"Did you ever hear the tragedy... of Darth Grogu the overly peckish?"
Yes, last week's episode of The Mandalorian was just the gut-punch that the rather ominous title (The Tragedy) suggested, with Grogu/Baby Yoda captured by the Empire and leaning into his Dark Side while Mando's ship, weapons and general sense of joie de vivre were destroyed by Moff Gideon's forces.
All the cool Boba Fett fight scenes, Ahsoka cameos, fan service and endless Disney+ spin-offs couldn't fill the hole Baby Yoda left behind – so as Pedro Pascal's bounty hunter gathered old allies and fan favourites (including Temuera Morrison's oddly helpful Boba Fett), the stage was set this week for a massive Suicide Squad-style assault to rescue The Child.
But instead, in classic Mandalorian fashion our gang of heroes (with the addition of Bill Burr's Migs Mayfield, a sharpshooter from series one) first have another mission to complete before we can get to the main action. Before they can track down Moff Gideon they need access to an Imperial internal terminal, which means heading to a different planet for a sneaky bit of infiltration.
What follows is a lot of classic heist fun (lots of tense moments where our heroes are about to be discovered, people saying "we're in" and general subterfuge) as well as a major personal sacrifice for our Mando himself, who sacrifices his religious principles (and sense of swag) to go undercover.
It's a mark of how well this series has characterised Pedro Pascal's Din Djarin that I let out an involuntary gasp at the prospect of a character removing a helmet off-screen to put on... a different helmet, but that's where we are. The sense of shame emanating from Mando as he wears Imperial gear is palpable - though as some pirates trying to hijack his and Migs' "shipment" learn, he's almost as deadly outside of the Beskar as he is within it.
For a brief moment as he batters his way through his foes, essentially unarmed and in his Imperial armour, we're gifted a brief glimpse into the world that could exist if Stormtroopers and their Imperial ilk were actually... any good at anything. Luke Skywalker and his pals wouldn't have stood a chance.
In fact, you might find yourself internally whooping as Migs and Mando are saved by... TIE Fighters and a platoon of Stormtroopers, offering an odd twist on Star Wars as the usual villains are left cheering like the Rebels at the end of A New Hope, happy to bring one of their number home safely.
But the tension isn't over yet. To actually get in and access the Imperial access terminal, Mando has to do what he's been avoiding all series and remove his helmet - which means for the first time this series, Pedro Pascal has a lot of facetime with the other cast. And no sooner is poor old "brown eyes" unmasked than he's trapped in the drinking sesh from hell with Migs and an Imperial Officer, who offers an intriguing hint at the Empire's strategy after the original trilogy - cause as much havoc to the New Republic as possible until people are essentially begging the Empire to return.
“Everyone thinks they want freedom, but what they really want is order," he notes, shortly before taking a blaster bolt to the brain from the angry Mayfield. "When they realise that they’re going to welcome up back with open arms.
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"To the Empire," he concludes, raising his glass.
Sadly for him, in short order this particular branch of the Empire has been blown up in the course of Mayfield and Mando's escape (including the world's shortest TIE fighter dogfight), but his comments linger in the mind. Is this how the First Order begins? And which other Imperial remnants remain?
Well, next week we may find out. In the episode's closing moments (after setting Mayfield free with his thanks) Mando sends a threatening message to Moff Gideon warning him of the rain he's bringing down upon him after taking Grogu - who, interestingly, doesn't appear in this episode at all, marking a first for the series.
"He means more to me than you will ever know," the Mandalorian says. And to Disney+'s investors, no doubt.
All in all, this week's episode of The Mandalorian was more classic delayed gratification for a series that excels in gently putting off its main mission, though as a filler episode it was still filled with some big moments.
Mando unmasked (for longer than the brief scene in season one)! The Empire's evil plan! The unassailable fact that even hardened criminals will put themselves in danger when they hear "the little green guy" needs their help!
If this was a quiet week, we can hardly wait to see what they've got in store for the finale...
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