“Chapter 15: The Believer” is the first episode without Grogu and I didn’t even miss him. I know that’s crazy to write (and forgive me Grogu fans) but I had so much fun watching the Mando and Migs Mayfeld show for one episode. Bill Burr returns along with director Rick Famuyiwa and I have some thoughts so let’s discuss:
Again, the Issue of Timing
I don’t think anyone except insiders and Disney executives and employees knew just how big the Disney Investor Day Presentation would be and how much news would drop. Given that knowledge, Lucasfilm could have premiered this episode on a different day. It’s not as bad as Chapter 10 getting severely overshadowed by the US Election but a whole day of Disney content news stole its’ thunder a little. Perhaps Disney wanted The Mandalorian finished before Christmas to give Pixar’s Soul room to shine on Disney+. Either way, this is a great episode and I hope people go back to it after freaking out about the recent Star Wars content news.
New Looks All Around
Between the new Boba Fett armor paint job, Mayfeld in a yellow prison jumper, and Mando in a trooper outfit, there were a lot of different looks for our characters. To get the coordinates for Moff Gideon’s cruiser, they have to get to an internal Imperial Terminal. Mayfeld suggests Morak, the location of a secret Imperial Mining Hub and so the team (well parts of the team) need to go undercover. Mayfeld is not allowed to go by himself and Cara, Fennec and Boba would all set off alarms if they set foot on the base given their history. So, Mando changes his suit from the seemingly impenetrable Beskar armor to the absurdly vulnerable Stormtrooper armor. In fact, it looks like NEW trooper armor, a dark greenish armor version of the Hovertank Trooper from Rogue One. And then, he has to take his helmet off…in front of people! To keep the Imperial Terminal (which is strangely located in a mess hall) from sounding an alarm he has to let his face be scanned. And his helmet stays off for an entire scene. We are on our way to Pedro Pascal being like almost every other Mandalorian in the Star Wars universe and walking around with his helmet on his hip instead of on his head.
Hooray it’s…the Empire?
To break into the base, Mando and Mayfeld hijack an Imperial transport carrying rhydonium and disguise themselves as Troopers. Things of course don’t quite go as planned and Mando and Mayfeld become the last transport standing after all the other ones are blown up by pirates. When things are about to look very grim for the duo during a battle with the pirates, they are saved. In a moment usually reserved for the Millennium Falcon or X-Wings, heroic music plays, and TIE Fighters swoop in to finish the pirates off and rescue their fellow Imperials. Then they get an ovation when they arrive at the Imperial base and things start to get weird because you just know a lot of those Imperials are probably going to die. The empathy for the Empire doesn’t last but it was still weird to feel great about them for even one minute.
A Mayfeld Backstory Featuring Operation: Cinder
This is the moment of the episode and probably one of the best scenes this season. A moment that actually has been conveyed in the novels but never realized in live-action until now: a conversation of right and wrong with a former Imperial officer and his former commander. Mayfeld, surprisingly doing everything he can to help Mando keep is cover after having removed his helmet, changes the subject towards Operation Cinder (from the Battlefront II game). Operation: Cinder was a contingency plan from Emperor Palpatine that, if the Galactic War was lost by the Empire, satellites would activate to create severe electrical storms on selected planets to destroy worlds and their valuable resources. A petty and horrific action from a leader but one that is not completely foreign to our world. It was also another major event, aside from the destruction of Alderaan, that cause a lot of Imperial defections. Mayfeld survived Operation: Cinder on Burnin Konn, the location of an Imperial mining colony. His commanding officer was Valin Hess, who doesn’t recognize Mayfeld, and is now sitting across from him throwing out excuses of having to make “hard decisions” that led to the deaths of thousands of civilians and Imperials. Mayfeld is nodding as Hess is talking but it is clear that he is breaking. Mando also sees this and silently pleads with him not to blow their cover. And then Hess mentions that the rhydonium they delivered (and that the pirates tried to blow up) will be used to make Burnin Konn pale in comparison.
And so, Mayfeld breaks. He shoots Hess, then a Shoretrooper unfortunate enough to want to eat his lunch at that moment, and a few other troopers in the mess hall. Mayfeld suggests Mando should just leave him, but he doesn’t and Mayfeld can escape and, ultimately, earn his release from Cara Dune by blowing up the entire base. I know some people did not care for Mayfeld last we saw him in Chapter 6: The Prisoner, but I enjoyed his humor. I enjoyed him here even more for different reasons as it is always nice to see comedians stretch their range and dive into more serious moments. And there really is nothing more series in Star Wars than the battle of light and dark and what lengths people will go to justify their heinous actions during a war.
The Slave I in Action
Seismic charge. We saw Slave I drop a seismic charge. It has been an unexpected surprise to get so much Boba Fett this season after that long gap when we first saw him at the end of “Chapter 9: The Marshal.” We get him fighting, with and without his armor in “Chapter 14: The Tragedy,” and here we see him flying in action. Also, we get a good look at the inside of Slave I, which is magnificent. It is the coolest ship in Star Wars right now (RIP Razorcrest) and every moment more we get of it is a pleasure.
So who is the “Believer” in this episode? Is it Mando, whose beliefs in his creed were broken to save Grogu? Is it Hess, who believes that the Empire will rise again more powerful than ever and mass casualties are just a part of the job? Or is it Mayfeld, who clearly has changed his beliefs of the Empire? Rick Famuyiwa directed Pedro Pascal and Bill Burr to perfection in this episode and I would love to see him get more projects within Star Wars. Famuyiwa has created many classic Black American dramas (I never go too long without watching Brown Sugar) so it is great to see him do more action but he shines at creating tension within a scene. Mando’s repeat of Moff Gideon’s speech as a threat at the end was a nice touch to show a man who has, and will do, whatever it takes to get his son back. And the look on Moff Gideon’s face before the screen cuts to black says all you need to know.
One more to go to end an almost perfect season of The Mandalorian. I expect a longer finale and hoping it does not end on a cliffhanger but I am sure I will enjoy whatever awaits.