It’s a hard life, roaming the Outer Rim. The planets not overrun with scum and villainy always seem on the verge of falling prey to Imperial dead-enders intent on mounting a comeback. And if your ship breaks down en route from one treacherous world to another, well, tough luck, especially if you don’t have a tiny, adorable sidekick to send into dangerous-looking crawl spaces to play with live wires.
Look, we all know the Mandalorian is a hero. The arc of the first season involved him learning to stop worrying about being the galaxy’s most accomplished bounty hunter and start caring about the greater good of the universe in general and the Child in particular. But that doesn’t mean he’s a great dad. Mando’s tendency to put the Child in danger has been pointed out again and again, but he really outdoes himself in the opening of “Chapter 12: The Siege,” season two’s fourth episode, by trying to turn the Child into an electrical engineer and talking him through a repair. The Child’s language comprehension still seems rudimentary at best. He can’t tell a red wire from a blue wire, nor can he keep the two apart. One mild shock later, Mando gives up. It’s time to get some pros on the job.
That means finding a friendly port in the form of Nevarro, home to Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and now Cara Dune (Gina Carano), who stuck around to clean up the planet after the events of season one. In fact, she’s the marshal now, and in the opening scene takes out a band of Aqualish (see the endnotes for more) thieves on the verge of beheading and eating an adorable ferretlike creature. This will not stand. But even though Cara Dune’s a cold-blooded killer, she still finds it in her heart to make sure their would-be dinner is okay.
She also seems genuinely glad to see Mando and the Child, greeting the Razor Crest as it lands alongside the goateed Greef Karga. That sporty new facial hair isn’t the only sign that things have changed on Nevarro. Greef Karga and Cara Dune have been cleaning up the town (the whole planet, really). Main Street’s now a bustling marketplace. And that shadowy old cantina where Greef Karga used to do bounty-hunter business? It’s now a nice little one-room schoolhouse presided over by a protocol droid.
But it’s not all peace and quiet on Nevarro, and Greef Karga has business to discuss. This first involves stashing the Child in the classroom, over Mando’s objections. “Where we’re going,” Greef Karga tells him, “you don’t wanna take a child.” It’s about time someone said it. He’s not kidding either. While most of Nevarro has been settled, there’s still a not-quite-abandoned Imperial base that needs clearing out. While the Child learns about trade routes and the Expansion Rim, the others make plans. (Meanwhile, the Child, hungry again, uses his powers to steal one of his classmates’ snacks. It’s another example of the Child being a cute little guy with an undeveloped sense of morality. But who could stay mad at that face?)
Making plans involves a reunion with Mythrol (Horatio Sanz), the greedy, cowardly accountant we met as Mando took him in after freezing him in carbonate in the series’s first episode. (“I still can’t see outta my left eye,” he notes.) Though a coward, Mythrol also has a land speeder, which Karga, Dune, and Mando will need if they want to kick the Imperial troops and melt down the base before black marketeers can get their hands on its weapons. It’s time for a raid!
A nicely staged sequence reminiscent of the Death Star section of A New Hope follows as the three heroes (and a reluctant Mythrol) penetrate the base, take out more stormtroopers than they expected to be waiting for them as they sabotage the reactor, and then try to get out before the whole thing blows. But they make a disturbing discovery in the process: it’s not just a military base; it’s a lab. What’s more, the villainous Dr. Pershing has been using the Child’s blood in his experiments. Although he’s had little luck so far, he seems to be attempting to transfuse it into subjects in an attempt to use its high midi-chlorian count to create — something. We don’t know what yet, but it’s probably something bad.
An exciting speeder-bike chase follows, during which most of the good guys flee via a freshly procured Trexler Marauder, Mando having flown ahead with plans to swing back and help his friends. He does, returning with the newly repaired Razor Crest just in the nick of time. The Imperial forces flee, the day is saved, and Mando and the Child resume their quest for Jedi. The end. Except not quite: Not only is Moff Gideon still alive — we knew that, but Mando didn’t until now — one of the Nevarro mechanics has placed a tracking device on the Razor Crest, allowing Gideon to trace their movements.
This is sure to cause problems down the line, but for now Mando and the Child are free to resume their journey. Meanwhile, one of the X-wing pilots who confronted (then rescued) the Razor Crest pays Karga and Dune a visit. Karga plays it cool, and though the pilot sees through his story, he doesn’t press too much. Instead, he takes a moment to give Cara Dune the hard sell on joining the New Republic in its fight against a possibly resurgent Empire, even using her status as a survivor of Alderaan to guilt her. No luck for now, but her final moments suggest she won’t be able to resist the pull forever.
• The worry with a Star Wars TV series has always been this: Can a TV series match the movies in terms of effects and action sequences? “The Siege” again confirms that, yes, it can by stringing one cool set piece after another. The speeder bike / TIE Fighter scene could stand proudly beside their big-screen equivalents.
• This week’s director is none other than Carl Weathers, who does a fine job. Though best known as an actor (and, thanks to Arrested Development, as a penny-pinching acting coach), his directing career dates back to the ’90s, and includes several episodes of the late-night trash classic Silk Stalkings.
• Uproxx’s Mike Ryan recently wrote a piece about the many ways The Mandalorian has drawn on marginal old Star Wars characters, especially those turned into Kenner action figures or created by Kenner. This week is no exception, thanks to the appearance of some Aqualish, creatures of the same race as Ponda Baba (a.k.a. Walrus Man), who showed up just long enough to threaten Luke Skywalker, and die, in A New Hope. Beyond nostalgia, their appearance provides another example of how well those original designs hold up.
• Speaking of homages to the first film, that was quite the “underside of a Star Destroyer” shot, wasn’t it? The events of Return of the Jedi still left a lot of hardware in the defeated Empire’s hands.
• Another nod to the old ways of doing things: When one stormtrooper falls from a high place, he delivers a modified version of the Wilhelm scream, a favorite sound effect/in-joke of Lucasfilm productions and others.
• Gina Carano’s performance is best enjoyed without reading Gina Carano’s thoughts on social media.
• “They should leave the Outer Rim alone. If the Empire couldn’t settle it, what makes them think they can?” Greef Karga likes law and order, but he doesn’t have that much use for government. He’s the Ron Swanson of the Outer Rim.
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