Last week’s episode of The Mandalorian left something to be desired for me. I thought it relied too heavily on nostalgia while offering little to the overall narrative. And while The Prisoner didn’t move the overall plot forward either, the episode is the best of the season thus far.
The premise is simple. Mando is desperately searching for work and in that desperation, ends up seeking out an old friend of his from back in the day. It turns out this friend of Mando’s, Ranzar Malk, is putting a job together to break a prisoner out of a New Republic Prisoner Ship. It’s a five-man team, including Bill Burr’s Mayfeld, Natalia Tena Xi’an, Clancy Brown’s Burg and Richard Ayoade providing the voice of the droid Zero. Mando is brought in mainly for the package deal of getting a Mandalorian and his stealthy and undocumented ship, the Razorcrest. On paper, the job is pretty simple: break-in, get out. But of course, nothing like this ever goes to plan.
What made this episode so great was the chemistry between the cast. All of the members of this ragtag crew are the scummiest kind of villains and they know it. They don’t exactly trust or like Mando but they realize, they better work together to get the job done, despite the contention. Or at least that’s what it seems like. After a New Republic officer is murdered (played by the voice of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars, Matt Lanter), the crew betray Mando once they acquire their quarry, causing him to hunt them down one by one and reach the Razorscrest before time runs out.
The show seems like it was made for me. It’s a heist, of sorts, sprinkled with a dash of horror for good measure. The action is tense, visceral and perhaps the best it’s looked in the show thus far. Confined to tight corridors, you’d think there may be more shaky-cam or quick cuts, but the action is surprisingly clear in this episode. Mando taking on a set of droids on his own was fearsome, but not the highlight. As strobe lights flash as Mando stalks Mayfeld, I thought of Alien, with the hunter appearing and vanishing with each flash. Earlier on, when he used the rope against Burg made me think of The Predator.
The banter and rivalry of the crew made me think of countless older crime films. It’s very different than the second episode of the season, which director Rick Famuyiwa also directed. But unlike that episode, which focused on silence, this one relished in the moment and the tension. Even The Child got in on the action and got the funniest moment of the season thus far, believing he used the Force to destroy Zero when in reality, Mando shot him from behind. The end sees the arrival of X-Wings to take out the Prisoner and Ranzar Malk and unlike the last episode’s on the nose use of nostalgia, the arrival of X-wings (and Dave Filoni’s cameo) felt organic and earned.
We still don’t know who the mystery man from the last episode is or what the final two episodes hold for Mando and Baby Yoda, but hopefully, The Prisoner was a final diversion before returning to the Imperial Remnant. But despite being very self-contained, this episode was pure awesome and a joy to watch. More like this in season two please!