By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – December 19, 2019)
CHAPTER 7: THE RECKONING (Jon Favreau, Deborah Chow)
If there’s one take I’ve gone to more than any other in the world of covering television, it’s this one. When it’s time for the penultimate episode of a season or a series, you’d better expect the worst for those you love on screen. In order for the finale to be a satisfying relief, stories have to put heroes and those they care about in dire straits, sometimes up to and including writing someone off or killing a likable character.
This week, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian taught us another lesson in how accurate the curse of the penultimate truly is, because within 38 minutes, Baby Yoda got kidnapped and Kuiil the Ugnaught was killed while valiantly trying to protect the Child. He had just paid off his centuries-old debt and now no longer had to serve anyone, but when it came down to it, he had a good heart and he believed and trusted Mando. He wasn’t wrong to do so, but it was his downfall. If he had just hung out with his blurrgs and stayed put at home, he wouldn’t have been gunned down by Moff (uh oh, that name is ominous isn’t it) Gideon’s forces a few steps away from the Razor Crest.
Also, Giancarlo Esposito really knows how to play a stone faced, fearsome bad guy. If he opens a Mexican chicken restaurant, everybody in the galaxy is in big trouble.
What we find out in the seventh episode is why we watched the first six, which seemed self-contained more than anything else, made to be syndicated down the road, except that with Disney +, that seems unnecessary, at least for quite a while. But, what Favreau and his team were doing was introducing us to people we could meet, form a quick opinion on, either like or dislike, so that when he brought it all together in the end, or almost all of it, we’d buy it and we’d also sense a familiarity. We invested in these people just enough for it to feel more important.
How do I know this? Go back and read some of the previous reviews where I discuss how I wish maybe one or two of these folks would stick with Mando and travel with him, particularly Kuiil. This was simple, but brilliant. They made me want it, they gave it to me for 15 more minutes, and then they put a fatal would in him and made me sad. This is textbook build, but it also explains why The Mandalorian is working so well, because it’s not attempting to outsmart itself. What’s there is there, it makes sense, and there are people to root for and people to root against.
Cara Dune returns as well, more of a sister to Mando than anything else, but Gina Carano was a little more confident in the performance this time than when we first met her. She’s still a little wooden and stilted, but because of the character’s origins as a former shock trooper and someone that avoids emotions, likely because she believes it creates a vulnerability, it makes the work logical for the role and the actress.
But, there’s a sense of love and respect for Mando and for the Child, especially as she learns more and more about him. Cara, Kuiil, and Mando are loners by design and by circumstance, so putting them together, we get to see how much better life is when we live it with people we trust and care for, and sometimes with an IG-11 reprogrammed droid…that hopefully no longer wants to murder Baby Yodadorbs. When you go from full independence to having someone around to watch your back and take some of the weight off your shoulders, it’s both a relief and also something that becomes more comforting with time.
Carl Weathers has done a really nice job fitting into the Star Wars universe with believably powerful dialogue. He sounds like Star Wars to me, and the Greef Carga character behaves exactly as you’d expect a conniving, self-interested middleman between clients and hunters to act. The best thing about his involvement this time is he admitted to what we anticipated, which was luring Mando to a kill zone in order to snatch the Child. That took away what we all knew was coming before the fact, and it was written in such a way that Baby Yoda’s new healing power softened his heart and made him see things differently.
Of course, he could still be lying, but it doesn’t seem so. There is no honor among thieves, those who hate are hated, those who cheat are cheated, so the Client getting murdered by Moff Gideon and his hundreds of storm troopers, including those Level 4 video game black suit souped-up models was exactly how his story should have ended. Also, it’s a reminder that there’s always somebody with more control than the guy you think has all the power. The Client was merely working for someone else, who had no qualms in offing him the second he needed to.
Baby Yoda had a big episode in terms of meme-able moments, including peering down from the top of the screen, nearly destroying Mando’s ship, and just randomly waddling around and being awesome. So many of the camera shots of him are brief, which is why they’re all so effective and inviting. The camera doesn’t need to linger on the Child UNLESS it’s a time where he’s using the Force or whatever powers he possesses, at which point it focuses in and sits there.
If the penultimate is the one that’s hard to watch, the finale is usually an audience reprieve, but how much of a resolution will we see? Moff Gideon is a character we’ve just met, and it’s one that probably needs to stick around to be a top end villain for Mando and company. That said, it seems crazy that the season would end with Baby Yoda not on the Razor Crest speeding away with Mando, so what’s the middle ground? How does the child get back where it should be?
Or perhaps, does Favreau not give the happy ending to the first set of episodes and end the season with the child in enemy hands? That becomes the question. Notice I skipped past Mando and Cara being in an impossible situation with a ton of guns trained on them. That I see them finding their way out of, but what happens to Baby Yoda is the key to the finish. That needs to land, and I have no reason to think Favreau won’t be ready for it.
This was a terrific episode, bringing a little needed depth and cohesiveness to the ragtag bunch we’ve met for the past seven weeks and giving us a heavy moment in the death of someone we really liked in Kuiil, who died serving selflessly, which lives up to what we’ve known of that character since the second we met him. We got a little bit more mythology on Mandalore and his choices, which led to the isolation of the class and the way they go about their business.
But this episode accomplished three crucial things and did so effectively, within a very easy-to-consume final product. First, we bring things full circle with all the characters and we lose Kuiil amidst a valiant act that further endears him to us. Second, we introduce Moff Gideon, a very necessary evil in more ways than one. Third, we kidnap Baby Yoda and put the Child in the tightest imaginable spot, plus we trap Mando and Cara in the process. That’s flat out good writing folks.
I continue to dig this show. I look forward to each week more than the last, and this was the high point thus far. Just exceptional. This week’s ep dropped on Wednesday, which has me wondering if they’re going to change the scheduled 12/27 release for the finale as a special “Christmas” present from Disney, which also has the added bonus of attracting subscribers who then would know they can binge the entire season with their families. There will also be subscriptions given as gifts, which would make it all the better. It’s smart business, so I’m going to predict that Disney will drop it without much fanfare, then announce it on social media.
Could be wrong, but that’s what I would do. Also, I would continue watching The Mandalorian, which is such a fun show and such a great escape from everything else in the news right now. Deborah Chow returned for her second episode as director, and they’ve been the two most memorable so far. She’s a superstar in the making, which only will become more true once Obi Wan begins.
I’m @JMartZone. I have spoken. (coos)