When Din Djarin, the title character of The Mandalorian played by Pedro Pascal, declared his quest of visiting the devastated planet of Mandalore and bathing in its so-called “Living Waters,” I had assumed it would likely take the entirety of the series’ third season to achieve. Little did I know what was in store for me in this week’s episode.
But “Chapter 18 – The Mines of Mandalore” doesn’t actually begin with a visit to the creed’s ancestral home. Instead, Din and still-baby Grogu stop by good old Mos Eisley on Tatooine for an exchange with their friend and somewhat-trusty starship mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris).
Interrupting Peli as she’s busy employing Jawas to rip off Rodians on Boonta Eve of all times, Din tells her he needs a memory core for IG-11, which Motto reinforces is a pretty difficult part to find for such an old droid these days. As an alternative, she suggests bringing the one and only R5-D4 with him on his quest– despite R5’s not-so-great track record when it comes to bad motivators. So Din reluctantly agrees, and the trio of Mando, Grogu, and their new (old) astromech take off during the Boonta Eve fireworks in their once-again-refitted N-1 starfighter and immediately head out to Mandalore, much to my surprise as a viewer. In space around the ravaged planet, Djarin gives Grogu a geographic rundown of its system, which is really more so we understand where everything is than for the baby’s benefit. But once on the surface, it’s R5-D4’s time to shine, though the droid doesn’t make it too far into the caves without being attacked by alien troglodytes, so it’s Din to the rescue. Anyway, the air turns out to be breathable after all, so our pair of protagonists head down into the ruins of the Mandalorian civic center in search of the mines that house the Living Waters. There, Din is captured by a freaky cyborg-type creature– I have to assume this memorable monster was the work of the Phil Tippett Studio, which is credited with contributing some VFX for the episode– that starts draining his blood as our hero sends little Grogu off to retrieve Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).
Bo-Katan is still moping in her throne on Kalevala, but the arrival of Grogu without his father figure spurs her into action aboard her ship, the Gauntlet. She, the kid, and the droid race back to Mandalore, where Grogu leads her back down into the ruins. From there it’s just a couple kick-butt confrontations with the local threats, a conversation or two about the history of the planet and the Kryze royal family, and then Bo-Katan finds herself offering to walk Din Djarin the rest of the way to his goal– since he’s obviously proven he can’t make it there himself. At the Living Waters, Bo-Katan gives us another history lesson about the significance of the place by reading a rusty plaque, and then Din strips down to armor-only, goes for his destined bath, and immediately sinks to the bottom of the underground lake. You can almost see Bo-Katan rolling her eyes under her helmet as she realizes she has to save Djarin’s life once more, but the bigger– and much more exciting– reaction comes when she pulls Din up from the depths and encounters a living, breathing Mythosaur on their way back to the surface. It’s a pretty thrilling cliffhanger ending for a terrific, almost breathless episode that combines otherworldly horror with spelunking adventure and a nice amount of mythological exposition. Black Panther cinematographer Rachel Morrison (who has also directed other TV series like American Crime Story and Hightown) took the helm for this installment, and she delivers a moody, atmospheric outing that has me hoping she’ll return for another. I especially liked the creature designs– hey Hasbro, please get to work on a deluxe action figure of that cyborg monster and its creepy spider walker ASAP– and loved seeing Bo-Katan snap out of her funk and spring into action as soon as she knew her ally was in trouble. Based on these events and where this episode leaves things off, I’m thinking Katee Sackhoff is probably going to have an awful lot more to do this season, and I don’t think anybody is going to be complaining too much about that.
New episodes of The Mandalorian are released Wednesdays, exclusively via Disney+.