After spending the last three episodes following Mando and his force sensitive ward in a series of standalone adventures we finally return to the main storyline. Greef Karga, played in scenery chewing fashion by Carl Weathers, contacts our hero and offers him a deal. If he returns to Navarro and helps eliminate the client who commissioned the bounty on Baby Yoda originally then Mando gets his name cleared and can fly off into the sunset with his little green friend. Sounds simple, but since his last violent escapade there, security has been beefed up. Also let’s not forget the last time we saw Greef he was trying his best to kill Mando and take baby Yoda for himself. So with this in mind it’s finally time for our bounty hunter to stop running, put a crew together and face down a whole bunch of Imperial stormtroopers.
Show runner Jon Favreau returns to write The Reckoning with Deborah Chow back in the director’s chair and it shows. Chow previously directed The Sin, the third and arguably best episode of The Mandalorian. All of the episodes since that highpoint have been entertaining but ultimately forgettable television. Now as the show ramps up for its premiere season finale all the players that were featured in those early episodes are back, and we even get introduced to the main villain at last. Mando’s first stop is the planet Sorgan to recruit Gina Carano’s ex-Republic trooper Cara Dune to his cause. From there it’s a quick trip to visit Kuiil, the ugnaught voiced by Nick Nolte, who assisted Mando in his hunt for Baby Yoda back in the first episode.
I appreciate that the show was essentially setting Mando up as a loner “man with no name” type character but I always thought it would have worked better if he had a crew to interact with. Star Wars was always at its best when you had the heroes working together, be it Luke, Leia and Han or Rey, Finn and Poe. After several episodes of Mando interacting with strangers, who nearly all wound up dead, it is refreshing to see the return of some familiar faces and makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Rounding out the team is IG-11, the assassin droid who Mando shot when retrieving Baby Yoda originally. Shown in flashback we see how Kuiil repairs the droid and reprograms him to be his helper. It’s a really nice sequence with IG-11 having to relearn everything from scratch like a baby. When you add in Taika Waititi’s vocal performance you end up with a character full of personality that you now care about. Favreau has done an excellent job of creating another classic Star Wars droid. Mando still has his reservations due to his longstanding hatred of droids but even he can see that as a nanny to Baby Yoda a deadly assassin droid can’t be beat.
Obviously things don’t go according to plan, particularly when that plan has been put together by Greef Karga, a man who tried to kill Mando the last time they met. Betrayal and double-crosses are all too frequent hazards in the bounty hunting game but luckily he has a change of heart at the last minute. The reason for him doing this actually becomes very important to Star Wars lore. The team meet up with Greef and his companions and they all traverse the lava fields on their way to the rendezvous with the Client. In a thrilling nighttime sequence they are attacked by a group of flying reptiles. It’s a nicely shot battle as the creatures swoop out of the darkness, the only illumination provided by the campfire and the staccato bursts from blaster rifles. During the attack Greef is injured by one of the creatures and a poison starts to quickly spread throughout his body. Without proper medical attention he is as good as dead. That is until Baby Yoda steps up. Gently laying his hand on Greef’s wound he heals him completely using the Force. This is not something we’ve seen or even heard about in the Star Wars universe before, a Jedi’s ability to literally bring someone back from certain death. It can’t be coincidence that The Reckoning originally aired in the US only a few days before The Rise of Skywalker opened which used this Jedi healing technique significantly. I suspect this was intentional and I can’t imagine we’ve seen the last of this power in the Disney Star Wars canon going forward.
As I previously mentioned it has taken until the penultimate episode of the season before the actual introduction of the main villain. Luckily he was worth waiting for as Giancarlo Esposito cuts a menacing figure as Moff Gideon. Esposito will be instantly familiar to most people as the dastardly Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and he brings the same ruthless demeanour to the Imperial warlord. His entrance is suitably impressive as he lands his tie-fighter behind a line of black clad death troopers, it seems that Greef’s assertion that there would only be a handful of stormtroopers was wildly off the mark. To be honest, the plan of having Baby Yoda’s pram shut and claiming he is sleeping wasn’t exactly a great one from the start. It’s actually Moff Gideon’s arrival and subsequent killing of the Client that prevents the whole thing falling apart anyway. It does however leave Mando, Cara and Greef holed up and surrounded by Gideon’s troops.
The resulting firefight is nicely juxtaposed with Kuiil’s race back to the Razorcrest pursued by speeder bikes as he tries to get baby Yoda to safety. The final shots as Mando ineffectively tries to contact him only for the camera to reveal Baby Yoda lying on the floor and Kuiil seemingly dead are beautifully done and show what a good job Favreau has done in making you care for these characters that have only been in a handful of episodes. The cliffhanger ending with our heroes surrounded and Baby Yoda in Imperial hands is the perfect lead in to the upcoming finale.
The Reckoning is a solid episode and it’s just a shame the rest of the season couldn’t have been more like this. The preceding episodes haven’t really added much backstory to the characters or propelled the story along in any meaningful way. Esposito’s bad guy is a welcome addition and I can’t help but think an earlier introduction for him would have been of benefit. Werner Herzog’s portrayal of The Client was a masterclass in creepy unsettling acting but the under-utilisation of his character robs him of any real impact. It’s also really effective just to see some more familiar Star Wars designs being used. From the scout troopers nonchalantly leaning against their speeder bikes, to the death troopers introduced in Rogue One, to Gideon arriving in his tie-fighter, these are all such iconic designs that just seeing them on the screen again brings a big smile to this fanboy’s face.
Guessed the spoiler? Are modern audiences too savvy for TV show twists?
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum