‘The Mandalorian Chapter 20: The Foundling’ Review | Another Solid Entry in Favreau and Filoni’s ‘Star Wars’ TV Saga

Photo: ‘The Mandalorian Chapter 20: The Foundling’

Chapter 20 of ‘The Mandalorian’ saga follows the gallant trio of Din Djarin, his foundling son Grogu, and the former princess of Mandalore Bo-Katan Kryze, through the familiar beats of a TV Western-eque, “Monster-of-the-week” storytelling format. This episodic structure has been a stylistic calling card for the series since its inception. Creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni built the identity of their show around the winning combination of Din and Grogu’s palpable chemistry and profound emotional connection on-screen, a steady deepening and expanding of the already deep ‘Star Wars’ lore (mostly established in Filoni’s excellent pair of animated shows, ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars Rebels’), and a healthy reliance on the tropes and plots found in classic cowboy serials like ‘Gunsmoke’.

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The last major ingredient in Favreau and Filoni’s ‘The Mandalorian’ recipe, is a willful return to a more mythic brand of yarn-spinning. As Favreau put it during an interview with Screen Rant Plus, “We’re [he and Filoni] going back to – drawing from myths. And archetypes from myths as George [Lucas] has done and instructed.” 

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This week’s episode, ‘Chapter 20: The Foundling’ opens directly after the events of Chapter 19: The Convert. After bathing in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore, Din and Bo-katan have both redeemed their status as Mandalorians, and are officially reinstated as members of The Children of the Watch – a rogue enclave of Mandalorian warriors who adhere to a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of “The Mandalorian Way.” Meanwhile, Grogu is reliving the most traumatic event of his young life, (Order 66), and simultaneously attempting to reconcile the twin pillars of his spiritual identity: the way of the Mand’alor and the code of the Jedi.

While Grogu’s battle of the soul rages on, Din, Bo, and the rest of the adult members of T.C.O.T.W, form a war party to track down the whereabouts of winged beast called a Raptor, that has escaped with Paz Vizsla’s  son in its jaws. On their first mission back as fully-fledged members of this tribe of true believers, Din and Bo attempt to achieve the highest honor in all of the Mandalorian creed: saving the life of a foundling.

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All in all, ‘Chapter 20: ‘The Foundling’ was an entertaining episode of ‘Star Wars’ television that fleshed out a crucial segment of Grogu’s backstory, provided redemption for a long-shunned member of the ‘Star Wars’ family (more on that later), and ominously foreshadowed Bo-Katan’s inevitable pursuit of the legendary Mythosaur. But its leisurely episodic execution, especially when coming this deep into the show’s third season, does leave one with some lingering questions about the overall direction of the series’s narrative arc. 

The Mandalorian Chapter 20: Raptors, Rondels, and Revelations

Admittedly, in order for one to fully enjoy this episode’s “creature-of-the-week” set-up, one must first disregard the head-scratching decision made by The Children of the Watch to continue living on the same savage, unnamed planet that they are currently calling home, despite the vicious ambush from the Giant Dinosaur Turtle in Chapter 17: The Apostate, and the numerous airborne assaults that they suffered courtesy of the Raptor (“It always get away” complains Paz Vizsla)…but we digress. ‘Star Wars’ always needs new creatures after all. After an adequately thrilling chase sequence through a canyon, the Raptor flies off with Ragnar, Paz Vizsla’s son, in its clutches. Din, Bo, Paz, and The Armorer assemble their war party immediately. But they cannot simply roll up to the Raptor’s lair, with guns blazing and jet packs blaring, as is the typical Mandalorian battle strategy. The slightest noise would alert the territorial beast to any kind of approaching threat. So, a surreptitious climb up the treacherous cliff face must be made. Though by Bo-Katan’s elite standards, “These are no higher than the peaks at Kyrimorut. I used to climb them in basic training,” scaling the sheer cliff face of the Raptor’s lair, is light work. One memorable scene takes place at the base of the mountain, where the war party has made camp for the night. 

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As dinner rations are distributed amongst the various members, Bo asks Din, “How do you eat when other people are around?” (as eating would require a Mandalorian to break the first rule of their code: a Mandalorian must never remove their helmet). Din tells her bluntly, “You don’t. When you get your food, you go off to find a place where you can take off your helmet.” Soon the rest of the party members head their separate ways, leaving Bo isolated. Paz informs Bo that she alone, as leader of the war party, has the honor of eating beside the fire. Before leaving, Paz quotes the abiding Mandalorian tenet, “This is the way.” ‘The Mandalorian’s continued exploration of all the stark differences that exists within the various strains of Mandalorian culture is among the most compelling acts of ‘Star Wars’ world-building that have been established during the modern Disney era. Watching Bo, the scorned warrior and former princess of Mandalore, absorb the strict cultural guidelines that T.C.O.T.W. have adapted from their ancient, orthodox Mandalorian belief system, is fascinating. The dueling ideologies that exist within the different sects of the Mandalorian diaspora cast all sorts of real world religious parallels about the relative nature of religious zealotry vs. deep-rooted traditionalism that exists amongst scattered cultures.

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This Is The Way?

Grogu makes his first appearance of the episode (or chapter) doing what he does best: looking perfectly precious while searching for another squirming snack to throw down his bottomless gullet. Din yanks Grogu away from his prey (a charming race of space crab that camouflage as rocks) and drops him among the other foundlings, into an ongoing, no holds barred Mandalorian training session. Little Grogu more than holds his own in a duel of training darts, after Din teaches him the basics (much to Bo-Katan disbelief, “He doesn’t know how to fire darts?”). Soon the war party rolls out, leaving Grogu behind with the rest of the foundlings and The Armorer. The Armorer quickly invites him into her workshop. Grogu waddles adorably up to the flaming mouth of the Armorer’s forge. There she begins crafting him a gift that will signify his first official step on the road to becoming a true Mandalorian. But the rhythmic mechanical pounding of the Armorer’s forge starts to unnerve Grogu, triggering a traumatic flashback to the night that everything changed for him: Order 66 in the Jedi Temple. 

Suddenly we are back on Coruscant, looking through Grogu’s eyes as droves of Jedi get cut down by the invading swarms of indoctrinated clone troopers. A noble Jedi force pushes Grogu’s hovering pram into a nearby elevator, shielding him from the storm of blaster fire. Grogu clutches his blanket in terror, causing ‘Mandalorian’ fans worldwide to do the same, fearing for the safety of their beloved green foundling. Grogu shudders as the elevator doors pop open, fully expecting to be greeted by a battalion of clone troopers. But instead, Jedi Knight Kelleran Beq steps heroically into frame and promises Grogu, “Everything’s going to be alright, kid.” Beq, an obscure character who actually first debuted on the Lucasfilm online game show ‘Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge,’ is notably portrayed by actor, comedian, and martial artist Ahmed Best. Best portrayed Jar Jar Binks in Lucas’ prequel trilogy. Obviously the character of Jar Jar was far from a smash sensation amongst the fans. In fact, the goofy Gungan was so disliked in his time, that Best himself was the target of significant online animus that came directly from a specific portion of the fanbase. Much of the fan outrage around the character felt grossly-informed by more than just a tinge of racial prejudice. So, seeing Best make his triumphant return to ‘Star Wars’ as a dual-blade-wielding, force-pushing, bonafide badass of a Jedi knight, who is solely responsible for saving Grogu from a Jedi genocide, was a tremendously satisfying and unexpected treat. 

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As Grogu’s flashback ends, we find ourselves back inside the stony confines of the Armorer’s forge, watching as Grogu awaits his gift. As Mandalorians are a warrior people, naturally his gift comes in the form of armor: a Rondel fashioned from Beskar scraps, with his and Din’s symbol of Clan Mudhorn, chiseled into its frame. As the Armorer forges Grogu’s personal talisman of Mandlorian identity, she explains to him, “This is the forge. It is the heart of Mandalorian culture. Just as we shape the Mandalorian steel, we shape ourselves.” The Mandalorian rondel fits Grogu like Flavor-Flav’s clock necklace would fit a toddler. That is to say, not very well. But as The Armorer reassures him, “You will grow into this rondel as you grow into your station, foundling Grogu.” This sequence knowingly juxtaposes Grogu’s deep recollections of his life as a Jedi Padawan, inside this holy ceremony of Mandalorian assimilation. Grogu is utterly torn between the two sides of himself, and is having difficulty balancing the contrasting dogmas that his teachers have separately impressed upon him. 

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The Mythosaur, and What Comes Next?

In the end Din, Bo and their war party manage to save Ragnar Vizsla from the Raptor. After substantial battery, the winged creature tumbles into a lake, and is swallowed whole by yet another Giant Dinosaur Turtle. Once again proving Qui-Gon Jinn’s timeless adage from ‘Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,’ of “There’s always a bigger fish,” to be true. For the second time in this episode, a major character consults The Armorer for a double-shot of radical life counseling and an armor upgrade, when Bo-Katan pays her own visit to the forge. The Armorer is an integral figure in ‘The Mandalorian’ universe; in an interview with Screen Rant Plus, Filoni characterized her role in the Children of the Watch as being, “She’s kind of the lore keeper of the group. She’s the person that knowledge is passed on through.” So when Bo reveals to The Armorer that she has seen a Mythosaur (a creature that represents the highest symbol of Mandalorian culture, thought to be long-extinct) surviving in the murky depths of the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore, her subdued, almost unconcerned response of “This is the way” is very interesting, to say the least. Bo stares at the Mythosaur emblem that hangs on Armorer’s workshop wall, and asks if she can craft her a new shoulder plate, donned with the symbol of the Mythosaur. Remember that Bo has yet to reveal her vision of the Mythosaur to Din, who currently wields the Darksaber, and as the armorer said, “Whoever wields it (Darksaber) can rule all of Mandalore.” The episode finishes with a foreboding shot of Bo ogling the emblem of the Mythosaur. 

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So where do we go from here? Will Bo turn against Din and use her vision of the Mythosaur as her claim to the throne of Mandalore? Will Grogu walk the path of the Manda’lor, or will he return to his Jedi roots? Will any of the major characters from the animated Filoni-verse (Ezra, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Sabine, etc.) make an appearance this season, or will fans have to wait for the upcoming ‘Ahsoka’ show for that cross-narrative payoff? ‘The Mandalorian,’ now in its third season, can reliably deliver a satisfying, contained ‘Star Wars’ adventure with relative ease and consistency from week-to-week. But questions surrounding the series’ long-term narrative intentions will persist up until the moment when the show puts all of its proverbial cards on the table. 

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Directed by: Carl Weathers.

By Dillon Goss-Carpenter

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