We were bound to get to the showdown sooner or later, and it all begins here. Things are about to get heavy. Or… heavier than usual.
The Mandalorian gets a message from Greef Karga with a proposition: He returns to Navarro with the baby, they use the kid as bait to lure the Client in, then kill him. Karga promises that if Mando does this, he can keep the baby, make good with the Guild, and everyone will stop hunting him. But the Mandalorian knows better than to come without backup. He goes back to Sorgan to pick up Cara Dune, who has no interest in leaving her safe haven until she learns she can fight some more Imperials. Then they head to pick up Kuiil, who has reconstructed IG-11 and reprogrammed him as a helper. The Ugnaught isn’t keen to leave his peaceful world either, but agrees to do so for the child’s sake, and insists on bringing IG-11 and his blurrgs along. En route, Mando and Cara are having an arm-wrestling competition when Baby Yoda mistakes the bout for Cara trying to hurt the Mandalorian. He Force-chokes her, and Mando has to assure him he’s unharmed before the child will stop.
When they arrive on Navarro, they meet Karga and three members of the Guild. They have a day’s trek to the city, and while they’re camped at night, they get attacked by a team of flying creatures who make off with two of Kuiil’s blurrgs. It takes a long time to scare them off with blaster fire, and Karga gets wounded by one, clawed with poison spreading through his system. Baby Yoda approaches and uses the Force to heal him. The next day, as they approach the city, Karga kills his Guild compatriots. He reveals that he’d been lying to the Mandalorian, and they’d planned to turn him and the child in to the Client, but he changed his mind after the little one saved his life. He insists that he’s on their team now, and that they’ll be able to make quick work of the situation—the Client is only ever surrounded by four men and all the Imperials nearby will abandon their posts once he’s dead.
Mando gives Baby Yoda to Kuiil for safe keeping, telling him to head back to the Razor Crest on his last blurrg and lock it down. They keep the empty bassinet with them, closed, for the purpose of fooling the Client, and the Mandalorian puts on binders to pretend that Dune caught him and is returning him for a reward. Once they reach the city, they find a large number of troopers, and more guarding the Client himself than expected. He asks to see the baby, but before he gets the chance, there’s a call for him. He takes it by the window, and he and all his men are suddenly gunned down from outside. There’s a squad of death troopers out in th street, and landing behind them in a special TIE fighter is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). He demands that they hand the baby over, leading the Mandalorian to contact Kuiil via comlink and ask if he’s made it back to the ship. He’s still en route, but the communication is overheard, giving two scout troopers the opening to go after Kuiil. They catch up to him right before he reaches the Razor Crest, gather up the baby, and leave Kuiil and his blurrg for dead.
This is exactly what I was hoping for, to be honest—that the Mandalorian would have to go collect all his friends for the last stand. (Of course IG-11 is still around, because you do not waste Taika Waititi on a bit part in the first episode and never bring him back.)
Being inspired by Westerns, the show is having a go at one of the major themes of the genre: the concept of “freedom” and how one attains it for themselves. We see this with all the characters that the Mandalorian has bonded with along the way. Cara Dune is trying to hide herself away so the past never catches up with her. Kuiil escaped a life of slavery to the Empire (because “indentured servitude” is just a mild way of saying slavery), and only wants to live out his life in peace and solitude. IG-11 was programmed to catch and murder, but he’s learning a new way, getting the chance to move beyond what he was built for.
The section where Kuiil details repairing the IG unit finally addresses some of the issues surrounding the Mando’s distrust of droids. Kuiil’s restructuring of IG-11 reads less like a reprogramming than a therapy and rehabilitation sequence, the sort of care you would give to a badly wounded soldier. The droid doesn’t just get his mind wiped and go on his way—he has to relearn all his most basic motor functions, find new purpose for his skills and, indeed, his entire existence. When the Mandalorian grouses over it, Kuiil points out one of the key tenets of technology that humans love to overlook, even in the real world: Technology is a reflection of us. If it does terrible things, that is because we designed it to that end. IG-11 cannot be blamed for what people made him into.
The Mandalorian’s insistence that droids cannot get past their programming seems like it’s rooted in a very explicit point in his history, the only possibility that we’ve seen on-screen being the loss of his parents as a child. We see droids killing off people on his world, so all of his prejudices against them could easily stem from that attack—although the insistence that they cannot change seems like a more specific grievance. This is another ideal opportunity to point out that droids being used at all in during that attack means it was likely set during the Clone War; droids were used heavily by the Separatist army, and the droid we see in action during the flashbacks looks a lot like the B2 super battle droid model.
(Side thought: If that is a Clone War sequence, and we already know that an Obi-Wan Kenobi show is in the works for Disney+, could little Mando end up getting rescued by a clone battalion led by Obi-Wan and/or Anakin Skywalker? It would be easy to cameo them right there, and make sense of why the series has held out on showing us who rescued him as a boy. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to know what Force powers are, which indicates he’s never seen them used before.)
The other aspect of finding freedom in this narrative comes from juxtaposing the former control of the Empire against the newer control exerted by the New Republic. Cara Dune is happy to stick it to a few more Imperials, but she can’t end up on the Republic’s radar, even though she fought for their cause—whatever happened in her past made her some enemies among their ranks, leading to her self-imposed exile. The Client has his own feelings toward that end, asking if anyone really believes a world like Navarro is better off in the Empire’s absence, when they were the ones responsible for bringing order to chaotic places.
While it’s undoubted that the New Republic has problems (we know from what we see in the previous episode, and from other media—Star Wars: Bloodline gives us a rough demonstration of how incredibly petty the political stage can get), it’s easy to take the Client’s protestations with a grain of sand. Fascists love to claim that their systems are worth it for the “order” they bring, conveniently glossing over all the xenophobia, erasure of rights, and murder they bring in their wake. Moreover, Navarro is likely a world on or close to the Outer Rim; the Empire and the Republics, old and new, have never had much luck bringing any form of governance to these worlds. The Client may be longing for a time when he knew his own place in the galaxy, but his sentiment is hollow.
I would like to take this opportunity to state that Mando and Cara’s friendship is beautiful, and there is something particularly special about having a friend who goads you into arm wrestling. That we will never know the outcome of said wrestling, since Baby Yoda interrupted, is a tragedy. Also, watching Dune make money off of wrestling matches for local entertainment might have killed me? We are not worthy of Gina Carano. I’m not sure we ever will be.
The fact that the Mandalorian still hasn’t figured out that there are certain things you shouldn’t do with a toddler is a source of endless delight. Like leaving the kid unsupervised in your ship’s cockpit. Yeah.
But who is Moff Gideon? And why does he want the baby so badly? It still seems likely that he’s the one who found Fennec’s body at the end of episode five, so he’s been on the fringes for a while. Here’s hoping those scout troopers didn’t kill Kuiil and he’s just wounded. It would be devastating if this mission got him killed after how hard he worked to build a life for himself outside of the Empire’s reach. On the other hand, it’s possible that’s a setup for forcing the Mando to keep IG-11, which is an odd couple pairing that could extend well into a new seasons without difficulty. Gosh, I wold love that.
Things and asides:
- The guy that Cara Dune is fighting for money in the local watering hole on Sorgan is Dathomiri, the same species as Darth Maul and his brother Savage.
- Cara’s tattoo is revealed to be a specific mark of the Rebel shock-troopers. Karga recognizes the mark on sight and asks her to cover it up to avoid triggering tempers.
- Kuiil talks of earning his freedom over the course of “three human lifetimes”, but that’s a lot longer than the Empire was around. I’m guessing he was indentured to someone else before the Empire came along?
- The concept of “chain codes” is a relatively new thing, a form of identification that can apparently be used by any and all galactic parties? It would make sense to want to simplify the system across the board, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be used ethically.
- Kuiil says that he took IG-11 because he’s allowed to claim “flotsam” as his own in accordance with the Charter of the New Republic. Given all the leftover equipment and downed tech from various battles against the Empire across the galaxy, it would make sense for the New Republic to create rules around its use and disposal. This makes sense of Rey’s ability to scavenge parts to trade for food and necessities, along with others like her on Jakku. It lines up with the Rebellion’s “pension plans” as well; many Rebel pilots simply got to keep their ships as payment for their services to the Rebellion—Poe Dameron’s mom, Shara Bey, did this.
- Baby Yoda uses the Force to heal Karga from a poisonous injury. The kid doesn’t just extract the poison, though—it makes the wound utterly vanish. That’s not an ability we’ve ever really witnessed a Jedi use, aside from moments where someone’s life-force was siphoned off and transferred (i.e. what happens to Ahsoka on Mortis in The Clone Wars). Given how incredibly powerful Yoda himself was, this is not completely outside the realm of possibility… but it’s kind of a huge deal, and could be weirdly abused in the future if not handled correctly.
- No indication on what a “strand-cast” is, or what the gene farms are for, but it’s pretty likely that they pertain to the cloning process, or at least to growing organic beings and matter.
- The death troopers shown at the end of the episode are a section of Imperial security that specializes in espionage and stealth, though they are sometimes employed as bodyguards to high-ranking officials in the Empire. They were created as something of an analog to the Navy SEALs.
We’ve got over a week to wait for the finale! Which is terrible, but hopefully Rise of Skywalker will prove a useful distraction. See you in two Fridays…
Emmet Asher-Perrin has a lot of feeling about droid rehab, and they were very careful not to scream in all caps about it throughout the entire review. You can bug him on Twitter, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.