'The Mandalorian' Chapter 7 Sets Up an Epic Finale to Season 1
This story contains spoilers for the first seven episodes of The Mandalorian.
This week, The Mandalorian dropped a few days earlier than usual on Disney+ to give you that Star Wars itch going into the release of Rise of Skywalker, the final cinematic episode in the Skywalker Saga, coming out tomorrow, December 19th. Does that mean that something in this week’s Mandalorian comes into play in Rise of Skywalker, which takes place almost a full 30 in-universe years later? The answer is…
... yes, though I won't spoil it here. Even more importantly, though, The Mandalorian finally stopped spinning its wheels with one-off episodes and used the sum of its parts to deliver an episode with incident and consequence. Even though a lot of people liked "Chapter 6: The Prisoner" for the prison-break gallery of rogues, it felt slight coming off the Ballad of Fennic Shard and maybe-Boba-Fett. The core of The Mandalorian revolves around The Child (Kid Green, Baby Yoda), and an argument could also be made that the series is revolving around the "mystery" of the Mandalorian's past and culture. Either way, "Chapter 7: The Reckoning" sends us hurtling into the season finale next week by returning to the main threads of the season.
For a couple weeks, The Mandalorian has been taking side jobs instead of protecting The Child, which was avoiding the core problem: everyone was on the lookout for The Child, even the entire Bounty Hunter's Guild after he blasted up Navarro. Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) pops back up in hologram form at the beginning of this week to kick off the endgame: a series of double-crosses. Carga doesn't like how The Client (Werner Herzog) has dug into the main city on Navarro. More Imperial backup has been called in, and Carga says he wants to free his city and guild from the Imperial boot. Not being the kind of person who does his own dirty work, Carga suggests Mando come back to Navarro to use The Child as bait to kill The Client.
Mando's too smart to fall for this obvious trap by coming alone, but also realizes that there's no way The Child can be safe unless he confronts the dual problem of The Client and his Imperials, and the Guild. To protect The Child, The Mandalorian assembles a team, heading to Sorgan to pick up Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and then back to Navarro proper to enlist Kuiil (Nick Nolte) who has resurrected IG-11 (Taika Watiti) from Chapter 1 and "Re-programmed" him to serve tea and second meal.
These are great decisions and characters to weave back into the story, but they're also characters from episodes involving The Child. As in, chapters five and six didn't have a place in this season. They're floating objects in what has otherwise been a focused story of saving Kid Green. If "Chapter 7" had aired after "Chapter 4," we'd have the exact same set-up in terms of character arcs and Mando's development of his past. For a brief moment, I thought Mando might go back to Tatooine to get Amy Sedaris a babysitter, but the series further isolates those episodes by instead picking Kuiil.
Mess not with the ugnaught
Why are Cara Dune and Kuiil successful characters on The Mandalorian, whereas some of these other colorful folks have fallen flat (remember bad Han Solo)? Because they're the two characters who have some knowledge of the universe beyond bounty hunting (which, despite The Client's once calling it a "complicated profession" is not, narratively, complicated at all). Cara Dune's past as a Shock Trooper for the Rebel Alliance means she has the baked-in hatred of the Empire, similar to the Mandalorian's distrust of all droids. For Cara Dune, kicking in some Zabrak (name of the race of the Darth Maul horned guy she was fighting in the beginning) in the teeth she'll do for fun and profit. Killing Imps? She does that because it's her calling. Remember, she left the New Republic when they tried to downgrade her from Shock Trooper to security guard or policewoman.
This week, we also get more of Kuiil's backstory when he tells Mando and Cara Dune that over the course of three human lifetimes he worked his way out of Imperial servitude after his clan had been full on sold off as slave labor. That patience and calm Kuiil has is further demonstrated as we see him nurse IG-11 back to health after Mando shot him in the head in Chapter 1. Kuiil claims him under New Republic Law, turns IG-11 back on, but instead of programming him, Kuiil goes about teaching the droid like you would teach a sentient person.
Kuiil is also the only person on the team who has heard rumors of The Force, because at one point he worked on a gene farm. Since Kuiil served the Empire for three human lifetimes, that sort of cloning operation, or maybe simply eugenics, could go back all the way to the Clone Wars and the great Clone Army of the Republic. His comment that Cara Dune looks like she could have come straight from the Cytocaves of Nora suggests that female clones, or genetically enhanced troopers, were also in the mix at some point in Star Wars history. The "Cyctocaves of Nora" is a new lore drop. Could it be a Kamino competitor?
Kuiil says, as a former gene farm worker, that Kid Green is "too evolved" and "too ugly" which... is the legacy of Jango Fett That he was... pretty? Are clones good looking? It leads directly into the "Cytocaves of Nora" line and Cara Dune smiles like being farmed from a planet is a compliment. I'm going to say all clones are attractive and all non clones are ugly until Star Wars tells me otherwise. I like the idea that when messing with genes you can't help but slip into all the problems inherent with playing god, and suddenly you're creating something really attractive and good at killing.
Kuiil also notes that Kid Green hasn't aged much, so we are NOT looking at a Kamino type clone with accelerated aging and some type of control built in. In other words, none of our main characters seems programmed by their genetics. And, just in case we need to blow up the debate over whether choice or circumstance dictates your options in life, "Chapter 7" gives us the re-introduction of IG-11.
The entire IG-11 retraining sequence is fascinating for what it implies about the world of droids in Star Wars. Sure, they're programmed like machines, but certain droids seem to have the capacity to learn first, before any sort of prime directive is imprinted. Ultimately, that makes them more human. If a bounty hunting droid can serve tea, a torture droid could be a podracer; it just needs to give up torturing. In the cinematic world of Star Wars, the droids get personalities without forming them. When C-3PO boots up in The Phantom Menace, he's a recognizable version of C-3PO. R2-D2 is all sass right from the jump. K-2SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars story is a sliced Imperial security droid that has rebelled, but (until the upcoming Cassian Andor Disney+ live-action Star Wars series), we don't see that transformation.
The implication that droids might be more malleable than clones is a huge point in this action-western show. Sure, it provides an easy solution to this week's cliffhanger (the troopers might have gotten Kuiil and stolen Kid Green, but IG-11 was on that ship and saw its second-daddy gunned down), but it plays to Mando's backstory as well. Since his first culture was destroyed by Battle Droids, he knows there used to be entire armies of robots built to follow orders and subjugate people.
Which holds through most Star Wars lore. The closest thing we have in lore is Snap (real name Temmin) Wexley's re-programmed B-1 Battle Droid in the Star Wars: Aftermath series. Its name is Mr. Bones, and it likes to do violence to protect Snap, but it's still presented as a reprogrammed droid, not a retrained droid. If Kuiil was right and some things can't be done with a twist of a spanner, that changes the whole outlook on droids. It makes them like Clones. The Republic and the Separatists were dumping beings into the world thinking they were programmable killing machines, and they weren't. That's bleak as heck! You could have a WHOLE TV series about CLONE CONSEQUENCES. Maybe that's where Mandalorian Season 2 is going, but it's a big Star Wars idea, which is what I've been wanting from this series.
The cutest Force choke
Last week, there was a question as to whether Kid Green had lost his Force ability, or had some of it drained out of him/stripped away medically when The Client previously kept him in Episode 3. This was based on trying to track inconsistent television storytelling. In something like The Mandalorian, a Star Wars property sprinkled with Easter Eggs from movies, animated shows, and slightly re-canonized holiday specials, new rules are important, and a child of Yoda 's species was a big swing. "Baby Yoda" has obviously been a big hit. They just didn't have it do any little Force Acts for way too many episodes. Let him float that silver orb from the Razor Crest throttle once an episode, just so we're reminded the kid has power.
It's less cute this week when The Child begins to Force choke Cara Dune when she's arm-wrestling with Mando. He doesn't understand the idea of physical competition, I guess, though it does make the bone broth-sipping scene from Chapter 4 more puzzling. Previously when Mando and Cara were fighting, they were actually fighting, and Kid Green's response was to watch it go down. Now, inside Mando's ship with Mando in full view, The Child feel like it needs to almost fully suffocate Cara? It's the first time I'm wondering if maybe this 50-year-old child is dumb. I'd been assuming it was wise and choosing not to talk for some reason, but that's the kind of assumption you make about a species whose only other two known members sat on the Jedi Council.
Cara Dune, like the Mudhorn, are both fully grown versions of their species. The Force is strong with Kid Green, who seems to need to nap less between Force choking and Force healing Greef Carga after he's attacked by a poisonous night dragon (it could be a new version of a Krayt Dragon, or it could be the first re-canonized appearance of former EU beastie the Arkanian dragon). That takes a lot of effort, but he's not passed out all the time anymore. Even though Mando, Cara, and Greef are in a bad place at the end of the episode when Moff Gideon shows up, they have a strong ally in the Force, if they can get him to focus.
They don't call Imperials "Imps" much in live-action Star Wars, but those who went through the Star Wars: Rebels animated series know what it sounds like out loud. We get a bit more information about the Imperials around Navarro this episode. For one, instead of a few Stormtroopers, we get some Scout Troopers on speeder-bikes and black-clad Death Troopers (first introduced in Rogue One). Showing up clad in black like an anti-Thrawn is Giancarlo Espositio's warlord Moff Gideon. A Moff is a title in imperial leadership that would come above a Governor. Moffs were "in charge" of a entire sector of space. The Moffs would report up to the only Grand Moff (Tarkin) who, in the age of the Empire, ruled at the top of the Empire's military apparatus, even having some ability to command Darth Vader. After the fall of the Empire, some of the Moffs became Warlords. A lot of them were rooted out of their hidey-holes by the New Republic Shock Troopers while the New Republic liberated systems, but Moff Gideon looks to be thriving. His troopers come out of a troop transport, and he arrives landing a TIE fighter(!!!).
Quick aside -- most TIE fighters can't land. They're meant to be launched from and docked to racks in Star Destroyers, the idea being that it's harder to run away from the Empire. If you were a TIE pilot in the heat of battle and things looked bad, you could desert, but where are you going to land that TIE? How are you going to land that TIE? On the wings? Star Wars: Rebels showed it was possible on Lothal to have TIE fighters that land on its wings, but this foldable model denotes that this is no ordinary TIE. This TIE belongs to someone who has permission to land. It's an intimidation TIE.
And it works! After the Death Troopers gun down The Client (Werner Herzog rests in peace having never been named), Moff Gideon says he's going to take the thing he wants and "it means more to me than you'll ever know." All of this is just vague enough and intercut with Kuiil's doomed run back to the Razor Crest that we're meant to assume it's The Child. Gideon, it seems, has been the guy pulling the strings of The Client all along, and it sounds like he's also the character who has the information we want about Kid Green's origins and place in this galactic conflict.
On Friday, December 27, we'll get the exciting conclusion to season one and hopefully have some of these questions answered.
Stray blaster bolts:
- I'm sad Kuiil had to die, but in a show where lots of people get blasted every week, saving the one with stakes to serve as a cliffhanger is a very smart choice.
- IG-11 is going to blast the crap out of all those Stormtroopers if he can run fast enough to the city. Best case scenario, IG-11 wrangles a dragon and we're saved by deus ex robot-on-a-dragon.
- Of all the rogues Mandalorian has happened across, Greef Carga is the one working best for me. His alliances shift because he's selfish, but even though Mando shot him a few weeks ago and he lures him back into a trap this episode, Greef's heart can occasionally be in the right place.
- Now I see why it was important for the Mandalorian clan to move off Navarro earlier in the season. Can't be any obvious backup for our big standoff next week.
- There's a reason the episode had to come out before The Rise of Skywalker, and it has to do with something Baby Yoda does in this episode. To say any more would be a spoiler of the movie.
That's it! See you on the other side of Rise of Skywalker.
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