TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Seven

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Seven – “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Deborah Chow

And with the return of Jon Favreau in the writing credits, the story of The Mandalorian improves and moves forward. After three weeks of arguable plot-stalling, things start moving again. Dyn Jarren finally hears that message from his old friend Greef Karga, imploring him to return to Nevarro. The Imperial faction in the sector has amassed there in their search for the lost target (aka Baby Yoda). Jarren gathers allies from previous adventures: Cara Dune, Kuiil, and IG-11 to help him even the odds.

Other than introducing Cara Dune, I don’t see the importance of the last three episodes. I get the sense Favreau had a plot for Episodes one through three plus seven & eight. But the order was for eight episodes, so we got three side stories that had little bearing on the overall plot. Here we have high stakes, directly related to the established plot using characters we’ve already met. We don’t need to set the stage because we understand the conflict already. Instead, the writing raises the stakes, bringing in squadrons of embattled Stormtroopers living on the fringes, still rallying around the idea that the Empire can rise again.

We get some great interpersonal conflict between Cara and Kuiil. Cara served with the Rebellion while Kuiil was an Ughnaut slave toiling for the Empire. Each has chosen a very different path in the wake of the Battle of Endor, and it shows in their interactions. This is a significant change of pace from the flat character moments from the last few episodes where we’re introduced to cliche stock characters who never develop. I want more of this crew because they deliver an interesting side story to the larger plot. Their conflict highlights the turmoil the galaxy finds itself in as the New Republic is shaping up while the Empire tries to hang on before their ultimate collapse.

Baby Yoda remains a mystery still, but I hope next week we finally get an explanation to at least what the Empire wants with him. I still suspect he is a clone, possibly mixed with some element of Palpatine. My suspicion comes from the way Baby Yoda uses the Force to choke Cara, which is something we’ve only seen Sith do. Now it could simply be that he’s immature in the use of the Force, overly attached to Jarren, who has become his caretaker. But there’s also the chance that Baby Yoda was created as a corruption of the Jedi master we know, a final perversion at the hand of the Emperor.

On the flipside, Baby Yoda uses his powers to heal someone, hinting that this child exists at the nexus of the whole theme of the Force. The Light and Dark sides could pull dramatically at someone so young with so much power. I don’t expect we’ll have much time in the one remaining episode to explore that entirely, but it is something that could be done much better than how Anakin was handled in the prequels. Children are impulsive and emotionally volatile. From working as an elementary school teacher for 13 years, I’ve seen how kids, without reliable positive guidance, can lose themselves to violence. Baby Yoda is cute, but it would be nice to have some depth added to the character.

I enjoyed The Client’s role as a supporter of Imperial supremacy and genuinely lost in the belief that his Empire will come together and conquer the galaxy again. His questioning of Jarren about why the Mandalorians didn’t merely give in to the Empire because they “improve” things wherever they go. This cognitive dissonance is not just the thing of science fantasy space opera, it’s the ideology of the conquering colonist. They bring “civilization” to the “savages” and are upset when they aren’t overtly thanked for the death & destruction they bring. Of all the themes in The Mandalorian, I am most interested in the delusional Imperial holdouts and fringes. I wish we could see more of the faction’s slow decline into oblivion. It would also be interesting to see planets where the population, out of fear of change, defend the Empire against the expanse of the New Republic. How do you convince people to escape the hypernormalization that comes so often to colonized people?

One more episode to go, with Jon Favreau writing, we should have a reasonably satisfying conclusion.

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