To say that Star Wars properties have some tricky balancing acts to pull off is an understatement. There’s the balance of comedy and action, of course, and the dual demands of satisfying a fan base steeped in nostalgia and exploring the creative possibilities of an entire galaxy. This season, The Mandalorian has mostly gone the nostalgic route, returning to familiar locations like the Mos Eisley cantina for a storyline that has a stated end goal—return The Child to his kind—but a rambling path to get there. This week’s episode, however, gives the season a more urgent driving force, as Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon appears in the flesh to lay out his evil plan.
But first, The Mandalorian heads back to another of his favorite stomping grounds: The desert planet of Nevarro, now under the control of his old pals Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano). They’ve done an admirable job cleaning up the place, which now has a bustling market, a school presided over by a prim protocol droid, and even some greenery. But the evil legacy of the Empire has not yet beet eradicated from the planet, and Greef and Cara have an offer for Mando—who doesn’t, really?—to get some free repairs on the Razor Crest in exchange for his help vaporizing what appears to be an abandoned Imperial base on the other side of the planet.
It isn’t actually abandoned, of course, but instead has been serving as the laboratory for Dr. Pershing’s experiments to (presumably, it’s not laid out explicitly but this seems like a pretty safe assumption) create a race of neo-Imperial supersoldiers enhanced with The Child’s Force-sensitive blood. The experiments haven’t worked so far, but Imperials are nothing if not persistent. And so the stakes of last season, where The Child was constantly under threat from mercenaries, are ramped back up as we learn that a corrupt mechanic has installed a tracking device on the Razor Crest, meaning that a confrontation between Mando and the series’ big bad is inevitable.
But first, we get a lively series of action sequences that call back to Luke and Han’s mission to rescue Leia all the way back in the original film, featuring a treacherous ledge over a burning reactor and a control panel under siege. We even get Horatio Sandz in the fearful, “I don’t think this is such a good idea” C-3PO role, reprising his character as the still-technically-unnamed Mythrol from the first episode. (A good accountant is hard to find, I guess.) Weathers himself directs this episode, which gave me a chuckle considering that Greef both has some of the best lines of the episode and a heroic moment in the gun turret of his and Cara’s getaway craft. But Weathers earns the self-mythologizing with some really fun action direction that throws Stormtroopers around like toy soldiers; my favorite was the shot where Mando comes flying up to the surface, immediately blasts two Stormtroopers, and swats away a third like a fly.
Mando leaves the party early to go collect The Child, a rescue mission that takes place entirely off camera. There’s been (thus far unsubstantiated) talk of a Cara Dune spin-off series in development at Disney+, and “The Siege” does seem to be testing the waters for adventures that don’t involve our core clan of two. And with Mando seemingly taking his responsibilities as a single father a little more seriously (Gizmo-esque electrocution moment notwithstanding) after the whole “attempted Frog Lady genocide” incident in episode two, the show may be moving in a direction where other characters go on adventures as Mando raises his adopted son. (It was very mature of him to pass on drinks with Greef and the gang to scrub neon blue throw-up out of The Child’s coat.) I can’t say that’s my ideal outcome for the series, but if it does happen, a simple request: Can the Mando and son dynamic on their spin-off sitcom be like Earl and Baby on Dinosaurs? I do love watching the lil’ guy act out.
- The Mandalorian had its Starbucks cup moment this week, as a crew member in a T-shirt and jeans appears on the left-hand side of a shot during the battle aboard the Imperial base. The gaffe even made it to the official still above, which I downloaded before this becomes a thing and Disney pulls it. (You can also see it at around 18:53 in the episode.)
- Carl Weathers actually has a fairly robust resume as a TV director, going all the way back to a run helming episodes of Silk Stalkings from 1993 to 1997.
- When Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) asks Cara Dune if she “lost anyone” on Alderaan ... um, yeah, dude. The entire planet was literally blown to bits.
- If you know anything about Gina Carano’s history of spouting transphobic and, more recently, anti-masking nonsense on Twitter, her playing a space cop—yeah, it tracks.
- The end-credits drawings show The Child stealing what appear to be cookies, which were changed to neon-blue candy for the final episode.
- Speaking of, The Child was really having a great time this episode, stealing candy and waving his arms around and giggling like he was riding a roller coaster as Papa Mando blew TIE fighters out of the sky.
- Dr. Pershing’s hologram to Moff Gideon makes reference to “M-Counts,” which means only one thing: The Child’s midi-chlorians are off the scale, baby!