Katan, who wisely had hopped in her ship to chase after it. She also then organizes a rescue party, like the badass she is. Have I mentioned how much I love Bo-Katan? I love Bo-Katan.

Auntie Armorer’s Bring-Your-Foundling-to-Work Day

While the search party sets off, Grogu stays behind. Though he’s not fighting, he’s getting another lesson — one in Mandalorian culture. She crafts for him a piece of beskar armor, in a truly touching scene. Everyone loves Grogu.

Grogu Has Trauma! 

The sparks from the Armorer’s forge trigger what is clearly Grogu’s PTSD from Order 66. Blasters, lightsabers, vehicle changes, and a harrowing escape from Coruscant mix together at a frenetic pace. We’d known from previous seasons that Grogu survived the purge, but this episode shows the origin story. The thought of how this traumatic event haunts him is tragic, and helps to further flesh out his character, helping to make him more real. Grogu is cute AND contains multitudes, in turns out.

Dave Filoni is a Damn Saint

When I tell you I SCREAMED when we find out that Grogu was rescued by a Jedi named Kelleran Beq played by AHMED BEST — the man who played Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy — I am not exaggerating.

Ahmed faced incredible backlash and hate for his role as the awkward Gungan, causing him emotional distress. In 2020, he became the host of a game show for kids called Jedi Temple Challenge, in the role of — you guessed it — Jedi Master Kelleran Beq. Dave Filoni did the damn thing. He made another awesome thing canon.

Bo-Katan Looks to the Future

After successfully returning home with the rescued child (and a very fun action sequence as they chase down the pterosaur) Bo-Katan speaks with the Armorer while she forges a new piece of armor for her. She chooses the mythosaur sigil for her new pauldron — a sign that she’s starting to move away from Nite-Owl clan. She then confesses to seeing a mythosaur, but it’s not entirely clear that the Armorer believes her. Also unclear is whether Bo will join the Children of the Watch — we’ll have to wait and see. 

The Math

Baseline Score: 7/10

Bonuses: +3 Carl Weathers directed this episode! Who’d have thunk!; When the pterosaur got eaten by another monster it was a fun nod to Qui-Gon Jinn's maxim “There’s always a bigger fish."; This episode passes the Bechdel test! Not a terribly common occurrence in Star Wars.

Penalties: -2 I laughed out loud when Bo-Katan took off her helmet and her hair was COMPLETELY PERFECT and straight; Bringing the three bird foundlings home to the covert was cute but definitely silly.  

Nerd Coefficient: +10 Seeing Ahmed Best save the internet’s favorite tiny Mandalorian foundling is maybe the coolest thing to happen to Star Wars in a while.

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, new NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo-nominated podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley.