While Mando has been pointed towards Ashoka by Mandalorian Bo-Katan, the Razor Crest has certainly seen better days and Din Djarin makes the decision to head to a friendly port for repairs before continuing with his quest to deliver The Child to the warrior sorcerers known as the Jedi. What could be a frustrating filler episode ends up as anything but under the guidance of director (and Mandalorian cast member) Carl Weathers. An iconic figure in action cinema classics like Rocky and Predator, Weathers is lesser known for his television directing, but has been flexing those skills since the mid-'90s. While Jon Favreau’s script takes some time to set up the circumstances that lead to the trio of Mando, Weather’s Greef Karga, and rebel soldier turned marshal Cara Dune (played by Gina Carano) taking on the remnants of the Imperial presence seen on Nevarro last season, twenty minutes in to this episode is hitting the start of an impressive action sequence - going from an intense blaster shoot out, to a speeder bike chase at breakneck speed, to a dog fight with TIE fighters - with visuals so crazy impressive that they rival some of the action sequences seen in the big-screen Star Wars feature films.
"So, how'd you like to go back to Nevarro?"
Both Greef Karga and Cara Dune were welcome additions to the Mandalorian cast last season, and it makes sense that we’d see them pop up again. It’s also notable that the episode makes a point of showing how life has improved in Nevarro with the removal of the Imperial presence and the leadership of Greef and Cara. While it’s not stated outright, the implication is that Din Djarin’s influence has revitalized not only the moral centers in Greef and Cara, but in turn, the society of Nevarro itself. To take it one step further, perhaps this revitalization goes even further back, with the source being The Child and its influence on Din. The bounty hunter was on the path to delivering The Child into the hands of the Empire. In fact, he did deliver “the asset,” despite his disgust regarding working for the fascists who decimated and plundered his people, and it was only when he could not bear living with his actions that Mando returned to rescue The Child and draw a moral line in the sand that has informed every one of his actions since. That one decision, and the impact The Child had on this bounty hunter, caused a chain of events that pulled both Greef and Cara from their disillusionment and nihilism, causing them to re-engage with the concept of “right” and “wrong” to determine the course ahead.
So, Nevarro is in a much better place. There’s a justice-seeking marshal watching over things. There’s a local education system in place in the form of a school, and the citizens of Nevarro seem comfortable walking the streets of their town without the fear and suspicion that was present previously. Still, the Imperials are not gone, they are just keeping a low profile, and as Greef indicates to Mando, that’s not going to work. There’s no denying that the Galactic Empire is a fascist regime, as are any remnants or offshoots of the organization, and Greef’s reasoning can’t help but remind me of the experiences of a bartender that have been making the rounds on social media for the past few months. The story was originally shared in a Twitter thread by Michael Tager of Mason Jar Press, who recounted sitting in a punk bar when he witnessed a bartender kicked out a customer as soon as they sat down. When Tager inquired why, the bartender explained that, in his position, one developed an eye for noticing Nazi iconography incorporated into vests, pins, etc. and that you had to deal with such individuals immediately to avoid future problems. As Tager details in his thread, the bartender explained:
"These guys come in and it's always a nice, polite one. And you serve them because you don't want to cause a scene. And then they become a regular and after awhile they bring a friend. And that dude is cool, too.
And then THEY bring friends and the friends bring friends and they stop being cool and then you realize, oh shit, this is a Nazi bar now. And it's too late because they're entrenched and if you try to kick them out, they cause a PROBLEM. So you have to shut them down.
And i was like, 'oh damn.' and he said "yeah, you have to ignore their reasonable arguments because their end goal is to be terrible, awful people."
And then he went back to ignoring me. But I haven't forgotten that at all.”
While Nevarro’s leftover Imperials aren’t necessarily bothering anyone at the moment, it’s common sense that their end goal is to reorganize and re-acquire power. And the galaxy has plenty of examples of what they intend to do with that power when they have it.
There’s one last point that must be addressed regarding Mando’s old allies from Season 1. It’s impossible to mention the character of Cara Dune, who’s depicted quite heroically in this episode, and not address the recent controversy surrounding actor Gina Carano’s dismissive tweets regarding trans pronouns, as well as conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 mask mandates. For those who wish to read more on the subject, Vanity Fair has written a fairly comprehensive piece that also focuses on how these tweets have affected the opinion fans have of the character, who was a fairly big hit last season, and, ultimately, I think that’s where this will lead: to a popular character becoming much less popular and maybe even irrelevant. Carano has the right to express her opinion, but much of it comes off as just mean-spirited and potentially transphobic and/or harmful to others and that’s just not going to fly with the fans that saw her last season as a new, exciting, and inclusive character addition to Star Wars mythology. If one thing is clear, it’s that this second season of The Mandalorian has proven the series has a wealthy of other characters to work with should Cara Dune fade into the past.
"They should leave the Outer Rim alone. If the Empire couldn't settle it, what makes them think they can?"
While the action sequences were amazing in this episode and the revelations regarding the Imperial’s interest in The Child bring up all sorts of questions that potentially tie back to The Rise of Skywalker, this reviewer continues to find the opinions and world view of the Outer Rim citizens to be fascinating, especially given how it reflects on and relates to our own Earth-based reality.
When Greef mentions the above line (and Mando neglects to mention how the New Republic saved his life and declined to arrest him), it continues to inform this idea that, while the Outer Rim people are not a monolith, they seem to be mostly anti-Imperial, but also decidedly not pro-New Republic. As a series, The Mandalorian is exploring individuals living in the underworld or frontier, without an allegiance to one “side” or the other, which is in definite contrast to the previous “Rebels vs. Imperials” Star Wars stories audiences have followed. In fact, there’s something about the depiction of the various characters in The Mandalorian that is reminiscent of the disillusioned and jaded citizenry (both old and young) found in the current political climate of the United States. Our heroes in The Mandalorian might be quick to confront an Imperial loyalist, but they’re also very hesitant to throw in with a cause beyond their own, viewing the fledgling New Republic as potentially just another form of authority replacing the previous form. In one sense, their hesitation makes sense. The New Republic, in their minds, has done little to prove it deserves loyalty from them or that it’s anything beyond another ruling force. The people of the Outer Rim have had to fend for themselves and maybe we can assume that living under a deteriorating and corrupt Old Republic followed by an authoritarian Galactic Empire for several generations has also taken its toll on their worldview, political engagement, and impression of the rebellion efforts.
With all that said, and very similarly to our own world, this “two sides of the same coin” mentality doesn’t withstand much scrutiny when applied to the two major sides present - in this case, the New Republic vs. the Empire. How can the concept hold up when one faction has demonstrated so clearly their willingness to commit mass genocide of their own citizens in order to maintain power? While the “factual evidence” seen through the prism of the Skywalker narrative very clearly illustrates the undeniable evil of the Emperor and his structural system of oppression, it’s hard to live in our post-truth America and not believe that these events are viewed by outside observers in the Outer Rim with a cynicism or lack of perspective similar to some of our own people. The last few have surely taught us that, even in a galaxy far, far away, there are those who would view the loss of life during the destruction of Alderaan as equivalent (falsely) to the loss of life due to the destruction of the Death Stars, and both Greef and Cara come off as individuals who (at the very least) take pride in not being associated with any one organization, thus they align with no one and consider both sides of the conflict flawed. While their refusal to have blind loyalty to a specific group is admirable in on sense, it also serves as hollow cover for the truth that a rebellion, a revolution, or a government that works for the people simply doesn’t work without the people. We’ve all long heard that Edmund Burke quote that state starkly, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” One way good people end up doing nothing is by convincing themselves there’s no difference between the “old boss” and the “new boss.” That there’s nothing to be done because nothing will ever really change for them.
Actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s Rebel pilot points this out to Cara Dune, noting that she hails from the doomed planet of Alderaan. Apparently, Lee’s pilot served during the destruction of Alderaan and tells Cara they could use her help in the reconstruction efforts. Dune turns him down, stating she’s not a “joiner,” only to have the pilot share the following:
"There's something going on out here. They don't believe it on the core worlds, but it's true. These aren't isolated incidents. They need to be stopped. We can't do it without local support."
And yet, we know what lies ahead with the rise of the First Order and the fall of the New Republic. A return to the rise of fascism. Others may say this is looking too deeply, but when considering Fanbase Press’ #StoriesMatter initiative and what this episode offers beyond simple entertainment value, I see a message about the danger of disengaging politically. Star Wars creator George Lucas was recently quoted stating that reconstruction - the creation of a new, better world - is “harder than starting a rebellion or fighting a war” and he’s absolutely correct. Maybe Cara Dune has her reasons for abandoning the Alliance when it became more politically organized, but as I was watching this episode, it occurred to me that there’s a message here (whether intentional or not) about a person who lost “everyone” on their home world refusing the call to help build the new world and, eventually, one can assume, witnessing it all happen again years later with the destruction of the Hosnian system by Starkiller Base.
- The Razor Crest has certainly seen better days. Also, the cuteness of Baby Yoda made it acceptable, but we all totally noticed when this episode began with Din and The Child doing their best impressions of Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot having comedic confusion regarding a wire and/or button.
- The case is closed, my friends. Mando eats with his mask on. I expect you to follow suit.
- Fun fact: Even Carl Weathers can't resist Baby Yoda. No acting required there.
- The experiments Moff Gideon has been doing with The Child’s blood raise some very interesting questions. Is Gideon attempting to use the blood to create a suitable “vessel” for the secretly resurrected Palpatine to inhabit? Or is he pursuing these powers himself? There seems to be an implication here that The Child’s high midichlorian count would potentially make a Force power transfer possible through a type of blood transfusion. Imagine what could be done or undone if Force powers of the highest level existed in the contents of a syringe.
- What was Moff Gideon working on in that final shot? Obviously something sinister, heavily armored, and pitch black. Death Troopers? Dark Troopers? What does The Mandalorian have up its sleeve?
- One final thought: Where is Jon Favreau's BFF Dave Filioni? We’re four episodes in, with Favreau writing every single one. Filioni seemed like he was Favreau’s right-hand man during Season 1 and perhaps we’re just not seeing what’s going on behind the scenes, but there certainly could be another reason for this mysterious absence. We now have confirmed Ashoka will appear on The Mandalorian and the series is an incredibly popular hit for Disney+. This is only a theory with no hard evidence behind it, but perhaps Season 1 of The Mandalorian was bootcamp for Filioni when it comes to live-action show running and his absence (and Ahsoka’s presence) hint at a live-action series following Filoni’s Rebels characters - specifically Ahsoka and Sabine’s search for Ezra after he and Grand Admiral Thrawn were lost in deep space.
Final Verdict: The fourth episode of Season 2 is an action-heavy spectacle that is handled expertly by its director. There were times when this episode felt bigger than some of the feature films, and I’ve already had friends of mine note that they wished they had seen this series before seeing The Rise of Skywalker due to the implications.
Directed by: Carl Weathers
Written by: Jon Favreau
You can find my reviews of the previous episodes of The Mandalorian Season 2 at the following links:
‘THE MANDALORIAN: SEASON 2, EPISODE 1’ - TV REVIEW (THERE BE KRAYT DRAGONS HERE…)
‘THE MANDALORIAN: SEASON 2, EPISODE 2’ - TV REVIEW (ROUGH RIDE)
‘THE MANDALORIAN: SEASON 2, EPISODE 3’ - TV REVIEW (HEIRESS OF MANDALORE)