I love it when Star Wars slows down to remind us that everyone we see has a personality, a belief system, and a personal code. Not all stormtroopers are comfortable with the Imperial practices, not all Mandalorians live strictly within the confines of their code, and not all in prisoners are beyond redemption (and might not even require it in the first place).
“Chapter 15: The Believer” dropped on Disney+ yesterday and gave us the first episode wholly without Grogu since the show’s premier. No adorable gurgling, no Jedi-centric possibilities, but instead several moments of quiet introspection and characters talking. Sure, there’s a case scene that feels like a diet version of Mad Max: Fury Road, but other than that this one’s a talkie.
Mando (Pedro Pascal) has recruited Boba Fett (Temura Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) to help him rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), a man that feels threatening in his shiny black armor with his shiny black sword despite seeming like Palpatine’s accountant. They boost Mayfield (Bill Burr), still in prison from his exploits in season one, to help them locate the Imperial Moff’s ship. Needing access to an Imperial data terminal, they hatch a plan to infiltrate the nearest hidden installation – a rhydonium processing plant on the planet Morak. Think of rhydonium as nitroglycerin and you basically get why this is nuts.
In an episode filled with explosive material and a wild car chase…this week was oddly quiet. There are two major dialogue sequences that matter, one between Mando (in Imperial armor to hide his identity) and Mayfield as the latter tries to convince him how similar they are. The other is between these two and an imperial officer, one convinced the lives he’s sacrificed and destroyed were worth the Imperial cause as they’re just numbers on a spreadsheet to him. These two scenes serve as wonderful mirrors to each other, with the Mandalorian realizing that he doesn’t truly know everyone’s story in the same way that few know his. The man can seem like an enigma, a faceless hulking warrior, simply because his armor hides his humanity. Mayfield, on the other hand, wears his like a badge of honor but he hides a past as a faceless data point just under the skin. Star Wars is best, at least in the modern era, when it eschews the tropey black and white dogma of its origins and reminds us that we all exist in shades of gray. The original trilogy was about good taking on evil, the prequels about the issues that such dogmatic lines in the sand can cause, and the sequel trilogy about the fallout from such spectacular failures of reasoning. The Mandalorian serves to remind us that people exist in the galaxy outside of our archetypal heroes and villains, that normal people have lived under both aspects and found them wanting. “The New Republic, the Empire, it’s all the same to these peoples. We’re invaders in their land, no matter what side we’re on.”
Now that I’ve talked about quiet, intelligent discussion on morality within the Star Wars universe we can move on.
Holy crap, did anyone else lose their mind at the return of the bombs that go “Bwooo—-BRRRRRRSHHHHHCRAAAAAGH” from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones!? Because I lost my damn mind. A split second before they deployed I turned to my girlfriend and said, “I really hope the weird-noise-bombs come back,” delighted when they instantly did and I received that delicious fast-food satisfaction that I’ve come to love about this show. Instant gratification nostalgia as a means of smuggling in a more interesting story. I dig it.
Season two is proving to be a more interesting beast than its predecessor and Star Wars is all the better for it. While the fun, episodic nature of the storytelling has been replaced with serialized moves (some of which are clearly setting up for spinoffs) I have to say I’m loving it. The universe is different now, bigger and filled in with real people that are taking violent jobs in the aftermath of a war between mythological characters. We’re headed into the season finale next week, an episode I’ve no doubt will be action-packed from start to finish, but I’m glad we took a moment to slow down and remember that this show is about the normal folks existing on the edge of the galaxy, struggling to survive and to be able to sleep at night.