[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 7, “Chapter 15 – The Believer.”]
Ah, what a difference a face makes.
After briefly glimpsing Pedro Pascal sans helmet in the Season 1 finale, the stage was set for more — more unshielded Pascal, more questions about a man permanently encased in armor styling his mustache just so, but most importantly, more emotions. For all the effects wizardry and intense action offered by Disney’s semi-live-action Friday morning cartoon, “The Mandalorian’s” strongest emotional connection is controlled by a nonverbal puppet. Season 2 has gone to great lengths establishing a paternal bond between Mando and Baby Yoda, The Child, Grogu, or whatever you want to call him, and it’s done so without the aid of Pascal’s pretty visage.
Until now. While Mando’s “Taken”-esque closing speech would’ve been more effective if we could see the fire in his eyes, his vengeful decree to “Give me back my son!” was nonetheless bolstered by the pissed off papa literally and figuratively letting his guard down earlier in the episode. “The Believer” efficiently illustrates how much Mando loves his little green toddler while still justifying why he can break his unbreakable creed — thanks to, of all people, Bill Burr.
In essence, Episode 7 is another simple retrieval mission. Mando and his loyal crew need to find Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and his fleet, so they can mount a rescue operation for Baby Yoda. The only way to access his coordinates is by logging in to a special Imperial Army terminal, and the easiest one to get to is on a remote mining planet. So, masquerading as the enemy, Mando and Migs Mayfield (Burr) drive a truck loaded with an explosive payload through an army of pirates, over a rickety bridge, and into the Imperial base.
While the pirate fight is impressive — I love the steady, unbroken camera swings director Rick Famuyiwa uses to introduce the action, as well as the lush surrounding terrain and tactile presence of the truck itself — what matters here is the conversation before the fight. Pushing his opinion on Mando, uninvited, as white men are prone to do, Mayfield posits that the locals who glare at them as they drive by don’t care who’s bossing them around; they care that they don’t have a choice in the matter.
Courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm
“Empire or New Republic: It’s all the same to these people,” Mayfield says. “It’s all the same to these people. Invaders on their land is all we are. Somewhere, someone in this galaxy is ruling and others are being ruled. I mean, look at your race. Do you really think all those people who died in wars fought by Mandalorians had a choice?”
Then, after casting a few aspersions that don’t hold as much weight (yes, it does matter who’s in power, you privileged dummy), Mayfield calls Mando out for living by an arbitrary, personally malleable set of rules. “Is it that you can’t take your helmet off or that you can’t show your face?”
Soon, the semi-wisdom of Ginger Baker Mayfield — but more so, his intense love for the little green guy — leads Mando to make another forbidden choice: He has to take off his helmet to get the coordinates. Mando complies with the facial scan, downloads the location, and, after Mayfield illustrates the difference between moral and cultural relativism by shooting an objectively evil Imperial leader in the chest, the team escapes to begin their assault on Moff Gideon. (Beliefs may shift based on how you were raised, but evil is evil no matter what.) Oh, and it’s all punctuated by the Mandalorian sending Moff’s message back to him, promising that Baby Yoda “means more to me than you will ever know.”
Hell yes! Go get that little guy! Fulfill your destiny as “Star Wars” vengeful father figure, and let’s move on! Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” hasn’t offered much in the way of surprises. Sure, there’s a celebrity cameo here or an easter egg there, but creator Jon Favreau has been content letting his familiar parent-child story play out. As soon as Season 1 ended with Moff promising to capture Baby Yoda, you knew he would, just as you knew Mando would rescue him. It’s the same basic plot as “Taken,” “Ransom,” and virtually any action-centric story involving a guardian and their ward.
“The Mandalorian” has relied on its snazzy craft work to zhuzh up its core Season 2 arc, and episodes like “The Believer” make the most of their simple missions (mainly thanks to Famuyiwa), but there are two things to look forward to in next week’s finale: Mando and Baby Yoda’s reunion, and seeing what’s planned for Season 3. The show has been marching in place long enough, waiting to fulfill its Mando/Moff showdown, as well as holding off on revealing the chief antagonist’s master plan. Let’s see it already. Even procedurals have to be going somewhere, and God help them if, instead of resolving Baby Yoda’s kidnapping, they keep him in peril. Not only will all 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers die of worry, but the show’s simply not built to sustain any long-term emotional heft — not unless Mando gets used to life without a helmet.
“The Mandalorian” Season 2 finale premieres Friday, December 18 on Disney+.