For weeks people have been wondering if The Mandalorian was actually going anywhere, or merely spinning its wheels rather than progressing a narrative. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the episodic and self-contained nature of the show, which is deliberately setting the same pace as the old serials the entire Star Wars franchise is based on. Essentially Star Wars is to Flash Gordon and Akira Kurosawa as Stranger Things is to Ghostbusters and Steven King. An elegant storytelling genre, from a more civilized age, so to speak.
But folks should be happy that the penultimate episode of the season finally ups the stakes by bringing back the mystery of Baby Yoda and the Imperial Remnant. We begin with a “last time on…” that could have been easily substituted with a fourteen-second loop of the prisoner from last week’s episode asking “aren’t you a man of honor” over and over again with, like, hypno-rays coming out of the screen. The show would very much like to be clear that this question is the whole banana of the story.
So, Mando and Baby Yoda are crusin’ through space when Carl Wethers calls to offer a “no harm no foul” deal. Apparently Werner Herzog is being a real pain in the ass, and if Mando comes and kills him, Carl will let Mando and Baby Yoda be a happy space family. It sounds like a pretty good deal, which means its definitely a trap, so our boys go and GET THE BAND BACK TOGETHER BABY! Okay, they didn’t all work together before, so it’s more of an “Avengers Assemble” sorta deal, but Disney doesn’t need that much of affirmation right now.
First up, the Razor’s Crest touches down on the dumb-dumb planet of shrimp farmers where Cara Dune is showing some big Marion Ravenwood energy, beating the crap out of dudes for money at the treehouse bar. She’s not really interested in taking a job from Mando until he tells her it would mean killing Imperials, and then as Mar would say “Oh they in the ship and they goin!”
Funny how Mando absolutely avoids going to talk to Step Mom in the shrimp village. Look, I also feel weird calling my ex to catch up when I’m in town for the holidays, but that’s still pretty cold Mando. Especially since they need a babysitter for Baby Yoda on the big space mission. But don’t worry, there’s another character perfectly suited to taking care of the little dude while mom and dad go out assasinatin’.
…Oh wait, no, not the character that’s already shown a proclivity for babysitting? Instead, we’re going and grabbing Uncle Ugnaught, the guy who specifically said “I don’t want to do this” the last time we saw him? Cool, makes total sense. I’m kidding, of course, Nick Nolte is always a welcome addition to the show. Even better is getting the satisfaction I have demanded from day one: The Return of my boy IG-Taika Waititi. But the coolest character in the series coming back is more than just fan service.
As Uncle Ugnaught tells the tale of rebuilding the broken killing machine, we’re treated to a mercifully understated mirror of the Mandalorian’s own story. Just as IG-Taika Waititi was rescued and rebuilt by Uncle Ugnaught, so was Mando rescued and remade by the Mandalorians. And now, Baby Yoda will be raised by Mando, but will he become a tool of destruction…or something else? Almost as a direct challenge to that question, the very next scene has Baby Yoda force choke Cara Dune when she gets the upper hand in an arm-wrestling match against Mando. it’s pretty clear he thought his dad was under some sort of attack, but YIKES.
Seeing our lil’ bub pull a Vader is deeply disturbing, but there’s no time for Walking Dead-style “what is life?” questions in the Ster Wers. Instead, Uncle Ugnaught builds a new floating crib, giving a speech about earning your freedom with work and toil, and like okay, boomer. It’s a little less clean a metaphor here than the droid-training montage.
Once we get to the planet, Carl Weathers and some Bounty Buddies are waiting to lead the team back to Werner Herzog. Even though supposedly everyone is on the same team, Deborah Chow does a killer job layering tension and uncertainty into the scene. Instead of characters saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” the show just sorta makes you think it to yourself. True to form, everything goes very poorly when a pack of flying dinosaurs attacks the team’s camp, taking out some of Uncle Ugnaughts frog dragons in easily the saddest part of the series so far. However, this also leads to a monumental moment in Star Wars history – the day the Gamers won Star Wars.
See, in Star Wars video games, you usually have a force healing power, which makes sense in video game logic, but not really in any other kind of logic. Although the power has been featured in some of the books and maybe cartoons already, and frankly, the whole point of the Force is it can do and be anything. Still, it’s pretty shocking when Carl Weathers gets bit by a monster, and in yet another borrowed Western trope, Baby Yoda comes to suck the venom out. Only instead of sucking out venom, he uses Force Heal. Back in episode two, the kid tried this move on Mando but was brushed aside, and I assumed it was just a nod to his latent power. To actually see it happen is game-changer for how the Force can be used in the live-action stories. It’s also the other side of the coin flipped when Baby Yoda choked Cara Dune. Will The ManDADlorian raise the kid to be a killer or a healer? Mando’s got a lot of armor to break through, after all.
Carl is so thankful for the revive, he kills his Bounty Buddies and reveals their plan was to jump Mando and the team all along. New plan: They’ll send Uncle Ugnaught back to the ship with Baby Yoda, and steal a classic move from Luke, Han and Chewie called “Pretend-To-Have-Captured-The-Biggest-Guy-And-Trust-Stormtroopers-Are-Stupid.” Not as eloquent as “Holdo Maneuver” but Leia was always the clever one, and that was before they met her.
The team bluffs their way into town, which has way more stormtroopers than Carl Weathers said and comes face-to-face with Werner Herzog being a creepy old grandpa.
As Star Wars fans know, however, there is always a bigger fish. Just when our heroes’ genius plan of hoping Werner Herzog doesn’t want to look at the baby falls apart, the rascally Imperial gets a phone call from his boss, Gus From Breaking Bad. Moff Gus apparently knows Werner is getting fooled, suddenly his sleek Death Troopers go all Al Capone on the bar. Mando calls Uncle Ugnaught to tell him to GTFO, but that only alerts some Scout Troopers to chase after them on speeder bikes. Gus’ troops arrive in much nicer armor than we’ve seen so far, trapping Mando, Cara Dune and Carl Weathers in a Butch and Sundance situation. Meanwhile, Uncle Ugnaught is supposedly killed, and Baby Yoda is in the hands of the Empire once again. After a season of stand-alone adventures, we’re finally left with a real cliffhanger and some heavy anxiety. Happy?
- Calling Imperials “Imps” is fun. Much more believable than “Remnant.”
- I don’t know why i never realized it before, but Mandalorian is droid-racist because it was the Separatist droids who murdered his original family. We saw the Battle Droid in episode three’s flashback, which was cool at the time, but the show is proving better and better about giving weight and meaning when it parades the nostalgia stuff around.
- Mando is a good dad but like a terrible father. How many times does Cara Dune have to ask if Baby Yoda is alright before Baby Yoda does something to almost get everyone killed by mistake before the Mandalorian will learn to, like, keep an eye on the kid?
- We see Moff Gus in person for the first time, and when he takes a few steps, we don’t hear those spur sounds that were featured at the end of episode 5. There’s still a chance Boba Fett could show up for a last-minute surprise here. (Or Cad Bane, c’monnnnn Cad Bane)