by Nick Wager
I will start this review by stating that upon watching for the second time, I must say that this is the episode I have enjoyed the least so far. And even though I was raised to hold my tongue – or in this case, my typing fingers – if I had not a kind word to say, I will briefly outline what I did not like about this episode, so the bulk of this review can be the things I very much appreciate about this production.
First and foremost, I do not enjoy the performance given by Gina Carano. I believe that casting director, Sarah Finn, should not have made a casting decision from the octagon. Secondly – and lastly – I fully believe that the main emotional and informational points of this episode – Mando deciding to leave The Child somewhere safe, and the information given to the audience about why Mando does not take his helmet off in front of others – could have been delivered to us in a more concise way. I believe this episode falls under the category of plot necessity, or as some call it ‘a filler episode.’ Now, even so, there is so much about this episode that is worth your excitement.
Not least of which is one of the first things we see in this episode: The design of the Klatooinian raiders – the orc-like beings that attack the krill farmers’ village on Sorgan – is just splendid in the way of concise beauty. It comes right after a stunning underwater shot of the krill in the freshwater ponds. These both are fantastic feats of artistry and all the artists under John Lord Booth III and Sarah Delucchi’s direction deserve ample praise. In addition, the work done to pull the village’s aesthetic together under Andrew L. Jones is exquisite.
A little later than the previous episodes, we get our quiet moment between Mando and The Child with some slow and easy humor that shows quite wonderfully that their relationship is beginning to deepen. A small, but in my opinion, important, bit of writing here is when Mando calls The Child a “little womprat.” I am a firm believer that small bits of vernacular that are exclusive to the Star Wars lore is not only fun, but it is also a great piece of world building that flavors the writing throughout the series just right. It is no doubt Jon Favreau is a good Cook.
Next up here we see a prime example – and not the last – of the incredible teamwork between director, Bryce Dallas Howard, and cinematographer, Barry “Baz” Idoine – or as my notes say over and over, “Bryce + Baz!!” It is a wonderful composition of Mando framed in the hatchway of the Razor Crest as it opens. Then, after a bit of humor as Mando tries – to no avail – to convince The Child to stay on the ship, we get a terrific shot from behind The Child at eyeline (about two feet) as he walks next to Mando (who is about six feet) and get a slow tilt up as they walk toward the cantina. It calls images of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to mind.
There are little things in the cantina that are just so great: The environment in general, the design of the cantina itself, the patrons, etc.; there are these quick yet terrific shots of the patrons from The Child’s POV, and of course, my favorite, our first live-action look at a freakin’ loth-cat! Also, a minor thread is picked up here: the fact that Mando is now seemingly swimming in credits as he bribes the barmaid for information.
The villagers venturing to the Razor Crest at night is a terrific scene and shows some more of Mando’s intricate morality and value system. We see into his strict priorities and shown distinctly how The Child is quickly climbing up that list. The shots of them riding on the hover-carriage to the village are quite entrancing; even though the camera is technically not moving, since it is planted on the moving vehicle, the illusion of camera movement is still there and quite nice. And then the shot of the stars from The Child’s perspective is delightful. The crane shot that follows which shows the entire village as they enter is also incredible, and if I am not mistaken, the first crane shot of the series.
For a large chunk of the next act of the episode, most of my notes are just unfettered admiration for the puppeteering team, and everyone at Industrial Light & Magic and Legacy Effects. I am probably missing others who I could attribute, so please correct me there if this is so. But, by The Force! I am in love with The Child’s character design, performance, and integration. It floors me every episode.
Another character I would like to quickly highlight is Omera, the village widower who takes Mando and The Child into her care: Julia Jones does a terrific job of portraying this character, however brief and used to further the plot the character may be.
The fight scenes are masterful as always; the choreography by Ryan Watson, and all the stunt performers are outstanding, namely Mando’s doubles, Lateef Crowder and Brendan Wayne, Cara Dune’s double, Amy Sturdivant, and Omera’s double, Lauren Mary Kim. The teams at ILM prove yet again that they are the best. David Acord and the sound department once again deliver; and Ludwig Goransson’s music is, as always, a triumph.
While Bryce Dallas Howard does an outstanding job capturing a different side of Mando and his exploits in this episode, I wish to turn my final attentions here to the episode’s editor, Dana E. Glauberman. There are some excellent examples of both beautifully invisible editing, and purposeful dramatic editing in this episode and they are balanced with an abundance of skill and mastery.
“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+.