When I went to the Wintrust Arena in Chicago for the Star Wars celebration earlier this year, Clone Wars and Rebels inventor Dave Filoni was there with something for sale. The Mandalorian, he explained, was a traditional, episodic western with a puzzling man disguised as Boba Fett. It promised to close the 25-year gap between Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The fan boys and girls in the audience – including a substantial contingent dressed like the Mandalorians – ate it up.
Despite all expectations, the Mandalorian delivered. The show is almost perfect, with fascinating characters and just the right amount of fan service in the corners. But after the seventh episode, everything seems to be a very big ending. Now it’s up to the authors and showrunners to get the right pitch in episode 8.
Will Filoni and Jon Favreau’s story be a mini series, a blink of an eye? Or will it exploit its potential as a long-tailed series drama? Mandalorian Episode 7 explores the intricate political landscape of an post-empire world with a potential backstory worth decades that led to the birth of resistance. But the series itself could be neglected just as quickly and deliver half-truths that make the audience as unsatisfactory as the modern trilogy.
(Ed. Note: What follows includes spoilers for Episode 7 of The Mandalorian.)
The first half of the seventh episode entitled “The Reckoning” begins with a message from Greef Karga (Carl Weathers). After Mando left town in Episode 3, the remains of the imperial presence on Navarro were doubled. The capital is closed and the mercenary guild’s business has come to a standstill. Greef offers a scheme that is clearly a trap, but one that he promises will result in the death of the client (Werner Herzog) and hopefully free Mando and the child to continue.
To protect his back, Mando gathers all the allies we’ve met so far. First comes Cara Dune (Gina Carano), the former rebel commando. Then there is Kuiil (Nick Nolte), the handy Ugnaught. Finally, there is IG-11 (Taika Waititi), the bounty hunt droid that Kuiil has rebuilt and raised in the months since Mando’s decline in Episode 1. Galaxy can throw at them.
Of course there are setbacks. In the middle of the episode, Greef is wounded in a bizarre encounter with a gaggle of pterodactyl-sized robbers. His only salvation is the child, who uses his powers to heal him. But finally the makeshift plan comes together. Mando pretends to be Greef’s prisoner to approach the client. But when Werner Herzog turns his back, he slips off the binders. Greef hands him a blaster and he directs his shot.
Then hell breaks loose.
The wall collapses under a sustained volley of blaster fire, revealing a troop of death troops that instantly kill the client. Then comes the big revelation. Mando and his friends do not face a small criminal with flawless language and a beautiful German accent. You are dealing with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and a whole group of fresh stormtroopers in shiny white.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with the child being picked up by a scout soldier on a speeder bike. We are waiting for episode 8 and the conflict between Mando and the Moff.
But I stick to the picture of Kuiil dead in the dirt next to his smoking mount. So much has been revealed about his character; how it was sold into virtual empire slavery; how he repaid his debts through bondage; how he built a life as a wet farmer in a distant world; and later how he came to see the Mandalorian as his salvation. What does all this mean for the little people scattered around the universe?
Whatever happens, the Mandalorian met my expectations. The pitch that Filoni managed in April is still valid. After the end of the empire in the return of the Jedi, the galaxy suffers from a power vacuum. The New Republic is in control, but its scope is limited. Powerful thugs and warlords fight for control, and men and clients are only middle management. What we see here is a selection of the most powerful, and Mando and his team are at the bottom of the list with all their skills.
If Gideon is able to deploy so many troops under its banner, it must mean that it has resources that span multiple systems. There must be a whole network of imperial remains floating without Palpatin’s leadership. But what are your goals in chasing the child, and how did you come up with the means to launch such an offensive against Navarro?
The series feels like Star Wars, but it tells its own story from a perspective we have never seen before. Filoni’s sales quality was solid. But it remains to be seen how they keep it in Episode 8. The child could be saved and eventually join the unlikely team of Mando, Cara and IG-11. Or it could be in the care of the Empire, a wrinkled green virgin who serves as the focus of Season 2 in production.
In essence, we either see the beginning of a long series that plunges deep into the turmoil of this landscape, or we’re just witnessing the preparation for The Mandalorian’s neat end. We hope Episode 8 will have a happy ending. With luck, the episode that celebrated its premiere on December 27th will be the forerunner of a show that will continue for many years.