The following review will contain spoilers for the sixth episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian.
The further we get into The Mandalorian, the more apparent it is that showrunner Jon Favreau has no interest in weaving some kind of complex narrative. Instead, The Mandalorian is his springboard to tell semi-standalone stories in the Star Wars universe. Mando (Pedro Pascal) and The Child are the only real constants here. For those who were expecting a serialized, gritty bounty hunter show, this is likely disappointing. But when the adventures can be as much fun as this week’s episode, “The Prisoner”, I don’t mind.
Director Rick Famuyiwa, who previously helmed Episode 2, trades that episode’s Western vibe for a straightforward prison break narrative. Needing a quick score, Mando links up with former associate Raznar Malk (Mark Boone Jr.), who sets him up with a job. The gig? Lead a five-person squadron to rescue Twi’lek prisoner Qin (Ismael Cruz Córdova) from a secure Republic facility. It’s a simple enough set-up, made special by pitch-perfect execution.
“The Prisoner” assembles an A-class gang of scoundrels. Richard Ayoade’s droid Q9-0 is delightfully dry, another in a line of droid characters with a whole lot of personality that have populated the Disney era of Star Wars. Then there’s the welcome snark of Mando’s former flame/Twi’lek Xian (Natalia Tena). And it’s hard to ignore a brute like the Devaronian brute Burg (Clancy Brown), who looks and acts like a demon.
My favorite, to great surprise, was comedian Bill Burr as former Imperial gunman Mayfeld. The “wise-ass” (to use his own words) sharpshooter moves with an infectious swagger. Cracking jokes and convincingly engaging in combat, Mayfeld is an engaging character that makes The Mandalorian easy to watch week-to-week. Mando and the gang take us through a prison break that doesn’t miss a beat.
Doing their best to get around the security droids, the crew does a messy job, and Famuyiwa mines that tension for all he can. With each advance they make on rescuing Qin, their inability to work together makes them hit a new snag; anxiety of whether or not they’ll pull this thing off runs deep. Eventually, Mando is forced to do battle, and the resulting scuffle is a positively brilliant piece of action.
Drawing on the tools in his arsenal, Mando has to take down his droid adversaries tactfully. Grappling line, flamethrowers, punches, and blaster rounds are timed to their minute detail. This is no mindless action, this is precision combat on a level we haven’t seen since the intricate lightsaber duels of the prequels. This thrilling piece of action leads to the mid-point twist of the episode where the crew betrays Mando and locks him in Qin’s cell after he’s out of it.
From that point onward, the episode is a race to a finish where Mando attempts to take his revenge. Of course, he gets it, setting up Qin and Raznar to be blown up by Republic X-Wings as he leaves Mayfeld, Burg, and X’ian alive in a cell in the Republic prison. And then it’s off to the next adventure!
As I mentioned at the beginning, The Mandalorian is not some kind of intricate bounty hunter meta-narrative. I’ll admit, this initially disappointed me as well. But if the series continues to tell delightful stories like “The Prisoner”, I’ll be along for the ride. This is the way. – James Preston Poole