Two StarWars.com writers debate their favorite episodes from the new Star Wars live-action series now on Disney+.
One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest -- and most fun -- Star Wars issues. In this installment, StarWars.com’s editors choose their favorite episode from the first season of The Mandalorian on Disney+.
My favorite episode is "Chapter 7: The Reckoning," says Kristin.
As the penultimate episode of the first season, “The Reckoning” exquisitely sets up the grand finale. The explosive final chapter knots together the various narrative threads from the entire first season with big surprises and reveals, but it’s the careful set up of “The Reckoning” that strategically inches some final pieces into place to give the ending its proper punch.
Taken on its own, this episode is also exactly the kind of story Star Wars was created to tell. A ragtag crew of misfits comes together for one last job, driven by their own various goals in accepting the assignment but united by a common cause and a single enemy. Even as the trio -- Cara Dune, Kuiil, and IG-11 in a surprising twist -- agree to join forces to help the Mandalorian and the Child, there’s plenty of tension and drama to go around.
Cara’s seething hatred for the Empire extends to a distrust of Kuiil, who served what she considers to be the wrong side in the Galactic War, although he soon explains he was an indentured servant who has since won his freedom through hard labor. Gruff and rough round the edges, Kuiil also proves to be unfailingly kind and patient, whether reprogramming and teaching a droid, building a more comfortable pram for the Child, or simply encouraging everyone to be patient and hear people out for once. The Mandalorian still can’t quite get past the whole idea that IG-11, a hunter once so intent on killing the Child that Mando was forced to gun it down, is now reprogrammed to protect and serve tea. And even the Child, so adorable and seemingly helpless, proves to be both capable of great harm and great compassion.
The Mandalorian shines through these richly drawn, multifaceted characters, and we haven’t even talked about the titular warrior himself. Like IG-11, he was once a hunter who now protects the Child, risking it all in this episode to ensure the safety of himself and his charge. A lone wolf for so long, now he finds he must trust in his team if he wants to get the job done.
And that ending! Oh, that ending. As soon as Kuiil and the Child go their own way, leaving Cara, Greef, and Mando in binders walking in the opposite direction, you know there’s going to be trouble and heartache ahead. The intensity director Deborah Chow captures in Kuiil’s desperate blurrg ride is delicately balanced with the stillness of the final moment, an eerily quiet scene that unfolds bit by bit, the viewer’s creeping dread growing into a painful realization.
My favorite episode is "Chapter 6: The Prisoner," says Dan.
I’ll concede that “The Reckoning” is a standout episode, and one that really surprises for all the risks it takes. But when I started to think about what was my actual favorite episode of Season One, I focused on which installment I believed exemplified all of the series’ strengths, felt original and fresh, and stood out as the most memorable. And then there was no contest. It’s “The Prisoner.”
What I love most about The Mandalorian is how its stories are told on a smaller scale and are often self-contained. It’s clearly rooted in Westerns, but the series feels like classic ‘70s and ‘80s TV to me, where you can pop on an episode for a one-and-done adventure. (I can very easily picture myself watching The Mandalorian with my action-TV-loving grandfather, who otherwise didn’t care much about Star Wars.) And this format has allowed the show to focus on character and grounded action, which, to my mind, is why The Mandalorian has struck such a cultural chord. (Yes, the Child’s mega-cuteness helps, but still.)
And that’s nowhere more prevalent than in “The Prisoner.” The episode, written by Rick Famuyiwa and Christopher Yost, and directed by Famuyiwa, finds Mando taking on a job for Ran, an old “friend” -- note the quotes -- with a motley crew of mercenaries: the frosty leader Mayfeld, the grumpy and towering Devaronian Burg, the deadly-and-loves-it old Twi’lek flame Xi'an, and the arrogant droid pilot Zero. They’re all very different in personality and skillset, but have one thing in common: they don’t seem to care for the Mandalorian that much. Their mission is to infiltrate a New Republic prison ship, rescue a prisoner, and get out. That’s it -- that’s the whole episode. It’s a refreshingly simple plot and, within that, “The Prisoner” is filled with rich character moments and twists and turns.
Bill Burr delivers a great performance as Mayfeld, infusing him with an unpredictable schoolyard-bully air of “Am I just messing with you, or am I really going to hurt you?” that keeps you, if not Mando, on edge. This plays to great effect in one scene where, on the way to the New Republic ship, Mayfeld insists that Mando take off his helmet, and he doesn’t let up; moments later, Mayfeld discovers the Child, picks him up, and makes like he’s going to drop him. While Burg and Xi’an cackle like the bully’s best friends, Mando remains stoic. But as a viewer, you’re very tense. The entire exchange tells you a lot about who these people are, and it makes you worried about what they might do later on. It’s fantastic.
Once the crew gets to the New Republic ship, it’s one obstacle after another: security droids (in which we get to see some great Mando action), a nervous New Republic soldier who triggers an SOS beacon (adding a ticking-time-bomb element to the episode), and then the actual rescue. Except the rescue is of Qin, another seedy type, and once he’s freed they all double cross the Mandalorian, locking him in the former prisoner’s cell. You knew something bad was coming, but not that. I might’ve let out an audible “Oh no.”
Now the Mandalorian has to figure out a way to escape, and once he does (in a very cool and clever way), “The Prisoner” flips the story on its head. The episode becomes about the hunted becoming the hunter, as the Mandalorian takes out every member of the crew one by one. What's best about this last half of “The Prisoner” is how the creators took care to have each battle make sense in relation to the characters involved. First up is Burg; pay attention and you’ll notice that he never wields, let alone seems to carry, a blaster. (He’s “the muscle,” after all.) As such, it’s a brutal, knock-down drag-out fight, in which Mando has to play dirty and get creative. Next is Xi’an, who prefers a good knife toss, forcing the Mandalorian to get in close and take away her advantage. Finally, Mayfeld, an ex-Imperial sharpshooter, can’t do much harm if he can’t see his target. These sequences show how good the Mandalorian is, and are much more rewarding than just another shootout.
Befitting his reputation, the Mandalorian still finishes the job, backstabbing and all, and delivers Qin. And in a final surprise, we see Mayfeld, Burg, and Xi’an, alive and well, crammed together in a cell on the New Republic prison ship. Zero, who was ready to kill the Child, didn’t fare as well. Ran and Qin get theirs, too. The Mandalorian isn’t about revenge or murder, but he will dole out justice according to his code of honor, and it’s nice to see the episode remain true to who he is.
“The Prisoner” tells a complete and fun tale, and one in which there’s a lot to like. I like the Mandalorian here. I like Mayfeld, Burg, Xi’an, Qin, Zero, and Ran, and I hope we see them again. I like the fact that there are just a handful of locations. I like the character-driven action and dialogue. It’s a smaller, more intimate episode that shows how you can tell a different kind of story with Star Wars, while still rooted in the galaxy we know and moving the overall series forward. And I think it’s one I’ll be rewatching for years to come.
What do you think? Do you agree with Kristin or Dan? Or did you have a different favorite episode? Let us know on social using #FromACertainPOV!
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.