After last week’s Tatooine adventure, The Mandolorian is making a jailbreak in the latest episode that combines heist and horror tropes for the most well-rounded episode yet. The show continues to defy modern TV convention by favoring the old-timey serial format that originally influenced Star Wars; but “The Prisoner” hits a narrative sweet spot with a mid-episode turn that gives this episode more heft without adding excess weight.
As always, slapping a big ole *Spoiler Warning* for the episode here, and let’s talk about it.
Mando arrives at a space station run by That Guy From Sons Of Anarchy, looking for work. Back in the day, these two used to run space capers together, and if I know anything about heists, it’s that coming out of retirement for one last job is usually bad news bears. But with the Bounty Hunter’s Guild on his ass all the time, Mando needs to make cash on the DL, and sometimes that means asking old coworkers if they know of any freelance assignments.
The first chunk of the episode plays out like any good Ocean’s 11-type deal, with Mando meeting a crew and everyone looking at blueprints. There’s Bill Burr as an ex-special ops stormtrooper, continuing the show’s gimmick of giving comedians the most fun role of each episode. It’s cool to see this angle on a formerly faceless Imperial – he’s kind of a jerk, but he’s not outright evil. To quote another space western that takes place after a big war, “We’re all just folk now.” You might not recognize Tonks from Harry Potter or Osha from Game of Thrones, but Natalia Tena plays the Twi’Lek Lady, which you just love to see. She has an unspecified but obviously PG-13 history with our Mandalorian friend, but Mandalorians and Twi’Leks don’t kiss and tell. Or whatever it is they did to work around that helmet. Rounding out the squad is big ole’ Clancy Brown as one of those devil guys from the Mos Eisley cantina, and Richard Ayoade reprising his role from IT Crowd, but as a robot.
The job is simple – they let Richard AyoDroid fly the Razor’s Crest in a fancy maneuver that will let them slip by the sensors of a New Republic prison ship, sneak past the all-droid crew, and rescue an old accomplice of The Guy From Sons Of Anarchy. Your basic “smash and grab” as people in heist movies like to say.
Once they’re underway, the team gets to know each other a little better in the ship’s hold, and since they’re all a bunch of scum and villainy, that goes not great. They mostly pick on the Mandalorian way more than necessary, teasing him about his helmet. I’m not sure they are actively making parallels between how Mando is a big droid racist while also the victim of harassment and discrimination or not, but it’s interesting. Anyway, Devil Guy and Mando get in a little scuffle leading to the door to Baby Yoda’s little secret chamber opening. Hey, there’s Baby Yoda! Remember him?
The ruthless gang of mercenaries all coo and kaa over Baby Yoda appropriately, since they’re not part of the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, and don’t know what they’ve just discovered. However, you can tell Mando is running a bunch of different “murder everyone and somehow still get paid” scenarios in his head when Bill Burr gets a little too flippant about our man’s boy. Before everything goes to shit, though, Richard AyoaDroid brings the ship out of hyperspace, throwing everyone into some Star Trek-style turbulence acting. Bill Burr drops Baby Yoda so hard, everyone in my house all shouted “Whoa whoa whoa!” at the screen at the same time.
Once they’ve stealth landed on the Republic ship, we get to phase two of the heist and a nice change of scenery for the first time in the episode. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with gritty back worlds, but for my money, Star Wars is the most Star Wars-iest when there’s a group of weirdly dressed friends doing a bad job of sneaking around monochromatic 70s-era space-hallways.
We pass through the detention cells of the ship, and because he’s bored(?), Devil Guy shoots a mouse droid, alerting the entire ship that they’re there. I always thought the mouse droids seemed too cute to be Imperial purists, so it’s nice to see them getting work in the New Republic after the war. Anyway, they murder this one, so now there’s a squad of robot guards to deal with. These security droids are new, and I’m glad we get to see some character designs that aren’t recycled. Mando takes the droids out handily, and everyone is still a prick to him.
The control room is where things get really interesting. The all-droid ship apparently has one human onboard, a jittery Republic officer played by none other than Matt Lanter, who voiced Anakin Skywalker on all seven seasons of The Clone Wars! Matt’s got a tracker that will bring the New Republic down on them if he activates it, and the team argues about how to handle the dicey situation.
Showcasing his growing morality, the Mandalorian tries to resolve the Matt situation without violence. He’s come a long way as a negotiator since a few weeks ago when he was *checks notes* …trying to beat up a Sandcrawler. I’ve seen some people complain about the episodic nature of The Mandalorian, thinking that these one-off stories aren’t “about anything” but I have to disagree. We’re getting an incremental look at how the character grows as a person, one adventure at a time. I know people want to know why Baby Yoda is so important but the answer is: “Because the Mandalorian likes him.” One day there will be 2,000 youtube videos about Baby Yoda’s backstory for people to get mad about, but for now the show’s focus is on characters, and I dig it.
All that’s for naught, however, since Twi’Lek Lady kills Matt with one of her little daggers, but hey, good try Mando! Now it’s time to free the prisoner they came for who turns out to be….
…A guy we don’t know. But Mando does, and it’s his fault the guy got pinched in the first place. Here’s the turn of the episode that makes it the most narratively satisfying yet – it turns out the whole mission was a big setup to free Twi-Lek Lady’s brother and trap Mando in the New Republic prison instead. “You deserve this,” Twi-Lek Lady tells him as the crew leaves Mando to his fate.
What happens next is a hard pivot in a genre that some are saying is reminiscent of Die Hard (just in time for Christmas!). In my opinion, though, the next bit plays out more like the last act of Alien. Mando escapes his brig, through some Mando badassery, and in the red gleam of emergency lights, separates and hunts down each of the mercenaries who betrayed him. Even though apparently he betrayed them first a while ago. It’s a moral gray area.
Oh, meanwhile Richard AyoaDroid stumbles onto Carl Wether’s old voicemail about Baby Yoda, prompting him to search the ship while all his friends get merc’d.
But back to the action: Devil Guy gets the door treatment Mando is partial to…twice. Twi-Lek Lady tries to go all Knives Chau on her ex, but that Beskar armor ain’t got time for that. And finally, Bill Burr gets full-on Batman-ed.
The Prisoner surrenders to the Mandalorian and promises his fair share, as long as he lets him live. “Aren’t you a man of honor?” That seems to be the million-dollar question of this series, my dude.
Richard AyoDroid finds Baby Yoda at last, and the kid goes to force-choke the droid, only to be surprised when it’s heart explodes in front of him. Turns out Baby Yoda hasn’t tapped the dark side of the force just yet, though: it’s only Mando back onboard and doing his very favorite thing. (Killing robots).
The Mandalorian returns The Prisoner to The Guy From Sons of Anarchy and takes his payment without much ceremony. It seems like nobody has any hard feelings about the ole triple double-cross, and everyone can go on their merry way- oop, nope, Guy From Sons Of Anarchy is gonna blow Mando out of the sky with a gunship. Except it turns out Mando is still an ice-cold badass who slipped Matt’s New Republic tracker into The Prisoner’s back pocket.
Faster than you can say “Porkins” a squadron of old school era X-Wings shows up. This episode is a cameo-spectacular, and the icing on the cake is that the three main directors of the series, Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow and Rick Famuyira, play the X-Wing pilots. Without asking a single question, the New Republic Space Cops blow the hell out of the space station without thinking twice about the Mando’s ship that just high-tailed it out of there.
Mando gives Baby Yoda his favorite little doodad, and tells him that he knew this whole thing had been a bad idea, and off they go. Meanwhile back at the space prison, it turns out Mando didn’t kill his whole crew, and everyone’s locked in a cell- just like how they left him. Mando said they “got what they deserve,” and it looks like he’s a man of honor after all.
- Bill Burr is officially the character I relate to most in this show with the line “I’m a little particular about my personal space.”
- The way the show discusses honor and morality is the most interesting thing about it, besides Baby Yoda. Mando lives his life by a set code, which he perceives as his morality. By caring for a child, his code changes, but he arguably becomes a more honorable person, even in betraying that preset morality ~*ThEmEs*~.
- Baby Yoda thinking he blew up Richard AyoDroid and looking at his little hand is the best thing that’s ever happened.
- Devil Man’s horns are cut off in the last scene, which is a nice little detail after getting double squished by the blast doors.
- Last week’s mystery is left still hanging. There are only two episodes of the season left to learn the identity of Spurs, and while the bettin’ money is still on Moff Gideon, there’s always the chance we’ll get a big cliffhanger featuring that other guy to wear the Mandalorian armor.