By George Bate and Josh Reilly B.
The Mandalorian season 3 has been unexpected to say the least, offering some interesting plot threads and themes to boot. Season 3 continues today with the release of Chapter 20: The Foundling, written by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni and directed by Carl Weathers.
Much of this episode is set in the Mandalorian confine that the Watch hold. Paz Visla’s son, Ragnar, is taken by a deadly bird-like creature and it’s up to the rest of the group to help rescue him. This is the first time that Visla has been given any sort of backstory or deeper character development, which could show that he’s about to play a more important role in the series going forward. This plot line continues the adventure series style that has been particularly prevalent this season. The Mandalorian has always been a show centered on action and adventure, but these elements have been particularly prevalent this season.
The other major story that runs in The Foundling is centered on Grogu, who has some interesting flashbacks while spending time with The Armorer. Just as Din Djarin was reminded of his rescue from battle droids by the Watch group when watching The Armorer forge armor, Grogu had visions of his time at the Jedi Temple during the Order 66 genocide. The question of who saved Grogu from this massacre has always been on the minds of fans, and the answer is finally revealed here. Mace Windu, Yoda, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi were all touted as names of potential rescuers, but the real hero to save Grogu is one that is far more deepcut.
The Foundling reveals that Grogu was saved by none other than Kelleran Beq. That isn’t exactly a household Star Wars name like Obi-Wan or Yoda, but the significance of Beq lies in the actor that plays him. Ahmed Best returns to the franchise again here, having played Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy. Best played Beq in Jedi Temple Challenge, a reality TV series featuring real life competitors. Beq makes the jump into live action scripted television in this episode with a truly surprising and potentially groundbreaking reveal.
Ahmed Best’s appearance is arguably the aspect of this latest episode that is going to be talked about the most, and for good reason. Best has long been a fan favorite amongst Star Wars diehards, receiving a wave of love and attention after many initially criticized Jar Jar in a way that was cruel to the performer. It’s expected that Beq will continue to play a role in future flashbacks, whenever those may be, thus building on Best’s new character even more.
It’s interesting that, in many ways, The Mandalorian has been somewhat defined by the nothing off the table approach from creator Jon Favreau. The appearances of Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and more all highlight Favreau’s willingness to dive deep into Star Wars canon in order to tell his story. Favreau has never attempted something as deep cut as Beq’s appearance here, making this a subversion of expectations of sorts.
Yes, Ahmed Best returning is once again a wink at the audience (in a way that works well for the story), but the fact of the matter is that Best didn’t use his face to play Jar Jar Binks in the prequels, instead playing and voicing the motion capture of the character. For most viewers, Beq will simply be a new Jedi coming to save the day and rescue the beloved baby Grogu. After the appearances of Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Ahsoka Tano, and countless other famous names, the decision to have a new face join the proceedings feels refreshing and new. That’s not to say that these cameos of well known characters doesn’t work (they do), but having a relatively new Jedi enter the show feels new and helps keep this show fresh.
The rest of the episode is primarily action, and it’s directed incredibly well by Carl Weathers. Weathers makes these sequences engaging and fun to watch for the audience, a crucial component if they are to dive so heavily into the action adventure style. There’s a disappointing lack of development for Din Djarin here, though, and it’s unclear where the writers are taking the hero for the course of this season. Djarin’s charatcer arc felt planned out and natural in the first two seasons, but now it unfortunately seems directionless at times.
The lack of direction can also be applied to the season as a whole, at least to a certain extent. After this episode, the season is halfway over, yet it doesn’t feel as if all that much has happened thus far. There is also little clarity over where the next four episodes will head, particularly for the lead character. Things have unfortunately gotten a little too messy in this Mando mini-universe recently.
The Foundling is a fun, entertaining episode that features the surprise return of a fan favorite actor. There’s a freshness about some of the decisions made in this episode, particularly the flashback sequences, and Carl Weathers somehow manages to top his last Mandalorian episode with another excellently directed outing.