In my review of last week’s chapter, “The Prisoner”, I was as critical of the series — which I previously contended was Star Wars at its peak — as I’ve been thus far.
Warning: spoilers for The Mandalorian will follow.
To be clear, “The Prisoner” was by no means a “bad” episode, it’s just that Chapter 6 was the third consecutive episode to diverge from the heart of the series — the liberation of Baby Yoda.
Naturally, these are understandable decisions from Disney, as the three “bottle” episodes — a bottle episode is an episode of television designed to save money by limiting the locales, cast members, and effects used, like “The Fly” in Breaking Bad — allows the Mouse House to not only save money for bigger and better moments but effectively stretches the main narrative arc of the series, thus prolonging the life of the show. And in Chapter 7, “The Reckoning”, the midseason detour was more than justified in both of those regards.
Following three adventure-of-the-week-esque entries, The Mandalorian hopped right back into its main storyline and did so with aplomb. While it’s not entirely clear how long it’s been — which is something I wish the series was clearer about — Mando returns to Nevarro — the home of Carl Weather’ Greef Karga — in order to assassinate the Client (Wener Herzog), which will alleviate the pressure the shady Galactic Empire remnant is putting on both Greef and Mando. Karga says that if Mando succeeds, not only will he be handsomely rewarded, but his name will be cleared with the Guild and he will be allowed to keep the Child (Baby Yodes).
Naturally, Karga’s proposal stinks to high hell, as nothing about the character suggests he’s capable of being a genuine ally. Nevertheless, Mando recruits the help of Kuiil — Nick Nolte’s fantastic “I have spoken” character — and Gina Carano’s Cara Dune for assistance. Having not appeared in a handful of episodes, Nolte’s Kuiil reminds everyone that Baby Yoda isn’t the only cultural phenomenon to be born out of this series, as his matter-of-fact Ugnaught represents one of the series’ high points thus far.
Both prior to and during Mando’s meet up with Greef, Baby Yoda exhibits the massive Force powers he withholds. First, he chokes Cara Dune half-to-death as she and Mando were partaking in a friendly game of arm-wrestling. Then, following a Game of Thrones-like dragon(!?) attack that sees Greef severely injure his arm, Baby Yoda is able to heal him with said powers. While it could be easy for Disney to use Baby Yoda as a merely adorable gimmick, they’ve found a way to make him increasingly integral to the larger Star Wars universe with each passing episode. And, yes, they also find ways to ramp up the cuteness to 11.
Eventually, and predictably, Karga reveals that the plan was to double-cross and kill Mando in order to give the Child to the Client, however, after Baby Yoda saves his life, Karga has a change of heart. Now, Mando, Karga, and Dune plan to fake the Mandalorian’s capture in order to get him close enough to the Client to kill him. All the while, they leave Baby Yoda with Kuiil for safekeeping.
It’s at this point that the series sets up the assuredly epic season finale, as the trio’s plan obviously goes horribly wrong. While the Client is indeed killed, it is due to an ambush by a hoard of the always-awesome looking Shadow Troopers, led by Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon, who is “a former governor under the Empire whose life changed after the Rebels destroyed the second Death Star” that finally makes his season debut.
Gideon warns the desperate trio that they are not fully aware of what they’re dealing with in Baby Yoda and that soon the Child will be his. Concurrently, as Mando frantically attempts to make radio contact, Kuiil is gun downed as in-pursuit Storm Troopers seize hold of Baby Yoda before the screen cuts to black.
Due to its deft combination of stunning cinematography — for a series built on tons of CGI, its eye for a beautiful shot, whether it be of a Shadow Trooper or a sunset-painted landscape, is impeccable — thrilling and emotional plot, and slick action sequences, The Mandalorian produced yet another high in a first season that has been full of them. Outside of Chapter 3, “The Sin”, “The Reckoning” represents a high watermark for the series thus far.
The presumably thrilling season one finale — which is directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok)! — hits Disney+ next Friday on December 27. Oh, and also, Werner fucking Herzog. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
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Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @eric_ital for movie and soccer takes or contact him firstname.lastname@example.org