[Editors note: this review contains mild spoilers for The Mandalorian]
I’m lucky to have a great connection with my dad. He’s smart, kind, easy to talk to, we like a lot of the same stuff (he called me up the other night to gush about The Crown, a show I’ve been trying to get him and Mum to watch for years), etc. But, he never trusted me as a toddler to fix his intergalactic vessel, and that is where his parenting differs slightly from the Mandalorian’s in the opening of “The Siege”, the halfway point for The Mandalorian’s second season (and, for me, it’s best episode since the opening). I mean, did he honestly thing it was going to work? Baby Yoda is adorable and occasionally even helpful due to his natural use of the Force (EVEN THOUGH HE WASN’T TRAINED!!!) but he’s a toddler – and naturally, an idiot – so the fact that his wiring mistake doesn’t end the entire show here is a win. And a later shot of the Child vomiting casually confirms that someone involved definitely watched Groot and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 before starting this.
It’s also nice to see Mando continuing to actually try to be a dad instead of purely a protector or a guardian – part of parenting is seeing your child as something separate from yourself, and it’s wholesome seeing these earnest if completely unsuccessful attempts at engineering lessons (try reading him a bedtime story instead?) Also, for someone who enjoys this show but constantly complains that nothing changes for long stretches of time, when something has changed, you don’t initially realise it. You can’t pinpoint an exact moment where Mando starts to truly be comfortable granting the Child a modicum of independence, or attempting to impart some experience on him; there’s not an obvious moment when he’s comfortable enough in his own skin to start talking to him alone – it just happens, and you realise the change through action. This is great storytelling! Hopefully the first of many payoffs to the many balls this season has been throwing in the air since we came back.
Anyway, on to the episode. After being well and truly Shanghaied by the Mon Calamaris’ shoddy repair work on his ship while off on the high seas, Mando decides for a more personal touch, which leads him to reunite with… Greef and Cara! I knew this was coming, of course, but it’s still nice to see some familiar faces, and part of the reason why I dug this episode so much is due to the return of their easy chemistry together, and just how fun it is to see them team up again. If it were up to me, I’d have them travel with him all the time.
They’ve both been hard at work cleaning up their act since we last saw them; Cara is the marshal of their town with Greef as the magistrate, and hey, I’d vote them back in. Star Wars has never really been that interested in sticking around to see the fruits of its heroes’ labour – hell, the entire sequel trilogy happens because all three of them fell asleep at the wheel – so seeing their actions have a tangible difference on people’s lives beyond blowing up a base is something we haven’t seen before, and it’s nice. There’s energy on the streets, bustling business, and even a school! (I’ve done no research on this but I’m fairly sure there’s a voice cameo from Star Wars alumni Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a droid schoolteacher.) But nonetheless, there is still a base that needs blowing up.
That’s the bulk of this episode, with Mando, Greef and Cara dragging along Greef’s assistant, the mark from the very first episode and the first bounty that Mando brought in (he remains unnamed, so I’ve just taken to calling him Mark) – to help them destroy an Imperial base that’s been giving Greef grief (I’m so sorry). But something unexpected happens – firstly we get an actual plot development, a revelation that crystalises what nefarious purpose Moff Gideon has in store for Baby Yoda should he recapture him, that is ominous enough despite a groan-worthy nod to the prequels’ view of the Force that I’m still not ok with (I need to go outside more). Naturally, Mando bails immediately to secure his child’s safety, so the completion of the job is left to the others; leading to the first extended sequence that doesn’t feature the Mandalorian at all.
And it’s fab. A desperate escape, a trench run down a tight canyon pursued by speeders – Carl Weathers can direct! His command of action – and especially the pacing of the aerial scenes – is as good as his control of his character (Greef’s chuckle after he point-blank shoots a trooper off the ship with a rocket launcher is hilarious); and he also stages his dialogue scenes leaps and bounds ahead of the other directors– something that’s been sort of a weak link for me so far, with the disappointingly often use of just shot-reverse shot standing out like a sore thumb when the action remains so inventive. It’s a showcase for how well-established the world around Mando and the Child is, that they can both dip from the narrative briefly without having it lose any of its engaging quality.
And the extra time it gives to the aftermath gives some invaluable support to why these people are still carrying on after all they’ve gone through. One character gets part of their backstory revealed that clears a lot of fog around their reluctance to stick around places and people, when it can all go up in flames in an instant. This is a series that’s also, very gently, about trauma, and how it’s intrinsically linked to the spectre of a past that sometimes just needs destruction as much as contemplation.
We get another character from a very powerful organisation stressing “we can’t do it without local help.” This is more confirmation of The Mandalorian’s wonderfully optimistic faith in people and community – the Mandalorian himself has never been a sole saviour – he’s a badass, but his strength (and the show’s) is in how he comes in and galvanises whoever needs help to find the strength and support needed to save themselves. I’m fine with this episode being yet another side quest, because this one manages to still push the story along naturally enough for the mission to mean something in the long run – which is what I’ve wanted out of this series all along.
But who am I kidding. What I really want more of is shots of Baby Yoda holding his hands up as if he’s on a rollercoaster during an intense dogfight… God, I would die for him.
Season two of The Mandalorian is streaming every Friday from Disney+