Before the episode of The Mandalorian this week, we’ve seen a lot of deaths – men with dog faces speared on spears. Dozens of anonymous thugs shot down with an automatic blaster; the hot smoking wreckage of a stormtrooper hit with a flamethrower – but it has never been as sudden or graphic as in the sixth episode.
Star Wars has a long, high-volume history behind it. Lightsabers and blasters kill bloodless kills with a shower of sparks instead of blood fountains. We never see the billions being sacrificed on Alderaan or the thousands of contractors who have risen with the second Death Star. But Lucasfilm has increased the comfort of the audience in the past. Star Wars: The Sith revenge that set Anakin Skywalker on fire to turn him into Darth Vader earned the MPAA a tough PG-13. And yet, Lucasfilm has somehow managed to keep this galaxy far, far family friendly.
The Mandalorian Episode 6 takes off as a questioning of the way Star Wars has tiptoeed to the brink of hustle and bustle over the years. In the end, it is the Mandalorian himself who stops by and refuses to get over it.
[Ed. Note: This article contains spoilers for the mandalorian episode 6.]
The razor comb in all its glory Picture: Lucasfilm
In The Prisoner, the Mandalorian joins a group of mercenaries to rescue one of their crew members from a prison ship that he learns is only occupied by droids. It’s a thoroughly action-packed raiding film in which actor Pedro Pascal’s stunt team do some of his best work in the series. Mando frees half a dozen droids while the mercenaries are watching and uses all the weapons in his arsenal and even parts of the droid himself to accomplish the task. Later in the episode, our hero tears off another droid’s arm and sprays an oil well over the walls of a pristine white spaceship.
There’s no way Lucasfilm ever shows the Mandalorian doing this to a group of humanoid creatures. Just like The Phantom Menace, one of the biggest land battles in the franchise’s history, droids have traditionally been the target of the cruelest fatalities in Star Wars.
But there is a moment in the middle of the episode on the bridge of the prison ship, where the mercenaries notice they have bad intelligence. It turns out that there is a human on board, a young and frightened officer of the New Republic, and the only way to fulfill the mission and stay alive is to kill him.
The Mandalorian tries to intervene. “No one has to hurt here” is a very strange thing for a rented gun that has shot itself into a prison ship to say, and yet we are here. It seems our hero has been given a bad case of ethics since breaking up with the Bounty Hunter Guild.
Lightning fast one of the other mercenaries throws a knife. The officer dies dead and the tone of the entire episode shifts uncomfortably into the area of PG-13.
The Mandalorian meets the leader of his mercenary crew, Mayfield. He is played by Bill Burr and is the epitome of a schoolyard tyrant, but with a murderous track. On the right is his old friend, a gangster named Ran Malk, played by Mark Boone Jr. Image: Lucasfilm
At this point, “The Prisoner” effectively switches from Oceans Eleven to The Predator. The Mandalorian methodically isolates each of his enemies and sets about silently chasing them. The confrontations are brutal, but each of them stops shy to show that their bodies hit the ground.
Honestly, it might be a bit short for my taste. Especially in a moment, it looks like a guy from an explosion door is beating his head. It definitely got me jumping. I’m honestly not sure if my kids will see them for a few years.
Although the audience does not see the moment of the impact, the death of the mercenary has already been hinted at. We saw what Mando did to this droid. When the lights go out, alarm clones sound and flashing red lights turn the ship’s interior bright red, and we know that the Mandalorian can paint his walls just as well with the blood of his humanoid enemies.
And yet he does not do it.
“You have to close your eyes for that.” Image: Lucasfilm
In the final moments of the show, we learn that our hero is not killing anyone. The only person who died was this lonely New Republic officer, and the Mandalorian makes these mercenaries pay for what they did by locking them in a cell and trapping them on the abandoned ship. I honestly wonder if they needed all the UV radiation when hunting them, or if they could convey the same message to all the children Baby Yoda had invited into the room and weaken it.
It’s all water under the bridge for another outstanding episode, but it’s a signal to the audience how much Lucasfilm is willing to make The Mandalorian an adult experience. Human characters will die throughout history. Baby Yoda is endangered. It all adds up to a show very close to the PG-13 area, but refuses to get over it.