The Mandalorian Tempers High Action With Some Rewarding Character Work

The Mandalorian Tempers High Action With Some Rewarding Character Work
Two Mandos for the price of one. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
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After Moff Gideon kidnapped Grogu (Baby Yoda), the Mandalorian and his newfound crew had a singular goal: Find the Child and get him back. That journey took them to a few new places, with a few familiar faces, and through some tense, emotional moments that got to the core of Star Wars as we know it.

Chapter 15 of The Mandalorian, the season’s penultimate episode, is called “The Believer,” and similar to last week’s episode, it began unexpectedly. After Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) asked Cara Dune (Gina Carano) to help him find Mayfeld (Bill Burr), the implication was this episode might be them breaking him out of prison. So it was a surprise that the episode began with Cara using her newfound authority to simply ask for him to be released from the junkyard prison planet. In five minutes Mayfeld was out, and a surprising new adventure was about to begin.

Turns out Mayfeld, who we met as a mercenary last season, is an ex-Imperial and Mando correctly guesses he’ll be able to help them get coordinates to Moff Gideon’s ship, where Grogu is being held. The problem is, he can only do that using an internal Imperial terminal, like the one he believes they’ll find on the planet Morak at a secret installation.

Fennic and Cara, sharpshooters extraordinaire. (Photo: Lucasfilm) Fennic and Cara, sharpshooters extraordinaire. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Once there, the crew (Din, Cara, Mayfeld, Temuera Morrison’s Boba Fett, and Ming-Na Wen’s Fennic Shand) devise a plan to break into the Imperial base, access the terminal, and get out. Very reminiscent of the plan for destroying the Death Star in A New Hope. The problem is everyone in the group is wanted by the Empire and if they’re scanned, they’ll be in deep crap. If only there was a character whose face no one had seen. Someone who could slip in undetected.

That’s how Mando and Mayfeld end up hijacking a transport and putting on the Imperial Combat Assault Tank Trooper armour of the two people previously driving it. Yes, Mando took off one helmet (off-screen) and replaced it with another, which Mayfeld is more than happy to point out on their drive — you may recall he couldn’t stop talking about it the last time they were together. He asks if Mando’s code is about not showing his face or not taking off his helmet, and the philosophical lecture doesn’t end there. While driving through a village, the ex-Imperial talks about how the people of Morak don’t care whether they are under the rule of the New Republic or the Empire; subjugation isn’t freedom from any governing body and there’s always someone looking for power. Who is good and who is evil when you’re under a thumb either way? The whole scene was meant for us, the audience, to think about the complex politics of Star Wars, and to understand why “The Believer” was called that. There’s a lot more to Mayfeld and he’ll soon get a chance to prove it.

Before they reach the base, however, the crews in front of them on the road are attacked. Apparently, Morak is filled with pirates (a new alien race called Shydopp) who want to blow up the Imperial transports and the super volatile, super valuable coaxium rhydonium they carry. That results in a very fun action scene aboard the transport with tons of creatures, explosions, and flying skiffs — it felt influenced by William Friedkin’s Sorcerer with a little Fast and the Furious thrown in.

We love a new Star Wars pirate, don't we folks? These are the Shydopp. (Photo: Lucasfilm) We love a new Star Wars pirate, don't we folks? These are the Shydopp. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

When they eventually escape, Mando and Mayfeld arrive to a hero’s welcome at the Imperial base which is interesting to see. Certainly, Clone Wars and several of the books have done their best to humanize the people behind Stormtrooper helmets, but they tend not to get the same treatment in live action (short-changed Finn and Jannah aside). The joyous reception almost makes you forget these are “the bad guys.” Just when the two men think they’re in the clear, Mayfeld realises his former commander Valin Hess (Richard Brake) is in the room with the terminal, so someone else needs to go in there and have their face scanned. That’s when, for the second time on The Mandalorian, Din took off his helmet to reveal the visage of Pedro Pascal.

I have to admit it’s still jarring (Din Djarring, even…I’m here all week folks). We’re so used to this character as that immovable Mandalorian helmet, to see him with a face for more than a few second gives the show a completely different, more human feel. It’s odd, but great. Plus, the story so far has done such an excellent job of explaining how important not showing his face is to people, the simple act of taking off his helmet says everything you need to know about how much he cares for Grogu. Pascal’s performance here, while seemingly simple, was able to tell a hugely emotional story as well.

Din uses his handsome visage to download the info he needs, but before they can escape Hess stops him and Mayfeld to congratulate them on returning to base safely and ends up inviting them for a drink. This is where things got really good.

Mayfeld seemingly wasn’t some Imperial diehard as Cara had assumed, he was just a person trying to make it in the world like so many others. Or, even if he was once, the Empire’s actions changed him significantly. As it turns out, he’s been harbouring resentment and pain for his years from his time working for the Empire and you can see his anger swelling as Hess continues to boast. He even suggests a toast and Mayfeld suggests they drink to Operation Cinder (which fans of the comics, books, and Battlefront II will recognise), an event posthumously ordered by the Emperor where many innocent people were killed, including troopers. He and Hess intensely banter about the impact of the Empire, Mayfeld’s anger rises to a fever pitch, and finally, he murders Hess in the middle of an Imperial base mess hall.

Wait, Pedro Pascal is in this show? (Screenshot: Disney+) Wait, Pedro Pascal is in this show? (Screenshot: Disney+)

Mayfeld doesn’t stop there, he (with help from Din) kills everyone else in the room — so no one can say they saw Din’s face, according to Mayfeld. With an assist from expert sharpshooters Fennic and Cara outside, the men are able to get to the roof of the base where Boba Fett (in his newly painted armour!) arrives on Slave 1 and scoops them up. It’s almost mission accomplished until two TIE Fighters arrive on the scene…TIEs that suffer the wrath of the best Attack of the Clones nod we’ve seen in a long time. Depth charges fire out of Slave 1 and blow the enemy ships up, using the same exact sound mix as the 2002 film.

Oh, and one more thing: Mayfeld shoots at the rhydonium they rode in with and causes a huge chain reaction of explosions that Cara takes keen notice of. His behaviour convinces her and Mando to pretend he died and let him leave a free man. Now that they have Moff Gideon’s coordinates, the crew is off to get Grogu back, but not before Mando, for some reason, sends Gideon a message warning him of his arrival. It’s a very cool moment, especially since Mando taunts Gideon with his own line from last season, but why tip your hand? Why let him know you’re coming? Hopefully, it’s all part of the bigger plan.

In terms of actual plot, “The Believer” was a little lean, much in the way “The Passenger” was. The entire episode was based around getting one piece of information which meant the main drive of the story stalled a bit. Nevertheless, the action was exciting as usual; we got to learn more about Mayfeld’s past, and seeing Mando’s soft side helped add welcome depth to the show, including engaging in the politics of Star Wars which are only able to be skimmed over in the films. Plus, now the final piece of the puzzle is set and we’re ready for what’s sure to be an epic season two finale.

Moff Gideon was not too pleased with the message at the end of the episode. (Photo: Lucasfilm) Moff Gideon was not too pleased with the message at the end of the episode. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Assorted Musings:

  • I’m pretty sure that was the first episode without even a hint of Baby Yoda, right? Weird!
  • This was also the first episode of this season not written by Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni. It was written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa who did “Chapter 2” and “Chapter 6” in the first season.
  • I hope at some point we can go back to that prison planet. I just want a whole episode of a show going through a Star Wars junkyard.
  • It seemed odd that Mayfeld immediately said to go to Morak, right? Is that the only terminal in the galaxy? I guess after the death of the Emperor, though, there aren’t too many Imperial bases still active so it must just be the closest one.
  • Am I the only one who geeked out when, for the first time ever I believe, we got to see inside Slave 1 beyond the cockpit? It was all twisty and turny and amazing.
  • While it made sense from a story standpoint, it was a little disappointing for Fennic and Cara to just kind of wait for the boys to complete their mission. Thankfully, they did get to save the day with that excellent sharpshooting.
  • If you’re like me, you saw the actor playing Valin Hess and thought, “Where do I know him from?” Richard Brake is in a lot of things, including playing the Night King on Game of Thrones for a few episodes, but I know him best as Joe Chill from Batman Begins.
  • Maybe I just didn’t understand the mechanics of it but why would an Imperial terminal be fine with a random person downloading information? It scanned Din’s face. We’re guessing he wasn’t in the system, either as an Imperial or an enemy, so why was it ok to just take highly secretive coordinates? Seemed odd.
  • Thank you Rick Famuyiwa not just for the great Attack of the Clones moment, but the great “TPS report” mention, a nod to Office Space.
  • Final thing. Do we think next week will bring back all of Din’s allies from this season? You have to assume Bo Katan will be there since she has the most to gain from defeating Moff Gideon (ie, his Darksaber) but could Ahsoka join? Cobb Vanth? We’ll find out next week.

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