"The Foundling" clocks in at just about 26 minutes, if you excise the recap and end credits, making it the shortest episode of The Mandalorian to date. The svelte runtime is a good fit for the void of content. I'm all for fun episodic adventures, but this outing is painfully slight, even for this series. When you only have eight episodes every year or two of a series as high-profile as this, is it too much to ask for more meat? I don't think so.
I'm growing more concerned over how seriously we can take Grogu as Mando's student. During the opening training scene, he faces off against another foundling (who asks, not unreasonably, why his opponent doesn't wear a helmet; can you picture Grogu with a Mando helmet?), and it's a pretty hard scene to swallow. At least Yoda could talk in backward riddles with 900 years of wisdom before pulling out a lightsaber. With Grogu, it's like fighting a teddy bear; you look ridiculous for getting beat, even with his high-jumping Force advantage. There's a major tension brewing here: How can Grogu continue as a cute, endlessly nonplussed mascot while also becoming a fierce Mandalorian warrior? These two things are not a fit, to put it mildly.
A crisis emerges when a foundling is grabbed by a giant raptor and carried off to its nest as food (why do the Mandalorians continue to camp where there's all this extreme wildlife danger?), resulting in a search party which Bo-Katan leads. The episode remembers that the Mandalorians can remove their helmets to eat, so long as it's in solitude, so that's something. It turns out the kid is actually Paz Vizsla's son, begging the question of who his mother is, and whether the mother and father have ever taken their helmets off in the presence of their son, or, for that matter, each other. (You probably know where I am going with this: Surely, children are not conceived during kinky bouts of helmet sex. I'm guessing it goes something like this.) And, yes, I know foundlings are by definition orphans, but surely not everyone on Mandalore, or even the Watch, was an orphan. How could such a society possibly function? The answers are not to be found here.
There's a big action scene involving a desperate rescue of the foundling while the raptor is in flight. It's what you would expect on this series: competent, elaborate, and obligatory. It ends with the death of the mother raptor in the jaws of a massive sea creature after it has crashed into the water because of the Mandalorians' rescue of the kid — and then a bridge-too-far conceit, in which the Mandalorians bring the massive baby raptors back to the camp to raise as foundlings. Uh-huh. I guess it's the least they could do for killing the mom, but the scene belongs in a cartoon. These are wild animals, not people.
While all this is happening, the Armorer creates for Grogu a beskar chest plate while she speaks of forging metal as a metaphor for forging young Mandalorians. While watching the sparks of the hydraulic press, Grogu has a PTSD flashback to his escape from Coruscant during the fall of the Jedi Temple, where he was rescued by a Jedi named Kelleran Beq, who is played by Jar-Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best, doing his best to redeem his place in Star Wars history with a four-minute action sequence. This Jedi character is apparently originally from an online Star Wars kids' game show, played there also by Best, which makes this one of the stranger cross-media tie-ins, even for this franchise.
Meanwhile, the Armorer has a lot to say, but conveys very little. There are lots of vague nuggets of would-be wisdom, and the reverence grows tiresome. Bo-Katan takes the Mythosaur as part of her symbol (because she saw one in the waters of Mandalore), and asks if what she saw could possibly be real. Of course, all things are possible, the Armorer replies, ending with our favorite drinking-game line, "This is the Way." Because all things are the Way. The Way is like the fortune in the cookie.
This is an episode of The Mandalorian that feels like it's reaching into its usual bag of reliable tricks, but the spell has been replaced with artifice, and it instead comes up with empty air. Empty, hot air. Less, here, is less rather than more. Let's hope for more next week, shall we?
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