The penultimate episode of The Mandalorian’s second season brings back familiar faces and moral quandaries for another impressive episode.
We’re ramping up to the end of the season and Chapter 15 takes a slightly different approach. Featuring less bombastic action (but still plenty of it) and revelatory moments than previous episodes this season, but it resonated with me on a deeper level that I’ll be thinking about for a while to come. Let’s break it down!
Chapter 15, titled “The Believer,” picks up mostly where we left off from the last episode. With Grogu now in Moff Gideon’s hands, Din Djarin looks to an old ‘enemy’ to help track the Moff down so he can stage a rescue. With the help of Cara Dune, Din is able to get Mayfeld (the mercenary he battled with/against in Chapter 6 last season) off the prison planet he’s currently sentenced to.
The Karthon Chop Fields are kind of neat to see. It’s essentially a gigantic scrapyard for busted ships/vehicles (most of which look Imperial). The prisoners there are doing hard labor scavenging the wreckage and salvaging what they can. It’s the type of planet we’ve seen before (mentioned many times in novels but also seen in Jedi: Fallen Order), but it’s cool to see on the screen here. There are a lot of little Easter eggs to notice.
Here we find Mayfeld, and Cara Dune uses her recent New Republic Marshal status to release him—at least temporarily—so he can help. Din, Boba Fett (who did some SERIOUS cleaning on his armor), and Shand await the pair on the Slave I, where Mayfeld makes it clear he’s still a little jumpy around Mandalorians…
Turns out Mayfeld is a former Imperial, one who knows of Moff Gideon (if he didn’t outright work for him at one point). His knowledge of Imperial access codes is exactly what they need in order to figure out where Gideon is. The only way to do that, however, is to get Mayfeld to an Imperial terminal.
The only one he knows of is on the mining planet of Morak. There’s an Imperial Remnant facility on the planet where they’re still harvesting Rhydonium. This isn’t a new substance in Star Wars and featured in The Clone Wars. It’s a highly volatile fuel source, one that could create all kinds of havoc.
It’s heavily guarded, meaning they’ll have to go undercover to infiltrate. From there, all they have to do is get to the terminal, download the coordinates, and get to the roof so Boba can extract them. Simple, right?
The Road Warrior
Obviously, nothing is that easy or simple. In order to get into the base, they’ll have to commandeer a transport and armor. The first problem, is that these Remnant outposts are run by former ISB (the intelligence arm of the Empire) and feature some extra precautions. So anyone who would show up on their code registry as wanted or associated with the New Republic would immediately blow their cover.
That keeps Fennec and Cara out of the choices, and Boba makes a joke about how Imperials would “recognize his face” since he’s a Clone. That leaves Mayfeld, but Din isn’t about to let him go by himself. It’s here that Din makes the first of tough decisions and swaps out his Mandalorian Beskar for a set of Tank Trooper (first seen in Rogue One) armor.
Once on board the Juggernaut (a vehicle we’ve seen in Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One), the pair have to successfully make it to the refinery with the load of Rhydonium. It’s an awkward drive at first, as Mayfeld tries to make small talk, which ultimately leads to some intriguing questions about Din’s code.
Does his code forbid him from taking off the helmet or just showing his face? From previous episodes we know that Din can take off the helmet in private to wash and eat, but this is the first time he’s really been doing stuff without his armor on. Sure he’s still covering his face, but it seems like it’s a little different and goes to show his desperation.
The trip isn’t a smooth one and their soon beset by Shydopp Pirates….Pirates who’ve already blown up two other Juggernauts. What happens next is an action sequence pulled straight out of Road Warrior, and I mean that in the best way. We see Din work to fight off the Pirates jumping on board the vehicle, taking them out in one impressive hand-to-hand action scene before than set detonators to blow them up.
Meanwhile, Mayfeld can’t push the vehicle too hard are risk setting off the Rhydonium on accident. It’s a high stakes pursuit that manages to keep the tension high until they are ultimately rescued by the Imperials.
It’s an odd feeling, and as Mayfeld aptly puts it you never expected to be so happy to see Stormtroopers. It’s another aspect that feeds into the episode’s theme about morality and seeing how things aren’t entirely different on both sides. As the pair get something of a hero’s welcome from the Troopers inside the compound (including more variants introduced in Rogue One), it’s obvious how uncomfortable Din is on that side of the fence.
Once inside they quickly locate the terminal, but they hit another snag as Mayfeld recognizes an Imperial Officer, Valin Hess, he once worked under. Fearing their cover could be blown before getting the information they need, Din offers to use the terminal. In order to access the terminal a facial scan has to be made…
After a moment of hesitation, Din removes his helmet. For the first time we see him bare-faced in full view of others. I was shocked. They’ve done such an excellent job of connecting Din’s helmet/creed to his character that the moment feels like we’re voyeurs looking in on something we shouldn’t. His willingness to do it, even after seeing how uncomfortable he was just swapping into the Tank Trooper outfit, shows his love and dedication to Grogu.
One of the things I’ve loved about this season is how just about every episode has seen Din come into conflict with his long-held beliefs. Everything he knows about the Mandalorian way has been shaken and called into question. We can see the impact it’s having on him and how his indoctrination/fundamentalist ways are beginning to loosen.
The monumental moment continues as Din then has to interact with Valin Hess, who begins asking a bunch of questions he can’t answer. Soon, a very uncomfortable Din finds himself sharing a drink with Hess and Mayfeld, while Fennec and Cara wait outside with sniper rifles.
An Unexpected Arc
To be entirely honest, I hate Mayfeld. I didn’t care for his character in the first season and hated his whole attitude and demeanor (which seems like the point, to be fair). As such, I was shocked to find myself fully engaged by his arc in this episode, and came away thinking it was among the best character moments/performances I’ve seen in the show.
While sharing a drink with Hess, Mayfeld mentions Operation Cinder. While long-time Star Wars fans are familiar with the term, it’s the first time we’ve heard it mentioned on the screen. Operation Cinder was Emperor Palpatine’s contingency plan to be set in motion in the event of his “death.”
It’s essentially a plan to “salt the earth” strategy and destroy as much as possible to leave the Rebellion/New Republic in charge of nothing but desolation. It’s popped up as the focus in a number of books, as well as getting mentioned in the comics and the campaign mode for Star Wars Battlefront II.
From the discussion it becomes apparent that what Mayfeld witnessed during Operation Cinder, under the command of Hess, is what caused him to leave the Empire. It’s clear he suffers some trauma from the experience and has worked to put the memory of those times out of his mind.
The confrontation with Hess proves an opportunity to clear his conscience, even if the timing feels inopportune. What results is a shoot-out to escape the facility and get to the roof, shortly after a surprisingly touching moment when Mayfeld gives Din the helmet back and assures him he “never saw his face.”
After escaping, Mayfeld makes one last shot in order to fully destroy the facility; another act of atonement. Having earned his freedom, the crew leaves Mayfeld to his own devices and heads off with the information they were after.
Rick Famuyiwa, who both wrote and directed this episode, has show a deftness in handling the story. He’s able to balance the action with thematic elements and deep character growth. Again, while it doesn’t have the big “holy crap” moments from previous episodes this season, he manages to introduce ideas that keep my mind turning and thinking on their implications.
What Comes Next
The very end of the episode sees Din reach out directly to Moff Gideon. Knowing his location now, he essentially throws down a challenge by using the same words Gideon used in the last season. It’s a fun, and badass call back that makes it clear Din is angry and not messing around. They’re heading for a showdown.
Feels like the finale episode next week is going to have a lot of ground to cover. It seems like Din will have to infiltrate Gideon’s ship, but doing so is obviously going to prove difficult. It doesn’t seem like something they could do in a single ship with just the four of them (Fennec, Cara, Din, and Boba).
Seems it would be a good idea to recruit some of the other people he’s interacted with (especially Bo-Katan who also has a score to settle with Gideon), but I’m curious to how it would all fit together. No matter what, this season has managed to do things in ways I never expected and I have no doubts they’ll deliver on an amazing experience. I just hope Grogu hasn’t been treated too badly!
There’s a host of things sprinkled throughout this episode for Star Wars fans to enjoy (aside from the previously mentioned Rogue One connections).
Crane Droids – Hey we get to see the crane droids back in action. The same model used earlier in the season to pull Din and the Razor Crest out of the ocean can be seen on Karthon.
Robocop – This is a subtle reference, but hard to ignore. When the New Republic guard droid tells Mayfeld to go with Cara and he doesn’t do it immediately, the draoid says he has “seconds to comply.” It’s very much reminiscent of the ED-209 from Robocop and just kind of fun.
Hassk – If you look closely on Karthon, you’ll see one of the prisoners is a member of the Hassk species that was created for The Force Awakens cantina scene.
Taanab – The planet originally mentioned by Lando in Return of the Jedi (“the Battle of Taanab”) gets a mention from Mayfeld when they’re trying to come up with a cover story in front of Hess.
Seismic Charge – Oh man! The seismic bomb used against Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones comes back! Slave I apparently still has them on board and they’re used to help escape the TIE fighters at the end. It was just neat to hear that sound once again.
Burnin Konn – The planet Mayfeld mentions in regard to Operation Cinder is actually the focus of the mobile game, Star Wars: Uprising. The RPG launched in 2015 and told a post-ROTJ story about an Imperial Warlord who locks down the sector. The planet was caught up in Operation Cinder. It’s a neat, if obscure, connection considering the game hasn’t been playable for a number of years now.
Richard Brake – Imperial Officer Hess is played by yet another actor you swear you’ve seen in everything. He has a long list of credits in a number of small-medium roles, but I immediately recognized him as Joe Chill from Batman Begins!
The more I think about it, the more this episode grows on me. It’s deeper themes and character moments elevate the action on display and makes me almost immediately want me to re-watch it. Not only does it move us towards the finale, but gives us some of the season’s best character beats.
Hard to believe we’re already nearing the end of this season. With just ONE WEEK to go, how do you think the finale will play out?