November 29, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: The Mandalorian Season 2 Ep 5, "The Jedi"

 


As the title implies, this is the episode where Ahsoka Tano, the breakout character of the animated Star Wars series, Clone Wars and Rebels, was set to make her live-action debut. I more than half expected this to be a long-drawn-out tease, where we would get a glimpse of Ahsoka in the final minutes, but no. The opening minutes of this episode are eerie, fast-paced fight scenes on the forest planet Corvus, where Ahsoka is seen right away, fighting alien guards of the capital city, Catodan. Wielding her twin white lightsabers, she fights her way to the gates of the capital city, demanding information from the woman called the Magistrate. The Magistrate threatens to execute some of the townspeople, and Ahsoka gives her one day to change her mind before walking back into the fog. 

(As an aside: what the devil is happening on this planet? Bo-Katan Kryze called Corvus a "forest planet" in the previous episode, but in the next scene where Mando is bringing the Razor Crest in for a landing, it looks like half the planet is on fire. The background for the entire episode is a burnt forest, not a whole one, with stripped trees sticking out of the ground like broken toothpicks. The atmosphere is also a smoky/foggy haze, obscuring the sun. Yet nobody remarks on this?)

Mando lands his ship outside the castle/capital city, takes Baby (who has been playing with the shift knob again) and walks to Catodan. The Magistrate's right hand man, Lang, lets him in, and after Mando tries unsuccessfully to get information from some of the frightened locals, he is taken to see the Magistrate. Along the way they pass the prisoners seen earlier, who are strung up on poles and being tortured. The Magistrate is holding court in another compound inside the city (which has water and un-burnt trees) and upon seeing Mando, offers him the job of killing a troublesome Jedi. Without missing a beat, Mando plays along with this, and the Magistrate offers him a spear/staff of pure beskar for the job. 

Mando strides off into the burned-out forest outside the castle, carrying Baby slung at his side in his little pouch. (Lang asks, "What is that thing?" and again without missing a beat, Mando says, "I keep it around for luck.") They reach the specified coordinates and Mando sets Baby Yoda on a rock to look around with his spyglass. Ahsoka Tano ambushes him from behind, and they go around for a bit before Mando manages to yell her name and that Bo-Katan sent him. "We need to talk," he says.

"I hope it's about him," Ahsoka says, noticing the curious baby perched on the rock. 

Ahsoka sits communing with Baby for a while, while Mando paces nervously in the background. Finally she brings the baby and tells Mando what she discovered: that he has a name, Grogu; that he was raised at the Jedi temple in Coruscant, and was taken away and hidden during the Clone Wars (and apparently there's a gap in his memory, as we're not told who did that or how he got to where Mando found him); and she's seen only one other being like him, the Jedi Master Yoda. Ahsoka asks if he still uses the Force. Mando betrays how little he knows about the Jedi, as he refers to Baby Yoda's "powers," and Ahsoka has to explain the Force to him. Mando says he has been tasked to bring this child to the Jedi and wants Ahsoka to train him. Since Baby Grogu was tired out by Ahsoka's questioning and is nodding off, Ahsoka says she'll test him in the morning.

(All right. Grogu? Really? It's nice that Baby Yoda has a name, but that hard "g" doesn't suit him at all. Also, hearing it makes me wonder if he's Baby Groot's long-lost cousin.)

In the morning, Ahsoka tries to get Baby Grogu to show he can use the Force. She does this by sending him a rock through the air and telling him to send it back. Mando objects: "He doesn't understand," but Ahsoka says, "He does." The baby isn't listening though, just letting the rock fall to the ground, so Ahsoka tells Mando to see if he can get Grogu to cooperate. Mando steps up and pulls the shiny shift knob out of his pocket, telling Grogu to take it. The baby does--in fact, he zips it through the air to his little hands pretty damn fast. This makes Mando crow with pride: "I knew you could do it!"

Pride goeth before a fall, though, as Ahsoka next says she will not train Grogu. 

She gives a couple of reasons for this. The first is his attachment to Mando, which is obvious to anyone, with or without the Force. She notes the little one is scared, and he had to hide his powers to survive. Finally, she says that this fear, and his attachment to Mando, will lead him to the Dark Side, and she will not put this child through that.

This bears a bit of unpacking, I think. First, we all know Ahsoka is talking about Anakin Skywalker, even if Mando doesn't. Aside from that, this bit of dialogue is vague enough to allow for individual interpretations, so here's mine: Ahsoka knows that Grogu is, or will be, very strong in the Force; this baby is frightened and traumatized (understandably so, with all that has happened and been done to him); and right now, his attachment to Din Djarin is probably the only thing that's keeping him from falling to the dark path. Training Grogu would require years, and Mando can't stick around on this burning planet for years (even if he and Ahsoka would get along during the training). I think Ahsoka believes it would be more dangerous to separate the two of them, which is why she refuses. (Also, I think she can't take Grogu on right now because she has her own quest: namely, hunting down someone whose name we'll hear in a bit.)

Mando objects to this: this is the quest he has been sent on, even though we see throughout this episode that he really doesn't want to hand Grogu over. He tells Ahsoka the Magistrate sent him to kill her, and strikes a bargain: he will help Ahsoka take the Magistrate down if Grogu is trained. 

Ahsoka returns to Catodan at the end of her promised day and attacks. She cuts their huge gong, used to sound the alarm (and this planet belongs to an interstellar civilization? Really? Every time I saw the city, I kept thinking it was some kind of medieval fortress), in half with her lightsaber and confronts the Magistrate, tossing one of Mando's beskar shoulder pads on the ground and informing her the "bounty hunter" has failed. The next bit is a fantastically choreographed and shot running battle through the city, with Lang taking his guards and battle droids after Ahsoka and her cutting them down one by one, and Mando releasing the prisoners and herding all the townspeople off the streets. Finally, Ahsoka pins down the Magistrate in her garden and the two go at it on her boardwalk, with the Magistrate wielding that beskar staff that can withstand the lightsaber's blows. Outside, Lang and Mando meet in a sort of High Noon-ish pose, although they're not shooting each other yet because they're listening to Ahsoka and the Magistrate. Ahsoka finally whips the staff from the Magistrate's hand and demands the piece of information she was searching for all along: "Where is your master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?" We don't see what happens to the Magistrate, but I imagine she winds up as dead as Lang after Mando quick-draws and shoots him down. 

Afterwards, the townspeople are released, Ahsoka gives Mando the beskar staff, and he goes back to the Razor Crest to hand Baby Grogu over. The baby is sleeping in his little hammock, and for the longest time Mando just sits with him; we know, if we didn't already, that he does not want to do this. Finally, Ahsoka shows up and again states that she cannot train Grogu, noting: "You're like a father to him." She offers a compromise, telling Mando take the baby to Tython, to a ruined Jedi temple with a "seeing stone"; set Grogu there, and if he chooses he can reach out with the Force and see if there is a Jedi who will train him. Although Ahsoka isn't optimistic: "There are not many Jedi left." 

So Mando takes off, and Ahsoka Tano turns and walks back to the city. 

Whew. As I said, I've never watched the animated series and thus have never seen Ahsoka in her earlier incarnations, but this left quite the impression. If, as is rumored, she's getting her own show on Disney Plus, I would happily watch it. What this episode does, however, is drive home the fact that the heart and soul of The Mandalorian is Din Djarin and Baby Grogu. I'm sure there are confrontations with Moff Gideon to come (where's that tracking beacon?), but this episode moved both the plot and the characterizations forward. 

November 27, 2020

Review: Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild

Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild by Marjorie M. Liu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I still like this series and will continue with it, but it's getting to the point where we really need a list of Dramatis Personae and a concordance to explain the various factions. We finally get the backstory of what happened at Constantine six years ago and why Maika Halfwolf lost her arm (and exactly who Zinn is) but it's getting hard to tell the difference between the (Human?) Federation and everyone else running around trying to kill one another.

And make no mistake, this is the bloodiest of the collections so far. This series has been grimdark from the beginning, but when I finished this one, I thought I might need to wipe up the blood dripping from the pages. Even my favorite character, Kippa the fox girl, gets drawn into doing, as she puts it, "terrible things" (and I mourned the loss of the last shreds of her innocence). In that sense Maika is the perfect protagonist, as she is an unrepentant killer (even the Old God inside her, Zinn, occasionally shows remnants of a conscience and has regrets).

One note regarding the art. Sana Takeda's art is intricate and gorgeous as usual, but this time around there's even less color. It's muted browns, blacks and grays, and a lot of twilight and night panels, which befits the bleak subject matter, I suppose. Nevertheless, that kind of background sometimes makes it hard to tell individual characters apart. In particular it was difficult for me to distinguish Tuya and Maika, at least until the last scene of Chapter Twenty-Nine when I realized just which two-tailed (or rather one-tailed, since he left one tail with Kippa) cat was talking to Tuya. Again, this is why we need a Dramatis Personae list, because this cast is only getting bigger and the relationships more complicated.

Still, this is a complex, intricate world, and if you can stand the blood and gore in this one, it's a worthy continuation to the story.

View all my reviews

November 25, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Ep 6, "Scavengers"

 


This is a bit of a transitional episode. Now that Discovery has found what's left of the Federation and more or less settled in, the question is: What happens now? How will they be used by Starfleet? How will the crew fit in, and how has Michael's year alone in this new world affected her? She accepted Saru's offer to be his first officer--given her history, will she be able to live up to that? And what's going on with Georgiou? 

Three weeks have passed since Discovery came home, and the ship has now been fitted with 32nd century technology. Some of this seems pretty damn wobbly, and only there to show off the CGI and look pretty--detachable nacelles? Really? How does that even work? "Programmable matter" consoles that stretch out when the crew pulls on them like blue nanogel taffy? Bah. I'd still want my touchscreens, thank you, even if that left me a hopeless backwards Luddite. (Linus the Walking Sinus must agree with me, as a running gag throughout the episode is that he can't master his personal transporter badge and keeps popping into places he didn't mean to. One hopes he doesn't mistakenly beam inside the bulkhead.) The bridge crew, of course, geeks out with delight, especially Tilly. They are playing with their new toys when a ship hails them from outside the Federation distortion field--and the signal shows a large purring Grudge, Book's cat, pawing at the camera. 

We find out via prerecorded hologram that Book has tracked down a lead on one of the "black boxes" of starships destroyed during the Burn. Michael wants as many of those black boxes as she can get to determine what happened, and Book tells her he had gone to the planet to fetch it. He says if he doesn't return within 24 hours, his ship will seek out Michael on autopilot to tell her what's going on. This was three weeks ago, and nothing has been heard from him. 

(Just how Book knew where to send his ship, since the secret coordinates were supposedly only in Adira Tal's memory, is left as a gargantuan exercise in plot holes for the viewer.)

Of course, Michael immediately wants to go haring off after him. Saru slaps her down, and for good reason: during his first briefing with his fellow Starfleet captains, he discovers that Starfleet's hold on its planets and territory is far more fragile and tenuous than anyone knew, and the Andorian/Orion criminal syndicate, the Emerald Chain, is shaping up to be quite dangerous. (And during this meeting, in a touching nod I'm not sure got noticed, one of the other ships is named the Le Guin.) Now that Discovery's refit is finished, Admiral Vance has ordered him to be on standby, ready to jump into the middle of a possible situation on the planet Argeth at a moment's notice. So Saru orders her to keep preparing the crew for that possibility.

Naturally, in a callback to a certain captain's "The answer is no. I am therefore going anyway," Michael goes to Philippa the Merciless and asks her to go on an "unsanctioned mission." Georgiou points out that she is essentially cutting Saru's legs out from under him, which gives Michael not a minute's pause. (Honestly, Michael doesn't come off too well in this episode.) Georgiou doesn't care, of course--as she says, "You had me at 'unsanctioned mission.' " So the two of them take off in Book's ship. On the way there Philippa teases Michael unmercifully about her feelings for Book, which Michael denies way too strenuously. But Philippa also goes into another of her fugue states, in which we see a flash of a bloody knife, see her hands drenched with blood, and hear her moan someone's name: "San." Michael tries to ask her what's going on, but Georgiou refuses to talk about it. They arrive at the planet, and the avatar of its Orion administrator, Tolor, shows up on the bridge, and Georgiou relieves her frustrations by ripping the poor guy a new one (or I would say "poor," but he's later shown to be a murderous tyrant). She says she has dilithium to sell, and she and Michael go down to the planet and its combination mining operation and junkyard bazaar, pretending to search for odd pre-2400 parts while looking for Book. 

Michael's absence is eventually discovered by Sylvia Tilly, in a delightful little scene where she goes to Michael's quarters and finds only one huge cat. Despite Tilly's protestation that she's "not a cat person," Grudge walks all over her. (That cat really is big. She's got to weigh at least thirty pounds, from the looks of her.) Later, in engineering, while Tilly is playing with her new badge's projection abilities, Saru corners her and asks her if she knows where Michael has gone. He realized as soon as she came up absent what she is probably doing. (Which makes me wonder why he didn't impound Book's ship or something, since he surely could have predicted that Michael would take off in it. Maybe he was hoping against hope that she wouldn't pull the same sort of stunt that she did on the Shenzou [at the beginning of Season 1] again? But he must suspect that Michael hasn't changed, and in fact, her year alone in the future has made her even less likely to respect the chain of command. Which also makes me wonder why he asked her to be his Number One in the first place....) Tilly gives him an insightful piece of advice: he should be the one to tell Admiral Vance what Michael has done, as Discovery still has to prove themselves and it will reflect badly on them if the Admiral finds out from anyone else. Saru agrees. (This is a very nice scene.)

Back on the planet, Georgiou and Michael find Book. He's been made a slave in the mine/junkyard, along with many others. The one the episode focuses on is Ryn, an Andorian who tried to stand up to the planet's crime boss, Tolor's aunt Oryssa, and got his antennae hacked off for his trouble. The slaves are kept under control by an implant in the backs of their necks that triggers the perimeter fence and chops their heads off if they try to escape, as shown in a rather gruesome demonstration the sadist Tolor puts on for Georgiou's benefit. While Georgiou stalls and haggles, Michael and Book are reunited and come up with a plan. Georgiou jury-rigs a controller to take out the fence, and she and Michael let themselves be captured by Tolor in order to be taken to the control room. Meanwhile, Book arranges a distraction in the form of the slaves pretending to rush the fence. Michael, Tolor and Georgiou fight, and Philippa goes into one of her "states" in the worst possible moment. She recovers in time to grab the controller and power down the fence, and everyone rushes to escape--Georgiou and Michael to Book's ship, and the other prisoners to a transport just outside the perimeter. Ryn is shot protecting Book as they rush across the junkyard, and Michael beams them aboard. (I expected him to die, but they get him back to Discovery and manage to save him.) They also use Book's ship to mow down all of Oryssa's personnel and blow up the complex, in a bit of calculated murderousness which perfectly fits Georgiou's character but was more than a little appalling coming from the show's purported star, Michael Burnham. (I would make a bet that this doesn't get mentioned again or dealt with, and it absolutely should be.) Michael also insists that Georgiou tell her "what happened down there," and Philippa admits that these flashbacks, or whatever they are, have been happening for a couple of weeks and are getting worse. (Were they triggered by her interrogation in the previous episode somehow?) Michael asks why Georgiou didn't come to her, saying they're not in the Terran Empire anymore and a vulnerability isn't a death sentence, and tells the Emperor she can trust her. Georgiou rejects this, saying Mirror Michael said much the same thing, and it was a lie. 

Back on board Discovery, Michael has to face the music. On the way to meet Admiral Vance, Book stops the turbolift so he can thank Michael for saving his life, and they start kissing. (Following a brief interruption by Linus, popping into the turbolift on his way to the science lab. I rather imagine those turbolifts are going to get a bit rusty, as no one will need to use them anymore....) Admiral Vance reads her the riot act, saying the only reason she's not in the brig is because she saved lives, and leaves her ultimate punishment up to Saru. In a rare Star Trek instance of someone's defying direct orders and suffering consequences (at least someone in the opening credits), Saru relieves her of First Officer duties and busts her back down to science officer. For whatever it's worth, Michael tells him he did the right thing. 

This bit of heaviness is offset by a delightful B-plot: we see more of Adira Tal and her ghost-lover, Gray, and get some more Adira-Stamets bonding. Stamets is complaining about the refit and how it's completely upset his engine room, and Adira shows him how she's changed the spore drive interface (turning it into more of that icky nanogel taffy) to make it easier for him to operate. Later, Adira is sitting in the mess hall eating and talking to the invisible Gray, and Stamets notices. He sits with her and gets her to open up about what's going on, saying that because of what happened with him and Hugh, he believes her. After this, Stamets and Hugh are discussing it in their quarters, and Stamets say that because he never thought he'd meet another person who had the same experience he did, loving someone who died and came back, he wants to help Adira. These are more nicely written and well-acted scenes.

So now we've got an uneasy status quo re: Discovery and Starfleet, and Michael at a bit of a crossroads: what's she going to do now? I think it's a fair bet that whatever's going on with Georgiou will figure heavily into this. This episode isn't as good as the previous "Forget Me Not," but so far, the level of quality for this season has definitely been raised. 



November 22, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: The Mandalorian Season 2 Ep 4, "The Siege"

 

 

 The Mandalorian's sweet spot for episode length is 30-40 minutes, seems like. Which is okay, as this show doesn't have--or doesn't yet have--the depth of themes and character found in some other shows I watch (particularly The Expanse and Star Trek: Picard). Again, this is fine: bright, cheery and occasionally mindless is fun too. But when you get action-heavy episodes like this one, you wish--or at least I do--that they would slow down just a bit, to let the show breathe and the characters reflect. 

This picks up right after the ending of episode 3, with Mando now knowing where to take Baby Yoda...except that he can't get there, as the Razor Crest is still broken down. The opening scene is quite funny, with Mando trying to fix the hyperdrive and even utilizing the baby, who has wiggled into a small compartment and is attempting to follow Daddy's instructions to "insert the red wire where the blue wire was, and the blue wire where the red wire was, and don't let them touch." (This must be a major jury-rigging of the system, since I can't imagine that the ship would have been designed so that such a crucial component could only be reached by a tiny green Yodaling.) Baby lets them touch, of course, and sparks fly and smoke drifts out of the compartment (don't worry, he's okay). After this Mando stops for lunch--soup--and tells Baby Yoda the ship must be repaired and they're going to Nevarro. This is another sweet scene, as baby is carefully watching Daddy and lifting his  cup to drink at the same time Mando drinks his. 

They limp back to Nevarro (and there must be some more time dilation going on here, as I got the impression that several months had passed), to find that Greef Carga and Cara Dune, from last season, are running the place now. Cara Dune is the Marshal and has cleaned up the most of the planet, as shown by the scene where she quite ably kicks the asses of several ugly growly aliens who have stolen something. She also rescues a little chittering critter they were about to eat that looks like a cross between a rat, an otter and a mongoose.

Mando lands the poor battered Razor Crest (he can't even get the off ramp to drop all the way down and has to jump off it), and Greef Carga gets his mechanics started on fixing it. He and Cara take Mando on a tour of the cleaned-up town, and stop at someplace I don't think has been shown in Star Wars before: a school, helmed by a protocol droid. They drop Baby Yoda off there, as both Greef and Cara want Mando's help with something. 

(Baby Yoda is really too young to be in school, but he's distracted by the bright blue macaroon cookies the student sitting next to him is eating. He waves his little hand and asks for a cookie, but the student turns him down. He waits a minute, until the student is distracted by the lesson, and uses the Force to drag the cookie sleeve off the other's desk and to his own, and when the other student looks around, baby is happily munching on his stolen cookies.)

This "something" turns out to be a mission to shut down an old Imperial base, supposedly staffed by a skeleton crew.  (This falls into the now-predictable series pattern of "Mando is talked or coerced into doing something dangerous before he can proceed to the next stop on his quest," which is okay, I suppose.) The group--Cara, Greeg and Mando, plus a fourth: Mythrol, the bright blue amphibian-creature Mando dragged back for a bounty in the very first episode of the series--set off in Mythrol's landspeeder. 

They reach the base, only to discover (of course) it's not quite as abandoned as Greef Carga thought. They slink through the hallways and finally reach the reactor, only to find it perched on the cliff above a lava pool with no guardrails. (Obviously OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, does not exist in the Star Wars universe.) Greef Carga bullies Mythrol into going out on the catwalk and sabotaging it, which he does. Then they run to get out of there before the reactor explodes and the base falls into the lava, only to stumble across a room where two people are frantically trying to wipe all records from a computer. 

This is the point of this episode, as the base was not hiding an armory as Greef thought, but a lab. A lab containing the twisted, mutated bodies of several beings floating in stasis. Cara insists that Mythrol break into the computer to find out what is going on. He does, and finds a message recorded only three days before, from the same scientist who was shown to be doing something to Baby Yoda in Season 1: using the baby's blood, with its high "M-count" (presumably midichlorians), in experimental transfusions to create....something. Which evidently didn't work, as the test subjects died and the scientist didn't have access to any more blood. This message was sent to Moff Gideon, who everyone had thought was dead. 

But Moff Gideon isn't dead, and Mando realizes he is in deep, deep shit. The four of them fight their way out; Mando to flies off with his jetpack to Baby Yoda, and Greef, Cara and Mythrol hijack a vehicle and lead first three Stormtroopers on speeder bikes and then four TIE fighters on a merry chase. (This is a slam-bang action sequence, by the way, tightly directed by Carl Weathers [who also plays Greef Carga]. I don't know if he's directed anything before, but he did a good job with this.) They do their best to outrun and shoot down their pursuers, but they're outnumbered--that is, until the Razor Crest swoops in and blasts the last three TIE fighters into fragments. This involves a great deal of spinning and swooping, with Baby Yoda cheering Daddy on and excitedly waving his cookies. (The Razor Crest's cockpit must have some helluva artificial gravity, as the neither Mando or Baby Yoda are belted in, but they're not thrown around or battered into mush during all of those fancy maneuvers.) As the last fighter falls in pieces to Nevarro's surface, Mando looks around in triumph--and Baby Yoda, made sick by all the spinning, promptly vomits. (And Mando has nothing to mop it up with except his cape. I wonder how he does laundry?)

After this, knowing he has to hide from Moff Gideon, Mando takes off. The last two scenes are on Nevarro: Captain Teva, the New Republic officer from two episodes ago, comes to question Greef Carga about the destruction of the base. Neither Greef nor Cara Dune gives Mando up, of course. Teva also talks to Cara, in a nice little scene that shows that Cara, as a refugee from Alderaan who "lost everyone," wants nothing to do with the New Republic, at least for now. 

But we're not quite done yet. The final scene shifts to a Star Destroyer, and we see the very much alive Moff Gideon. He gets a report from a spy on Nevarro--one of Greef Carga's mechanics--who informs him that the tracking device has been placed on the Razor Crest, and Mando does indeed still have "the asset." The camera pulls back to show Moff Gideon presiding over a hold full of--what? beings, perhaps clones, wearing black, very Darth Vader-looking armor? In any event, we know that Mando is now headed to find Ahsoka Tano, and Moff Gideon won't be far behind.

This episode definitely moved the plot along and ramped up the stakes. I can't fault it for that, but I still feel the show needs to delve into its characters a bit more, particularly given the bombshell dropped on Mando in the last episode. We need to see how he deals with that, or I'm going to be grumbling at Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.


Magazine Roundup: Clarkesworld Issue 166, July 2020

 

 cover

  

Clarkesworld Issue 166 by Neil Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This issue has three really good stories, and the non-fiction section offers an interesting article about the human genome.

"Artificial People," Michael Swanwick

A nice character study of an artificial person and his relationship with his creator. This unfolds over decades because at first Raphael is considered "property" and is switched off for updates or just because his creator, Dr. Leonidas Erdmann, feels like it. Raphael is given no choice in the matter. But after Dr. Erdmann dies and his freedom is granted, Raphael takes steps to live his life the way he wants.

Grade: A

"One Time, a Reluctant Traveler," A.T. Greenblatt

My favorite story in this issue. This is a post-apocalyptic tale of sorts, perhaps a post-climate-catastrophe or post-pandemic, as there seem to be few humans left and bots to take the place of species that are apparently extinct. The worldbuilding is a bit vague, and that's deliberate on the part of the author, as the theme of this is the power of stories. The stories passed down to the unnamed narrator are bleak and depressing, and the protagonist's final epiphany is the realization that they don't have to give in to that pessimism; they can choose what their story will become.

Grade: A

"Three Stories Conjured From Nothing," Shakespace, translated by Andy Dudak

This story's title is apropos, because I didn't care for it at all. The settings didn't make sense and the three stories (not really stories, just fragments) had nothing to do with one another.

Grade: D-

"Power To Yield," Bogi Takacs

This had some fairly clever worldbuilding, but I couldn't really connect with the main character, which kind of made the whole thing moot.

Grade: C

"Strange Comfort," Tegan Moore

More clever world building and a hard SF premise, with the main character working at a research lab ten miles below the surface of the ocean of Europa. This started out well but turned into a real downer, and the ending didn't help.

Grade: C-

"The Oddish Gesture of Humans," Gabriel Calacia

A cute story about aliens trying to interpret a culture gesture of humans (in this case, kissing).

Grade: B+

"The House That Leapt Into Forever," Beth Goder

This starts out a little reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," about a sentient house carefully maintaining its rooms and its one remaining inhabitant. Except we slowly come to realize the "house" isn't a house, and the house is on this barren moon for a reason, and its remaining inhabitant, Doom-May-Come, is not as benevolent as they seem. This very short story drips with atmosphere and creates a wonderful sense of creeping dread, turning into horror, in just over three pages. Well done.

Grade: A

Honorable Mention: "The Human Genome Disparity," Douglas F. Dluzen

The author, an Assistant Professor of Biology at Baltimore's Morgan State University, tackles the problem of BIPOC underrepresentation in human genome research. This gets a little bit into the weeds, but it's quite interesting.

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November 21, 2020

Review: Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did like this, but I didn't think it was outstanding.

This is a young, inexperienced Wonder Woman reimagined for our era. Diana of Themyscira is celebrating her 16th "born day" when word comes that people have broken through the magical shield barrier separating the island from the outside world. (There are sometimes "holes" in the barrier that have to be fixed, and when outsiders come through them and see the Amazons, they are given a "tea of forgetting" and sent on their way.) This time, there is a storm outside, and refugees caught in it crying for help, and Diana cannot stand by and let them drown. She dives into the ocean to save them, and while she is trying to pull the rafts full of people to safety the barrier is fixed and the island removed from the spot where it met our world--and Diana is left behind. (And neither General Antiope or her mother come after her? This seems a bit...unlikely, although Diana explains later that the island and its surrounding waters, due to the magical barrier, floats interdimensionally from place to place.)

She ends up in a refugee camp on a Greek island. A couple of United Nations aid workers notice her incredible facility with languages, and before long she's on her way to New York on a student visa, where she's placed with a Polish family (in the borough of Queens, which name Diana approves of). The family's daughter's name is Raissa, and Raissa works with other neighborhood groups to feed the local schoolchildren lunch during the summer. Raissa recruits Diana to help her, and gradually the two become friends. 

This is the story of Diana Prince finding her way and her place in a strange world. Along the way, the author deals with the plight of refugees and gentrification, and creates a rather unpleasant subplot of child sex trafficking. At first Diana, thinking she must leave the past behind, puts aside her Lasso of Truth and her gold bracelets, but later on, as she comes to understand the good she can do here as an Amazon, she takes them up again. The book ends with Diana still vowing to find Themyscira again, but until then, she has a home in "the Outside."

This presents a fresh view of Wonder Woman, awkward and unsure of herself and struggling to find her place in the world. The only reason I'm not rating it higher is because the art is just so-so. In particular, the artist doesn't seem to be very good with faces. But this graphic novel has a nice storyline, and its target audience should love it. 

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November 20, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Ep 5, "Die Trying"



 

Following last week's excellent Discovery character study, this episode brings us back to the plot. Discovery follows the coordinates given them by Adira Tal, bringing them to what remains of the Federation. As I wrote in my notes: "Discovery finds Starfleet, and finds a remote, paranoid bunch who doesn't know what to do with them."

Which is understandable, after 930 years and the civilization-destroying chaos of the Burn. Still, it's a bit sad and discouraging to see how they are treated, especially given the infectious enthusiasm shown by the crew as they arrive at Federation headquarters. It's behind a protective distortion field, and as the ship penetrates it we're given a tour of what the fleet looks like these days: There's a Voyager-J, and in a touching tribute to the Ferengi character from Deep Space Nine and the late actor who played him, the USS Nog. There's also a "flying rain forest," Tilly announces excitedly, almost jumping up and down; and ships with detachable nacelles and organic hulls. Saru, Burnham and Adira Tal are beamed aboard the center station. They meet Admiral Vance, Starfleet commander, who comes across as a skeptical, stuffed-shirt sort of fellow. He informs them the crew must be debriefed, and we're given snippets of the debriefing with various characters. Most of this is wacky as all get-out, especially with Hugh Culber's trying to explain to the embodied AIs doing the debriefing how he was murdered and got better. The great Tig Notaro is back as Jett Reno, and she's hilarious. Nhan just recites her name, rank and serial number, daring the AI interrogating her to do something about it. At the end of the debrief, Admiral Vance says he still doesn't trust that they're not pirates or members of the Emerald Chain, an Andorian/Orion crime syndicate (especially since Discovery was reported destroyed in 2258, which we were shown at the end of the second season) and he proposes requisitioning the ship and breaking up the crew. 

(A side plot: the Empress Georgiou is also debriefed, first by the AIs and then by a character played by horror director David Cronenberg, of all people, and it is made clear that they know she is from the Mirror Universe. Georgiou bats her over-the-top false eyelashes at the AIs in a pattern that disrupts and fragments them into nothingness, and David Cronenberg's character, named Kovich according to Imbd, is left to carry on. He informs Georgiou that the Terran Empire also fell, and the Mirror Universe has separated from this one to the point that no one has crossed over in five hundred years. Normally no one rattles Philippa the Merciless, but this guy succeeds in doing so, as we see later when Michael tries to talk to her in the hallway and she is just standing there staring into space. Something is going on with her, and I expect we will find out what it is.)

This doesn't set well with Michael Burnham, who sees a way to prove themselves: a race called the Kili has refugees onboard the station, and they are dying from a mysterious illness. Turns out on their way here, they visited a planet that was irradiated centuries ago, and ate native plants that infected them with brain-destroying prions. But there is a Federation seed vault in a nearby sector, carrying plants harvested from said planet before their mutation, and an antidote can be made from those. However, it's too far away and there isn't enough dilithium to get there...except, you know, the new ship on the block has its own Magical Mystery Tour...err, Magical Mushroom Drive. At first, Admiral Vance is going to download Discovery's specs and send a crew of his own on the mission, but Michael points out they are under a severe time constraint (four hours before the Kili are beyond help) and they don't have time to teach a new crew to operate a thousand-year-old ship. So the Admiral grants her permission to take Discovery and go (with his security chief on board to monitor, and leaving Saru behind essentially as a hostage). 

Discovery jumps to the seed vault's last known position, to find it caught in the middle of an ion storm. After some fancy footwork and piloting from Tilly, Owosekun and Detmer, the seed vault is hauled out by Discovery's tractor beam, and Burnham, Culber and Nhan (who is chosen after Burnham discovers the last people taking their turn to guard the vault were Barzan, Nhan's species) beam aboard. They discover the Barzan family....or rather, what remains of the family, as the mother and two daughters are in stasis, unfortunately dead; and the father, who attacks Michael as she tries to get into the inner seed vault and find what they came there for, seems to be "out of phase," flickering in and out of reality. The crew brainstorm as to what might have caused this, and it falls to the trio of Stamets, Reno and Tilly to figure out that the seed vault was near a star that suffered a coronal mass ejection. The resultant radiation killed the family, and since the father, Dr. Attis, was in the midst of beaming into the inner vault when the wave swept across the ship, he was thrown out of phase and has been haunting the vault ever since. 

(This scene is hilarious, by the way. The three of them bicker and needle each other and work together wonderfully. "Your relationship isn't very professional," remarks Lieutenant Willa, the Starfleet person assigned to watch them. 

"It's how we work," says Stamets.

"I've been trying to raise the bar," mutters Reno.

After the technobabble that solves the problem: 

"Dysfunction is the team," bubbles Tilly.

"We've just accepted it," Stamets pronounces. 

"No we haven't," mutters Reno.

These three ought to take it on the road.)

Dr. Attis is brought back into phase, and it falls to Michael to talk to him and convince him that while nothing can be done for his family, finding the unmutated seeds will help others. He locates the seeds and then refuses to leave the vault and his family behind, though it will mean his death. Burnham has to take Discovery back to Starfleet, but she doesn't want to abandon the seed vault and its living history; so Nhan volunteers to stay.

(I really didn't like that plot twist, however. The scene is touching and well written, but it seems like we learn something about the bridge crew or other side characters only when they're written out. It happened with Airiam, the cyborg who was killed off last season, and it happened to Nhan, although admittedly she had a few more lines and scenes than Airiam--she was fighting at Empress Georgiou's side during the second season climax, for example. But that's an unwelcome trend I wish they would stop. I want to learn about the entire bridge crew--Detmer and Owosekun, Bryce and Rhys, and even Linus the Walking Six Snotty Sinuses--without them having one episode where their pasts and/or their cultures are revealed and they're never seen again.)

After Discovery brings the seeds back and the Kili are cured, Admiral Vance gives in and says he will keep the crew together. Burnham pumps him about the cause of the Burn--he says there are many theories, but no one knows. The episode ends with Burnham and Saru on Discovery, looking out at the Federation's woefully small flotilla of ships, and musing that they, carrying the banner of Starfleet's past, can bring hope to its future. Saru is still holding on to Starfleet's ideals, while Michael says that the Federation is its people. 

This episode had a nice furthering of the plot, while making clear that Starfleet and the Federation is a shell of its former self. I suspect Discovery's relationship with it will be uneasy and unsettled for some time to come. 

November 18, 2020

Review: A Killing Frost

A Killing Frost A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fourteenth book in the October Daye series has the author's trademark layering of plot--in this case, a (seemingly) throwaway character from a couple of books ago is suddenly brought to the forefront and shown to be something that will shake the world to its core, going forward. I'm getting used to Seanan McGuire pulling an apparent unrelated rabbit out of a hat only to remember that it was in fact seeded into the story some time ago, but this plot twist was still genuinely surprising. Because of it, the series is reinvented yet again, and it's going to be interesting to see what the author makes of it in the next book.

Toby has to go on an unexpected, unwanted quest, to find her estranged and bespelled Faerie father, Simon Torquill. Due to an obscure Faerie rule she was never told about, she has to invite Simon to her wedding, or he can claim insult on her later. In addition, the daughter of one of her friends, who has precognitive dreams, tells her she has to find Simon or people will die. So Toby sets off, on a journey where she sheds blood and slices away even more of her humanity, where she rescues Simon and drags the Luidaeg (the best character in the series) into her troubles, and somehow manages to stumble onto the solution that will save the day for her and Simon...but will create all sorts of complications for everyone else.

This layered worldbuilding and characterization is a large part of why this series still feels fresh, fourteen books and eleven years on. I believe I saw a tweet from the author that there are at least two more books to come. I will be happy to read them.

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November 17, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Ep 4, "Forget Me Not"



 

Three episodes into this season, Discovery needed to hit the pause button. The crew traveled 930 years into the future to save all life in the universe, leaving their friends and loved ones behind. In the time it took them to navigate the wormhole, everything they knew and loved was gone. They emerged on the other side in a strange new world, where there was a galaxy-wide natural (maybe) disaster, the Federation had fallen, and the galaxy was now a scattered, fragmented, Wild West sort of place. Needless to say, there were a lot of feelings about this among the crew, and they needed to be dealt with. 

This is the episode that does that. 

There is some plot movement here, but this episode mostly dwells on the characters. The strength of this ensemble cast is on full display, and nearly everyone has moments to shine. There is plenty of conflict, and there are fights and flaring tempers, and they all make their way through it and out the other side, where if they're not yet healed, the process has begun.

So far, it's the best episode of the season. 

There are two storylines here. In the first, we deal with new character Adira, who has just been revealed to be hosting the Trill symbiont that used to belong to Admiral Senna Tal, whose twelve-year-old message Michael Burnham intercepted. A human hosting a Trill is unprecedented, and Dr. Culber suggests that she travel to Trill to see what they can do for her. Adira agrees--she states she can't live this way, not having her memories (as she says, she can suddenly speak seven languages, which must be a bit unnerving). She wants to go to Trill, and Saru agrees. Originally, Culber was supposed to accompany her, but he visits Burnham and asks her to take his place. (In one of many fine small touches in this episode, Burnham's new quarters display little trinkets, presumably acquired during her year in the future before Discovery arrived, proclaiming this space as her home.) Culber calls Burnham a "responsibility hoarder," and truer words have never been spoken, at least as far as this character is concerned. (This is also a very nice scene with Culber and Burnham.) Burnham goes to Adira to propose that she accompany her, and Adira agrees. 

(I'm also impressed with Blu del Barrio's performance in this episode. I think I read somewhere that it is their first major acting job? That seems incredible.)

Burnham and Adira take Discovery's shuttle down to the Trill homeworld, where they're met by several high-ranking Trill eager to see them--until they realize the host is a human. One of them, Xi, asks her to "state your names"--a ritual whereby the previous hosts are revealed. Of course, Adira can't do that. The Trill are scandalized that a human has a symbiont (despite the fact that with the demise of warp travel, the Trill are scattered across the galaxy and there aren't enough of them left on the home planet to host the symbionts), calling Adira an abomination, and Burnham and Adira are ordered to leave the planet. One of the Trill who angrily proposed forcibly separating Adira and her symbiont ambush them on the way back to the shuttle, and Burnham has to fight the ambushers off. Xi, the Trill who was most sympathetic to Adira's plight (he'd stated that "she is our future" and urged his colleagues to let her go to the Trill's sacred pools), takes them to the Trill caves underground, where the unhosted symbionts live. There, he explains what Adira has to do--wade into one of the pools and be put into a trance, where hopefully she can connect with her symbiont and unlock its memories.  

Adira wades into the pool and begins the process, only to start thrashing in the water. Abruptly, she sinks. At the same time, the other Trill who rejected her come storming into the cave. Burnham, demanding that someone get Adira before she drowns, is put into the same trance (which is more than a little handwavey, but never mind), and she pops into the shared mindspace where Adira is wandering--a wide, empty space populated by hundreds of rainbow-colored threads. When Adira and Burnham meet, she says the threads keep reaching for her, and Michael figures out it is the symbiont, attempting to connect with her. She persuades Adira to stand still and let the connection take place, and the story of what happened to her is gradually revealed. 

So we come to find out that Adira was never meant to host the symbiont. Instead, it was her lover, Gray, who was together with Adira aboard a generation ship trying to find Starfleet headquarters, who originally received it. (I'm not quite sure how Starfleet Admiral Senna Tal happened to run across, or be aboard, this generation ship? That was never explained, other then I remember someone saying "he died in an accident two years ago.") Adira and Gray's entire love story was told in only a few scenes in this episode. After receiving the symbiont, Gray begins playing the cello; he and Adira discuss what it means to have several different identities take up residence in your mind; and Adira gives him a "memory quilt" she stitched with squares telling the story of their relationship. Then a space rock smashes into the hull of the generation ship, causing a breach and skewering Gray with a fragment. The symbiont is okay, but Gray is dying--and Adira volunteers to host it. (Which, with all their near-millennium advances in medical technology, they couldn't save him? That grated on me a bit.)

Once Adira remembers and accepts what happened, all of Tal's previous hosts appear in their shared mindspace, revealing themselves to her and accepting her. Burnham and Adira return to the real world and climb out of the pool, and Xi repeats the ritual once again: "State your names." This time Adira is able to do so, naming all of them and ending with herself: "Adira Tal." Faced with this evidence of a successful joining, the Trill finally accept her. They offer her a chance to stay on the planet, but she refuses, saying she believes she is supposed to go with Discovery. Back on board the ship, she gives Burnham the coordinates to where Starfleet Headquarters is now. Burnham leaves, and Adira picks up a (presumably replicated) cello and starts playing it. A voice says, "Your bowing needs work," and we see Gray, aboard Discovery with her. It's still unclear how she can see and hear him or exactly what's going on, but there he is. 

The second storyline involves the newly-minted Captain Saru knowing his crew needs help, and recruiting Doctor Culber to give him a report on the crew's mental state. Which, unsurprisingly, is not good: their stress levels are "off the charts." In fact, the very good opening scene of the episode is Culber visiting all the crew one by one and evaluating their physical and mental health: "they feel lost and disconnected," he reports in the voiceover. (Detmer, in particular, refuses to talk to him. In another scene, Saru goes to see Stamets and Tilly in engineering, trying to impress upon Stamets the need for a backup, since currently he is the only person who can hook into Discovery's spore drive. Stamets is a nasty little prick in this scene, lashing out at Tilly when she suggests using a dark matter interface.) He relays all this to Saru, who then consults Discovery's computer, trying to figure out what steps to take. (Here, also, we see the first indication that the sphere data is merging with Discovery's computer, a process which was shown to result in a fully sentient AI in the Short Treks episode "Calypso.") The computer suggests a shared meal with the bridge crew. 

Saru sets this up and invites the bridge crew to his quarters (and Philippa Georgiou for some reason, but hey, more Michelle Yeoh is always welcome). At first the meal goes well, with Saru praising the crew for the choice they made to come to the future, but soon the tensions rise to the surface. Georgiou starts a silly round-robin haiku, and when it gets to Detmer her PTSD takes hold and everything spills out. She rages at Stamets for not recognizing that she was the one who piloted Discovery through the wormhole, they fight, Tilly tries to smooth things over, and Detmer storms off. One by one, the rest of the bridge crew follow, ending with Georgiou who of course has to have the last word: "At least the wine was good." 

Saru sits in his quarters for a while, lamenting his ruined dinner, and Tilly returns to talk to him. "Captain Pike made connecting with the crew seem so effortless," he says. Tilly reminds him "we made a decision together, and are living with it together," and she praises his effort. (Tilly and Saru are developing quite a nice relationship.) Then Stamets comes back and apologizes to Tilly (which he really needed to do). In the medbay, Detmer seeks out Culber and says she'll take him up on his offer to talk. 

Then an announcement comes over the comm for all available crew to report to the shuttle bay "for a surprise." There, following the suggestion of Discovery's computer, Saru is showing an old Buster Keaton movie. (Which--what? An alien sphere picked up ancient Earth television broadcasts? Never underestimate the power of films in the public domain.) This is the sort of silly pratfall comedy that I've never liked, but the Discovery crew is laughing uproariously over it. Hell, even Georgiou accepts a huge tub of popcorn. At the back of the room, Saru and Culber discuss what is essentially a theraputical release, and Culber says, "We all had to stop pretending we were fine first." 

This was a wonderful and necessary episode: everyone had to stop and process what had happened and figure out a way forward. The character moments are excellent, and the performances are sparkling. At the end, we get the sense that yes, there have been and will be some bumps along the way, but the crew is pulling together. It's nice to see, and shows once again that the showrunners' decison to take Discovery into the future is the best one they could have made. 

November 15, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: The Mandalorian Season 2 Ep 3, "The Heiress"



 

This episode was good in that it was fast-paced and moved the plot forward, but bad in that it was only 36 minutes and didn't give the viewer (or the characters) time to absorb what was revealed. It was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, the second episode she's done for the series, and the episode as a whole was definitely an improvement over the first one she did. It flowed well and was edited well, and the shots and cinematography were better. I just wish it had five or ten more minutes, and maybe a couple of scenes, added to the runtime to let the myriad reveals soak in. 

Furthermore, a couple of those reveals didn't make much sense unless you've also watched the animated series Star Wars: Rebels  and Clone Wars. Which I haven't. I only realized why the Star Wars geeks were jumping up and down over mention of a particular name after reading other reviews. That's fine--I presume I'll learn about that person when they finally make their appearance. Still, I think it would behoove showrunners Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau to remember that not all viewers of The Mandalorian have watched every single thing that came before.

At any rate, this episode picks up right on the heels of the last, with the poor battered Razor Crest finally limping in to the water world Trask. After a hairy manual dive to the floating spacedock, Mando delivers Frog Lady to her husband in a touching reunion. (And also after Mando sets down on the dock, pronouncing the landing "nice and easy," the ship promptly falls off the edge into the water. [Good thing that cockpit was pressurized and waterproof.] A modified AT-AT walker, the same kind seen in The Empire Strikes Back, had to pluck the poor kelp-draped ship out of the ocean. I rather like these reminders that at least half the time, our hero Mandalorian is a hapless fuckup.) He's directed to a dockside tavern--and in the background, we see a mysterious woman watching him and then disappearing--where he orders a bowl of chowder for Baby Yoda and asks the server where to find more of his kind. Baby Yoda's bowl of food is delivered from a thick tube snaking out of the ceiling, and our favorite foundling picks up his spoon and leans over it, ready to dig in--and out of the thick gloppy liquid comes a miniature squid thing to attach to his face, a la Alien. Which only elicits one comment from Dadalorian: "Don't play with your food," as he plucks the thing off baby's face and drops it back in the bowl. 



(Sorry, that's a little bit crooked--I made it with Windows Snipping Tool.)

(This episode was written by Jon Favreau, as were the first two episodes of the season. I love his flashes of dry humor.)

In response to Mando's inquiry, a tentacle-faced being that looks like a descendent of Cthulhu comes over and says he can lead Mando to other Mandalorians. Before I had a chance to say "OH MANDO NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING," we cut to Mando and baby on board a ship. The tentacle-faced species, called the Quarren on my closed captioning, ask Mando, "Ever see a mamacore eat?" as they open up a watery hold in the ship's center. He pushes Mando to let Baby Yoda watch, saying "the kid'll like it," as he lowers a net and dumps some fish into the hold. Baby Yoda's pram floats close to the edge and he leans over to watch--and the Quarren kicks the pram over the edge as the beast inside comes up to feed (although we see baby quickly press the button to close the pram's hatch). The huge beastie inside swallows Baby Yoda whole, and Mando dives in after him. 

The Quarren quickly close the bars over the hold, revealing this was a plot to drown Mando and take his armor. They seem well on their way to doing just that, as Mando tries to surface in the narrow band of air under the bars only for the Quarren to poke at him with harpoons to push him back down. But they're interrupted by the sight of three Mandalorians jetting to the deck and kicking the Quarren's asses. They open the hold and haul Mando out, and after he chokes out, "Help the child," one of them dives in to rescue baby. She pulls Baby Yoda and his somewhat crunched pram out of the water, and gives him back to Mando. 

Mando says he has been looking for other Mandalorians because he has been tasked to deliver the child to its kind, and the lead Mandalorian takes her helmet off, to reveal a redheaded Katee Sackhoff (formerly Starbuck on the Battlestar Galactica reboot). Of course this offends Mando, who jumps to his feet, demanding "Where did you get that armor?" 

"It's been in my family for three generations," she replies, naming herself Bo-Katan Kryze, and them proclaims him a "Child of the Watch," a member of a splinter fundamentalist Mandalorian faction. Now this is what I mean about this episode needing some more time to breathe, as this is the sort of revelation that would have shaken Mando to the core, and he should have had some time to process it (and at the very least, ask Bo-Katan a helluva lot more questions). He does seem to be upset, as he immediately jets off. The three non-Watch Mandalorians blow up the fishing ship and follow. 

Which is a good thing, as after Mando reaches the dock he's attacked by relatives of the fallen Quarren and Bo-Katan and her companions have to rescue him again. Bo says she can give him the name and location of a Jedi if he helps them out with their mission--stealing weapons from a freighter soon to lift off. Mando agrees, and drops Baby Yoda off with Mr. and Mrs. Frog, giving him strict instructions to "be respectful and mind your manners" (i.e., don't eat any more of the Frog couple's eggs). 

The remainder of the episode is given over to the Mandalorians' assault on the freighter. It's tightly written and shot, and again may I say that Bryce Dallas Howard does an excellent job directing it. The four Mandalorians pretty much mow down all the Stormtroopers on board, even opening up a cargo hatch and spacing a bunch of them after they're unwisely trapped in the "cargo control area." In the middle of the fight, Bo-Katan reveals she left out a few salient facts about her description of the original mission--she's not just going to hijack some of the weapons, she's going to commandeer the ship itself. (Mando objects, but she informs him the terms have changed, smugly repeating the Mandalorian creed: "This is the Way.") At that point the captain, realizing his goose is probably cooked, makes contact with someone asking for backup--and we see it's our good friend Moff Gideon from Season 1. The Moff denies the backup and orders the captain to crash the ship rather than let the pirates have it. 

The captain throws the freighter into a steep suicide dive, and Mando and company reach the bridge just in time to prevent it from crashing into the ocean. (Bo-Katan, revealing she is also looking for the stolen Darksaber, tries to interrogate the captain as to its whereabouts, but he swallows a suicide capsule rather than answer her.) Afterwards, Bo-Katan once again asks Mando to join them. He refuses, reminding her he has to settle Baby Yoda first. At that point she gives him the name of the Jedi that has everyone jumping up and down and yelling: Ahsoka Tano, from Clone Wars. 

The last scene has Mando and baby returning to the Razor Crest, which looks like it was "repaired" by space netting inside and out. I do hope the poor thing holds together once it clears the atmosphere...Mando lifts off, and the planet's last gift is an alien squid which looks at Baby Yoda and starts to pounce, only for Mando to reach out and snatch it out of the air. So Baby Yoda gets a good meal as they leave. 

Since there's still five episodes to go, I don't think they're going to catch up with Ahsoka Tano right away? It seems like that should be saved until the last or next to last episode. And they definitely need to address how Mando is going to deal with what's been revealed to him. Regardless, this was fun, if a bit too jam-packed.