Migs Mayfield. You might remember acerbic comedian Bill Burr’s gun-toting baddie from last season’s prison break episode; the bald, drawling, cynical rogue ended up interred. Last week, Mando told Cara Dune that in order to break into Moff Gideon’s ship to get his little green son back, he’d need to be able to track it down. For that, he’d need something old Migs could get.
Because Migs is ex-Imperial. So he, Cara, Boba and Fennec head to a jungle planet to grab the Imperial codes that will let Mando stage a daring rescue in next week’s finale.
The Mandalorian – The Believer
A lot of brilliant stuff happens at the front end of this week’s episode. Boba Fett’s freshly painted armour is a treat, but it’s also clear that Boba has turned a corner and is, in fact, the man last week’s rip-roaring episode implied he might be. Morrison brings a dry tenderness to Boba, who is clearly in for a penny, in for a pound with Mando.
The plan is a bold one. The Imperials (referred to as The Remnant, a breathtaking nod for anyone who was a fan of the books and games now classified as “Legends” by the powers that be) are mining a volatile material called Rhydonium. Bump it around too much and it’ll explode. Mando and Mayfield will have to dress up as stormtroopers and drive the shipment into the compound, a plan which gets complicated when pirates assail them. Watching Mando fight off wave after wave of sneering raiders in crappy armour is an absolute joy, but it’s their arrival at the compound that really hits you.
First off, they’re rescued by two TIE fighters. Writer and director Rick Famuyima does an incredible thing: he frames their rescue as a joyous, triumphant moment. Because we’re so scared for Mando, we as viewers are happy to see the TIE fighters. And as the scuffed, battered troops at the base line up and salute, and as they cheer, we’re suddenly thrust into those moments from Star Wars when Luke and Han returned after their Death Star run. Mayfield and Mando are framed as returning heroes, being welcomed back into the embrace of a ragtag resistance. It’s a very unsettling, very meta moment which is left to linger just long enough and is a reminder of how masterful this show is at making the Star Wars universe truly three dimensional.
The absolute nadir of the episode, however, is when Mando and Migs are forced to sit there and share a drink with a bug-eyed, utterly sickening Imperial officer named Valin Hess. The tension here is ratcheted up perfectly, echoing the infamous Fassbender café scene from Inglorious Basterds; all seems to be progressing beautifully (they have the codes, after all), until something behind Migs’ eyes twigs. Unable to abide any more gloating from the officer, he brings up something. Something huge.
I’ve long been an advocate for Battlefront II’s single-player campaign. The story follows Iden Verso, a member of an elite group of commandos involved in Emperor Palpatine’s dying raised middle finger towards the galaxy. Essentially, it involved the orbital bombardment, and utter ruination, of several key sites across the Empire. Key locations, such as Naboo, were targeted, and in the process, countless Imperial troops were vaporized. If you’ve not played Battlefront II’s campaign, now’s the perfect time to do so.
But knowing that Mayfield was there, and that watching his fellow comrades, and civilians, die screaming was what made him leave the empire is an incredible moment. It’s a reveal, really; we know, as his newfound humanity ripples across his face, that he’s going to do something stupid. Mando, unable to hide his concern behind his Beskar, knows it, too. We’re watching something magical happen: someone growing a conscience in real-time, and coming to a crossroads. In season one of The Mandalorian, the tipping point led Mando to slaughter his way back to The Child after the handover. Here, Miggs does what anyone with a heart would do.
He pulls out his blaster and blows Hess away.
At this point, rather than pivot into the stunning, utterly wonderful fatalism of Rogue One, with asymmetrical heroes gunned down just as they carry out their most noble act, Mayfield and Mando fight their way out. Their escape sequence is staggeringly good; partially because the tension has been wound so tight that as viewers, it’s impossible not to expect Mayfield (whose newfound humanity renders him a fragile bubble, ready to be burst by the slightest jostle), to die. To be hit by a stray blaster bolt.
He survives, though. They all do. After an exhilarating escape, whisked away by Boba Fett, Mayfield does what he needs to do to sleep at night. He pulls out Boba’s rifle and takes a true hail-mary shot at the transport he and Mando delivered, wiping the facility off the map. Cara and Mando decide to let him go, and viola. The Mandalorian gives us yet another superb character who I sincerely hope shows up again to help Mando swing the odds in his favour.
The episode closes with Mando threatening Gideon, and for once, it’s nice to see a glimmer of fear on the arch villain’s face. Let’s hope this season closes out with a bang.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+.