If anyone watching The Mandalorian had somehow missed that this show was a Western, here is an episode that is pretty blatant with all of the associated tropes. In what was basically The Magnificent Seven in space, Mando has become the “Man with No Name” archetype, silently going from place to place and solving the problems of others in noble fashion.
We are halfway through this first season and this episode, more so than the previous ones, explores just who the man behind the helmet is—more specifically, it asks the question: why does the quite-handsome Pedro Pascal hide himself behind that helmet?
We begin with a look at who we’re saving—a small, humble commune of people on a planet called Sorgan. The focus for most of the episode is on a mother and daughter living in fear of attacking marauders. The episode begins with a looming, unseen threat behind the trees providing extreme firepower support.
Meanwhile, we find our main duo practically the same way the previous episode ended: Baby Yoda/the Child acting all cute in the Mandalorian’s ship and ol’ Mando playing dad. They land on this same planet as they try to lower their profile, Mando walking into a restaurant with Baby Yoda waddling behind.
Mando exchange glances with a mercenary named Cara Dune, played by the very large and intimidating Gina Carano. This results in a brief and brutal brawl between the two, in a hand-to-hand fight scene that is vicious and convincing in a way that most fight scenes in Star Wars aren’t. Then Baby Yoda drinks some soup and the internet has its latest meme format, I suppose.
Mando and Cara, a former Rebel Shock Trooper, come at an understanding, both essentially in hiding. They become formidable partners, albeit temporarily, as they are hired by the villagers from the cold open to take care of those raiders. Mando eventually takes the job with Cara with the promise of lodging for him and the Child.
There’s a bit of interesting romantic tension between the mother from the beginning, Omera, and Mando; she questions why he keeps the helmet (but don’t worry folks, your biggest question is answered: he does indeed remove it to eat), even nearly removing it from him at the end. We get a sort of cultural and religious reasoning for the permanency. With how this man broods and contemplates every second you see him on screen (even without visual facial expressions), I’d say that it’s likely that his reasoning is mostly personal and inward.
Meanwhile, everyone watching the episode must have felt at least a hint of jealously towards the child actors here, seeing how they all got to play with Baby Yoda before we all even knew he was a thing. It’s heartwarming to see the Child in a bright and friendly environment, receiving all of the love that he deserves. For a short amount of time, he’s able to stray away from the violence; but only for a brief moment.
It turns out that this hidden threat and source of firepower is an AT-ST, presumably abandoned by the Empire and claimed by these marauders. Threatening to a point in Return of the Jedi, this walker is suddenly made more menacing due to both the relative inexperience these villagers have compared to this firepower and a really neat red light effect coming from the walker’s windows.
Mando and Cara are able to quickly whip the villagers into shape. It may have come across as contrived to many,—and it’s a shame that Omera’s hot shooting skills didn’t really come into play—but both played well into the show’s game of recalling Western tropes. It results in an overall satisfying final battle. It wasn’t as flashy as the showdown from the prior episode, but the stakes were high and clear and I liked the nighttime aesthetic utilized in this encounter.
Sadly, our main duo just can’t have it easy. Having to abandon this sanctuary after a bounty hunter attempts to take the Child’s life, Mando’s wandering continues with the two sure to get into more wild adventures in the future. We say good-bye to Cara, another person in the laundry list of cool characters that Mando has to leave behind, along with Werner Herzog, Carl Weathers, Taika Waititi’s cool robot, and Nick Nolte’s “this is the way” dude. No, I don’t remember anyone’s character name.
I have to wonder if the second half of the season will all comprise of standalone episodes too, or if all of these characters will funnel into a more serialized storyline. Everyone else, on the other hand, is probably just wondering what cute Baby Yoda GIFs we get next, and that’s valid.