I’m a little later in posting this recap than I would like to be thanks to some real-life concerns, but this weeks episode of The Mandalorian is one of the best of the season so far, with both the return of Bill Burr as Mayfeld and some solid character work from Pedro Pascal.
Seriously. Spoilers galore are coming. You’ve been warned.
This weeks adventure begins on a New Republic prison planet where Mayfeld is disassembling imperial tech as his prison sentence. It was basically assumed that this episode would be a jailbreak, but instead, Cara Dune flexes her Marshal of the New Republic muscles and takes custody of him. After a tense reunion with Mando, he wonders aloud what they need him for, and Dune replies that he is imperial. Mayfeld is taken aback by this. “That was a long time ago,” he says.
Onboard Slave I (which, by the way, is super neat – more on that later) Mayfeld tells them that he can look up the coordinates for Moff Gideon’s cruiser but only from an imperial terminal and he knows there’s one at an Imperial Remnant mining operation on a planet called Morak. Fett punches in the coordinates for Morak, and off they go.
An orbital scan reveals the Imperials are mining Rhydonium, a highly explosive material used as starship fuel, and that they can’t fly in thanks to anti-aircraft cannons. They put the ship down to get the lay of the land and realize that due to various warrants and combat histories, the only person that can infiltrate the refinery along with Mayfeld is Mando himself, but he obviously cannot go in in his shiny armour, so another plan is hatched; They hijack one of the transports, and Mayfeld and Mando change into stormtrooper armour.
The drive toward the refinery is one of the better sequences in the show so far. The first half sees them driving toward the refinery and seeing what the Remnant has wrought on the planet, with Mayfeld musing that it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Remnant or the New Republic on a planet like this, they’re both invaders to the local population. The second half is an action-packed car chase in which some of the locals attack their transport.
The attackers come in on skiffs and armed with spears and thermal detonators. Mayfeld has to keep the transport moving, so it’s up to Mando to fend them off. What follows is a mashup of Mad Max: Fury Road and Speed, with Mando fighting off attackers on top of the transport and Mayfeld trying to keep the transport moving at a speed that will keep them safe but won’t ignite the Rhydonium.
The attackers come in waves; first one skiff, then 3, then a whole bunch more. Mando fends them all off using their own spears and thermal detonators against them, and after fighting off several waves pirates, another five skiffs appear on their tail. Mando audibly sighs, braces himself for the fight, and then two tie fighters swoop in and destroy the last of the skiffs, and a platoon of stormtroopers runs out of the refinery to mop them up. “You never thought you’d be happy to see stormtroopers” quips Mayfeld, and he’s right.
Once in the base, they are greeted as heroes before making their way to the terminal. Mayfeld can’t go in through because his old commanding officer is in the mess hall where the terminal is. Mando insists he can go, but Mayfeld points out that the terminal needs to scan users face to work. Mando is wearing a stormtrooper helmet, but a helmet none the less. He knows though that if he doesn’t get the coordinates for Gideon’s ship, he’ll never see Grogu again, so he goes to the terminal. Faced with the choice of taking off his helmet, or never seeing his kid again, he takes off his helmet, and we see Pedro Pascal’s face for only the second time in the entire series.
After accessing the data, Mando is approached by Mayfeld’s old commanding officer, Valon Hess (played by character actor Richard Brake). After a moment of thinking he might be made when he doesn’t know the answers to the Imperial questions that Hess is asking, Mayfeld swoops in and convinces Hess that Mando is a little messed up following a depressurization. Hess ends up inviting them for a drink to celebrate their successful run on the transport.
Hess asks what they should drink to, and Mayfeld replies they should drink to Operation Cinder. An operation from both Mayfeld and Hess’s past, in which Hess made the choices that led to tens of thousands of people dying including Mayfeld’s entire division.
Mayfeld asks Hess if that battle was really for the best, and Hess insists that it’s all for the greater good because people think they want freedom but what they really need is order, and that the Rhydonium they just delivered is going to help the Empire do even worse things. The tension ramps up slowly but persistently until Mayfeld murders Hess right there in the middle of the mess hall.
Mayfeld hands Mando back his trooper helmet, and the pair have to run and gun their way to the roof. Boba Fett swoops in with Slave I to pick them up while Fennec and Cara cover them with sniper fire from a ridge. Once they’re on board, Mayfeld takes a rifle and shoots one of the Rhydonium transports which lights up the entire refinery in a huge fireball.
As Slave I heads into the sky two Tie Fighters take up pursuit, and in a callback to one of the only legitimately cool things from Attack of the Clones he deploys a sonic depth charge (complete with the same sound effect from the movie) and takes them both out with one hit.
“It’s too bad that Mayfeld didn’t make it back,” says Cara Dune as they regroup on the surface. Mayfeld goes free, and the heroes take off into space. Cut to Moff Gideon on the bridge of his cruiser, where his subordinates let him know there is a message coming in. It’s a hologram of Mando letting Gideon know he’s coming, and he uses the same “you have something I want” speech that Gideon used at the end of season one.
‘The Believer’ is easily the best episode of season two so far, with a great balance of action and character development. Let’s talk about the action first.
The whole transport fight sequence is excellent and reminds us that Mando is a formidable foe even without his Mandalorian armour. After a whole season of relying on said armour, it lends some real stakes to what’s going on when the attackers land a hit, and it actually hurts him. It’s also fun that his imperial blaster fails after just one shot, so he has to kick their butts the old fashioned way, and there are some great moments of ducking, weaving, and spear hits. Also refreshing here: you can actually see the fight. It still suffers from a few too many cuts, but for the most part, it is shot wide enough you can follow what’s going on.
The scene with with Mayfeld, an unmasked Mando, and Valon Hess is one of the best scenes in the series so far. Burr, Pascal, and Brake are all excellent in the scene with Brake smugly toasting the empire for killing thousands while Burr grows visibly uncomfortable. You can tell from his body language that Mayfeld was never really an evil man, just a man caught up in the Empire. Moments like these where the universe doesn’t feel so black and white are some of my favourites in Star Wars because they are so few and far between. In a universe of archetypes and absolutes it’s nice to be reminded that there are a lot of areas, too.
Pedro Pascal is also excellent in the scene. He has no dialogue, but you can feel how painful it is to him to be sitting there unmasked. In the moments that follow in the moment of quiet before the entire division of troopers descend on them Mayfeld hands him hs trooper helmet and says “you did what you had to do, I never saw your face.” and then turns away. There’s a lovely moment of recognition from Pascal there, too.
I’ve been waiting for him to take the helmet off for so long, and last season I even went on record saying that not being able to see his face was hurting the show. Generally, I still believe that. Pedro Pascal is a great actor and there is so much that a great actor can do with a glance or a smirk or a tilt of the head that we miss out on each week, but seeing him take off the helmet in the context of his love for Grogu made the whole thing worthwhile.
The final message to Gideon, parroting Gideon’s own words back at him but positively loaded with emotion, was also a nice touch, although I’m not sure why he’d so willingly give up the element of surprise.
Next week is the season two finale, and all the pieces are in place for something big to happen. Who will join Mando, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and Cara Dune for the big final battle against Moff Gideon? My bet is still on everyone. Next week we find out!
- I know she’s had it the entire time because I just went back and looked at some stills, but this is the first time I noticed that Cara Dune has a rebellion logo tattooed on her face. I thought it was a beauty mark or something.
- Boba Fett’s armour all repaired and Slave I repainted were both very pretty, although I don’t know why he couldn’t have repainted the ship sooner.
- Fennec and Cara don’t get a lot to do this episode, but it was pretty awesome to watch them snipe storm troopers.
- In another “the universe isn’t black and white” thought, Mando called the people that attacked the transport pirates, but were they pirates? or were they locals defending their land? It sure seemed like they were trying to stop the shipment, not take it. They just had a conversation about how the people see both the Empire and Republic as invaders, so did Mando fight and kill a bunch of good guys?
- If you’re wondering where you’ve seen Richard Brake before, he was Joe Chill in Batman Begins, The Night King in Game of Thrones, and The Chemist in Mandy. He’s quite good.
- The inside of Slave I is really cool for two reasons. First, it’s awesome that the whole thing is on a gimbal so that no matter how the ship is oriented, the people onboard are oriented correctly. Second, I’m pretty sure it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, much like the Millenium Falcon.
- This was the first episode that Grogu didn’t appear in at all, right? I wonder what terrible things they will have put him through by the time we catch up with him next episode.