After last week’s thrilling episode of The Mandalorian, I guess it was a little silly to expect Chapter 15 – The Believer to continue that same high-octane energy. This was still a more action-focused entry with little in the way of dialogue or story, but it just didn’t hit as hard or as fast as Boba Fett’s amazing introduction. At least Fett didn’t dominate the screen time, playing more of a support role to Mando’s journey.
As was set up at the conclusion of last week’s episode, Mando and Cara Dune go and collect Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr) from the prison planet he has been exiled to after his arrest during the first season. Initially believing that Mando was coming to kill him, he soon learns that the Empire has its hands on Grogu and that Mando needs Mayfield’s assistance. Whether he really wants to or not, Mayfield tells them of a hidden imperial rhydonium factory on the planet of Morak that may contain a terminal that can get the coordinates.
Once landing on the planet and devising a plan to get past the Empire’s bio-scanning devices, it’s decided that Mayfield and Mando will infiltrate the facility under the guise of Stormtrooper’s making their rhydonium delivery. Mando needs to don some armor to do so, which as Mayfield points out, this kind of breaks Mando’s code to never show his face. Our hero seemingly doesn’t care, because, with Grogu in the hands of the enemy, he’s willing to break his oath when it comes to rescuing him.
For the next 10 minutes or so, this episode of The Mandalorian becomes an extended action sequence. Pirates launch an attempt to steal the rhydonium from each transport and Mando and Mayfield are forced to briskly navigate through the wreckage of the imperial vessels. Thrillingly shot and edited well, there is some rather brutal combat mixed with a few bits of comedy to lighten the mood. It’s not quite as awesome as Fett’s ass-kicking in the previous episode, but Mando gets to showcase his hand-to-hand skills.
Having thwarted the pirates, the next scene is something I didn’t expect to see. With no one the wiser to Mando’s plan, the duo is welcomed as heroes in the imperial hangar. Punctuated against some rather heroic sounding music, it does a lot to humanize the otherwise robotic imperial troops. You almost feel sorry that Mando’s intentions aren’t exactly good, with him willing to kill anyone that stands in his way. It’s a great moment of uneasiness and something that Star Wars and The Mandalorian haven’t really covered before.
When the two locate the terminal that will give them coordinates to Moff Gideon’s cruiser, Mayfield spots a commanding officer that he once worked under, a man named Valin Hess. While not exactly sure if Hess even remembers him, Mayfield is ready to abort their plan so they can walk away with their lives. Mando quickly volunteers himself, but Mayfield explains that the terminal requires a facial scan to be accessed. Having already crossed a line earlier, Mando assumes the risk and begins to access the device.
With the scan failing because of his helmet and no other options available to him, Mando removes his mask so that the mission won’t be a failure. It’s the second time we’ve seen his face, as well, though this one carries more weight than the first instance. Here, The Mandalorian is silently building Mando’s character by showing how desperate he is to rescue Grogu, a touch I appreciate.
As if matters couldn’t get worse, Hess starts to walk over to Mando. Calling out for a response, it seems like the jig is up when Mayfield quickly intervenes. He makes up some bullshit story about Mando having partial hearing loss and them needing to get to a different task, but then the CO asks for a drink. These guys can never catch a break.
Left with no other options once again, Mando and Mayfield sit down and listen to this Hess’ boasting of callously throwing his soldiers’ lives away. The conversation soon shifts to an imperial assault called “Operation: Cinder,” an assault where Mayfield lost a lot of friends due to Hess’s disregard for anyone but himself. With anger slowly boiling inside him, Mando and Mayfield begin to stare at each other in anticipation of a shootout. Mando shakes his head no, but Mayfield just cannot let Hess get away with killing more people. He blasts the man and the duo is then thrust into a shootout to escape this base.
Outside, both Cara Dune and Fennec Shand are on standby on a close cliff face. They see lasers start flying, so they begin their cover of Mando and Mayfield. It’s another bit of thrilling action, capping off this episode in an exciting fashion. Once the two are on the roof, Fett swoops in to grab them and fly them away. Not wishing to let the Empire repeat Operation: Cinder, Mayfield then snipes a few of the rhydonium transports and practically decimates the base.
After reconvening with Dune and Fennec, Mando and Dune have a change of heart about Mayfield. He’ll never be able to live a normal life, but the New Republic doesn’t exactly need to know where he was. If he were to, say, die in an explosion on Morak, it’s not like he’d be able to return to prison. Thankful for his freedom, the episode then shifts to Gideon’s cruiser where he receives a message from Mando.
In possibly the best bit of characterization given to our titular hero yet, he informs Gideon that he’ll stop at nothing until he’s retrieved Grogu. Grogu means more to Mando than Gideon could possibly imagine and there’s definitely hell coming his way. It seems as if our finale for The Mandalorian – Season Two is going to be a great one.
Overall, I thought the majority of Chapter 15 – The Believer was pretty okay. As I said in the intro, there was just no matching the explosive introduction of Boba Fett last week, but I’m genuinely surprised at the ambiguous characterization of the Empire here. As is often forgotten in a lot of Star Wars media, Stormtroopers are people too. Some might be cartoonishly evil like their commanding officers, but others are just people looking to make ends meet. That describes Mayfield to a tee.
I give a lot of flak to The Mandalorian for not being a particularly deep show, but this episode had a lot more development than meets the eye. There are a bunch of subtle moments that help us better understand not only the motivation behind Mando’s quest but the inner workings of the people around him. It’s solid stuff, even if the pacing of this episode can’t quite keep up.
As for what will happen next week, I have a feeling we might get a mini-movie. These shorter episodes are really good, but I’ll be a little let down if the showdown between Mando and Gideon is just some two-second battle that concludes before it even begins. Considering the buildup Gideon has received, it would be anticlimactic to write him off so quickly.