This review contains some spoilers for season 3, episode 4 of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 20: The Foundling.”
We’re halfway through season 3 of The Mandalorian, and episode 4, titled “Chapter 20: The Foundling,” stripped the formula of the series back to its basics. While being the shortest episode yet, it makes the most of its runtime by delivering an adventure filled with callbacks to classic westerns, while also shining yet another spotlight on Order 66, including a wonderful appearance that truly felt like 25 years’ worth of justice being served for one of the most divisive elements of the prequel trilogy.
“The Foundling” begins with us back at the beach with Mando (Pedro Pascal), Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), and the Children of the Watch. The crew is training the foundlings, mirroring that of what the Jedi do with their young, though hopefully this group of helmeted orphans will fare better than the younglings did in Revenge of the Sith.
We get some excellent Grogu moments, with him continuing to be an absolute menace when it comes to smaller critters. Between slurping down frog eggs, trying to smother one of Babu Frik’s pals, and coming close to devouring a hermit crab in this episode, I’m all for this hellion’s nonsense. That said, I thought the paintball training with the other foundling, complete with Grogu utilizing the flips he learned from his time training with Luke, was a bit strange. It’s one thing if Mando and Bo choose to follow this weirdo religious cult, but forcing Grogu to go along with it feels off to me.
I also felt like it was a bad idea for the entire crew to still be at the same spot, given the massive gator attack from earlier on in the season. And sure enough, a dragon bird thing swoops in, snatches up one of the children, and quickly flies off. Honestly, this beach is starting to feel like New Jersey’s infamous Action Park – at this point, anything bad that happens here is the direct fault of the adults for refusing to move literally anywhere else in the galaxy.
While Mando, Bo, and a few of the others go off after them, Grogu has a nice flashback that once again transports us to one of the defining moments in all of Star Wars. As tired as I’ve grown of this franchise using nostalgia as a storytelling crutch and limiting itself to such a tiny slice of history in such a vast ocean of potential stories, I’m a sucker for the Order 66 flashbacks. I loved it on Bad Batch, Obi-Wan, and in Jedi: Fallen Order, and I dig it here.
We’re taken back to Grogu’s point of view that we first saw in The Mandalorian season 2, but this time we discover that he was rescued from the Jedi Temple by Kelleran Beq. While the name might not be familiar, the actor should be – he’s played by Ahmed Best, who portrayed Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy. It’s no secret that awful portions of the Star Wars fandom had been vile to Best after those films, but it’s been amazing to see that turn around over the past few years and have him receiving a lot of love at conventions.
I dug seeing Best reprise his role Kelleran Beq (who first showed up in the non-canonical Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge game show), and given his prominence in helping Grogu get off Coruscant during Order 66, it truly felt like justice finally being served for both Best and Jar Jar.
Back in the present, this episode makes it clear that Bo-Katan is growing into the role of a natural leader in a way that Mando doesn’t seem to want to. She forms the plan to get the snatched kid back and is allowed to stay by the fire and eat while the others go off into their dark corners, remove their helmets, and lap up their dinner in shame.
The entire rescue mission felt very much like a return to the show’s western roots, leaning into the trope where a child is taken away from town, and the adults gather up a hunting party to trek out after them. Director Carl Weathers (who also plays Greef Karga on the series) does a solid job with the script written by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, including a nice moment where the crew scales a cliff side using grappling hooks that have shades of Jon Snow and the Wildlings climbing the Wall.
When they got to the top, I was genuinely surprised that the creature’s lair was just a big ol’ bird’s nest filled with other Mandalorian helmets, meaning that it’s snatched folks before. Children of the Watch, I am once again asking you to please move your training beach to literally anywhere else in the galaxy.
The giant baby birds looked sufficiently gross, which fills my weekly quota of having The Mandalorian deliver one cool-looking creature every week. And I loved the detail of the mama bird spitting up the foundling – good stuff all around. And while the fight against the bird went a little long and lacked the narrative beats of a good battle, I really dug the payoff at the end with its getting knocked into the water and immediately gobbled up by a larger creature. It felt like a nice callback to Qui-Gon’s excellent “There’s always a bigger fish,” line from The Phantom Menace.
“Chapter 20: The Foundling” wrapped up with the truly insane reveal that after killing the mama bird, the crew stole its three children, somehow transported them on Bo-Katan’s very small ship, and are now going to try to domesticate them with the other Children of the Watch. This is the kind of unhinged Saturday morning cartoon energy that keeps me coming back, even after a slog of an episode like last week’s. Though we’re already halfway through the season and it still doesn’t feel like we’ve really got a goal in mind, I’m mostly enjoying these more self-contained adventures.