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The Mandalorian Chapter 14 Recap: The Empire Strikes Back, Again

Director Robert Rodriguez enters the “Star Wars” universe with one hell of a 32-minute episode in “Chapter 14: The Tragedy,” an action-packed game changer that is mighty rewarding for patient fans. Some things happen in this episode that you’ve been hoping to see for a few weeks; some things happen that you’ve been waiting to see since you first saw “Return of the Jedi.” And some people come back you thought the series forgot. Such micro and macro payoffs fill up an episode that also manages to be one of the season's most dramatic, at least in terms of its numerous shocking twists. 

But before all that, there’s a sweet moment with our hero Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) taking Grogu (the child formerly known as Baby Yoda) to the planet Tython. Following advice from helpful Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) from last week's episode, the two are their way to a seeing stone that will help Grogu connect with others of his kind, but first they share a sweet moment in the cockpit of Djarin’s Razor Crest ship, where he seems even more dour that he’ll one day have to part with Grogu. It's an effective note about just how attached the Mandalorian has become with this young Jedi with which he can barely communicate, and couldn't possibly train himself. We too might have underestimated the emotional importance of Baby Yoda to "The Mandalorian," aside from his brilliant cuteness. 

Tython turns out to be a sunny, bright locale for a Jedi temple—a striking contrast to the thick fog of Corvus in the last episode—but shortly after Mando and Grogu land, trouble resumes. As Grogu enters into a type of trance sitting on the stone, protected by a blue force field that Mando can’t penetrate, Mando finds out that he is being hunted by another bounty hunter, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison). For a brief reminder, as if anyone could forget, we saw him at the end of “Chapter 9: The Marshal” in a brief cameo, and it was a thrilling final image for that episode. “Chapter 14: The Tragedy,” marks his official comeback, and it happens on a grandiose scale. 

It turns out that Boba Fett has indeed been stalking Mando but only because he wants his armor back—a valuable piece that Mando received from Cobb Vanth in “Chapter 9: The Marshal,” and has been holding onto in his ship the Razor Crest. Because Mando is so hilariously traditional as a former zealot from Mandalore (it's a long story), he can’t just give the armor back to Boba Fett, even though it’s his, but instead he has to take it from his dead body. Along with tough-guy statements like "What's to stop me from dropping you right where you stand?", and the sunny, grassy landscape, some major Sergio Leone atmospheric vibes appear. On top of that, Boba Fett reveals that he has a sharpshooter on his side, and it’s none other than Fennec (Ming-Na Wen), from last season’s episode “The Gunslinger.” "The Tragedy" reminds us at the very beginning of how she was saved by a mysterious figure who approached her body in that episode when it seemed like young bounty hunter Toro Calican had left her for dead. It's exciting to see her back in action, and helps give that otherwise lackluster episode some more narrative purpose. 

But before Mando and Boba and Fennec get into their own scuffle, a convoy of stormtroopers arrive on the planet to get “the asset”—Grogu—for their boss Grand Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who we learn is in a ship hovering over the planet. A big shootout ensues, with stormtroopers dropping like flies as they do, and Fennec gets some major screen-time to kick-ass with her mega rifle and her fast moves. There’s even a moment in which she uses a giant boulder to mow down the stormtroopers and their massive guns, and you hardly question it. Meanwhile Boba Fett attacks with a staff that shatters stormtrooper armor, dealing visceral blows that make getting shot by a laser seem more ideal. As this bonanza unfolds with the series' intimate narrative focus, it almost seems like we're watching the extended cut of the action sequence. But it's like that Boba Fett movie we never got, so indulgence seems fair game. 

It becomes clear that Rodriguez is not just throwing bodies around; his eye for cool in his action movies like "Desperado" and "Planet Terror" doesn't just come from excess. There is a gripping escalation to the action here from writer Jon Favreau, one that starts with Fennec, throws in Djarin, shows off Boba Fett’s brutal staff, bonds Fennec and Djarin, and then ends with Boba Fett back in his armor, an image that is one of the episode’s top delights. The intensity of the action builds up so that Boba Fett can have the final word, and it comes in a major “cool guys don’t look at explosions” shot. It is certifiably, classically bad-ass, and that’s just how I remember him being as a kid. 

“The Tragedy” has more surprises to spare, including a full display of the Transformers-like dark troopers that we only got a small glimpse of in the last episode. They snatch Baby Yoda from the seeing stone, Boba Fett chases after them, and “The Mandalorian” gets another eerie moment. For an episode that doesn’t develop its story with a whole lot of dialogue, and is too busy resetting the board to deal with emotions, hearing a recently empowered Boba Fett utter “They're back...the empire...they're back” after seeing Moff Gideon’s ship is fairly unsettling. We knew the empire's status for the most part from earlier “Mandalorian” episodes, but it’s particularly affirming coming from a veteran of sorts like Boba Fett. He sounds weary, and he sounds scared. 

As for the fates of Mando, the Razor Crest, and Grogu—let's just say the series feels particularly immediate again. Especially with only two episodes to spare in season two, “The Tragedy” leaves the viewer with a thrilling nervousness about what the major climactic action will be. Part of that undoubtedly has to do with how this episode's cliffhangers explicitly lay out everyone's next moves, and with whom. That immediacy brings me back to watching a “Star Wars” feature—“The Tragedy” feels like I just saw a thrilling post-credits mess, a giddy example of bonafide rising action, and now I’ve been forced to hit stop. And wait. I’ve never been more excited this season to see what’s coming next. 

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is an Assistant Editor at RogerEbert.com and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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