Somehow this episode wasn’t titled “The Unmasked”, but it probably should’ve been. Following two straight weeks of fan-servicey reveals, and one kidnapped Grogu, this week is back to basics for The Mandalorian. Well, sorta. Titled “The Believer”, this episode, written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, shows us something we’ve never seen before: Din Djarin’s face!
And y’know what? He looks a lot like that Pedro Pascal guy! He was great for the five minutes he was in Game of Thrones.
Anyway, the circumstances behind Mando’s unmasking are all part of a fairly standard infiltration/heist plot that the series has become known for. Break in, steal some codes, get out. Actually, this story has been done already just a few weeks ago, even taking place at a similar-looking Imperial facility on Morak. But it’s the details that shift this time around, and of course, the company that Mando keeps is way different.
Tagging along for the ride are Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), and Migs Mayfield, the Imperial sharpshooter played by Bill Burr in season one. He’s sprung from a prison work camp by Marshall Dune, bending the rules of her sweet new Federation gig, because his knowledge of the Empire’s codes is needed to find the location of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who has absconded with Grondu.
So this is basically a stop-gap episode before we can finally get to the business of rescuing Grogu. The episode’s title comes from a major sacrifice that Din Djarin must make, which is to remove his helmet, a definite no-no in his sect of the Mandalorians, and wear the helmet and armor of a Stormtrooper. He’s forced into this position by the fact that nobody else can break into the facility without being traced. However, what’s interesting about it is how fast Mando is willing to put his religious principles aside to save his pal Baby Yoda. That fatherly instinct to protect the child is something that we will see later in much starker terms, but it goes to show that Mando has fully crossed over into caring about the little guy.
That said, you can practically feel the humiliation radiating off of him as he rides shotgun in a Juggernaut full of highly-explosive material. Making matters worse, Mayfield starts chattering about the flimsiness of one’s morals, and makes Mando his perfect example. Look at how easily he was willing to break the strict Mandalorian code when it suited his needs. To Mayfield, both the good guys and the bad guys are the same in that regard, which is why most people don’t give a damn who wins the war.
The Mandalorian continues to explore the impact of the fighting on regular people, and I’m here for all of it.
It’s almost a welcome when the vehicle is raided by pirates eager to blow up the volatile shipment. The fight is pretty standard stuff except for what it reveals about Mando as a combatant. He REALLY has come to rely on the impervious Beskar armor, and without it he’s very vulnerable. Fortunately, just as things get dire they are saved by a squadron of TIE Fighters in a scene that blatantly mirrors the Millennium Falcon’s rescue of Luke Skywalker in ‘A New Hope’. There’s even a Mayfield “whoop!!” to go with it. You might find yourself cheering for the moment, too, as it gives us the rare chance to see the Empire in the role of saviors.
Inside the facility, there’s only one way to access the terminal where the information is stored. Mando is forced to remove his helmet and show his face, which wouldn’t be a big deal except this time the camera actually shows us his face, and he goes unmasked for a long time. Long enough to both interact with Mayfield and pompous Imperial officer Valin Hess (Richard Brake), a former commander of Mayfield’s.
Fans of the Battlefront video games and Star Wars comics will take interest in this bit, as Hess and Mayfield shoot the shit over Operation Cinder. The mission, one enacted after Return of the Jedi and Palpatine’s apparent death, called for the devastation of Imperial planets through the use of weather satellites. The reasons? Pure evil not enough? Actually, it had to do with Palpatine not believing the Empire should live beyond him. The actual impact, which Hess sortof alludes to unknowingly, is that it helped set the stage for the creation of the First Order. Mayfield was one of the few who survived Operation Cinder and…well, let’s just say he’s holding some resentment over Hess’s leadership.
A testy round of drinks, a blaster bolt to the face, one blown up facility, and an awesome display of aerial superiority by Boba Fett later, and Mando is back on the hunt for Grogu. But first he sends a threatening message to Moff Gideon, making sure he understands the stakes and the lengths he will go to rescue Baby Yoda…
“He means more to me than you will ever know,” Mando says.
Funny thing is, Grogu doesn’t actually appear in this episode. At all. It’s the first time in two seasons that we haven’t seen him, and that throws the tone a little bit off. Not that this episode wasn’t funny, Burr definitely more than makes up for that as the slippery Mayfield, but it takes some adjustment to see Mando without his buddy floating around beside him. It also speaks to how well Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have developed Mando that his willingness to risk everything to save Grogu feels natural. While at the same time, seeing him without his helmet made me gasp even though I knew damn well it was just Pedro Pascal. Neat trick.
This was a pretty standard filler episode of The Mandalorian, otherwise, and I know others will disagree but I always expect just “okay” from Famuyiwa. He rarely lets me down in that regard. With only one episode left in this season, we’re primed for a huge blowout in the finale and an epic showdown with Moff Gideon and his Darksaber. Damn, can you imagine the epic speechifying Esposito is going to do? I can’t wait.