Warning: Spoilers for “Chapter Six: The Prisoner,” “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” and prior episodes of “The Mandalorian” follow.
As we head further into the latter half of “The Mandalorian’s” first season, the series continues to deliver on solid episodes all-around. The first is an excellent heist-style one with a solid cast of miscreants and dives into Mando’s (Pedro Pascal) past. The latter serves as the penultimate episode for the season, delivering tense moments throughout and setting up the finale.
“Chapter Six: The Prisoner”
Coming off of his pitstop on Tatooine, The Mandalorian seeks work in a small space station with the former crew he used to run with. His old acquaintance Ranzar Malk (Mark Boone Junior) fills him in on a possible score, one that involves breaking out a prisoner from a New Republic prison transport ship with the help of four other mercenaries. The Mandalorian is hesitant at first but due to his standing with the guild and Ran’s “no questions asked” approach, he has no other choice. The first of the crew is Mayfeld (Bill Burr), a former Imperial sharpshooter who makes it clear he was NOT a stormtrooper. The next two are a droid pilot named Zero (Richard Ayoade) and a quite large Devaronian -- the devil-looking species seen in the cantina of “A New Hope” -- called Burg (Clancy Brown). The final member is a Twi’lek Xi’an (Natalia Tena), someone who The Mandalorian had a past relationship with. Right from their introduction, it is apparent that the crew of mercenaries are not good people whatsoever and not ones you want hanging around the same ship as The Child. The Razor Crest is the reason Ran actually wants The Mandalorian on the score, to which Mayfeld makes the off-hand comparison of it to a Canto Bight slot machine. I’ll take whatever “The Last Jedi” reference I can get.
As Zero pilots the Razor Crest to the prison ship, the crew get way too comfortable on The Mandalorian’s ship. They all tease Mando for his strict adherence to his religion and you can feel the awkwardness of the situation, which even without seeing his face Pedro Pascal plays really well. There is even a funny bit made from Mayfeld on the possibility of The Mandalorian being a Gungan under his helmet, which has a solid delivery from Burr which probably isn’t too shocking considering his background in comedy. It took me a bit to get used to his Bostonian accent in “Star Wars,” but I like how he plays the character in being someone I don’t really like whatsoever. This is amplified when they discover The Child in his little cubby and Mayfeld then picks him up. He jokes about taking him on as his own pet, and again the awkwardness of the situation is too real Pascal plays it cool despite the real worry probably going on inside The Mandalorian’s helmet. Mayfeld pretends to drop The Child, and then actually drops him when Zero comes out of hyperspace and performs an acrobatic maneuver to avoid being detected. If you already didn’t hate the group, this really should get the blood boiling.
Docked on the cruiser, the crew begin their way through the ship which is supposed to be run only by droids. They walk past a number of miscreants in their cells, one of which I believe is an Ardennian, the same four-armed species as Rio Durant from “Solo: A Star Wars Story” that Jon Favreau provided the voice for. The connection is obvious though I found it cool that this one seemed to be an actual puppet unlike Rio from “Solo” who was CGI. One of the best fight scenes yet takes place here with Mando taking on a group of New Republic prison guard droids. The crew take no care in actually helping and just stand idly by watching him, their way of testing to see if Mandalorians are all that their hyped up to be. There is some creative use of his tool kit and again the fight showcases he isn’t perfect but manages to take them all out in the end. The final shot of seeing the Mando through a hole he blasted through the last droid’s head was a nice touch. They make their way to the control center of the ship, only to discover there is a single organic running the ship with a New Republic officer. The officer is played by Matt Lanter, who is no stranger to “Star Wars,” having provided the voice of Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and other animated outings (you might also know him from “Timeless”). I love his cameo here and he plays the scared-out-of-his-wits guard extremely well, a departure from the always-confident Anakin. Holding a device that will broadcast his location to the New Republic military, a standoff ensues between him and the four mercenaries. The Mandalorian attempts to talk the others down into putting down their blasters and calm the terrified guard down. The whole scene is extremely tense and the whole cast plays it really well. Mayfeld and Mando get in an argument over keeping him alive but Xi’an simply throws a knife into the guard and ends it. Unfortunately for them, the guard was able to activate the device as he died and the crew now operate on a rushed schedule.
The crew make their way to their target’s cell and free him, revealing it to be Xi’an’s brother Qin who apparently Mando was responsible for putting in prison. Before he can process the situation, the crew pushes him into the cell and lock him in. Before they even make it back to the Razor Crest, The Mandalorian is out and on his mission to settle the score. He closes a door back in the control center, separating Burg and Xi’an from Qin and Mayfeld. Thus begins my favorite part of the episode, as Mando begins to pick them off one-by-one. He turns off the ships’ lights and the music shifts to this almost horror sound and I absolutely love it. He starts with Burg first and brawls with him, with at one point a really cool shot occurring where Mando attempts to roast him with his flamethrower but the devil-looking man simply walks through the flames menacingly. Mando barely scrapes by, forced to drop an actual door on Burg to win. His next encounter is with Xi’an and her throwing knives, which don’t seem like the best tool to take on a guy dressed in full armor. While this is happening, Zero back on the ship discovers a transmission from Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), realizing the value of The Child. He then begins his search for The Child, who has an absolutely precious shot of himself peeking around a corner with his tiny little breathing noises. Back with Mando, the warrior takes on his next target of Mayfeld with little trouble. This sequence is something ripped straight from Batman’s playbook and I love it. As Mayfeld makes his way down the dark corridor, the flashing lights show Mando moving closer and closer, frame-by-frame with each flash of the lights. We simply get Mayfeld’s shock as he turns around to see nothing only for The Mandalorian to be right behind him. This sequence is seriously the coolest from the show so far.
Mando ends his horror-spree with Qin, who quickly submits and taunts Mando with his code. Meanwhile, The Child (who I seriously am beginning to think has some sort of teleportation Force ability) is discovered by Zero in his cubby. The droid takes aim and The Child lifts his hand in response to use the Force. Zero ends up blasted in the back of the head by Mando now back on the ship, but the shot of The Child looking down at his hand believing he did it was 10/10. The Mandalorian returns to the space station, dropping off Qin to Ran, who is obviously not pleased with the absence of the rest of the crew. The Mandalorian takes his payment though and flys off, with Ran soon after dispatching a ship to take him out. Both Ran and Qin soon realize their folly when they discover a beeping noise coming from Qin is the New Republic beacon. Right on cue, three X-Wings appear out of hyperspace. We get some more cameos here as all three are directors of the show, the first being Dave Filoni -- who don’t think I wouldn’t notice his name is Trapper Wolf -- the second is Rick Famuyiwa, who directed this episode, and the final one is Deborah Chow. They quickly take out the gunship (which reminded me a lot of General Grievous’ in “Episode III”) and then attack the rest of the station. The Mandalorian comes out on top once again, and he has a cute interaction with The Child pushing his relationship between the two further. The final shot of the episode reveals that Mando didn’t actually kill Mayfeld, Xi’an or Burg (though the door did take off his horns) but threw them in their own cell.
As Rick Famuyiwa’s second episode directing, I really enjoyed the style he brought to the episode. It is also funny to compare this one to the first one he directed with “Chapter Two,” which was slow-paced and light on dialogue whereas this episode was the complete polar opposite. Bill Burr makes a strong “Star Wars” debut, with his comedic background lending well to Mayfeld’s wisecracking personality but professional demeanor. Clancy Brown (who is probably best known as the voice of Mr. Krabs) makes his live-action “Star Wars” debut, first voicing another big brute with horns as Savage Opress, brother to Darth Maul, in “The Clone Wars.” His makeup and actual portrayal were great as I did not actually realize it was him until the credits rolled. Xi’an was another interesting piece to the puzzle, especially in fleshing out Mando’s backstory by revealing that he has had some kind of romantic relationship. I like her style of Twi’lek, a much more chaotic kind than say Hera Syndulla or Aayla Secura. The droid Zero and Xi’an’s brother Qin were solid as well. Overall this episode explores what Mando’s past was before he met The Child, and is a good representation of the impact the little guy has had on his life. The door definitely seems open for the three left in the cell to make a return down the line which I am totally game for. Ludwig Göransson’s score for this episode is the most unique one yet, introducing a sort of hip-hop sound to “Star Wars” with some strings to contrast that sound at certain points that matches what the episode was going for perfectly. The intensity this episode brings makes it stand out as one of the best of the season yet.
“Chapter Seven: The Reckoning”
Traveling through space, The Mandalorian receives a transmission from Greef Karga who delivers a proposition. Imperials have swarmed Nevarro and slowed guild work since his stunt, asking for his help to take out The Client and removing Imperial rule in exchange for clearing his name. Cautious about the proposition, The Mandalorian returns to the planet from “Chapter Four” to enlist the help of Cara Dune (Gina Carano) once again. In her intro, we are treated to another display of her strength against a male Zabrak (Darth Maul species) in a betting match. The Mandalorian explains the situation to her and she isn’t in until The Mandalorian mentions the enemy is Imperial. Obviously, her roots of rebellion are still strong all these years after the war. She also mentions the bounty on her is huge for the stuff she’s done since her days with the rebels, which I hope will be explored later down the line. Once in the air, The Child eavesdrops on the plan of bringing him back to The Client, which he seems to understand which he retaliates by hopping on the joystick and spinning the ship out of control. Once the two get him off it, they realize they need someone to watch The Child which leads to the next recruit.
At last, we get the return of Kuiil (Nick Nolte) who welcomes the two with open arms. In his discussion with Cara on her past as a rebel shocktrooper, he reveals that he was a slave on the other side of the war for the Imperials. Humble as he is, he says he has paid off this debt and is a free man now, as if he really needed to pay off deeds he was forced to carry out by the Empire. IG-11 (Taika Waititi) also makes his return as Kuiil explains he reprogrammed the droid to be of help around his encampment. We get a weird montage of Kuiil teaching IG-11 essentially how to operate itself like a toddler which I did enjoy despite how strange its inclusion felt. He no longer is programmed to hunt (which Mando still doesn’t believe with his stance on droids) but can protect. When asked for help, Kuiil agrees to only for the reason of keeping The Child from Imperial hands -- and they must bring the blurrgs. So Kuiil, IG-11 and the three blurrgs join the mission.
While in space, The Child once again taps into the Force but this time to the dark side. As Mando and Cara arm wrestle, he views Cara as a threat and begins to force choke her. Mando realizes he’s the one doing it and puts a stop to it. All seem mystified by the act and Kuiil touches on that he’s heard of such things but never in reality. We never actually get a mention of the Force or Jedi though. It makes the galaxy feel a lot bigger and solidifies the myth that the Jedi left behind. They make their landing and immediately meet Greef Karga, along with three of the bounty hunters with them. IG-11 stays on the ship and the others begin their trek to the city, resting when night falls. At night, flying creatures attack their campsite. Greef is struck on the arm, with Cara remarking when trying to patch him up that it is venomous. The group ward off the flying creatures, but at the cost of some of Kuiil’s blurrgs and a bounty hunter. Cara lacks the supplies to fully mend Greef’s wound, which The Child comes to the rescue and unveils an entirely new Force ability. He heals Greef’s wound, which isn’t an easy feat as The Child trembles during the act, then laying back when finished. I am very eager to learn more about this ability and whether it’s something only some Force-users can accomplish or can be learned by all. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the raw strength The Child has on his own -- seemingly without training -- and why he kept trying to touch Mando’s wound in “Chapter Two.”
This act of kindness by The Child leaves its impact on Greef who the next day, blasts the remaining two bounty hunters (in a very cool way I might add) revealing the plan was really to kill them and return The Child to The Client. With some reasoning from Kuiil, they keep Greef alive and form a new plan. Greef and Cara bring Mando in along with the empty device holding The Child, while Kuiil rides back to the Razor Crest with The Child to keep him safe. Kuiil gives Mando a comlink to keep in touch, which an important detail I believe should be pointed out is that it is an Imperial comlink (at least I think it is). The three return to The Client in the cantina, noting the very increased Imperial presence in the city. The Client buys it and says what we’re all thinking at the start of each episode: “I would like to see the baby.” Before he can though he gets a transmission from another Imperial, telling him to take a closer look at the carriage. Before he can, he and the other stormtroopers are blasted through the window with the three taking cover. Outside is revealed to be some form of Death troopers and a whole legion of stormtroopers. At Star Wars Celebration, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni revealed that members of the 501st Legion (a global group of fans with a passion for screen-accurate costumes and also do charity work) were enlisted to help with a scene that required many more stormtroopers than they actually had. I am 99% sure that is this scene and I think it is awesome that these fans got a chance to show off their craft and be a part of “Star Wars.” Also cool to point out is the troop transport that brings them, which I thought originated from “Star Wars Rebels” but apparently was a Sears exclusive toy first released after “Empire Strikes Back.” A truly deep cut that even surprised me, which I love. With the small army outside, Mando makes a call with the comlink to Kuiil to hurry back to the ship which is intercepted by two scout troopers. They hop on their speeder bikes and race off to catch Kuiil and The Child.
The show has been some of the most intense “Star Wars” we have ever gotten, but this climax of the episode is definitely the most intense one yet. As the crew hide in the cantina, a new character makes his grand reveal. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) arrives in a special TIE fighter, letting the group know just how much he wants The Child. Meanwhile, Kuiil rides hard on his blurrg attempting to beat the scout troopers to the Razor Crest. Mando attempts to warn him, and with a couple of cut backs and forths of the camera, it reveals The Child on the ground being scooped up by a scout trooper. It then settles on Kuiil’s dead body lying next to his beloved blurrg, which is made all the more awful that it is the episode’s final shot as you can see the smoke coming from his back, and still hear its aftereffect along with Göransson’s score. If there was any way to get me to hate someone more in their introduction besides killing The Child, this is it.
Deborah Chow has done another terrific job in her second time directing “Star Wars.” While her first in “Chapter Three” left me with a sense of happiness as the Mando escaped with The Child and saluted his fellow Mando at the sunset, this one just ripped my heart out and crushed it. Kuiil was definitely my favorite character on the show, as his sort of humble nature of just trying to be a simple Ugnaught making his way in the universe while being nice to others instantly made me fall in love with him. Nick Nolte managed to make Kuiil a sort of Yoda to Mando’s Luke, all while making it his own. It is the fact that we don’t even see his actual death occur that makes it all the more powerful. Werner Herzog’s character’s death was even more unceremonious, showing the brutal effects of this underworld and of a desperate Imperial remnant. The final chase scene is done so well, with the menacing sound of the speeder bikes complementing Göransson’s heart-racing music too perfectly.
Both episodes are tremendous, but I think I give the edge to “Chapter Six.” As a whole, I enjoyed it more but the end of “Chapter Seven” nearly puts it on top for what a rollercoaster of emotions it is. I’m anxious for more of Moff Gideon’s character and with how Mando and his allies can get The Child back. I predict IG-11 will make have a big redemption moment with this, and possibly finally end Mando’s distrust of droids. It is hard to believe there’s only one episode left, but you can catch the final episode of “The Mandalorian’s” debut season next Friday on Disney Plus.