Friday, December 11, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Mandalorian' - An Undercover Mission Forces Mando to Make a Very Personal Decision in 'Chapter 15: The Believer'

Disney+'s The Mandalorian - Episode 2.07 "Chapter 15: The Believer"

To move against the Empire, the Mandalorian needs the help of an old enemy.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Disney+'s The Mandalorian.

"Chapter 15: The Believer" was written by Rick Famuyiwa and directed by Rick Famuyiwa

Every time Mando removes his helmet and shows his face is incredibly consequential. It was established as a myth. He could never reveal his face to someone and still be respected as a Mandalorian. The armor is the most sacred thing to his people. It has to be respected at all times. A masked hero limits how often the audience actually gets to see Pedro Pascal in the role instead of simply hearing his voice. But it also sets up the expectation that when the moment does happen it will offer profound insight into the way the protagonist behaves and operates. In this episode, he is essentially forced to remove his helmet through a series of plot contrivances. It's not an unwelcome development. It just feels rushed without offering much thought into how Mando can reckon that choice with the beliefs he has been raised with. Again, the show isn't great when it comes to introspection. Mando hasn't really been given the time to grapple with the idea that his version of the Mandalorian creed is more extreme than the natives of Mandalore. Bo-Katan opened his eyes. But then, it was off to the next adventure. This show is very interested in presenting a mission in each episode. It has to highlight the constant action of this universe. There is not many moments where the characters get to reflect on the actions they have taken and how they will deal with those decisions moving forward. That allows the series to still present as an allegory on war. Mando is fighting for something. He needs to protect Grogu from the forces who wish him harm. He sends that stern and ominous mission to Moff Gideon in the end. Along the way, he just happens to take his helmet off in front of people to gather the information he needs for the next stage of this rescue mission. It's not something he does alongside someone incredible important to the overall narrative either. It's not in front of Cara or Greef. It's not alongside a fellow Mandalorian. Instead, it's Mayfeld. Now, Bill Burr was a delightful presence in this world last season. It's nice to see him again. Mayfeld also questions just how committed Mando is to his code. He questions it because it seems to be changing. He recognizes that rationalization because so many people are forced to take actions they never thought they would do. Moments happen where they need to cross those lines. A situation can arise where Mando sees the benefits of having his face revealed to the world in order to make a difference. In this particular moment though, it feels like the show wanted this moment to happen ahead of the finale so that the expectations would be solely about saving Grogu. When Mando decides to join Mayfeld in this undercover mission inside an Empire-controlled refinery, he is essentially accepting that he can remove his helmet. At first, it's simply a matter of him taking off his Beskar armor to disguise himself as a stormtrooper on a supply run. That too offers the insight of how much he relies on the tools and weapons within his armor whenever he fights. But then, a facial scan is necessary for him to retrieve the data on Gideon's ship. Mayfeld was brought onto this mission because of the Imperial information he has. And yet, he is afraid to run into the former commanding officer who also happens to be in the room. It's incredibly contrived especially given that the confrontation is still inevitable. Mayfeld has unresolved emotions about his time serving under this man who was fine with letting so many in his squadron die. It makes it a righteous moment when he kills him. Mayfeld has his moment of redemption by respecting the sacrifice Mando makes and not gazing at his face longer than necessary to keep up appearances. That makes Cara freeing him from imprisonment in the end rewarding. But again, this episode pivots around that moment Mando takes off the helmet. He does it in front of a computer. It's important for him. As such, he can rationalize it. It mostly just shows that his mentality on the subject is evolving. The action decides to depict it instead of just using dialogue to reveal that inner turmoil with him. It also feels like a letdown because of how pivotal this moment has been built up. When it happened, it needed more emotional resonance. The show is subverting expectations by making this moment small instead of big. That just makes it feel rather lackluster though and not worth all the investment across two seasons.