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TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E4 “Chapter 12: The Siege”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

Mando checks in with some old friends, The Child heads to (pre) school, there’s a couple twists on some old Star Wars set pieces, and honestly, everyone ends up in worse trouble in The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 4 ” Chapter 12: The Siege“, written by Jon Favreau and directed by Carl Weathers. With its planet/adventure of the week plot structure, The Mandalorian doesn’t have an ensemble cast, but it does have a couple of interesting recurring guest actors. Weathers and Favreau use them nicely in this episode and also provide more commentary on the post-fall of the Empire universe as the New Republic struggles to connect with the Outer Rim (Even though its greatest hero is from there!) and the remnants of the Empire engage in a very Star Wars form of eugenics to try to get back in power.

In this episode, Mando goes to the planet Navaro (Where the pilot and a bit of the previous season took place.) to finally get the Razor Crest repaired and travel to Corvus to meet the last scion of the Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. These days, Navaro is pretty law abiding thanks to Marshal Cara Dune (Notable transphobe, anti-masker and general conspiracy theorist Gina Carano) and Magistrate Greef Karga (Weathers). There’s a school, commerce, and Karga has even employed former Mando bounty, Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) as his accountant to work of his debts. (Think Suicide Squad, but number crunching.) However, on the other side of the planet, there’s an Imperial base with a lot of heavy weaponry, and while Mando is waiting for his ship to be fixed, Dune and Karga rope him into blowing its reactor and bringing peace to the planet with Mythrol acting as hacker, lockpick, and getaway driver.

Mythrol’s getaway driver status is short lived when the team discovers that the base isn’t your run of a mill, but a lab where Imperial scientists are running very unethical tests and experiments on subjects using The Child’s blood. However, they’ve run out and need to recapture him again so this episode becomes a lot more complicated than blowing up a base over a lava pit and going home. As soon as Mando hears The Child is in danger, he jets off to protect him while Dune, Karga, and Mythrol end up in a speeder chase in the Star Wars equivalent of a Ford F-150. You can feel Weathers and cinematographer Matthew Jensen‘s glee in this sequence, which goes full Grand Theft Auto and escalates to TIE fighters and wraps up in a very A New Hope way.

My favorite part of “The Siege” was the adrenaline-filled third act where Imperial scout troopers actually behaved cleverly for once and may have actually gotten the upper hand if they weren’t so fanatical. (See last episode’s cyanide pill popping.) However, Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau spend the first bit of the episode showing the change and growth that Mando, Dune, Karga, and even Mythrol have gone through since last season. Dune has gone from a mercenary and prize fighter to a sheriff, who can keep the peace with her blaster and physical combat skills while Karga is back to his old respected government job ways instead of running numbers and bounties. However, he’s got a little bit of edge as evidenced by making Mythrol take all the big risks during the Imperial Base caper. Mythrol is still cowardly and wants to make an extra buck, but his new job keeps him in line. Dune and Karga’s goals have gone from trying to make a buck and forget about their more traditionally noble or heroic pasts to helping others and creating a safe “green zone” on where folks can live a life free from New Republic policing and bureaucracy and Imperial fascism.

And Mando has changed the most. He’s gone from treating the Child like a bundle, nuisance, or McGuffin to straight up treating him like a son. For example, in the beginning of “The Siege”, Mando tries to walk The Child through fixing something on Razor Crest because the little cutie can fit in tight spaces. However, this is a little advanced for him, and honestly, Mando should have just let him do the sci-fi western equivalent of holding the flashlight. Weathers and Favreau even riff on the dread “first day of school” when Karga tells Mando to drop him off at the classroom while they go on their mission. Weathers inserts a lingering shot of him looking away as The Child immediately gets into mischief and uses The Force to steal a classmate’s snack. Mando’s motivation is keeping The Child safe, happy, and hopefully one day, reconnected with others like him. This is a hell of a thing to build a TV show around and demonstrates why so many folks have emotionally connected with The Mandalorian.

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

The Mandalorian Season 2 continues to be in conversation with previous iterations of Star Wars, and after last week’s detour to Clone Wars and Rebels, we’re back to the original trilogy. Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau go full fanboy (But not in a toxic way.) and insert in all kinds of goodies like the aforementioned speeder bike chase, blowing up a reactor a la Endor, the classic gunner heads up display used in Vader’s TIE fighter and the Millennium Falcon, and in a touching moment even though Carano doesn’t quite sell the emotion, Alderaan. The inclusion of these elements create a nostalgic reaction in viewers that helps some of the themes that Favreau is exploring go down easier like the Rebels transformation into New Republic beat cops. I mean, we go from Han Solo and Wedge Antilles to some protocol spouting guy in an orange jacket using the death of all of Dune’s friends and relatives on Alderaan to recruit to “join the force”. I find the politics and tension of this era of Star Wars history really fascinating, especially when Favreau gives us this boots on the ground view although the information about Mandalorians is interesting too and places Mando in a larger context beyond “lone badass with a soft spot for a cute, occasionally bratty kid.”

“Chapter 12: The Siege” has a tense chase scene, a pleasant performance from Carl Weathers as Greef Karga and continues to show the bond between Mando and The Child in a sweet, occasionally funny way as it’s interesting to see Pedro Pascal change his body language and movements from sharing some soup with him to gunning down stormtroopers and pulling off crazy maneuvers in good-as-new Razor Crest. However, Jon Favreau undercuts this fancy flying and uses the last moments of the episode to have Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon raise this season’s stakes with a slight eyebrow movement. He’s a great villain, Mando knows he’s alive now, and I can’t wait for their rematch down the road.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E3 “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E3 "CHAPTER 11: THE HEIRESS"

Like the previous installment of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” features The Child being gluttonous, yet adorable and eating every weird alien tentacle thing in sight. However, it also further the quest for the Jedi plotline while placing Mando and The Child’s journey in the context of a much bigger world as they finally encounter some Mandalorians, but they’re not the most, shall we say, sympathetic to his quest and have designs on ruling Mandalore. Step one in their plan involves lots of piracy and stealing imperial weapons.

Bryce Dallas Howard immediately flexes her directorial chops with a gorgeous shot of Mando, Frog Lady, and The Child’s ship sputtering towards the water planet of Trask. (If you like Mon Calamari, this is the episode for you.) Everything that could go wrong goes wrong as the ship ends up covered in kelp and badly in need of repairs so it’s out of commission for the whole episode. But hope can be found even in the most bleak situations, and Howard and writer Jon Favreau give us some payoff for Frog Lady as she reunites with Frog Man and their kids while Ludwig Goransson channels his inner John Williams for a sweet, stirring score. The relationship that Mando formed with them in the previous episode ends up being important as they babysit The Child while he goes on the dangerous mission part of the story and also teach him that frogs are friends, not food.

For the rest of the episode, there aren’t really as many tender human moments except for Mando jumping into the belly of a mamacore when he gets double-crossed by some Quarren (Aka the squid looking guys) fishermen, who want his beskar armor, and have no intentions of leading him to other Mandalorians. But he ends up being found by three Mandalorians: Bo-Katan (A charismatic Katee Sackhoff), Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks), and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides). They take out Mando’s captors with precision and ease and rescue the child too. Howard captures their dynamic, fluid sense of movement compared to their opponents, and then shows they’re a little different when they remove their helmets, which is something completely against Mando’s belief system.

Speaking of belief system, the helmet removing and initial conversation between Bo-Katan and Mando sets up “The Heiress'” main theme, which is religious fanaticism. Apparently, Bo-Katan and her crew see Mando as a “zealot” and his views and mission to reunite The Child with the Jedi as restrictive. There’s a coldness between them even though Mando does agree to have a drink with them, mostly, because they’re his only lead as he isn’t super impressed by Bo-Katan’s aspiration to re-take Mandalore. He does show a grudging respect for her when she talks about being present at The Great Purge and having an armor passed down from generations. He is cool with helping them get weapons off an imperial freighter in exchange for information about the Jedi.

Except Bo-Katan doesn’t want to just steal weapons, she wants to steal the whole damn ship. Bryce Dallas Howard and Jon Favreau create some interesting parallels between her group of Mandalorians and the freighter’s crew led by the Imperial Captain (A stone-faced, yet really fun Titus Welliver). First of all, there’s this obsession with a return to a supposed Golden Age, which is the Galactic Empire for the Imperials and Mandalore for Bo-Katan. The Captain and his crew sign off with “Long live the Empire” when Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) refuses to send them reinforcements and would rather die than give the ship up to the Mandalorians.

Their sense of self-preservation has been overridden by their fanaticism. This extends to Bo-Katan and her crew, but they are much better fighters with Bo-Katan getting a thrilling sequence where she basically stabs a bunch of stormtroopers in close quarters combat. They have a single-minded cause and the skill to back it up, not unlike Gideon with his Darksaber at the end of last season.

Howard gets some bits of dark comedy from the reaction of basically the Imperial middle management to the report that the Mandalorians are onboard. She lingers on them sweating bullets as they realize that stormtroopers who “couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bantha” are the only thing standing between them and the Galaxy’s most ferocious warriors. The Stormtroopers do have fancy repeating blasters that even the odds for a little bit, but they’re no match for Mando, who is willing to put his body and Beskar on the line for a group of people he was duped by and strongly disagrees with.

The Mandalorian' Season 2, Episode 3 Review: 'The Heiress' Brings Back A  Fan Favorite

However, his real motivation comes into focus at the end of the episode where he warmly looks at The Child playing with Frog Man, Frog Lady, and their new baby and has an actual destination even if his ship is still on its last legs and crawling with some weird critters. (Hey, more food for The Child.) Jon Favreau never loses sight of heart of The Mandalorian, which is the bond between The Child and Mando, and they use the connection to the bigger Star Wars lore (Clone Wars and Rebels in this instance.) to add richness and stakes to their journey and explore themes like extremism and tradition with the help of cool armor and jet packs.

Finally, I have to give kudos to Favreau for being able to succinctly introduce Bo-Katan, her motivation, and the additions to the Mandalorian lore in a way that’s easy to follow for viewers who didn’t see those episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels while keeping the episode moving and not getting bogged down in exposition. I mean, that unyielding eye contact from Katee Sackhoff works all by itself.

“The Heiress” is a welcome return to form for The Mandalorian with versatile direction from Bryce Dallas Howard, who ably handles the big wide shots of planets as well as the intimate violence of hand-to-hand combat and a magnetic and storyline deepening guest performance from Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan. This episode is just a good time with plenty of action, adorable moments with Mando and The Child, and reminders of the complex world outside their quest.

Overall Verdict: 8.5