This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 6, “Chapter 14: The Tragedy.”
If you title an episode in your series “The Tragedy,” that comes with a lot of expectations. However, in the context of The Mandalorian so far, “The Tragedy” most definitely lives up to its name and also delivers arguably the best episode of the second season to date.
Very little happens for the majority of the 34-minute episode, narrative-wise. Mando (Pedro Pascal) brings Grogu to Tython to potentially communicate with other Jedi in the galaxy but is assaulted by the finally confirmed Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and a returning Fennec (Ming-Na Wen of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) until the arrival of the Empire. From there, it’s a chaotic — and ultimately unsuccessful — fight to protect Grogu at all costs from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).
I don’t normally talk about the individual directors on episodes since, while their stylistic presence is noticeable, it doesn’t often change much. For example, while having Dave Filoni return last episode to continue to flesh out Ahsoka Tano as he truly does understand her character was a great idea, he didn’t bring anything specific to the director’s chair to differentiate himself from other directors. A good television director should be able to slot into the episode they were assigned and deliver on it with technical competency but not to the point where their style and unique persona overtakes the direction of the show.
That being said, giving the most action-oriented episode of the season to Robert Rodriguez was simply brilliant. The man knows how to frame an action scene, and when you combine his dirty style of directing with the highly qualified stuntmen and women and fight choreographers of The Mandalorian, you have yourself a winning combination. From rampaging boulders, to massive shoot-outs, to Boba Fett brutalizing every stormtrooper he came across, I wouldn’t be surprised if next year The Mandalorian wins another Emmy for its stunt work on “The Tragedy” alone.
However, I’m ultimately of two minds on Temuera Morrison actually playing Boba Fett and not some vestige of The Clone Wars. First, I will never say no to more Temuera Morrison as he’s always been a consistently strong presence in the franchise. But to have him return as Boba Fett leaves a lot of questions that go unanswered in this episode. I’m not as up to date on my Expanded Universe knowledge, but my stance on his inclusion stays the same as it usually is in the case of adaptations; the show can involve him, but it has to justify his inclusion within the events of the show and not from some online database explaining key events.
What is Boba Fett’s narrative justification for surviving the Sarlacc pit? We don’t know, but we may find out next episode since he and Fennec will be staying around. Mando promised them Fett’s armor as long as they can “keep Grogu safe,” and Fett is a Mandalorian of his word. This episode realistically has given us more development on Boba Fett than all of his time in the original trilogy. We actually got to see some of this ruthless bounty hunter’s morality, as well as see him retake his armor and go to town against some hapless stormtroopers. While it was awesome to see Fett lay waste to them, it would have been more impactful had we not already seen someone don Fett’s armor this season way back in the season premiere. It’s a minor nitpick, but it dampened the reveal just a smidge.
But outside of my criticisms to Fett’s inclusion, “The Tragedy” was consistently great. Not only was it an action marvel, but this is probably the most human we’ve ever seen Mando. We may not be able to see his face, but you could just feel the joy emanate from him whenever he called Grogu’s name and he acknowledged it, finally able to give an identity to his adoptive son. They played together with the little ball, and Mando did whatever he could to try to get Grogu away from Tython once the Empire landed. With Grogu taken by Dark Troopers and now held captive on Moff Gideon’s ship, what will Mando do to rescue his child?
“The Tragedy” that the episode title references may be not related to Grogu’s capture at all. Could the real tragedy be Mando sacrificing his soul in order to protect his adoptive son? He’s already planning on springing Mayfield (Bill Burr of Breaking Bad) out of jail after leaving him there last season, but is that all he’s willing to do to save him? Fett and Fennec seem to be impartial to how Mando holds himself, just that they’re looking to protect Grogu. It would be a sad but fitting twist if both bounty hunters deem Mando a threat to Grogu’s safety if he goes too far, but anything can happen, especially if Moff Gideon decides to whip out his Darksaber in a one-on-one fight.
The Mandalorian season 2 has had a lot of filler, and while last episode really felt like course correction for the plot with Mando finally reaching a Jedi, you could argue that even that was a sort of filler due to the episode focusing on Ahsoka’s exploits to hunt for Thrawn. There is no such argument to be made this episode. “The Tragedy” feels fundamental to the story and essential to the narrative.
We have the finale in sight with just two episodes left. Most likely the next episode will focus on Mando collecting his crew for his assault on Moff Gideon, with the finale being a showdown between Mando’s team and Gideon’s battalion. Things are about to get really ugly really quick, but “The Tragedy” successfully upped the ante and engaged me in a way the show hasn’t done since last season. Now it just has to keep the momentum going.