For the middle stretch of this first season it seemed like The Mandalorian had settled into relying on a vital, flexible formula: The Mandalorian and the Child show up somewhere, trouble follows, repeat. Just as the show’s style evoked classic movie Westerns, its format nodded to classic TV westerns like Have Gun — Will Travel (which wouldn’t be a bad alternate name for this show, really). But this seventh episode, “Chapter 7: The Reckoning,” reveals The Mandalorian’s self-contained episodes haven’t been all that self-contained after all. This installment brings back a lot of familiar faces and, as the season enters the home stretch, it’s clear The Mandalorian hasn’t forgotten the story that got the series started: The Mandalorian decided to run with the Child rather than turn him over to the Client, and they’ll never know a day’s peace until that business gets settled.
In the previous episode we got a glimpse of a message in which Greef Carga reached out to the Mandalorian. Now we see the message in full: It’s a peace offering with a catch. Carga would like to welcome him back into the guild, but he has a job for him first. All the Mandalorian needs to do is to return to Nevarro, bring the Child with him, and then they’ll lure the Client into a trap. And really, what choice does the Mandalorian have but to go along. “You have been successful so far in staving off their hunters,” Carga tells him. “But they will not stop until they have their prize.” (You’re not, in other words, in Have Gun — Will Travel, where every episode offers a fresh start. You’re in a bigger story and it’s time for the climactic showdown.)
Not dumb, the Mandalorian sets about gathering support. He returns to Sorgan to pick up Cara Dune, who’s engaged in some kind of organized bar fight while bound to her opponent, allowing the episode to offer a glimpse of former MMA star Gina Carano doing what first made her famous. Recognizing she has a good thing going on Sorgan, the former Shock Trooper has no interest in joining him until she learns the job offers another chance to fight to Imperials. Then she can’t sign on fast enough.
From there it’s off to Arvala-7, home to another person the Mandalorian trusts: Kuiil, the terse but honorable Ugnaught who taught him to ride a blurrg and pointed him in the direction of the Child. Kuiil’s in, too, as is his new friend: IG-11. Left for dead by the Mandalorian at the end of the first episode, he’s been reprogrammed by Kuiil to serve tea rather than to act as a bounty hunter (though he does, Kuiil informs them, still have the ability to protect).
The Arvala-7 stretch and traveling scenes aboard the Razor Crest give this episode some of its best moments, as we learn a bit about what’s shaped Kuiil, who’s revealed that he was drawn into serving the Empire via indentured servitude but prides himself on paying off that debt. He picked up considerable skills in the process, however, and even in the desert he finds ways to put his mechanical talent to work (even when not helping the occasional stranded bounty hunter). That extends to bringing an inoperative droid back to life and teaching him to serve tea rather than kill babies.
Kuiil’s flashback to finding, reviving, and reprogramming IG-11 gives “The Reckoning,” directed by Deborah Chow from a script by Jon Favreau, some of its tenderest, and funniest moments. It also connects to a theme that’s run through the series, and it’s no accident the episode lingers on this sequence so long, or that it’s depicted as a kind of childrearing. IG-11 is an unshaped being, one that might end up being a helper and a protector or could be a weapon, depending on who’s caring for him and instructing him. So is the Child, who would seem to have terrible potential in the wrong hands. (He nearly kills Cara, after all, in that arm wrestling scene.) The Client would prefer to secure him, but he’s prepared to kill him if killing him means nobody else gets their hands on him. But the Mandalorian has come to see him as more than just an asset he can trade and to care about his future.
Of course, securing that future means settling the business back on Nevarro, where Greef Carga awaits them with some friends. Well, “friends.” It turns out, not that surprisingly, that Carga had plans to set them up and turn the Child over to the Client. But an incident in which they’re attacked by what look like pterodactyls leads to a change of heart after the Child heals Carga. One more double cross later and they’re off to see the Client as Kuill heads back to the Razor Crest.
Neither task goes as planned. Not only does the Client have more Stormtroopers in Nevarro than he’d led the Mandalorian to believe (if he even knew how many), he’s not the only ex-Imperial interested in the Child. In the midst of talking to the Mandalorian (and moments before catching onto their bait-and-switch), the Client receives a transmission from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the ex-Imperial that tells him what to do. (Because, as someone once said, there’s always a bigger fish.) One hail of gunfire later, Moff Gideon makes his entrance via a landing TIE Fighter, flanked by Stormtroopers that make the Client’s companions look raggedy by comparison. It would seem some of the remnants of the Empire still have their act together. They’ve also remained pitiless: By episode’s end, Kuiil is dead, the Child has fallen into the wrong hands, and the Mandalorian, Carga, and Cara find themselves pinned down by Gideon — outmanned and outgunned. And then the episode ends, because not all of The Mandalorian’s stories fit into single episodes, which now truly do look like chapters in a larger story, just as the episode titles have suggested all along.
• Carga refers to Nevarro as “my city.” Cara notes that it was a hot spot during the war. There’s probably an interesting story to be told about how it fell into Guild control.
• The Mandalorian visits Sorgan but doesn’t even go to see Omera, which feels sad. A one-season version of this story might end with him returning to her, but this doesn’t feel like a one-season series.
• “Is he all right up there for long,” Cara asks shortly before the Child begins fooling around with seemingly every bit of the cockpit’s control panel. Once again, everyone in this series seems to have better parenting instincts than its protagonist.
• Kuiil casually lays down a couple of intriguing asides, referencing a “Strand-cast” and noting Cara “Looks like she was farmed in the Cytocaves of Nora.” What do these references mean? Will we ever learn?
• Sharing space with IG-11 really pushes the Mandalorian’s buttons.