You know, when you grow up and you have a kid, sometimes the people you used to hang out with as a young impulsive twenty-something just don’t fit with your lifestyle anymore? The Mandalorian is about to learn that lesson hard.
Of course, when you’re broke and can’t pick out your jobs all that carefully, it’s not entirely your fault.
The Mandalorian heads to a space station where he’s renewed contact with an old associate named Ran (Mark Boone, Jr.) who has a job for him. It’s a five-person job—plus Mando’s ship, which is necessary to the plan because it’s off all Imperial and Republic grids—to spring a colleague from a Republic prison transport. The crew assembled is less than ideal: the guy heading up the job is a former Imperial sharpshooter named Mayfeld (Bill Burr), there’s a Devaronian named Burg (Clancy Brown), a droid called Zero (Richard Ayoade), and Xi’an (Natalia Tena), a Twi’lek the Mandalorian worked with previously when he did jobs with Ran and company. Right before the job goes down, the group discover Baby Yoda in his little sleep bunk and ask if he’s a pet. The Mandalorian refuses to engage on their questions, or to take off his helmet, so Mayfeld picks up Baby Yoda to mess with him. He proceeds to drop the kid when the Razor Crest docks with the prison ship.
Nothing about the job goes according to plan. Once they make it to the bridge, they find that the transport—which was only supposed to be manned by droids—has one Republic crewman who is holding a tracking beacon. The Mandalorian tries to prevent his cohort from killing the crewman, but Xi’an does it while they argue. The man sets off the beacon as his body falls, meaning that they have twenty minutes to complete the job before Republic forces arrive. They finally find their quarry, who happens to be Xi’an’s brother, Qin (Ismael Cruz Córdova). There’s some pretty bad history there, as the Mandalorian left Qin behind on a job years back. Once they spring him, the group shove the Mando into Qin’s holding cell, intent on trapping him there. That doesn’t last long, as he breaks out, heads for the bridge and starts locking down segments of the ship to take his companions out one by one. Zero, who was left on board the Razor Crest to keep an eye on things and track the team, gets distracted when he catches a glimpse of Baby Yoda and goes looking for it.
The Mandalorian makes it back to his ship at the same time as Qin, who figures that he’s killed the others, and asks the Mandalorian to just bring him in as bounty, the way it was planned. Zero finds Baby Yoda, but before he can kill the kid, Mando shoots the droid in the back. He left the rest of the crew in a cell aboard the prison transport, rather than killing them, and brings Qin back to Ran to get paid for the job. Ran orders the Razor Crest destroyed once he leaves, but the Mandalorian left the tracking beacon on Qin—a New Republic attack squad emerges from hyperspace, sees that the station is launching a gun ship and blows it up, proceeding to attack the station.
There’s an easy way to let your audience know that an entire group of people deserve to die. That is allowing them to pick up Baby Yoda, vaguely threaten his safety, and then drop him. You know, there’s the “kick the dog” moment for most villains, and then there’s this. How dare they get near our sweet baby. Honestly, I know our guy is trying to be professional and get his money, but I do think he’s basically plotting their humiliations and demises from there on in. They touched his son.
Of course, we know this whole job is gonna go bad from the beginning. There are plenty of red flags, but the one that makes me all twitchy is the moment Ran says “We did some crazy stuff, didn’t we?” which is basically jerk-speak for “I miss being an irresponsible crapsack, don’t you?” It’s all downhill from there. Our guy clearly isn’t excited to reminisce with any of these people, including Xi’an who he maybe had a fling with—helmet on, of course, which just makes it extra kinky. The time gap here (as it seems to be fairly substantial) really does beg the question of how old the character is supposed to be. If he’s supposed to be the same age as actor Pedro Pascal, that puts him in his mid-forties, which would make his adoption by the Mandalorian people likely pre-Empire.
There’s also so much background from this whole situation that we never get—which is totally fine from a storytelling perspective, I just want it. For instance, Qin talks about how Mando left him behind, but that’s not the reason he’s in prison now, so there’s a whole story there. Ran seems to indicate that the Mandalorian worked with them years ago, possibly even when the Empire was still up and running? The criminal underworld certainly flourished during that period, but that also could mean that our guy has been a mercenary since before the Great Purge. Little timeline suggestions like that would make a big difference in what sort of life the Mandalorian has actually led, and how his priorities have shifted.
It’s kinda weird to watch Xi’an because the whole character kinda reads like Natalia Tena recently watched a couple episodes of Farscape and went “I’m gonna play this like Chiana.” She sounds a lot like her, moves like her, has a similarly close relationship with her brother, the character even has the same grey-wash skin tone (though it’s more on the purple side). Then again, it’s also possible that she was written and designed that way? You never know who is a fan of what when they make these things. Also, the fang thing is weird; technically Twi’leks are supposed to have blunt teeth, but some of them sharpen their teeth into fangs (like Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna). Xi’an’s canine teeth look as though they are naturally pointed, though. So maybe they’re retconning that little detail? Some Twi’leks have pointed teeth, others just don’t?
All the comedians showing up on this show have been a deeply enjoyable side feature, but… Bill Burr was a choice. And with the most ridiculous sharpshooter setup ever. Sorry, but insisting that he’s good at his job when part of his gambit is having an auto-pistol strapped to his back is hilarious. I hope Mando at least got some entertainment out of it because the very notion of taking that man seriously is impossible to reckon with. On the other hand, Richard Ayoade spoke and I was instantly enamored of Zero despite the fact that he’s not a nice droid. Since we didn’t see his face, can Ayoade show up elsewhere in Star Wars? I feel like the galaxy could only improve with his addition somewhere more prominent.
I gotta be real honest, though—this close to the holidays, I fully expected Baby Yoda to go Home Alone on Zero, and I’m a little sad that we didn’t get to see it. On the other hand, the kid’s expression when it clearly believes it’s used the Force and exploded the droid (before realizing that dad is home) is beautiful. Ugh, my heart.
There are very few film tropes that have absolute power over me, but the “light flickers so that every time it returns, we see our hero closing in on their target” is God Level in the hierarchy of those tropes. It absolutely murders me every time. All of the Mando’s fight sequences (shout out to Pascal’s stunt and body doubles, who have been getting a lot of press lately) were particularly well done in the episode, helped by the closed quarters setting and maze-like ship. You know, if they ever want to trot out this scenario again, I would not be mad about it.
Speaking of which, this is the second episode directed by Rick Famuyiwa, and he made gorgeous work of it. (Also, have you seen Dope? You should see it. Watch more things written and directed by Famuyiwa, he is truly excellent at what he does.) It takes a specific kind of skill to not only navigate ship corridors on film, but to make it clear where people are in a space where most of the setting looks the same. By giving the viewer so many angles in each scene, you never lose track of the action. And they must have had a blast choreographing these fights, given how different each combatant is from our guy.
It occurs to me that what’s interesting about the choice to reassert the mandatory wearing of beskar upon all Mandalorians is the extreme disadvantage in it; other people having an obsession with removing our guy’s helmet is actually a legitimate threat to him. If they manage to unmask him, he’s no longer a Mandalorian, so the possibility of people trying to pull off his helmet by force becomes far more upsetting. Suddenly there’s tension where there wouldn’t be before. On the one hand, it’s super clever. On the other hand, that makes the beskar a real weakness for the Mandalorian people in a certain light. I wonder if we’ll see that addressed further down the road.
I cannot stand the fact that Mando is lovingly handing over ship knobs to his child, but what worse, HE MADE THE KID A CHILDSEAT FOR THE COCKPIT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SH******T. I AM OVER NOW.
Things and Asides:
- I wish they would more carefully explain how ship systems work in episodes like these. Zero says the hyperdrive on the Razor Crest is only at 67%, and it’s like… what does that mean? How do you use a hyperdrive if it’s not operating at full capacity, that seems like a terrible idea? I know these are just words, but someone should break it down one of these days.
- Lotta cameos in this episode. The New Republic pilots at the end are all series directors, including Clone Wars and Rebels creator Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa (who co-wrote this episode with screenwriter Christopher Yost, one of only two episodes not written by Jon Favreau for the season), and Deborah Chow. But my favorite comes in the form of Davan, the poor Republic officer on the prison transport: That’s Matt Lanter, the actor who voiced Anakin Skywalker on The Clone Wars.
- Obviously, the retort Mayfeld gives about how he “wasn’t a stormtrooper, wiseass” when Mando makes a crack about how being an Imperial triggerman isn’t saying much is a dig at stormtroopers and their lack of ability to shoot straight, which has been a Star Wars joke from word one. And Mayfeld’s comment about how Razor Crest looks like a “Canto Bight slot machine” is a reference to the resort world for the rich and powerful that Finn and Rose take a detour to in The Last Jedi.
- The plan for landing on the Republic transport involves actually treating space like it’s three-dimensional, which sci-fi premises often neglect, so that’s fun.
- Burg calls the little droid on the prison transport “mousie” because the MSE series are typically known as “mouse droids”. We first saw them on the Death Star in A New Hope. They carry out communications deliveries and maintenance repairs.
- Apparently Devaronians are impervious to fire? Which, I know they’re supposed to look like devil, but jeez, that’s a bit on the nose. (They can also apparently hold automatic doors at bay when nothing else can, but let’s not go there.) Speaking of which, the first time you see a Devaronian in Star Wars is in the Mos Eisley cantina. There’s a Legends canon story with that guy—Kardue’sai’Malloc—who Boba Fett takes a major bounty on.
Don’t forget, next week’s episode is early, so as not to clash with The Rise of Skywalker’s release. See you next Wednesday, folx!