After another action-packed, cameo-friendly episode of The Mandalorian last week, the law of averages would have suggested we were in for a quieter, more self-contained outing this time around – but actually, this latest adventure goes big in a different direction.
To the possible disappointment of fans, despite teasing the return of Star Wars animation favourite Ahsoka Tano in episode three, we don’t end up meeting Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice. Instead, in need of repairs Mando decides to check in on some old friends, getting sucked into a dangerous scheme (and uncovering a conspiracy) in the process.
In other words, this was an important episode not because of its links to the wider Star Wars world (like episode one and three with their cameos and Easter Eggs) but because of its connection to the world that The Mandalorian itself has been building since its first episode.
As if to emphasise this, a key player in this episode is actually the very first perp Din Djarin ever takes in for bounty way back in the series’ first episode (played by Horatio Sanz), while the story itself sees him back on a familiar world with some familiar faces – Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga and Gina Carano’s Cara Dune, who since we last saw them have turned the formerly backwater planet of Nevarro into a bustling, prosperous and respectable trading post.
Seeing Karga (sporting a natty new beard, suggesting some time has passed) and ex-shock trooper Dune back is a nice reminder of the wider universe The Mandalorian was building in its first season, but it’s also a new call to adventure for Mando. While Karga is now a respectable Magistrate and Dune is yet another Marshal (bit of a running theme this year after meeting Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth) they’ve not completely managed to see off the Empire lurking on the planet, with one last outpost still looming from the shadows.
Seeing as their old pal Mando has some free time while his ship is being repaired (the real reason he isn’t just jetting off to find some Jedi), he agrees to help them mop up the Imperial remnant. What could possibly go wrong?
Parking Baby Yoda in a bar-turned-school taught by a protocol droid (one of the only non-Jedi education centres we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe) to try and terrify some poor children, our gang soon finds themselves in the midst of the Imperial base…but just as they’re ready to blow the reactor, they discover another spectre from The Mandalorian’s past.
You see, as it turns out this isn’t just some outpost. It’s actually a secret lab presided over by Omid Abtahi’s Dr Pershing, the Imperial scientist who wanted to perform experiments on The Child back in season one, and who apparently extracted enough of his blood back then to create a test subject for… something.
Said test subject is glimpsed hanging in a vat, and while we as viewers might have an idea of what this Imperial remnant was planning – the note of a need for blood with a high “M-Count” hearkens back to the midichlorians present in Force-sensitive individuals, suggesting Pershing was trying to create powerful Force-wielding warriors – all Mando knows is that Pershing and his masters are after his charge again. And when he realises that Moff Gideon is both alive and behind this whole thing, he immediately flies off to try and save Baby Yoda before it’s too late.
What follows is another great selection of action scenes (with this and Cara Dune’s brawl earlier in the story, this episode is full of great fight choreography) as Din Djarin jets around, fighting off stormtroopers from the air and showing off his full range of abilities. Meanwhile, his friends are forced to escape slightly less dramatically, bursting out of the base in a strange-looking vehicle (probably available for purchase this Christmas, kids!) for a tense chase through the landscape with speeder bikes, TIE Fighters and more.
In the end, following a pretty exciting dogfight between Din Djarin’s Razor Crest and the TIE Fighters (and some Baby Yoda vomit) the Empire is soundly defeated, and both bounty hunter and mini-Jedi are free to head off and continue their quest. But dark clouds are looming.
You see, apparently the surviving Empire’s activities on Outer Rim worlds like this one are starting to worry some members of the New Republic. They’re up to something… and as we pan to an Imperial ship we start to get a sense of exactly what they’re planning, with one officer noting an incoming “new era” that will presumably see the Empire back on top (and possibly explaining how it became The First Order).
Presiding over it all with his army? Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon, who now (thanks to a tracking beacon slipped aboard by an unscrupulous mechanic) knows exactly where Mando is going with the Child. Clearly, Din Djarin’s troubles are just beginning…
While some fans might be frustrated that last week’s Ahsoka Tano tease wasn’t realised immediately, and others might be a little tired of (as I saw one fan describe it) “Mando doing chores on some planet” episodes, for me Chapter 12 was one of the most significant episodes we’ve seen so far. As much as The Mandalorian thrives on older Star Wars connections, the fact that it also stands so well within its own canon and world-building can only be a good thing – you can’t have Boba Fett come back every week, after all.
Plus, with Clone Wars maestro and Ahsoka creator Dave Filoni directing next week’s instalment, it seems pretty certain that fans won’t have to wait too much longer for her comeback. Though whether she’ll be so happy to see Mando with an Imperial force close behind is another matter.
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