After a slightly disappointing season 3 premiere, The Mandalorian is back, stronger than ever, with “Chapter 18: The Mines of Mandalore.” Rachel Morrison (Academy Award-nominated director of photography on Mudbound and Black Panther) stepped in to direct her first episode of the series (whether they worked it out for it to happen on International Women’s Day, we don’t know, but we shall celebrate the fact that it happened).
Spoiler-free, general thoughts on The Mandalorian Chapter 18
The episode kicks off right where the previous one left off, with Din Djarin and Grogu on a quest for a part they need to fix IG-11 and be able to explore the planet of Mandalore, in case it is poisoned as the rumors say. Chapter 18 is a much more cohesive and well-structured narrative than Chapter 17, which was literally all over the place. There are a few action sequences that not only feel natural but also have narrative weight and have an important place in the story.
As opposed to rushing through to get to the finish line and accomplish all of the tasks it is supposed to fulfill, the new episode uses its extra seven minutes to great effect, slowing down the pace and allowing the characters some breathing time. There is fascinating world-building, character exploration, and a lot of pushing the story of the show forward in many ways.
This episode accomplished in just one episode what some of us thought the season would take up five to six episodes to do, doing it in an efficient and satisfying way. There is a lot to discuss here, so if you haven’t seen it yet, check back after you do to read the spoiler discussion!
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 18
THE COLD OPEN
There are so many things to dissect in this episode, but first I want to start with a negative before we move on to the greatness of the rest of it. I found the cold open of this episode to be a headscratcher, not because it was bad, but because of the place it had in the narrative of the first two episodes. One of my complaints from Chapter 17 was the fact that Bo-Katan was shoehorned into the final moments of the episode when it didn’t make a lot of sense for Din to detour from his quest and go pay her a visit.
Both episodes would be significantly improved if they had swapped the Bo-Katan sequence from Chapter 17 with the cold open of Chapter 18. That way, both episodes become much more cohesive and self-contained, which in this case, it’s a positive.
We find out in this episode that the entire subplot of having IG-11 back was dead weight all along. That Tatooine scene that opens this week also works much better as the ending of the previous episode — one, because it clearly sets up that Grogu is going to say his first word this season (that Peli Motto line was not accidental) and setting up the season was the only purpose of Chapter 17.
And two, because the ending with Grogu looking at the fireworks truly functions as the ending of an episode. The same happens to the Bo-Katan scene from Chapter 17, which works much better as an episode opener. I wonder if those scenes were swapped at the script level, and later rearranged in the edit.
‘THE MINES OF MANDALORE
We get to Mandalore right away against my best guess, which was that we’d land there by the next episode. I thought Chapter 18 was going to be another side adventure to retrieve a part the Jawas wanted in exchange for the part we needed to revive IG-11. I’m glad we didn’t go that way because there is so much more interesting story to tell. In fact, between these two episodes, we’ve already blown through the majority of the footage seen in the marketing, and we’re only fourth way into the season.
The set design and the overall atmosphere set up by the script for the actual Mines of Mandalore drew heavy inspiration from the Mines of Moria sequence from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Jon Favreau nor Rachel Morrison, are apologizing for it. We see Din fight some space cavemen and struggle with the Darksaber, a pivotal scene that will be used as a reference for when Bo-Katan later arrives and wields the mythical weapon, which she fully dominates.
Not only that. Din Djarin can’t find his way through an abandoned Mandalorian city without running into serious trouble, two massive foreshadows that he may not be the righteous leader of Mandalore. The show is either teasing that he’s only the vehicle in which other people (Grogu or Bo-Katan) will lead the planet, or we’re just witnessing the beginning of a very long arc in which Din must learn how to become the leader. We will know better soon when we see who will be riding that giant Mythosaur.
IT’S BO-KATAN VERSUS DIN FOR THE SOUL OF THE MANDALORIANS
It’s been a long theory of mine that Bo-Katan will be wielding the Darksaber by the end of the season, and this episode definitely played into that theory. It’s clear that Din Djarin still can’t control it, while Bo-Katan was much better at wielding the blade. Of course, in Star Wars canon, she’s owned it before, but if Favreau’s confusing timeline is to be believed, Din may have owned it for a couple of years already, and he’s not getting any better at it.
I do believe, however, that Din, and not Bo-Katan will be riding the Mythosaur, whether it’s in the next episode, or later in the season. Then, it will all be about reuniting the Mandalorians and that’s when Din (now redeemed) representing the Children of the Watch, and Bo-Katan reuniting with old allies will come into play. I think that at first Din will be holding the Darksaber and Bo-Katan will be vouching for him, but then, he will be defeated in combat and she will restore ownership.
But what did you think about the episode? Am I completely wrong about my interpretation of it and what I think is going down next, or do you agree with me? Did you find Grogu Force-leaping as hilarious as I did? Were you also confused by Bo-Katan sitting on the throne all day long? Let us know on our social media, and stay tuned for more Mandalorian and Star Wars news!