If you watched this week’s episode of The Mandalorian and thought, “Wait, is that who I think it is?” Chances are, the answer is “Yes.”
Chapter six of Clancy Brown from Shawshank Redemption not to mention Clone Wars and Rebels), a Twi’lek named Xi’an (Natalia Tena, aka Tonks from Harry Potter), and the droid Q9-0, aka “Zero” (comedian and director Richard Ayoade).
As Mando lands the Razor Crest on Ran’s platform, we learn that the two have a past. Apparently, they used to run jobs together and things often got messy. Xi’an was part of that crew too and, upon her introduction, we find out there’s even more history there between Mando and this crew. It’s even implied that Mando and Xi’an used to be a thing.
It was a nice change of pace for The Mandalorian to broaden its scope a bit storywise. Ultimately, and we’ll get into it, but “The Prisoner” was yet again a tangent from the main mission set up in the first three episodes. Since Mando left his entire life behind on Navarro at the end of episode three, Baby Yoda has been an afterthought. It’s just been side-quest after side-quest where Mando levels up a little bit, and all but ignoring the fact he stole this magical baby that could save the galaxy. That continues here but, thanks to Xi’an and the Prisoner himself, at least the story expanded a bit backward, even if we’d prefer forward.
Though things seem amicable, Ran admits he only let Mando come on this gig so they could use the Razor Crest for the mission. It’s off the grid in ways most other ships aren’t, even if it does look like a Canto Bight slot machine, according to Mayfeld. (It totally does!). And Mando is also none too happy that Zero will be doing all the flying on the mission. So, all things considered, Mando joining this team is not exactly going well.
Things only get worse when he realises the prisoner isn’t in some normal prison, he’s on a maximum-security New Republic Prison Ship. (Reminder, we’re after Return of the Jedi, pre-Force Awakens and the New Republic was the governing body that tried to bring peace to the galaxy before being destroyed by the First Order.) Mando doesn’t want the kind of trouble stealing from the galaxy’s government is going to bring down but, when he hears the ship is completely run by droids, he changes his mind.
Upon leaving in the Razor Crest, the crew continues to razz Mando, telling him to take off his helmet, reminding him of bad deeds from the past, as well as the tiny fact that all the other Mandalorians are dead. We know that isn’t totally true, but many of them are, and it’s just a truly evil thing to say to a person. Obviously, Mando is very much on the outside of this group of scoundrels. Mayfeld even suggests he might be a Gungan under his helmet and does a bad impression of the prequel characters.
As all this plays out, everyone watching was probably asking the same question we asked last week. Where the hell is Baby Yoda? And apparently, co-writer and director of the episode Rick Famuyiwa realised that too because it’s at about this point that the other bounty hunters discover him. Mando had him stored in a little locker by himself (though he did seem rather cosy in there). The crew is shocked by the little one and wonders if it’s some kind of pet. It’s important to note here that like in the previous episode, no one knew what exactly they were looking at (and Mando couldn’t even give them an answer if he wanted to). The Yoda race is not only rare for people watching Star Wars, it’s so rare inside Star Wars that even grizzled, well-travelled bounty hunters have no idea what it is.
The Razor Crest suddenly jumps out of lightspeed, knocking everyone around as Zero does a few wild manoeuvres to hide the ship from the radars of the New Republic. But, in the action, Mayfeld DROPS BABY YODA ON THE GROUND. He’s ok, thankfully, but holy crap that was scary. There’s no time to worry though because it’s time for the mission to commence.
As the crew walk through the pristine white, New Republic ship, we see a few of the prisoners on board. They’re mostly humans but one Ardennian, like Rio Durant from Solo (who was voiced by Mandalorian EP Jon Favreau), is in there. After hiding from a few droids guarding the place and a run-in with a mouse droid, they arrive at the control room of the ship only to find a single human there. Obviously, their intel was incorrect.
If the New Republic Officer’s face or, more likely, his voice were familiar to you, well done. That’s actor Matt Lanter, best known for voicing Anakin Skywalker on The Clone Wars TV show. How cool is it that he finally got to show his face on the screen in Star Wars? Unfortunately, he doesn’t show it for long as Xi’an kills him after a standoff between Burg, Mayfield, and the Mandalorian who was trying to prevent the man’s death. (RIP again, Ani).
Before dying though, the officer is able to send out a distress call to the New Republic. The bounty hunters now only have 20 minutes to extract the prisoner and get the heck out of there. Burg gives a few droids a football tackle, Mando kills a bunch of them too (with vigour) and finally, they get to the cell in question. It opens revealing…another Twi’Lek. Qin (played by Ismael Cruz Cordova), brother of Xi’an, who instantly reveals that he’s in jail because of the Mandalorian.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s when shit goes down. Qin, Xi’an and the crew double-cross Mando, shoving him in the cell they just took Qin out of. If he can’t find a way out they’ll not only take his share of the bounty, but his ship, and Baby Yoda. Very quickly though, Mando does manage to escape by using a nearby guard droid. He heads back to the control room where he puts the whole ship into lockdown. Blast doors shut. Red lights come on. Basically, they’re screwed. The Mandalorian is coming for them.
In very video game fashion, Mando then shows down with each of the members of the team. Burg seems to pose the biggest challenge as none of Mando’s tricks seemed to do the job. Blasters, whistling birds, even the flame thrower, none of them can bring down the towering Devaron. Eventually, Mando has to use not one but two blast doors to, we think, kill him. The battle with Xi’an is also challenging, as the two duke it out but Mando eventually comes out on top. Finally, it was time for the gang’s leader, Mayfeld. The way Famuyiwa shot this, with the strobing effect and Mando coming up from the back like a horror movie, was one of, if not the, coolest moments so far on the entire show.
That just left Qin and, when Mando finally finds him, he begs for his life. He appeals to Mando’s pride and asks if killing is the right thing to do or if the proper thing to do is simply take him prisoner. At this point in the show, I wasn’t really sure which way he was going to go. Who is this Mandalorian? The man who gives up his entire life to save a baby or the person who, apparently, murdered a bunch of people sometime in the past with Ran and Xi’an?
Back on the ship and with communications to the team cut off, Zero begins to unravel clues about what Mando did. That leads him to gain an interest in a certain child on board too. It was almost a game of hide and seek as Zero looked for Baby Yoda, with the baby moving around quietly to allude him. Side note: Walking Yoda is still the cutest but hiding behind a crate Yoda is a close, close second. Just precious.
Eventually, Zero finds and looks like he intends to kill him. Baby Yoda picks up his hand to, we assume, use the Force in retaliation but before he can, Mando arrives and shoots Zero in the back. This was nice but, frankly, I wanted to see Baby Yoda dispatch the droid himself.
With the job done, the Razor Crest heads back to Ran’s platform. As he walks off his ship it’s revealed that Mando did, in fact, bring Qin back and complete the job. Since Ran’s policy is “No questions asked” he lets the missing bounty hunters slide. He pays Mando for the job but as he flies of the platform, Ran tells someone else on board to kill him. Qin laughs as a sleek starfighter begins to ready itself for the job. However, Qin then realises Mando placed the New Republic homing beacon on him.
That’s when three X-Wing fighters drop out of hyperspace. They’re played by Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow, all directors of The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans surely cheered when they saw Filoni on screen (I know I did) since he is now a canon member of the New Republic named Trapper Wolf. Famuyiwa is Jib Dodger and Chow is Sash Ketter. (Ahh, Star Wars names!) Trapper, Jib, and Sash notice the fighter launching and very nonchalantly blow the hell out of it and Ran’s platform as the Mandalorian flies off to another adventure, but not before Famuyiwa cuts back to the prison ship and we see Mayfled, Xi’an, and Burg are all still alive, albeit locked in the same jail cell.
It was nice to have a little more meat on the bone in this latest episode. Characters like Ran, Xi’an, and Qin all know more about the Mandalorian than the audience does and his mercy when it comes to their betrayal shows a more empathetic side of the character than we’d seen so far. One can only hope that, because they are still alive, maybe we’ll see them again and we can explore a bit more about their past with Mando.
With two more episodes left in season one (Reminder: the next one will drop Wednesday, December 18 rather than next Friday when, you know, that other little thing is coming out) it sure feels like most of what we’ve seen so far is all about table setting. The first three episodes set-up the Baby Yoda story. The next three episodes have introduced, then discarded, seemingly major side characters like Cara Dune and Fennec Shand. We also know in the final two episodes at least one more like that (Mof Gideon played by Giancarlo Esposito) will be introduced. And that’s all well and good if the season was 22 episodes but this is eight. Hopefully, the final two pieces bring things back to what we loved about the show at the beginning: Baby Yoda and his story.
I loved the moment when Mayfeld is described as a former Imperial sharpshooter, to which Mando replies “That’s not saying much” and Mayfeld replies “I wasn’t a stormtrooper, wiseass.” It’s a nice in-joke for Star Wars fans because Imperials have notoriously bad aim.
Before they get on the New Republic ship, Mayfeld and Xi’an exchange more than a few curious looks, and whispered words, behind Mando’s back. It’s implied they are about Baby Yoda but it’s never paid off in the episode. That will likely come back at some point.
Fun fact: Ismael Cruz Cordova, who played Qin, voiced a character named “Mando” on Sesame Street. Seriously. What a small world.
Though the Matt Lanter character is there watching over the prison, it’s obvious the New Republic is very reliant on droids. I wonder what the rest of the galaxy thinks about that? Does the new government lack the personal touch? Is that why people don’t like them?
Though we did get the one Ardennian, I was really hoping for a cooler cameo in one of the prison cells. Like a hammerhead, a Hutt, or a clone or something. Just something the fans could chew on. Not Rio II.
With so much talk of Ran, Xi’an, Qin, and Mando running around doing jobs in the past, it got me thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to see a flashback episode or two? We’ll probably get more of the Mando’s origin in the final two episodes but maybe next season, showing that original crew could expand the character in fun ways.
Short wait until the next episode, friends. We’ll be back Wednesday for Chapter seven.