The Mandalorian’s helmet makes him a hard man to know. Not only does it prevent us from finding out what he looks like—literally, as we learned this week that Pedro Pascal often isn’t inside the suit—but it makes it more difficult to discern what’s going on in his head. We don’t know how Mando decides on his next destination, and we don’t always know the name of the space station or planet he picks. Each episode starts somewhere new, with little indication of how much time has elapsed since the previous installment. Most of the people Mando meets don’t know him, and even those that do may not recognize who he is now. We can infer how he feels from his actions (and from his flashbacks on Nevarro), but we aren’t privy to his plans, if he has any. He hasn’t let us in.
“You gotta show us somethin’,” implored Mayfeld, one of the Mandalorian’s latest temporary allies (played by Bill Burr). “Come on. Just lift the helmet up. Come on. Let’s all see your eyes.” Many Mandalorian fans feel the same impatience: Like Mayfeld, Burg the flame-retardant Devaronian, and Omera, the widowed mother on Sorgan, we wish that narrow visor weren’t one-way. But whatever window those eyes would be, it’s not one we’ve peered into.
Chapter 6 of The Mandalorian, “The Prisoner,” was the longest episode so far, but it followed the format that the series has settled on since Mando escaped from Nevarro in Chapter 3. As Blink-182’s bassist tweeted before the new episode appeared, The Mandalorian has established a pattern: Mando travels to a different setting, kicks some ass while a weirdo watches Baby Yoda, and flies away again, no closer to unraveling the mystery of the Child’s origins or removing the price from his head.
I love Baby Yoda but what the hell is going on in The Mandalorian? Where’s he going? What’s his end game? Just kinda fly around, land on a different planet every week, kick some local’s ass and fly away again? Also ps you need to stop having weirdos watch the baby! My God, man!— The War on Christmark (@markhoppus) December 11, 2019
This week, the Mandalorian lands on a station operated by Ranzar Malk, or Ran, an outlaw leader whose crew Mando, well, ran with before he joined the Guild. Ran recruits Mando (and the Razor Crest) to pull off a prison break, completing a five-person team that also includes Mayfeld, Burg, a droid named Zero (voiced by comedian Richard Ayoade), and Xi’an, a mischievous Twi’lek with an active tongue. Xi’an (played by Natalia Tena, who’s completed the Binge Mode trifecta after previously playing Tonks from Harry Potter and Osha from Game of Thrones) and Mando have a history, which prompts Mayfeld to ask whether she’s ever seen his face. “A lady never tells,” she says, but if Mando told the truth to Omera, no one has seen him without the helmet since he was small.
The prison, it turns out, is a New Republic prison ship supposedly guarded by droids. “I’m not looking for that kind of heat,” Mando says, not wanting to add the galaxy’s fledgling government to the long list of parties already trying to apprehend him. But just as he relented in Chapter 5 when Toro Calican asked him to help hunt Fennec Shand, he agrees to go along with Ran’s plan. Even with a wanted infant to protect, he can’t resist a job.
Mando reluctantly lets Zero fly the Razor Crest to dock with the prison ship, then destroys droid after droid as the team makes its way to the control room. (The maximum-security ship seems somewhat insecure.) To Mando’s dismay, the ship has a human guard, Davan, whom he tries to protect from Mayfeld and Burg (the ubiquitous Clancy Brown, who also did voice work for Rebels and The Clone Wars). Without warning, Xi’an kills Davan, ending the standoff, but the dying guard triggers a distress beacon that will attract Republic reinforcements.
The prisoner, we learn, is Qin, Xi’an’s brother, whom Mando “left behind” on some earlier, unspecified mission. With Qin free, the team turns on Mando and locks him in Qin’s cell, but when his former allies leave, he uses his grappling hook to pull a droid close to the door, tears off its arm, and uses it to escape. (Luckily, there’s a lock on the inside, which doesn’t seem like a smart design decision.) One by one, he stalks and defeats Burg, Xi’an, and Mayfeld, imprisoning them inside a cell. He uses the environment to even the odds, trapping Burg in a door—reprising a move from the bar fight in the first scene of the show, although this time it takes two doors—and, in the episode’s most visually striking, horror-style sequence, taking advantage of flickering, strobe-like lights to get the drop on Mayfeld and his backpack blaster.
After rounding up Burg, Xi’an, and Mayfeld, Mando captures Qin and returns to the Razor Crest in time to save a stealthy Baby Yoda from Zero, who’s deciphered Greef Karga’s old message about the bounty on the Child (whom Mayfeld had taken to be a pet). Mando shoots Zero just as Baby Yoda prepares to use the Force for the first time since Chapter 2; this time, Mando offers the assist, not the other way around. The well-timed shot deprives us of a glimpse of the Child’s powers, but it does provide the week’s cutest reaction shot. Unfortunately for fans of Baby Yoda—a sizable percentage of people on the internet—he was missing from most of the action for the second consecutive week, which limited his potential to generate memes.
Back at the space station, Mando turns over Qin, collects his payment, and departs, but he’s betrayed again: Ran takes out his comlink and issues orders to kill him, and a gunship emerges from the floor beneath the hangar. This time, though, Mando isn’t surprised: He’s taken Ran’s statement, “I don’t trust anybody,” to heart. Before leaving, he planted the distress beacon from the prison ship on Qin, and as the Razor Crest carries the dynamic duo away, the Republic cavalry arrives. The three X-wing pilots—played by Mandalorian directors Deborah Chow, Dave Filoni, and Rick Famuyiwa—spot the gunship powering up and destroy the station as Mando and Baby Yoda enter hyperspace safely, bound for their next unsafe stop.
Chapter 6 seems designed to convey three things about The Mandalorian’s enigmatic main character: He won’t take off his helmet; he can’t escape his pursuers; and his feelings for Baby Yoda have made him more virtuous. Preceding episodes of the series have offered ample evidence of each of these points, so “The Prisoner” reinforces more than it reveals.
The pre-episode montage gave us a glimpse of the assailants Mando has fended off since he began to break good: the bounty hunters on Nevarro; the Trandoshans on Arvala-7; the sniper on Sorgan; the pilot who attacked him near Tatooine; and Toro, who double-crossed him in Chapter 5. That rapid-fire recap primed us for more of the same, and that’s what we got. In the opening scene, the denizens of the space station turn to stare as Mando passes, highlighting how conspicuous his armor makes him. Like Shand, Ran has heard about Mando’s war with the Guild on Nevarro, and like Calican, he’s happy to sell him out, despite their “good old days.” If The Empire Strikes Back taught us anything, it’s not to trust a back-slapping, jocular rogue who presides over a space station and was once a friend.
“I told you that was a bad idea,” Mando says to his tiny companion at the end of the episode. He’s fallen into the habit of talking to his silent sidekick, and assuming the Child hasn’t secretly been calling the shots—which would be a twist—he’s likely alluding to doubts he’d expressed off screen. The two weren’t safe on Sorgan, and events on Tatooine should have taught Mando that hives of scum and villainy aren’t safe settings for fugitives incapable of keeping a low profile. But Mando is a prisoner, too—of his past, his tribe, and his armor. He’s trapped by his training, which hasn’t taught him to take care of anyone else, to ask questions, or to form plans beyond making money and completing his immediate mission. He rescued the Child, but he’s having trouble breaking free of his former life.
He has changed, though. Xi’an alludes to a job Mando did on Alzoc III (in pre-Disney Star Wars canon, another site of slavery, which keeps coming up in this series). “I did what I had to,” Mando says, but Xi’an responds, “Oh, you liked it. See, I know who you really are.” She may know who he was, but he’s no longer the same kind of killer: He tries to save Davan (played by Matt Lanter, who voices Anakin in The Clone Wars), and he spares Xi’an, Burg, and Mayfeld. Xi’an suggests that his code might be making him soft, and it is, but not in an unwelcome way. The next major challenge may be removing his helmet, presenting a softer exterior to match his unhardened heart.
The Mandalorian’s fourth through sixth episodes have delivered a different show from the first three. Although Chapter 6 dramatically dialed down the fan service that flooded last week’s episode, it did stick to the same structure, stubbornly refusing to disclose any new information about Baby Yoda or the forces arrayed against him. Some frustrated fans may call these episodes filler, in that they don’t offer any answers or, for that matter, much suspense: We know that Mando and Baby Yoda aren’t in real danger of dying, and the supporting characters (who don’t have time to develop and fluctuate widely in acting quality) come and go too quickly for us to get attached. An eight-episode season imposes pressure to pull back the curtain quickly, but The Mandalorian, already renewed for a second season and blessed with a big built-in audience, seems content to unspool its plot at a deliberate pace.
Unlike Trekkers, Star Wars fans aren’t used to consuming their favorite franchise via the sometimes-repetitive, water-treading pattern of episodic TV, but what The Mandalorian lacks in frequent reveals, it makes up in varied casts, settings, and genres. Chapter 4 gave us a Kurosawa-inspired small-town standoff, Chapter 5 shifted into buddy-cop, mentor-meets-rookie material, and Chapter 6 features a heist reminiscent of Rogue One. The Mandalorian’s Western iconography and commitment to introducing and resolving a new adventure each week make it a cross between old-school series such as The Rifleman (which features a single father much like Mando in his new, quasi-parental role) and Wagon Train (in which the settings and adversaries change from week to week). It’s not a new formula, but it is largely new to Star Wars, and it’s entertaining TV.
The teaser text for the final two episodes doesn’t shed a lot of light on what we’ll see next. In Chapter 7, helmed by Chapter 3 director Deborah Chow, “An old rival extends an invitation for the Mandalorian to make peace,” while the synopsis for the Taika Waititi–shot finale says, “The Mandalorian comes face-to-face with an unexpected enemy” (maybe Moff Gideon, at long last). The end of Season 1 won’t tie up every mystery—nor should we want it to—but expect the series to circle back to the big questions before it takes a break. For Mando to move forward, he has to tackle his problems head on (and, perhaps, helmet off). Running away won’t work.
Fan Service of the Week
As they fight their way through the hallways of the prison ship, which looks a little like the Tantive IV, Mando pass a few prisoners, including a uniformed Imperial and multiple nonhumans. One of the aliens is an Ardennian, a member of the same species as Rio Durant from Solo. Durant was voiced by Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau, which likely accounts for the cameo. As Solo supporters, we’re always in favor of nods to the most unsung Star Wars film of the Disney era.
“The Prisoner” contains a few other callbacks: Zero resembles an RA-7 droid, which was used on the first Death Star along with the mouse droids that also appear in this episode, and the prison ship’s guard droids look like New Republic–branded versions of the Empire’s KX series, which suggests that the victorious former Rebels repurposed a lot of Imperial tech. Similarly, Davan blends Rebel and Imperial couture, sporting the egghead helmet worn by the Tantive IV’s troops and Stormtrooper-style boots. The Razor Crest reminds Mayfeld of a slot machine from The Last Jedi’s Canto Bight; and Mayfeld delivers a lousy Gungan impression.
The episode’s in-jokes stray into too-obvious territory only once: When Ran describes Mayfeld as a former Imperial sharpshooter, Mando responds, “That’s not saying much,” to which Mayfeld replies, “I wasn’t a Stormtrooper, wiseass.” Yes, Stormtroopers are much-maligned as marksmen—I covered that in this section after Chapter 3—but less so within the Star Wars universe (where Obi-Wan praises their accuracy) than by fans who mock their many missed shots. It’s more fun to find fault with Stormtroopers when we’re led to believe they’re intimidating. If everyone thinks they’re incompetent, the joke doesn’t work as well.
Expanded Universe Spotlight
If you’re wondering why Burg can survive a flamethrower to the face, it may be because Devaronians—first seen in the cantina in Episode IV—are impervious to almost everything. The species has two livers, which combine to cleanse their black blood and make them almost immune to poisons and toxins. That doesn’t quite explain why Burg is less flammable than metal-based droids—Devaron is a temperate planet, so despite their devilish appearance, it doesn’t seem as if Devaronians would especially benefit from fire resistance—but it makes him a heck of a henchmen. Well, that and he has the strength to lift a heavy security droid and hurl it hard enough to make another droid explode.
Previously Unseen in Star Wars
Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side—and at your other side, and also on your back.