The last thing I expected going into episode six of The Mandalorian, titled “The Prisoner”, is another diversion from the main story. Ultimately, it’s a fun diversion, and indicative of the kind of story I expect to see more of in future seasons. But those looking to see the tale of Baby Yoda moved substantially forward, you’ll be disappointed.
On the other hand, this episodes takes its cues from heist movies, a particular favorite genre of mine, so I absolutely love it. And there are tons of familiar faces (or voices) that will bring a smile to a lot of fan’s faces. The story finds Mando joining up with a group of bounty hunters for a rescue mission, an extraction of someone important. Mando lands the Razor Crest on a platform belonging to Ran (played by Sons of Anarchy‘s Mark Boone Junior), an old friend who he used to do jobs with back in the day. There’s some tension between them, especially when Ran makes it clear he knows what Mando has been up to with The Guild, but says his old friend is welcome on the ship anytime. The team Ran is putting together includes a Twi’lek named Xi’an, played by Harry Potter and Game of Thrones actress Natalia Tena. She and Mando also share a past, and it’s strongly implied, mostly by her sexual innuendo, they used to be lovers. Leading the squad is a human named Mayfeld (comedian Bill Burr), with a Devaronian named Burg (Clancy Brown, currently seen on ABC’s Emergence), and a bug-eyed Tee-Oh droid named Zero (voiced by comedian Richard Ayoade). Yeah, pretty cool group of characters and cast.
There are some great jokes between this ragtag bunch, too. Ran lets Mando know the only reason he’s there is because the Razor Crest is off the grid, and can slip in and out unaware from Imperial or New Republica surveillance. Mando isn’t happy about that, but he’s even less amused at learning the extraction is from a maximum security New Republic prison freighter. Mayfeld is none too pleased at having a Mandalorian on his team, but Ran vouches for him…
“Mayfeld, he’s one of the best trigger men I’ve ever seen”, Ran says. “Former Imperial sharpshooter.”
“That’s not saying much”, Mando cracks.
“I wasn’t a stormtrooper, wise ass!”, Mayfeld shouts.
Mando doesn’t want any part of this job because of the heat it could bring down on them if shit goes bad, which we know that it will. But when he hears it’s only manned by droids, which he still hates, it changes his mind. He soon wishes he hasn’t. Aboard the Razor Crest, Mando is teased by Xi’an who seems to know exactly how to piss him off. The others urge him to take off his helmet (Mando is accused of being a Gungan!), razz him about the other Mandalorians all being dead despite their reputation as great warriors, and a fight nearly breaks out between Mando and Burg.
It’s at this moment you’re probably wondering where the Hell is Baby Yoda? The scuffle answers that question when a button is accidentally pressed, revealing The Child to be stashed away in his own little safe room. Like everyone else who has encountered Baby Yoda, they have no idea who or what he is. They assume Mando has taken on a pet of some kind; Xi’an implies that Mando has gone soft.
While Baby Yoda barely has a role in this episode, there’s a total freakout moment when the ship suddenly drops out of hyperspace. In the ensuring rumble, everyone loses their balance and Mayfeld drops Baby Yoda to the ship’s hard metal floor! *gasp* The kid is alright; Mando quickly helps the little womprat up and secures him back in the room, but he has the others’ attention now and we know that’s not a good thing. Even worse, Zero has begun to decrypt a Guild message from Greef Kara (Carl Weathers) directly referencing the Child.
Aboard the ship, we do manage to see a few of the prisoners. None of them seem to be all that important, but one appears to be Rio Durante, the Ardennian voiced by The Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau in Solo. It’s not spelled out or anything, but it seems like the kind of cameo Favreau would dangle out there for eagle-eyed fans.
A major complaint I’ve had throughout is that Mando hasn’t been shown to be that great of a fighter. Sure, he can shoot, but hasn’t been that impressive elsewhere. He’s been overwhelmed in multiple episodes, and fought Gina Carano’s Cara Dune to a draw. But here, he’s the badass we expect him to be, slicing up the ship’s attack droids and using his flamethrowers to maximum effect. Another thing that’s clear is how indestructible the Beskar metal really is. Mando takes a number of blaster bolts that would’ve killed a normal person, but they mostly bounce right off. The other bounty hunters are impressed.
Eventually, they reach the control room and discover a terrified human New Republic officer (played by The Clone Wars’ Matt Lanter) who was not supposed to be there. Somebody fucked up somewhere. After some arguing about what to do with him, the decision is taken out of their hands by Xi’an who kills the officer with a blade. Unfortunately, he manages to set off a distress signal before dying, giving them only 20 minutes to retrieve the prisoner and escape before New Republic ships show up.
It’s at this moment when the mission truly goes sideways, and you realize there’s a lot more going on than we knew. Upon getting to the prisoner’s cell, they discover that it holds another Twi’lek, Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who happens to be Xi’an’s brother. Oh yeah, and he’s in prison because of Mando. Oops. The others turn the tables on Mando, knocking him into the cell and locking the doors. Maximum freakout time! If Mando can’t escape, not only will the New Republic discover him, but the others will steal his ship and Baby Yoda, too! Fortunately, Mando doesn’t take long to make his escape, cleverly using an incompetent droid’s own arm as a lock pick.
Rick Famuyiwa really struts his stuff here, taking on horror elements to capture Mando’s stalking of his fleeing betrayers. The first to be stalked down is the massive Burg, who seems to be impervious to just about everything…other than blast doors. Xi’an is a test, as well. The sly Twi’lek’s blades find their mark around his Beskar armor, but not enough to save her from Mando’s wrath. Mayfield gets the worst of it, or so we think. In an awesome display of strobing effects we see Mando sneaking up, frame by frame, on an unsuspecting Mayfeld.
All that’s left is Qin, and when he’s found the only thing he can do is plead forgiveness. He appeals to Mando’s code of honor as a bounty hunter. Why not just finish the job and collect all the credits? It’s at this point we realize how little we truly know about the Mandalorian. Would he really kill Qin just to get vengeance? Clearly, he’s been a killer in the past, so why not now? Or would he stick to the personal set of principles he’s been following since discovering the Child?
While this is going on, Zero has cracked Greef Kara’s message and learns of Baby Yoda’s importance. He goes off in search of the tyke, and after a brief game of hide-and-seek, finds him and prepares to shoot him. Yoda acts as if he’s about to use the Force to protect himself, but at that moment Mando shoots Zero from behind. The look on Baby Yoda’s face when he thinks it was his own powers that did it is, honestly, too precious for words.
The job done, Mando returns to Ran and it’s then that we learn he didn’t kill Qin. He finished the job, and dismisses Ran’s questions about the other bounty hunters with a simple “No questions asked” reply. Mando collects his pay and prepares to fly off in the Razor Crest, but it’s then that Ran orders someone else to “Kill him”. As fighter ship begins to launch and destroy Mando, Qin discovers the New Republic tracking beacon…and it’s still blinking.
As Mando flies off, a trio of X-Wing fighters arrives and begins shooting up Ran’s freighter. The pilots are played by, get this: co-showrunner Dave Filoni (as Trapper Wolf) and directors Rick Famuyiwa (as Jib Dodger) and Deborah Chow (as Sash Ketter). Pretty awesome. They’re now officially part of the Star Wars mythos. We also discover that Mando didn’t kill Mayfield, Burg, or Xi’an. They’re instead locked away on the prison ship, stuck in the same cell like the final episode of Seinfeld.
An amazing episode, one that expands on the Mandalorian’s background without having to delve into more childhood flashbacks. This episode introduces us to the man he used to be before he found Baby Yoda, and it’s strongly hinted that he wasn’t such a good dude. Also, we get to see a number of cool characters that are, thankfully, still around to cause Mando a lot of headaches.
That said, this is awfully late in the season for an episode that doesn’t push the Baby Yoda narrative forward. I can only imagine the final two chapters will, but at this point it’s really hard to say. Rumors are this next episode, which drops on Wednesday, December 18th rather than Friday, will have some tie-in with The Rise of Skywalker. Part of me hopes so, but another part likes how The Mandalorian is off in its own world doing something new each week. I don’t want to see that complicated by trying to fit into a separate narrative.