‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2, Episode 7 Recap: Face-off on Morak
‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2, Episode 7 Recap: Face-off on Morak
Season 2, Episode 7: ‘The Believer’
It was bound to happen. All season long, Mando has been suffering loss after loss. The Child’s floating transport-egg? Totaled. The Razor Crest? Destroyed. Grogu himself? Kidnapped. So it was inevitable that at some point, Mando was going to have to give up what has mattered to him more than anything for most of his life: his helmet.
About a third of the way through “The Believer,” Din Djarin realizes that the only way for him to infiltrate an Imperial refinery — and thus to obtain the information he needs to rescue Grogu — is to shed his near-impenetrable beskar shell and go undercover as a stormtrooper. He does get to stay masked, at least. He puts on a pathetic-looking helmet, with the little frown etched into the face-plate that’s common to the Empire’s armor. But as soon as he dons the gear, his body stiffens and he lapses into silence. The Mandalorian no longer feels like a Mandalorian.
It gets worse. Once Din arrives in the facility, he discovers that he’s going to have to access a communications terminal that requires a face-scan. He makes one sad, fruitless attempt at keeping his stormtrooper disguise on while doing the scan, but immediately a warning alarm sounds, and he has to remove the helmet. For only the second time in this series, the actor Pedro Pascal — the star of “The Mandalorian” — shows his face.
I could quibble with the narrative logic that led to this moment. We’re told early on that the Imperial base on the mining planet of Morak is protected by various devices which identify and weed out wanted fugitives. No one has seen Din’s face, so no scanners would register him as an outlaw. But wouldn’t it make sense for a scanner at an Imperial outpost to make sure the faces it’s scanning belong to actual Empire employees?
I have no complaints, though, about the emotional punch of the scanner scene. It pains the Mandalorian to reveal himself — and it’s painful to see him do it. As the title of this week’s chapter, “The Believer,” implies, this is a man of deep faith who doesn’t take the trappings and the rituals of his order lightly. When the Imperial commander Valin Hess (Richard Brake) asks him to sit down and have a drink with him in the refinery’s commissary, Din is so mortified — so soul-sick — that he can barely move or speak.
As with most of the episodes this season, this one was primarily made up of a few white-knuckle action sequences. Rick Famuyiwa directed and is credited as the screenwriter. Initially, Famuyiwa introduces a scenario reminiscent of the classic movie “The Wages of Fear,” with Din and the dastardly mercenary Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr) driving a transport vehicle filled with the explosively volatile starship fuel rhydonium across bumpy roads. Then their transport is attacked by pirates, who keep coming in waves after seemingly every last-ditch effort by Mando to fend them off.
Paradoxically, Din and Migs are saved by the Imperial forces, who salute them as they roll into the refinery with potentially enough rhydonium to help the Empire strike back (again). But when Migs hears this boast from Hess, it stirs the criminal’s conscience, reminding him of all the past atrocities he has witnessed. He impulsively shoots Hess before executing a daring escape with the help of Mando, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand and Cara Dune, finishing it with a long-distance shot that blows up the rhydonium and the refinery.
But as exciting as all those chases and shootouts are, it’s almost more thrilling this week to hear Migs push back against Din’s understanding of how the galaxy works. Although Migs sabotages the Empire, he’s not really a partisan of any kind. He insists to Mando that folks born on one planet believe one thing and folks born on another planet believe something else, and that none of this matters because in a life-or-death crisis, people will cross any line they have to, just to survive.
The action in this episode seems to probe Migs’s point as Mando finds himself delivering vital rhydonium to the enemy — and killing “pirates” who could well be agents of the Republic, for all he knows — in order to further his own personal agenda. It also can’t be too reassuring for the by-the-book Mando to hear Hess argue that the Empire will prevail again because “Everyone thinks they want freedom, but what they really want is order.”
This is something else that our hero has been losing this season: his certainty about “the Way,” and about what he is and isn’t duty-bound to do. Taking care of Grogu has given him a new perspective on where his loyalty truly lies.
That’s why it’s significant that during Migs’s rant about how both the Empire and the Republic routinely wreck the lives of ordinary citizens, Din is shown looking out the window at Morak’s native children. As an orphan himself, that’s who he identifies with the most. And as we head into next week’s season finale, that’s who the Mandalorian is most passionate to save.
This is the way:
After all the mythology built up around Boba Fett over the decades, it is both strange and awesome to have him just hanging around all the time as part of the Mandalorian’s team. (“Fett, punch in the coordinates!” Mando will say, as though it’s perfectly normal to be barking orders at one of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunters.) It was also cool this week to see how Fett’s ship, Slave 1, looks from the inside as it’s making the crazy horizontal-to-vertical pivot it does during takeoffs.
Even with a stand-up comedian as a guest star, this episode featured fewer moments of comic relief than usual. I think I laughed out loud only once, when Migs shoots Hess, right as a stormtrooper walks into the cafeteria. The tension of that moment is immediately defused by the ridiculous image of a trooper carrying a lunch-tray, looking like a dumbfounded fifth grader.
The locations this season have all been pretty spectacular — and impressively varied. This week, we begin in an imposing trash heap patrolled by giant “walkers,” and we end with a fight at a refinery by a towering dam. There’s nearly always something to marvel at on this show.