The Mandalorian: 2.07 Chapter 15: The Believer
The Mandalorian reaches the penultimate episodes of its sophomore season; Grogu is in the hands of the Imperials and we're all set for a rousing rescue mission. Except, you may have to dial your expectations back a little as it looks like that won't actually be happening until the season finale.
The Believer isn't a bad episode (although it does wander towards filler at times); it's more that expectations have been built from this fantastic season that it doesn't quite meet. It also doesn't help that it's coming off the back of two superb episodes that brought us a live action Ahsoka Tano and the action packed return of Boba Fett. It also seemed reasonable after last seasons two-parter, that things would follow a similar pattern. Instead what we do get is an enjoyable "squad on a mission" scenario that manages to provide some interesting musings on the nature of war and some important emotional beats for Mando involving his beliefs.
Rick Famuyiwa returns to write and direct The Believer and brings Bill Burr back with him as convicted felon Mayfeld. We last saw Mayfeld in Famuyiwa's season one space heist episode The Prisoner. Currently imprisoned in a New Republic facility, Mayfeld is temporarily released by Cara Dune in her new role as a Republic peacemaker. Our team need Mayfeld because as an ex-Imperial and he'll be able to access the information they need in order to track down Moff Gideon and therefore Grogu.
So off to the planet of Morac we go, where there is a secret Imperial mining facility with the appropriate terminals that Mayfeld can access. Getting in however turns out to be harder than anticipated. Cara can't escort Mayfeld because she'll be on Imperial records, likewise the same for Fennec. Boba is out too considering the entire clone army shared his face. He points this out in the episode's funniest moment as he quips "they'll recognise my face". The fact he deadpans this behind his helmet only adds to the comedy. This just leaves Din and it is from here that the emotional core of the episode springs.
This season of The Mandalorian has begun to explore Din's beliefs and has suggested that just maybe this is not the way. Bo-Katan and her team dropped the bombshell that the Mandalorians that raised Din were essentially religious zealots and that everyone else is quite happy to remove their helmets when needed. To infiltrate the Imperial refinery, Din must now disguise himself as a trooper. At least he gets to wear a helmet but you can tell he is not comfortable about the situation at all. Things get worse when it comes time to access the terminal to retrieve the information they need. For some reason the terminal needs to scan your face. Or any face really. Not for security purposes it seems though, it doesn't appear to recognise whoever does it. No, it appears to be the Imperial equivalent of having to click 'I am not a robot' when ordering off the internet.
It comes off as clumsy writing to me that is essentially just an excuse to make Din take his helmet off. This was inevitably where the season has been headed, but I feel it could have been handled better. Pedro Pascal makes the most of the situation, his facial expressions and limited dialogue convey his awkwardness and the feeling of being exposed. Prior to this, we have already seen how much Din has come to rely on his Beskar armour as he defends the Imperial hauler from pirates. His trooper armour literally shatters against the blows and his blaster stops working almost immediately. Din is certainly a lot more fragile and vulnerable without his Mandalorian shell.
During the conversation that Din and Mayfeld are forced to have with Imperial officer Valin Hess, played in a superb menacing fashion by Richard Brake, we get to see Bill Burr come to the fore as Mayfeld's past is examined. There's a bit more depth than we usually get in Star Wars, as the realities of war and the effect on civilians are discussed. Star Wars is generally black and white, good and evil. The Believer adds some more subtle layers as the Republic and Imperials are suggested to both be sides of the same coin. To the inhabitants of an occupied planet, it doesn't really matter who is occupying them. Hess justifies the Imperial actions by declaring they are only doing what is necessary, " People think they want freedom, but what they really want is order."
It's also interesting to note that the pirates Mando has dispatched earlier were only trying to stop the Imperials, in any other situation, they would be the good guys we were rooting for. Instead they have become collateral damage in Din's quest to rescue his friend. This thought provoking conversation comes to an abrupt end when Mayfeld has decided he's heard enough and just blasts Hess away. We are now back to familiar Star Wars ground as Din and Mayfeld have to fight their way out of the Imperial facility. Some finely staged action follows as Cara and Fennec provide covering sniper fire, so that our duo can get to the roof. It is still a major thrill to see Boba Fett swoop in with Slave-1 to make the rescue. It gets better when he release a sonic charge to destroy their TIE-fighter pursuers in a nod to his pursuit of Obi-Wan in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
After the western and Akira Kurosawa homages of previous episodes, it was interesting to see this episode of The Mandalorian take its roots from William Friedkin's 1977 drama Sorcerer. That film, which in turn was based on The Wages of Fear, sees Roy Scheider having to transport some highly volatile nitroglycerin through a treacherous jungle. This is echoed blatantly by Din and Mayfeld having to drive a hauler full of rhydonium through a jungle to get to the Imperial refinery, whilst being attacked by pirates. The rhydonium, we are told, is a very explosive starship fuel that needs to be handled with kid gloves. This leads to many tense moments as the groups of pirates do their best to blow Din and Mayfeld to pieces. It's a great set-piece, full of drama an action, and it's good to see some different influences brought to the Star Wars universe.
With the co-ordinates of Moff Gideon's location secured the episode ends with Mando sending him a message. Echoing Gideon's own words from last season, Din leaves him with no question as to what comes next. He is coming to rescue his friend and nothing is going to stop him. Interestingly The Believer is the first episode not to feature Grogu at all. I imagine he'll take centre stage in the next episode which is shaping up to be a classic. Din, Cara, Boba Fett and Fennec are gunning for Moff Gideon and I fully expect an explosive finale.