by Nick Wager
So this review is going to start in a similar fashion to the last one, because it’s an important point that is repeated again this episode and I believe it is vital to why these stories have been so successful. The episode opens with a grounded – ironically, while in space – moment between Mando and The Child. I feel like this choice being repeated means it has been intentionally designed into the script, so I’m going to give Jon Favreau, show creator, executive producer, and writer of a significant amount of the series (including this episode) credit for what I will from hereon in refer to as a staple of this series. That’s not to say that he is the only one responsible for how successful moments like this are; in fact, the lighting in these scenes is always stunning, often tricking us into thinking that the main sources of light are the stars and planets outside the cockpit. While the lighting and electrical crew seems to do some rotating between episodes, I am going to say this is a great combined effort of director Deborah Chow and director of photography Greig Fraser. This episode is a triumph for Chow, as it takes a very familiar western trope and creates something completely new.
Next, as the Razor Crest lands on Nevarro, we receive a wonderful treat from the sound department. It’s a small detail and could be easily taken for granted, however this is the exact reason why David Acord and his team are so effective and why members from this team – Shawn Holden, Bonnie Wild, and Chris Fogel – won an Emmy for the sound mixing of the episode before this one, “Chapter 2: The Child.”
The town marketplace on Nevarro really excites me because it shows off some of the under-sung heroes of a film set, especially when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. The town center is alive and that is thanks to many departments and an abundance of people doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. I am speaking here of the exquisite work of the art department, the makeup team, costume designer Joseph Porro, and set decorator Amanda Serino. All these are people working with ideas from Production Designer, Andrew L. Jones. I absolutely adore the atmosphere of these scenes and it is apparent that everyone has worked to not only set this marketplace on Nevarro but further, to set Nevarro in the right timeframe of the Star Wars canon. This comes back into play later when Mando approaches the Client. We see how nearly twenty-five years under the Empire and their subsequent fall from power has affected the Outer Rim. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I will go out on a limb and say these little atmospheric world-building elements come down from Dave Filoni. For the obvious reasons that he is the only producer that has worked with George directly and has lived in the Star Wars lore much longer than anyone else on the production team, but also from all his work on Avatar: The Last Airbender it seems safe to say that he has good experience with molding the peripheries of a world. Here I just want to give one more adoring shoutout to Joseph Porro because the Armorer’s costume is beautiful and nuanced. To take battle armor and make it tell a story just as compelling as every other element of the scene is not a simple feat, however Porro does a terrific job time and again.
This scene in the armory, underground in the secret Mandalorian stronghold, has so many instances of terrific composition thanks to Greig Fraser. One specifically I think about often is when the other Mandalorians enter and they are all in silhouette. They colors are also great in this scene and this is a perfect time to show some admiration for Jeff Seibenick, this episode’s editor. This is something that is demonstrated throughout the episode, but the grading and the contrast between the slightly orange earth tones and the blues of the flames that persist in the background of most shots here are masterful.
This scene also presents a new story element that offers room for the audience to think about a bigger picture; a galaxy-wide picture, if you will. “This is the way,” presents us with a questioning look into this sect of Mandalorian culture. It is a cult-like repetition that seems to fit well enough with what we know of the character of Mando thus far, however it also leaves space for some suspicion to how the whole of the sect operates.
Following this, the cross-fade, flashback sequence with the Beskar forging and Mando’s backstory is a magical lesson in editing and story pacing, so here is another shoutout for Jeff Seibenick and Jon Favreau. It is increasingly easy to provide way too much set up and exposition when interacting with a flashback sequence in any sort of media. Often the sequence itself, or even sometimes the entire piece of media, is injured from the inclusion of a clunky flashback. However, the combined effort of this production team has provided us with a model of how to be concise when delivering a flashback sequence.
Another interesting bit of lore and world-building here is this little exchange between Mando and Greef Karga (Carl Weather) where Karga suggests that if Mando has a problem with The Client he should go to the Core Worlds and report it to the New Republic, to which Mando says, “That’s a joke.” I found this extremely telling of the galaxy’s current state. What we know as practically the liberation of the entire galaxy five years prior to this (Return of the Jedi/The Second Death Star) is considered “a joke” on the Outer Rim, or at the very least, the new galaxy-wide government has no concern for stray outer worlds like Nevarro.
The rest of the episode excels when it comes to visual effects, sound, and music alike. There are many more points of integral lore, as well, that again show that the entire production team is extremely experienced and with minor exceptions, they are fully invested and knowledgeable about the world in which they are creating. And I really appreciate that.
In addition, I do not think I will ever write about this show without shouting out Lateef Crowder and Brendan Wayne for donning the Mando costume for the bulk of the action. These performers are responsible for at least 60% of the characterization of the main character of this series. I love Pedro Pascal, but these two deserve as much, if not more, credit (and probably pay) than he does here.
Lastly, I want to wrap it up by talking more about Deborah Chow and the entire scope of the series production. I just really love that Chow is a part of this show. It speaks to the direction in which this industry is heading. You have people like Favreau and Famuyiwa who have directed for film in the past, and later in this season Dallas Howard who has those Old Hollywood hookups and the talent to back it; then in the same breath we get Chow who has exclusively worked in live-action television, and Filoni who has never directed live-action anything. It really is showing us the future of production. And this is just the beginning. Chow did a fantastic job orchestrating this episode and really playing with the dynamics of the world. There are quiet moments everywhere and then we have the biggest fight scene so far with something like a dozen Mandalorians and a bunch of (beautifully designed, makeup-ed, and costumed) bounty hunters. It is such a triumph, and I am excited to continue to follow her career, alongside this show and beyond.
“The Mandalorian” won seven Emmy awards out of fifteen nominations.
“The Mandalorian” is rated TV-14 for science-fiction action and violence. The show is now streaming on Disney+.