If The Mandalorian can’t just hide quietly from his past and his troubles, he has to turn back to his past in order to protect his future. The problem is that he hasn’t always run with the most reputable crew. So when you’re a mercenary for hire, you’re dealing with other mercenaries. We saw how that turned out when dealing with an aspiring bounty hunter last week. This week, Mando has to reunite with some old friends for a score to keep his journey funded….
Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian (including this episode) and may contain spoilers for other Star Wars canon and legends TV series, movies and novels.
You know, I think I have The Mandalorian wrong. I’m so used to heavily serialized series on streaming services that I missed that the homages to the classics extending beyond episodes and going to the structure of the show as a whole. No, it’s not quite a throwback to syndicated TV shows because there is a serialized story over the first three or four episodes with only the last two feeling more standalone. However, despite what some critics will insist, there is an overarching narrative of Mando and The Child being on the run with Mando needing to mix laying low and finding enough money to stay on the run with a price on his head.
Does this episode add a lot to the overall story? Not really. We get another reminder that Mando and Baby Yoda are on the run. We learn a little about Mando’s past. Sure, we don’t learn more about Baby Yoda other than he can handle being dropped on the ship.
However, the early feedback reminds me a lot of The Last Jedi and the problems with a society that’s gotten increasingly impatient. People are wanting too Mando’s face and the conclusion to Mando’s Clone Wars flashback. There is a desperation to learn the origins of Baby Yoda or for him to do something spectacularly Yoda-ish. All those much teased guest stars are coming and going being there’s a desire for them to form a team of fight injustice in the galaxy or whatever. Good stories can take time to tell.
The problem is that people are so used to quick payoffs. Star Wars has traditionally been told in smaller pieces. There’s the movies which are two hours long and animated shows which are about a half-hour long. Streaming has created a binge-watching culture in which people will watch multiple episodes in a short time period so they’re never really left wanting for a conclusion. Social media has people chasing the immediate feedback of a dopamine rush from likes or retweets or upvotes. It’s clearly not the type of story that they’re telling in The Mandalorian. It’s not a bad thing unless you don’t like different things. That would be an irony since people complained that The Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope while simultaneously complaining that The Last Jedi wasn’t Star Wars enough. Make things different but not too different but don’t make it too much the same either, I guess.
There’s also the classic critics’ problem of every criticism being born of an unmet expectation. As I said earlier, people come into The Mandalorian expecting your standard heavily serialized stream series. Are all criticisms born of the expectations that come with being a streaming show? Are they born of all of the press interviews and previews ahead of the show’s debut? Are they born of what we typically expect of Star Wars? Probably all of the above, to be honest. It’s certainly not a bad thing to be able to point out what’s wrong with a show. It is a bad thing to criticize a show because it’s not playing out exactly the way you want it to.
Let’s use some examples from this episode. How was Mando able to use a severed droid arm to unlock a prison cell from inside it? That doesn’t make sense but it was cool. Probably a better one is when the New Republic rescue squadron shows up at the end, they just start blowing up the space station that the guard’s distress beacon is transmitting from. Okay, they had a gunship but wouldn’t you want to try to mount a rescue operation? And Mando’s plot armour is getting a little old. I’d rather he be unnaturally impossible to hit than get shot and saved by armour.
And with people complaining that there isn’t an overarching story, they miss a fun little prison break episode. We got a look into Mando’s past in terms of what he used to do (besides hunting bounties) and who he used to associate with. Sure, the double-crosses are a bit much at this point but the action was well choreographed and directed. And it’s not like we knew that the episode would include a double-cross. They teased the potential of a shoot-out with the New Republic which would have been a fun struggle to overcome rather than a double-cross.
By the way, speaking of the New Republic, this is the first time that we’ve seen the other side of the Galactic Civil War. We’ve run into the Imperial remnant and cast-offs in other episodes but this is the first episode in which the New Republic features. Sure, their part is fairly minimal but it reminds us that there is a much bigger galaxy with stories unexplored beyond what Mando is up to.
Speaking of stories untold, one of Mando’s new associates tells us about how good Mando was as a bounty hunter and highlighted how violent and dangerous he could be. She also hints at some romantic entanglements that they might have had. It’s interesting to hear about the Mando of the past when you see the virtuous Mando of present. Hopefully these hints lead to more stories. We don’t need a flashback to younger Mando but Star Wars loves taking the anti-hero and turning him into a proper hero. That is certainly something that we could see with Mando.
This episode is also a great showcase for new characters and guest stars. The featured guest star is Bill Burr who plays Mayfeld, a former Imperial sharpshooter turned mercenary. Natalie Tena has gone from Harry Potter to Game of Thrones to Star Wars with a turn as the Twi’lek Xi’an. And Clancy Brown rounded out the crew as the Devaronian Burg. Brown is the Star Wars veteran of the crew with turns on Dave Filoni’s two previous series as Savage Opress in The Clone Wars and Ryder Azadi in Rebels.
There were a few cameos worth noting up top too. Brown wasn’t the only Clone Wars star to get to make an appearance in this episode. Matt Lanter, the voice of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars, turns up as a New Republic officer. Three of the show’s directors turn up as an X-Wing flight group. Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow all had cameos as X-Wing pilots. Naturally, Dave’s character is named Trapper Wolf which is the most Dave Filoni name possible for a character.
Overall, I liked this episode. Rick Famuyiwa has done a great job in his two episodes and we’ll be better off if he comes back to direct in Season Two. We got a fun mix of fan service without it taking you out of the moment… Well, unless you know who Dave Filoni is and that took me out of the moment but most people wouldn’t have that problem. And Rick is taking some great scripts and making great moments out of them which sounds easy on paper but generally isn’t when you see it on screen.
Other random points of note:
- Only Bill Burr could have handled the line: “I wasn’t a Stormtrooper, wiseass.”
- Before watching this episode, I was tipped off that Dave Filoni would have a cameo in this episode. I spent the entire time looking for a guy in a cowboy hat only for Dave to be wearing a helmet. That’s how you subvert expectations.
- I have to wonder if Jon Favreau knows he’s creating memes when writing and producing these episodes or if it’s all a happy coincidence.
There are two episodes of the first season of The Mandalorian left and the next one is coming out the night before The Rise of Skywalker. This could mean one of two things: 1) They’re trying to keep the episode from being lost behind the hype of Episode IX; or 2) There is something in the next episode that could be relevant to TROS. It’s not likely to be a spoiler for E9 but there might be a little plot point that could be teased. For example, people complained about fuel being a new concept in The Last Jedi but it was mentioned repeatedly in the Rebels TV series in the run up to TLJ.
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