War is hell, and that’s just as true in the universe of Star Wars as it is in our own. Season 2, episode 7 of The Mandalorian gives fans a look at how this long, drawn out galactic civil conflict has impacted the soldiers on the front lines — and created a class of leaders who have to put aside pesky things like ethics to get the job done. Some of the ... moral flexibility, shall we say ... even rubs off on Din Djarin, but in an unexpected way.
[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Chapter 15, “The Believer”]
This episode opens up on a New Republic prison planet, with Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr, who we last saw in season 1, episode 6, “The Prisoner”) breaking down big chunks of Imperial scrap into little ones. In sidles Cara Dune (Gina Carano) to bust him out — not with gunfire, but with the flick of her wrist. Turns out that sometimes bureaucracy can actually work in your favor. Regardless, the absence of a full on prison break serves to ease viewers into the episode after the dramatic highs of the last one.
In order to track down Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and launch a rescue mission to retrieve Grogu, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) needs to find out where his Imperial command ship is parked. Mayfeld says that kind of information requires special access, and as an old soldier of the Empire he knows just how to slice it. The trick is getting close enough to a data terminal with the right kind of connections.
The solution, Mayfeld says, is to slip inside a nearby mine that produces rhydonium — a volatile kind of starship fuel. It’s protected by an Imperial garrison, and that means it will have the kind of terminal that he’s looking for. But, in order to get inside they’ll need disguises. That’s where Din first starts to compromise his personal ethics.
In order to infiltrate the mine, the Mandalorian removes his armor. In its place he dons the more pedestrian trappings of a tank trooper (a variant first introduced in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). What was once part of his sacred oath is suddenly put aside in the rush to save Grogu. Mayfeld can’t help but poke fun at him, but along the way raises one of those universal truths that only happen to come up when two grizzled old veterans are sitting in the same foxhole.
Passing through a village, the pair catch sight of some children sitting alongside the road. They stare up at them, clad in their dark armor, with hate.
“Do you really think all those people that died in wars fought by Mandalorians actually had a choice?” Mayfeld says, his teasing suddenly taking a turn toward the philosophical. “So how are they any different than the Empire? If you were born on Mandalore you believe one thing. If you were born on Alderaan you believe something else. But guess what? Neither one of ‘em exist anymore.”
Regardless of the uniform that you happen to be wearing — Imperial, New Republic, or even Mandalorian — it’s easy to fall into the role of the oppressor. With a helmet strapped tight to your head it’s hard to have a lot of peripheral vision, and that applies to soldiers following orders and zealots hoping to stay true to their ancient religions. There are good people on both sides of every war, Mayfeld seems to say, but what matters are the actions of the individual.
That’s what makes Din Djarin’s next move so fascinating. Right there in the middle of an Imperial mess hall he takes off his helmet. Because of a facial recognition scanner, it’s the only way to access the information that he needs. Once again, his sacred vows fall away in his mission to rescue the child. His armor, both physical and emotional, is slowly but surely being stripped away.
With the location of Gideon’s starship in hand, Din and Mayfeld are two steps from the door when an Imperial officer corners them for a celebratory toast. But it’s not just any officer. Instead, it’s the man that Mayfeld served under during a disastrous battle that cost thousands of soldiers — and civilians — their lives. The slicer can’t help himself. He draws his gun and puts a round right through the officer’s chest. Bedlam ensues.
In the end, everything works out alright. Cara and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) have the facility covered from a nearby hillside and rain down withering fire into the pursuing troopers. Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) shows up to airlift them out in Slave 1, and a single well-placed concussion mine makes good their escape — with Mayfeld taking one last parting shot with a long gun that sends the entire mining complex up in flames.
In the end, Mayfeld earns his freedom. Cara suggests that he likely died in the blast, and both she and Din look the other way as he melts into the jungle. It’s important to notice how everything about Mayfeld has changed since we first met him, from the clothes on his back to the tone and timbre of his voice. He’s a man reformed, not because of the New Republic penal system but because he returned here to face his former Imperial master and personally bring them to task.
The parallels to Din Djarin are clear. He’s a member of a puritanical sect of Mandalorians, one that held so much power over him that he didn’t even know he was in it. The Children of the Watch already put him in conflict with an actual Mandalorian, Bo-Katan Kryze. You can expect he’ll have to reckon with his world view — and both the emotional and the physical barriers that surround him — some time soon.
In the mean time, it’s also worth noting that just yesterday Disney unveiled an entire slate of new live-action and animated Star Wars shows. Fully nine new series will be coming out in the next few years, including more from The Mandalorian’s Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. This episode, like all the others this season, was excellent television.
Here’s to more where that came from. Its promise almost makes up for the long stretch of time that the universe fell silent after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.