After the high last week’s Best Episode Ever, we could probably forgive The Mandalorian for taking a week off, or at least, giving us something a little more sedentary. Perhaps a bottle episode where Grogu and Din spend the half hour in their ship, catching a fly.
However, like Star Wars Rebels before it, Dave Filoni seems intent on making every episode as good as it can possibly be. Enter Robert Rodriguez, whose presence in the director’s chair guarantees action. The man who cut his teeth on El Mariachi and Desperado is probably as qualified as anybody to enter this world and give it both barrels.
It starts off sweetly enough – Din is teasing Grogu about his new name, letting him play with the little metal ball and wasting little time getting to the planet that could give his young/old friend a path to the Jedi.
Soon after arriving, and while Grogu does his meditation thing, a familiar looking ship zips past overhead. Din may not, but we know exactly who it is, and what he’s coming for.
As frustrating as it can be in the first half of the season, The Mandalorian excels at setting up characters early on to come back and make a difference in the latter stages, and so it proves here, with at least half a dozen characters returning to the story in some way or other, and pushing the plot in directions we perhaps didn’t expect. Indeed, the story of the week – somebody who apparently ate their way out of a sarlacc pit wants their armour back – collides with the overarching plot – Moff Gideon – in a truly satisfying way.
Rodriguez, for his part, has a lot of fun playing in the Star Wars sandbox, in particular when an influx of Stormtroopers arrive to to take on the – for want of a more accurate turn of phrase – good guys. It’s perfect fodder for a man who cut his teeth on a gunfighting trilogy of his own. The battle that ensues is executed with wit and style, showing more than a passing resemblance to the showdowns that made Rodriguez’s name.
And it works because, for possibly the first time this season, there’s a genuine sense of peril. The stakes are higher than we’re used to, and Mando clearly isn’t going to get his own way.
What’s especially pleasing about the range of guest directors is their willingness to keep finding the little moments of detail that The Mandalorian does so well. Stormtrooper infighting, Grogu on a jetpack, caved in Stormtrooper helmets, and easily the best use of the Force since Empire to name a few. There’s even a verbal throwback to Attack of the Clones, showing that those behind show, above all Star Wars media, know how to treat the past with due deference.
With just a couple of episodes to go, the payoffs will come thick and fast, and with the way things are shaping up, it’s not unreasonable to think that after more than a dozen cracking episodes, the best might still be yet to come.