Director Rick Famuyiwa is back for another round of Mandalorian craziness with “The Prisoner” His last chapter, “The Child”, is my favorite chapter of this short season so far, so, could he live up to my expectations? Sadly, in my non-expert, humble opinion, no.
It’s a weird one that felt like an episode of “Doctor Who” more than the Mandalorian. This entire chapter takes place off-planet which will please some but like the set pieces themselves, the episode felt aimless and lost. I’ve wanted this series to lean more toward the sci-fi aspect, and this is that show attempting that, it just misses the mark for me.
First off, at 40 minutes it’s a whole ten minutes longer than last week’s episode and man do you feel every minute of it. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s too long! It’s methodical in its approach, and that’s fine, but it drags a bit. And, normally, in a set piece like this, I’m feeling anxious, but I really just wanted it to wrap-up.
Alright, so what’s this episode about?
The Mando, still short on credits after giving all of them to Peli last week, called in a favor to an old buddy, a criminal “skip” called Ran (Mark Boone Jr.) He stakes out on a floating base of operations where he presumably runs scams out of and manages to avoid any New Republic attention.
Bran’s got a job for Mando that involves rescuing one of Bran’s partners who ran afoul of some competitors. The caveat is that it’s a team effort and they need the Razor Crest to pull off the job. For the Mando, who likes to work alone, this isn’t ideal, but he needs the money. He’s familiar with at least one of the them besides Bran, but that only furthers the tension.
There’s “Mayfeld” (Bill Burr), a former Imperial sharpshooter, a droid named “Zero”, a Devaronian brute named Burg (Clancy Brown), and a female Twi’lek named Xi’an (Natalia Tena) who has a history with Mando.
The squabbling amongst the group starts right away and is relentless, as they attempt to measure up against the famous “Mandalorian” And the obvious backstory between the Mando and Xi’an is very on the nose. It isn’t until the group is en route though that things get really tense as Baby Yoda makes his presence known.
After poking around the ship and pushing Mando’s buttons, he and Burg get into a fight. During the tussle, the door opens revealing the little green baby. The Mando stiffens as they all stare curiously at the baby, assuming it’s a pet.
Mayfeld even picks him up at one point, putting Mando on high alert, just as the ship comes out of hyperspace. They’ve arrived at the floating prison.
They dock and begin to make their way around the prison, peeking in cells along the way. Zero stays behind, serving as the team’s eyes and ears on the mission. Some New Republic security droids show up and the team seems unprepared even they knew droids were aboard. They also say they’re “exposed” but were causally walking about, even making jokes along the way a second ago. Weird.
Anyways, the Mando manages to get in behind the droids and takes them all out, albeit with some difficulty as the team watches.
Turns out the droid less ship isn’t so droid less and is manned by a single New Republic Officer named Davan (Matt Lanter) who clearly wasn’t expecting company. He’s very jumpy and is holding a tracking beacon that will bring the New Republic security down on them in a hurry. While arguing about killing him (Mando doesn’t want to) Xi’an kills Davan with a knife but not before he could activate the beacon. They now have 20-minutes to complete their mission before the New Republic shows up.
They do get to their “asset” who turns out to be another Twi’lek (Xi’an’s brother) named Qin. He too recognizes Mando, referring to the time he left him behind, so it’s not the sweetest of reunions. This is where things really start to fall apart for the team.
I won’t continue with the recap but think Maze Runner or Cube and you’re on the right track. It’s a game of cat and mouse that will remind you of your favorite slasher movie where the Mando turns into Batman, in more ways than one. And there are three specific cameos at the end that will turn Star Wars Twitter giddy for the next little while.
So, what did I like and didn’t like about this episode?
Famuyiwa’s directing is great, there’s no doubt about that, but the character work here wasn’t great for me. Too many little holes in the story that added up to a bigger mess. For example, in one scene, Mayfeld goes from being very concerned about the beacon, to not caring at all, willing to shoot Davan.
Also, what advantage would he have keeping that specific, and very important, bit of information from the group? The one thing that could ruin the mission and have them all killed?
And, what’s the plot of this show? Just week to week encounters as he looks for ways to earn credits I suppose. This episode did next to nothing to further that, but it did reveal some more about the state of the New Republic, which I enjoyed very much.
The look and feel of the prison ship, the droids, and then that “thing” which caps off the chapter are excellent. But that brings up another issue for me, the use of the space once on the ship felt out of step. It’s purposeful to have the ship look the same no matter which way you turn, that’s how you create claustrophobia and paranoia. And the Mando certainly takes advantage of this. But then why didn’t Zero use this same strategy to get the team to where they needed to go?
And speaking of the team, yeah, they just didn’t do it for me save Zero. I’m not a Bill Burr guy so I found him not up to the level he needed to be. He didn’t carry himself with the swagger necessary to pull of a job like this and he’s duped way to easily later. His temper didn’t match his temperance, let’s put it that way.
I did like Ran, played by Mark Boone Jr., as the “boss” but his fate is very predictable, he says as much very early on. And while it’s always nice to see familiar faces such as Matt Lanter, Clancy Brown, and Natalia Tena, you must give them something to do besides quiver, grunt, or hiss. Like I said, the lone standout for me was Zero, but I’m partial to droids so.
Christopher Yost wrote the script for this chapter and the concept is a good one but felt entirely too convoluted for what will most likely be a Season One blip. I shouldn’t feel the runtime on a 40-minute chapter, but I did. And for the first time, Baby Yoda felt like a prop to me, wedged into the chapter.
This is the first chapter that felt “low-budget” to me and took me out of the season for the first time. Hopefully this chapter will grow on me over time.
Till next time…MTFBWY!
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