[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 3, “Chapter 11 – The Heiress.”]
An engaging premise can go a long way. The nautical jaunt on “The Heiress” is the first adventure in “The Mandalorian” Season 2 that offers compelling stakes for the show’s key players and the set piece heavy action makes for the season’s best episode yet by a considerable margin.
The third episode of the Disney+ show’s sophomore season opens with the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and co. arriving — well, crash landing — on the watery moon of Trask in search of other Mandalorians who can aid the protagonist in delivering Baby Yoda, AKA The Child, AKA social media’s little green friend, to the Jedi. Mando has finally found others of his kind, but making actual progress on his mission isn’t the only reason that “The Heiress” rises above the season’s preceding episodes.
For one, Trask is among the best locales to be showcased in “The Mandalorian” thus far. The oceanic environment is a breath of fresh air from the desolate wastelands and spaceship interiors that many prior episodes have taken place in, and it’s also nice to see several of the franchise’s alien species, such as the Mon Calamari and Quarren get a bit of a spotlight beyond being disposable henchmen or extras in the background. The little bits of world-building help “The Mandalorian” feel like it’s actually taking place in a living, breathing universe; I don’t know why a waiter would give Baby Yoda a bowl of chowder that comes with a facehugger straight out of “Alien,” but it’s amusing nonetheless.
Mando is eventually double-crossed and rescued by a group of Mandalorians led by Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff). Some exposition happens and the pieces are put in place for a daring raid on an Imperial ship chock-full of valuable hardware. There’s more to be said about theNite Owls — a Mandalorian faction franchise fans will remember from the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated series — and their motivations, but interesting characterization has never been this show’s strong suit.
Like most characters on “The Mandalorian,” Koska’s Nite Owls are more walking action figures than compelling, fleshed out individuals, but they’re really cool action figures. There’s a simple, timeless pleasure to watching Stormtroopers and other “Star Wars” villains get mowed down by superior protagonists, and the action sequences in “The Heiress” are a joy to watch. There are tense blaster shootouts in narrow hallways, several entertaining ambushes, all manner of classic franchise gadgets and gizmos, and bountiful shots of increasingly hapless Imperials as the protagonists carve their way towards their objective. The action in “The Heiress” is elevated by some commendably pulse-pounding music from Ludwig Göransson, whose work on “The Mandalorian” continues to be one of the show’s most consistently excellent elements.
That’s not to say “The Heiress” is perfect. Exposition-heavy dialogue and wooden acting have hampered many prior episodes of “The Mandalorian” and this week’s aquatic adventure is no exception. There are myriad references to other parts of the “Star Wars” canon but no amount of allusions to the Jedi Purge, Stormtroopers’ godawful aim, or “altering the deal” are substitute for appealing protagonists. Given the episode’s aforementioned strengths, these qualms are easier to overlook than they were in prior episodes, but that doesn’t mean “The Mandalorian” wouldn’t benefit from more reasons to genuinely care about what happens to any of its key players.
Regardless, there’s ample reason for “Star Wars” fans to be invested in the season’s remaining five episodes. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) makes a brief return via hologram for the first time since the Season 1 finale and there’s indication that he has a shared history with the Nite Owls — he controls the Darksaber weapon that is a key part of Mandalorian culture — that will almost certainly be explored later in the season. At the episode’s end, Mando and Baby Yoda set off to rendezvous with Ahsoka Tano, a fan-favorite Jedi set to make her live-action debut via actress Rosario Dawson.
There are more than enough iconic franchise elements slated to appear in the season’s remaining episodes to appease franchise fans, but if future episodes can build on the strong points of “The Heiress,” “The Mandalorian” could become a standout action-drama regardless of its “Star Wars” license.
(An earlier version of this article mislabeled Bo-Katan as Koska Reeves.)