Without a doubt, the second season of the Mandalorian has outdone the first in every respect. In this, the penultimate episode of the season, we take one final breather before Mando and his gang of mercenaries plan their daring rescue of Grogu from Moff Gideon. And for an episode that Rotten Tomatoes has deemed the second weakest of the series so far, I found this to be a fascinating look behind the curtain.
I kind of thought this was would be a prison break kinda episode, but that’s not actually what we got at all. New Republic Marshal Cara Dune arrives at a junk field to take custody of returning guest star Migs Mayfield, played by Bill Burr. Again, that Prisoner episode coming back to have a major impact on the events of the second season.
With Mayfield in tow, the gang travel to Morak. A planet which hosts a secret mining operation of the Imperial Remnant, digging up the highly volatile starship fuel of Rhydonium. The plan is to get Mayfield into the Imperial base so that he can access an internally linked terminal and learn the location of Moff Gideon’s star cruiser.
The problem being that there are scanners in place that would flag any enemy of the Empire right away. Which disqualifies Shand and Dune from the job. And Fett’s status as a clone whose template matches the former members of the Republic’s Clone army might cause some unnecessary confusion. So it’s left that Din is the only person to go in and keep Mayfield from screwing them all over.
The consequence of which being that he would need to disguise himself as a Stormtrooper fuel hauler to get inside. Shedding his armour for the first time all series. The pair quickly hijack one of the volatile rhydonium trucks and in the quiet moment of driving, we get a conversation between Mayfield and Din. Well, I say a conversation, but it’s mostly just Mayfield talking at the Mando and him being stoic in response.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this episode to me is the perception of the Republic and the Empire from the perspective of the normal people. Even Mayfield says it makes no difference to them who invades their world and takes their resources. We get a lot of talk from Mayfield about the perspective of the normal person actually. Which is an aspect of Star Wars I always find interesting to toy with.
While we, as the audience are completely cool with Jedi, Sith, Inquisitors and Mandalorians, to most people just living their lives in the galaxy, these are just legends. The names used in stories they tell one another, fairy tales. If you think about it, even during the height of the Republic, the number of people in the galaxy who would actually encounter a Jedi was probably insignificantly small. It’s no wonder they became little more than legend in the span of 20 years.
Mayfield goes on to talk about the innocents who died in the crossfire of wars the Mandalorians fought, which seems to bother Din somewhat. As he continues to realise he doesn’t really know all that much about Mandalorians outside of his little cult bubble. When he bites back, Mayfield flatly states that he’s a survivor and Din might be surprised what lines he might cross when things get desperate.
Before the conversation can reach a conclusion though, the Juggernaut tanker is attacked by a bunch of pirates who see determined to blow the juggernaut to pieces. So maybe that makes them less pirates, and more Rebels against the Imperial occupation of their world. Either way, they’re getting in the way of the mission, and so we get a really cool action sequence in which Din fights off the pirates atop the tanker, which comes perilously close to exploding on several occasions.
In the end, Din and Mayfield are rescued by the most unlikely of sources, when some TIE Fighters swoop in and cover their approach to the refinery. It’s strange seeing this look on the other side. As they enter the base, we see the base level grunts, the troopers and the engineer cheering them patting them on the back for making it through safely.
Seeing this human side of the Empire is interesting, as many of those at the bottom rung of the ladder are still just people. And with examples like Finn and Mayfield as former Stormtroopers in the universe already, it makes me wonder how many interesting stories are there to be told from this other side of the curtain.
Although this celebratory atmosphere doesn’t last that long, as Mayfield recognises an officer in the mess haul where the terminal they need is located. Getting cold feet, he forces Din to go in and use the terminal to get the location. The problem being that the terminal will need to commence a facial scan.
I guess that line that needed to be crosses came sooner than we were expecting. Din manages to get the information, having to remove his helmet and reveal his face in the process, but before he can bug out, the officer approaches him. Valin Hess, played by the Night King himself Richard Brake is a total return to the slimy evil that is an imperial offer in the Star Wars universe.
He starts questioning Din, who obviously has no answers for him, knowing nothing of Imperial protocol. Which causes Mayfield to feel a sudden bout of selflessness and cuts in to save Din from being discovered. While it seems like he smooths everything over, Hess invites the two heroic juggernaut drivers over to his table for a drink. This entire sequence feels like one giant homage to something from a Tarantino movie.
The tension is high while this slimeball Imperial officer with a southern drawl tries to decide which part of the Empire they should toast to. I really enjoyed it, showing how you can tell just about any kind of story in this world. Although this high tension doesn’t last very long, and quickly begins to boil over when Mayfield’s past demons all come out to play.
He offers they toast to Operation: Cinder. A monstrous bombarding of Imperial worlds after the death of the Emperor from orbital satellites, the operation was a vital focal point of the early parts of the story campaign of the Star Wars: Battlefront II video game from 2017. It’s obviously something Mayfield has been carrying with him for years, as he unloads on the Officer who ordered the attack on Burnin Konn, killing Mayfield’s division of thousands of people, as well as countless millions of civilians on top of those.
When Hess smugly brushes the loss of life off as for the “greater good” and that the Empire will commit even worse atrocities in the future until the people of the Galaxy come crawling back to the “safe” and “controlled” rule of the Empire. It’s a grim admission and one that really shows how evil the Empire is, just in case we were all forgotten.
Thankfully, Mayfield does the merciful thing and shoots Hess in the chest. An emotional outburst that seemingly comes to a surprise to even him. Which obviously blows their cover and forces them to fight their way out of the base. Which they manage to do pretty quickly with the sniper support of Shand and Dune as well as the air support from Slave I.
In one final middle finger to the Empire he used to be a part of, Mayfield grabs a rifle from inside Slave I and shoots the exposed rhydonium tanks in one of the Juggernauts and causes a chain reaction that destroys the entire base. Reiterating his earlier to Din from their talk during the drive that you need to do what you need to do to help you sleep at night.
With the information in hand to go after Grogu, Din and Dune talk in front of Mayfield about how it was a shame he was killed in the explosion, giving him the nod to run off and have a second, or maybe it’s a third chance at this point, at life. This was a fantastic redemptive story arc for the character of Mayfield, as well as a great episode of growth for Din, who is starting to realise what is more important in his life between his “code” and his guardianship of Grogu.
This episode was packed to the brim with so much great stuff that I can’t understand why this has been reviewed so poorly compared to other episodes of the series on review aggregator episodes. Even this little things like the call-back to Slave I’s sonic charges and a direct reference to the Battlefront II campaign, it all shows how tight and woven together this new Disney run Star Wars universe truly has become.
I cannot wait for next week’s season finale to see how things pan out and what other exciting reveals we’ll get with the dramatic rescue of Grogu. It’s such an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan.