The sixth episode of The Mandalorian is another self-contained story chronicling the adventures of everyone’s favorite bounty hunter on the run. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, this latest installment of the Star Wars spin-off series spins a good yarn.
Baby Yoda plays an even smaller role here than it did in the previous episode, but once again that actually works to the episode’s benefit. I enjoyed the wise decision to put the focus on new characters. In this case, the new characters consist of old partners of Mando like a Twi’lek woman named Xian and a seedy boss-type called Ran, along with new acquaintances such as Mayfeld, who is impressively portrayed by none other the comedian Bill Burr, along with a devilish looking muscleman called Berg and a suspicious pilot droid.
Mando takes an assignment with the team of criminal mavericks, or rather, is forced to take an assignment with them, to help free one of their cohorts from a New Republic prison.
The plot sounds simple enough, but the episode’s runtime is the longest in the series so far. That’s most likely because it not only introduces so many new characters, but it gives all of them enough screen time to flesh out their personalities. Let’s just say, this is a rough group of scallywags.
Their interactions brought back a lot of long-forgotten memories from middle school. The constant need to be on guard from bullying, even from people pretending to be your friends. There’s just a palpable feeling of uneasiness whenever Mando is alone with any of these uneducated weirdos. They don’t strictly follow any code of honor, and you immediately get the sense that the Mandalorian is in danger when he’s hanging out with them.
Still, it’s like being on a rollercoaster. Despite the sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, there’s something fun and exciting about it. I often get lambasted for comparing The Mandalorian to unrelated films and TV shows, but that sinking feeling of dread this episode gave me in certain parts was similar to the feeling I got when first viewing Dennis Hopper’s scenes in Blue Velvet. I was on edge even when nothing of particular note was happening.
Besides the well-executed atmospheric tension, we get a lot of great scenes showing just how resourceful Mando is in this episode. Everything from covertly sneaking up behind unsuspecting targets, to using a dislodged droid arm to escape from a prison cell. His exploits often being accompanied by the best use of a soundtrack so far in the show. Seriously, the choice of music and rhythmic timing is magic here.
The constant and escalating backstabbing behavior on display is also magical in its own way. It’s disturbingly rewarding to see how far both Mando and his “partners” will go to one-up each other.
Some viewers might be growing tired of the sort of “monster of the week” style format of The Mandalorian. So far, most of the episodes don’t appear to be all that consequential in the grand scheme of things. Sure, we usually get a little more of a glimpse into what makes Mando tick, and snippets of his background, but we’re no closer to understanding anything of note about Baby Yoda or what Mando’s overall goal is. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are complaints that the series hasn’t progressed the plot sufficiently to sustain interest, or that it’s meandering.
While those criticisms aren’t necessarily wrong, I think they misjudge what The Mandalorian is setting out to do. At its heart, it’s a modern-day Sergio Leone spaghetti western that happens to follow a classic serialized episodic structure. It’ll be interesting to see if the series continues this pattern moving forward, or if it culminates any of the threads it has woven into a cohesive ending leading up to this season’s finale.
For now, I’m still just happy to be along for the ride, and for what it’s worth this episode is probably my second favorite of the season. It continues to give me hope for the future of Star Wars.