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‘The Mandalorian’ Review: ‘Chapter 12’ Sets Up Exciting Arc for Season 2’s Latter Half

The latest episode of "The Mandalorian" puts promising pieces in play.

"The Mandalorian"

“The Mandalorian”

Disney+

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 4, “Chapter 12 – The Siege.”]

“The Mandalorian” has had its highs and lows, but when it all clicks, the best episodes of the popular Disney+ show feel like live-action love letters to fans of Dave Filoni’s acclaimed “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. That’s the case with the fourth episode of the sophomore season, which sets up an exciting premise for later while boasting more than enough action and humor to stand on its own right now.

Mando (Pedro Pascal) and The Child, aka Baby Yoda (aka a puppet), kick off the episode attempting to do some much-needed repairs on the Razor Crest while en route to meet up with ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano. Unfortunately, Baby Yoda isn’t much of a mechanic — Mando’s hapless attempts to get his ward to differentiate red and blue wires is genuinely endearing, and it’s fun to watch Baby Yoda do more than emote in a corner.

So, the duo head back to Nevarro to meet up with some Season 1 characters and get their ship repaired. The detour means that fans will have to wait a bit longer to see the live-action debut of the fan-favorite Ahsoka, but the trip to Nevarro proves substantive nonetheless.

Nevarro has rapidly changed since Mando helped depopulate the planet of Imperials in Season 1. There’s now a bustling marketplace full of smiling people, a classroom with a protocol droid who teaches youngsters about the galaxy’s trade routes, and anti-masker and election conspiracy theorist Gina Carano, who, as Cara Dune, keeps the peace as the planet’s marshal. Real-world issues aside, these little bits of world-building help make “The Siege” feel like it’s taking place in a living, breathing, and constantly evolving universe, which was also the case with last week’s similarly strong episode. References and Easter eggs to the broader “Star Wars” canon are plentiful, but they’re never so in-your-face to come off as pandering.

Fellow returning characters include Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, who also does an admirable job directing the episode) and, unexpectedly, the unnamed Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) that Mando captured in the first episode of Season 1. Greef Karga and the Mythrol — whose “I’m in way over my head” shtick is still funny — serve as appealing foils to the ever-stoic Mando, and all of the returning characters get plenty of time to shine in the spotlight.

"The Mandalorian"

“The Mandalorian”

©Disney+/Lucasfilm / courtesy Everett Collection

Mando’s ship repairs are going to take some time, so the titular protagonist agrees to participate in a siege(!) on the planet’s last Imperial base. Action ensues, and though the various Stormtrooper massacres feel plenty familiar by this point, the shootouts are well-executed nonetheless — the Mandalorian surgically eliminating a handful of troopers off-screen is an especially nice touch. The visually stunning chase scene near the episode’s end, which features a handful of Scout Troopers on speeder bikes and TIE Fighter pilots, fares even better and makes for an adrenaline-packed finale.

As solid as the episode’s fight scenes are, it’s the revelations about the true purpose of the Imperial base that are most likely to resonate with viewers. The Imperial base is actually a laboratory where test subjects are infused with Baby Yoda’s blood. (It has a high midi-chlorian count and could hypothetically make individuals Force sensitive.) The reveal answers the longstanding question of why Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wanted to acquire Baby Yoda in Season 1, but also opens the door to new questions and fan theories.

Are these tests to create artificial Force sensitives a sort of prelude to how Snoke was revealed to be an experiment in “The Rise of Skywalker” film? Are they the show’s take on the Dark Troopers, the formidable antagonists from ’90s “Star Wars” media? The latter theory seems possible, given that the episode ends with Moff Gideon cracking an evil smile while surveying a group of particularly evil-looking soldiers that his lackeys are tinkering with.

No matter what they mean, the teases promise to raise the stakes even higher for Mando and Baby Yoda. Between Moff Gideon’s nefarious plans for Baby Yoda, Mando’s mission to reunite the creature with the Jedi, and the Mandalorian politics and unfinished business with the Darksaber that was hinted at in last week’s episode, there are plenty of interesting pieces being put in play for the season’s remaining episodes. It’s taken awhile for “The Mandalorian” Season 2 to hit its stride, but it’s entering the second half impressively.

Grade: A-

New episodes of “The Mandalorian” Season 2 debut Fridays on Disney+.

Random thoughts:

– Even the most Baby Yoda-averse viewers will have trouble not cracking a smile at the little guy’s antics throughout this episode. Baby Yoda raises his arms in glee as Mando dogfights TIE Fighters and uses the Force to steal a student’s candy while visiting the classroom. Sure, it’s carnage and thievery, but it’s very cute carnage and thievery.

– The protagonists presumably planned on using the Mythrol’s speeder to escape the Imperial base, despite noting that it would inevitably be swallowed by lava while they were sabotaging said base. It sure is fortuitous that they were able to steal an Imperial vehicle to escape at the last moment!

– Cara Dune tells a New Republic pilot near the end of the episode that she’s “not a joiner.” It might be coincidental phrasing, but “joiners” were the names of the various people who were assimilated into the hive mind of the insectoid Killik species in old Star Wars Legends/Expanded Universe media. There’s no other indication that the Killik are returning, but it’d certainly be interesting to see such an eclectic alien species appear in the future “Star Wars” projects.

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