Bill Burr bursts back onto the series with some cutting wisdom on the moral gray areas of the Star Wars universe.
Mando (Pedro Pascal) took Grogu to the Jedi Seeing Stones on Tython, but an unfortunately-timed reunion with Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) provided an opening for Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and his Dark Troopers to blow up the Razor Crest and kidnap Grogu. Mando and his new crew headed back once again to Nevarro, where newly-minted Marshal Cara Dune (Gina Carano), initially reluctant to help Mando free Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), was seemingly spurred into action by learning that the Child was gone. Also, the Empire makes Force-resistant handcuffs in little baby sizes.
This week, the penultimate episode of Season 2, “Chapter 15: The Believer”. Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa (who also wrote and directed the previous Mayfeld episode “Chapter 6: The Prisoner”), “The Believer” could almost be just another side quest episode but is actually a treatise on the things that we do to survive.
Mayfeld is working in the Karthon Chop Fields when a guard droid calls him down to meet Marshal Cara Dune, who is there to sign him out for another task. Turns out that instead of having to bust Mayfeld free, Cara just gets to flex her new authority a little bit. Mayfeld is less than enthusiastic about this piece of luck, especially when he sees Mando, but even this guy isn’t immune to Grogu’s charms: when Cara tells him that Gideon took Mando’s kid, Mayfeld is immediately appalled. “The little green guy?!” Yes, indeed.
It’s clear that Mayfeld holds no particular fondness for his time as an Imperial (more clearly now than in his initial appearance), but he tells them that to get the coordinates for Gideon’s cruiser that they’ll need to get him access to an Imperial terminal and I guess the Imperial intranet. Mayfeld’s suggestion is a secret Imperial refinery on the planet Morak; they can sneak in, he can get the information, and then they can get out. Mando again insists that the suggested planet has nothing on it, he is once again incorrect.
Once on Morak, the group forms their plan: two of them will sneak into the base where Mayfeld will get the information, while two others take out various guards and the rooftop cannons, and Fett will wait in the Slave I to sweep in and grab the first two. Piece of cake, right? Except that Cara Dune can’t go in, she’s in the system as a former Rebel and the base is likely to use biometric scanning; the same goes for Fennec, who is also wanted. And Fett? “Let’s just say they might recognize my face.” Oh Boba, you joker. This, of course, leaves Mando, but though Mayfeld protests that there’s no way he can sneak a Mandalorian in full armor to the base, Mando has a plan.
Mayfeld, Mando, and Cara jump one of the transport trucks heading into the refinery (carrying the highly volatile rhydonium), and Mando and Mayfeld don the armor and helmets of the stormtroopers who were driving. Mando entrusts his beskar to Cara and he and Mayfeld start driving the transport to the refinery. Seeing Mando in this other armor is unsettling and no one, not Mando himself, not Cara, not the audience, likes this at all.
“The Believer” is a beautiful tribute to competency.
They pass through a village and Mayfeld notes that the regular people don’t care whether the Empire or the New Republic is in charge. Are the people killed over the ages by Mandalorians any demonstrably different from the people killed by the Empire? At the end of the day, both Mandalore and Alderaan are gone and nothing changes that, regardless of who is in power. Mayfeld starts poking at Mando and the whole helmet wearing belief system, noting that just like him, Mando’s rules start to get blurry when things get messy. They’re interrupted by massive explosions ahead of them as the other Imperial transports blow up on their way into the base. And it’s…pirates?
Mando tells us that they’re pirates, so I believe him, and he takes to the top of the transport to fight them off as Mayfeld tries to maintain a safe pace for the rhydonium. Mando does his best (complete with some foreshadowing spear work) but Mayfeld slows down due to the cargo’s instability and more pirates just keep coming. The pirates are suddenly dispatched by a pair of TIE fighters and Mayfeld can safely drive the transport into the base. They’re met with salutes and cheers as the only transport to make it back that day, and they manage to disembark and start to search for the terminal.
The terminal is in the officers’ mess, where a helmetless (he “couldn’t see”) Mayfeld is about to head when he realizes that his former commander Valin Hess (Richard Brake) is seated inside. He can’t risk being recognized and when Mando volunteers to go instead, Mayfeld points out that the terminal requires facial recognition to work (more on this later). Mando knows that if they don’t get the information that they came for, he’ll never see Grogu again, so he goes in.
Mando tries the terminal first with the helmet still on, but like your recapper using a self-checkout, the scanner immediately starts beeping and loudly announcing an error. The terminal begins a countdown as more of the Imperials inside start to take notice of the guy in the corner trying to use a facial scanner with a helmet on.
So Mando takes the helmet off and does the scan again. You read that right. He takes the helmet off. He loves his son so much. Mando gets the necessary info loaded onto a data-stick, but before he can leave Hess gets up and starts over to him. Hess calls out to the “trooper” several times and Mando tries to ignore him into disappearing, but it doesn’t work (it never does) and Mando has to turn and face Hess. He has absolutely no answers for Hess’ questions but he’s saved by Mayfeld, who swoops in and provides his own and Mando’s TK numbers and tells Hess that Mando sustained hearing loss on a previous mission so he doesn’t talk much. They don’t even really know his name, they just call him “Brown Eyes”. Mando, who has no idea how to mask his microexpressions, just nods along like “Indeed, my eyes are brown, this lie is a good lie”.
It works on Hess, though, who insists that Mayfeld and “Officer Brown Eyes”, as the successful transporters of the day, join him for a drink. There is so much happening on Pedro Pascal’s face throughout these scenes, it’s a testament to the writing that they’ve created an entire world where seeing our main character’s actual face seems wrong and uncomfortable. The audience almost doesn’t want to look, and Mando himself is so visibly tense and ashamed and uncertain that the fact that he and Mayfeld are now being forced into drinking with an Imperial officer is secondary to his inner turmoil. Hess, as per Imperials, is a good old boy who speaks glowingly of an old campaign that Mayfeld mentions, seemingly not noticing the barely concealed menace behind Mayfeld’s “Yeah, a lot of people sure did die that day”.
Hess notes that people don’t want freedom, they want order, and once they realize that they’ll welcome the Empire back. He toasts to the Empire and Mayfeld shoots him. Mayfeld also shoots most of the others in the room, sans one officer whom Mando kills; it’s very obvious that Mando then deeply considers killing Mayfeld as well. Mayfeld hands Mando the stormtrooper helmet and tells him “You did what you had to do. I never saw your face.” and looks away as Mando puts the helmet on. Look at that, that’s growth (and self-preservation).
The two escape out of the mess windows and start up to the roof, aided by Fennec and Cara taking out various troopers and guards from afar as they go. Once the pair are on the roof, Fennec calls Fett, who picks them up in the Slave I. As they take off, Mayfeld shoots the transport full of rhydonium, destroying the entire base. The TIE fighters from earlier head after the Slave I, but Fett makes quick work of them with some good old seismic charges. Just like his dad!
Once safely landed, Mayfeld presents himself to Cara and a re-beskared Mando, ready to return to the Chop Yards. Impressed by his help and his shooting, however, Cara muses that it was a shame that Migs Mayfeld died in the refinery explosion and therefore cannot return to prison. Mando agrees and Mayfeld (eventually) gets it and leaves.
Onboard Moff Gideon’s cruiser, the Empire’s most beleaguered comms officer (Katy M. O’Brian) calls Gideon over to see a transmission from Mando. Reprising what Gideon himself said on Nevarro back in “Chapter 8: Redemption”, Mando warns Gideon that he is coming for the Child, who “means more to me than you will ever know”. Gideon has the good sense to look concerned.
Now, yes, I’ll admit it: the whole “Oh it has to scan your face to work” is a weak contrivance, especially given that it’s a security measure. Fennec, Cara, and Fett can’t even try to use it, since they’re in the system, but it’s not going to beep an alert if it recognizes Mayfeld’s face? Is it just to make sure you’re a human? That angle falls apart under scrutiny, but the actual mechanics of the terminal aren’t important. The important part is Mando’s decision, realizing that saving Grogu means taking the helmet off. He loves him that much.
Earlier, as they drove into the refinery, Mayfeld asked Mando, “What’s the rule? Is it that you can’t take off your Mando helmet, or you can’t show your face? Because there is a difference.” Mando doesn’t answer. We’re moving towards a time where Din can decide to remove his helmet on his terms, rather than because he’s close to death or has to save his child. We’ll have to wait and see.
“The Believer” is a beautiful tribute to competency. Sharpshooters are sharpshooting, pilots are saving the day in their ships, Mando proves that, beskar or no, he’s a formidable opponent who can think on his feet (as long as he’s fighting). What goes wrong are things out of any control, the elements of any plan that are up to chance for good or ill, and our gang makes it work. Here’s hoping they can continue that streak in next week’s season finale and bring our Grogu home.
- Boba Fett’s armor has a fresh coat of paint this week; did he have that onboard or did they have to stop somewhere real quick?
- Fennec is wondering every day if these robo-guts were worth her current situation in life.
- “Brown Eyes”, really? Not “Steve”? How poetic, Mayfeld.
- “Punky Brewster” is an exercise in empty nostalgia - February 24, 2021
- “The Luminaries” is shiny but isn’t gold - February 13, 2021
- In “Elizabeth Is Missing”, memory is mystery - January 3, 2021