The penultimate episode of The Mandalorian’s second season aired Friday, and it delivered a little bit of everything – action, introspection, and, of course, Pedro Pascal’s helmetless face.
We start on the Karthon Chop Fields, where New Republic prisoners serve time by scrapping old Imperial starships and other debris. Marshal Cara Dune bends some rules and checks prisoner Miggs Mayfeld (from Chapter 6) out of the camp, only to deliver him to Mando and Co. They need him to use his old Imperial clearances to find coordinates to Moff Gideon’s ship. Mayfeld is wary – there doesn’t seem to be anything in it for him – but accepts.
Problem is, Mayfeld needs an internal Imperial terminal. He directs them to the planet Morak, host to a secret Imperial mining facility. Upon arrival, Boba gives the base a scan and realizes they’re refining rhydonium, a highly volatile starship fuel – presumably for evil reasons. The base is well-protected, so a stealth mission is in order. Except, of course, it’s run by ex-ISB officers, and the whole gang is on their wanted list (Boba has a hilarious quip about the Empire recognizing his face). So, Mando swaps his armor for a tank trooper outfit. This has a helmet, so technically he doesn’t show his face – but he’s walking the line. All for Grogu.
The pair impersonate tank troopers and drive a Juggernaut transport full of rhydonium to the base. Mayfeld badgers Din about Mandalorian customs, pushing for Din to remove his helmet. He then points out that to the colonized planets, the New Republic and the Empire are the same – invaders. It’s a theme among new Canon materials, especially in the books. Mayfeld goes as far as to compare Mandalore to the Empire – sending people to die, killing innocents. It’s a stretch, but I see where he’s going.
“Everybody’s got their lines they don’t cross, until things get messy,” he says. He isn’t entirely off – Din being the obvious example in this episode. He points out that everyone believes different things, based on where they were born, or how they were raised. One man’s evil is another’s purpose in life. It’s a detached facade, in the style of JD from The Last Jedi. Mayfeld doesn’t remain so cavalier for long, but we’ll get to that.
Mayfeld’s philosophizing is disrupted by a pirate attack. Oddly, they’re simply destroying the rhydonium, not stealing it. One has to wonder – are they really pirates? Or are these rebels trying to push back against Imperial occupation? It’s an uncomfortable question, especially as we watch Din take them down, wave by wave. As cool as it is to see him kick ass, it’s not the thrilling action we got in last season’s penultimate episode. It also highlights just how shoddy Imperial armor is in comparison to beskar – Din tries to block a blow with his forearm and the plating just shatters. Whoops.
TIE Fighters come to the rescue, as well as some ground troops, and the music wants you to feel relieved and victorious. And for a moment, I was – until I remembered I was cheering for the Empire. The entire sequence underscores Mayfeld’s earlier point – these folks believe their actions are justified, that they’re working for the greater good. They don’t know they’re puppets for a Sith Lord. So it’s jarring to see Stormtroopers congratulate Din and Mayfeld for successfully delivering rhydonium, shouting praises to the Empire.
Mayfeld spots a terminal, but alas – his former commanding officer is in the mess hall, only a few feet away. It’s almost the end of the line, but Din takes the plunge himself. He removes his helmet to complete the facial scan on the terminal, and is granted access to Gideon’s coordinates. Listen, I know the Empire is hurting, but how can a stranger’s face unlock classified records? Anyway, the commanding officer, Valin Hess, stops him and asks for his TK number. Mayfeld steps in and spins enough yarn to escape scrutiny, but Hess wants to buy them a drink.
Mayfeld proposes a toast to Operation Cinder, and things get awkward real fast. Pedro Pascal does excellent work here, moving with his entire body to look pointedly at Mayfeld as though he still has a helmet on, expressing increasing anxiety with just his eyeballs and subtle movements. You just know these are the exact faces Din makes under his helmet all the time.
Mayfeld brings up the many Imperials who died at Burnin Konn, and Hess assures him they died for – you bet – the greater good; after all, people want order, not freedom! He says they plan to wreak even greater havoc with this rhydonium, says people will welcome the Empire with open arms. It’s his toast to the Empire that pushes Mayfeld over the edge – he shoots Hess square in the chest.
Cover blown, they make their daring escape with the help of Fennec and Cara sniping their attackers from afar. They make it to Boba’s ship, and Mayfeld manages to shoot a rhydonium reserve and blow up the facility for good measure. TIE fighters pursue, but Boba drops a seismic charge on them, and everyone swoons. It’s just so pleasing to the ear!
They touch down a ways away and Cara releases Mayfeld from custody, implying she’ll fake his death. I don’t know what he’s going to do, stranded on Morak, but good for him.
Din sends Gideon a transmission, throwing the Moff’s speech from last season in his face. His is much more personal – “He means more to me than you will ever know”, “Soon, he will be back with me”. Din is closing in for the kill.
This episode, while enjoyable, didn’t entirely feel like a lead-up to the season finale. The action was decent, but not riveting. The pacing felt more like a middle episode – it was much calmer than last season’s “The Reckoning”, which left us in the middle of a shootout with the Empire.
Mayfeld’s character work didn’t seem all that convincing. His actions felt as though they were fueled by a personal vendetta, rather than for the New Republic’s cause. Then again, maybe he wasn’t supposed to change all that much. Overall, a good character, but not nearly as interesting as Boba Fett or Fennec Shand, who were criminally underused in this episode. I wanted more between Din and Boba, and their shared background. Or anything at all about Fennec, who is still largely a mystery to us. Why bring them back from the dead if you aren’t going to utilize them more?
Hopefully we see all that and more next week. We need a long, thrilling finale to a season that has felt somewhat clunky at points. We don’t know who directed the finale, so we don’t know what to expect – but with Dark troopers in the mix, it’s going to be a tough road for Mando and Co.
Until next week!