Hey! Remember earlier this week when Dustin tried to make Dan and I doubt whether The Mandalorian is actually a good TV show? Well screw THAT guy, because this week’s episode proved the show is more than just an aimless, star-studded, wandering mess. It’s also sometimes, on occasion, an aimless HEIST. It’s a change of pace the show sorely needed at this point in the season, and the fact that it had more guest stars in crazy makeup than a Doctor Who Christmas Special was just the cherry on top.
The plot, as always, was super straightforward: Mando arrives at a space station to meet up with an old “business” acquaintance named Ranzar Malk (Mark Boone Junior — picture a hairier version of Badger from Firefly). He’s putting together a rough and tumble crew for a very special job that will involve springing a “package” from a transport ship that’s supposedly manned entirely by droids. Here’s the catch: The package is in fact a prisoner, and the transport ship is a New Republic prison. Droids or no, that’s a lot of potential attention Mando doesn’t want aimed his way. Worse still, the eclectic team he’s got to work with is talented but thoroughly untrustworthy — though at least it’s filled with familiar faces! Bill Burr plays Mayfield, the leader of the mission; Clancy Brown dons horns as the muscle of the crew, Burg; Natalia Tena (Harry Potter’s Tonks) is a swaggering Twi’lek named Xi’an; and Richard Ayoade voices a seriously sassy bug-eyed droid called Zero. With Mando on board as their fifth, and — crucially — his spaceship at their disposal, they’re ready to start.
But first there’s the obligatory “Dammit Mando, stop hiding Baby Yoda in the storage closet because that’s unsafe and literally NEVER works out” scene, as Mayfield discovers our favorite toddling meme generator stashed away in his usual hidey hole… and then promptly drops him when the ship comes out of hyperdrive. I can only assume the volume of my EXTREME HORRIFIED GASP helped Baby Yoda pull through the ordeal with nary a bruise on him, because otherwise what was even the point?
As usual, nothing goes as planned with the mission. Their intel was wrong and there is in fact a person manning the transport — and worse, that person presses the button on a special New Republic death-beacon that starts the requisite ticking clock on the plot. The team has 20 minutes to find the package and escape before they have Rebel fighters breathing down their necks. The next twist is that the prisoner in question is Xi’an’s brother Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who is only IN prison because of Mando in the first place — and the plan all along has been to use Mando to spring him, then double-cross our hero and leave him behind.
So here’s a thing I learned on The Mandalorian this week: Nobody puts Mando in a corner. Or leaves him in a prison cell while he’s fully armed, because it took all of like 5 seconds for him to free himself and start plotting his revenge against the team. His naturally stoic, silent nature proves thematically relevant as he stalks each and every one of those backstabbers down individually, then locks THEM in the cell and makes off with Qin to collect the reward by himself.
Oh, and Baby Yoda plays a game of deadly hide-and-seek with the Ayoade-bot back on the ship, and it’s totally cute right up until Yoda has to defend himself using his Baby Force Powers… and thinks he’s killed the droid, until he realizes that Mando actually shot it from behind.
Anyway, Mando takes Qin back to Hairy Badger for the handoff, and he almost gets away free and clear with his reward… except for the inevitable extra double-cross that we all saw coming. Hairy Badger orders his station to shoot Mando’s ship down as it leaves. The good news is that Mando also saw this coming and has tucked the death-beacon into Qin’s pants, so that the coming squadron of X-Wings drops in out of hyperspace just in time to shoot the station before the station can shoot Mando. Those X-Wing pilots, by the way, were played by series directors Rick Famuyiwa (who helmed this episode), Dave Filoni, and Deborah Chow!
I suppose on the surface this heist isn’t necessarily all the different from any other episodic plot this season. The formula (Mando takes a job, it goes haywire, he survives and moves on) is more or less unchanged. What’s different is that this week Mando doesn’t just come out on top thanks to luck and the intervention of other forces — he actually, definitively wins. He outwits and out-fights everyone in a way we haven’t seen since he rescued Baby Yoda in Chapter 3, and reminds us all why he’s a character worth rooting for in the first place (despite his dangerous childcare tactics).
That said, I’d still have rather watched an entire episode of Baby Yoda hiding from that Ayoade-bot. Hell, there are a lot of things I’d rather have seen that Ayoade-bot do. I make my own fan-service with this show, thank you very much.
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