The Mandalorian: Then They Saw His Face

The Mandalorian episode “The Believer” surprisingly felt like I was being rewarded for something I hadn’t earned.

The title image is from a WIRED autocomplete interview with Pedro Pascal and Oscar Isaac.

I expected the worst from the latest episode of The Mandalorian, called “The Believer,” since I expected to see Bill Burr’s character come back, and he’s the worst. But instead of being a disappointment, it felt like they were piling on scene after amazing scene showing me something cool that I hadn’t even known I wanted to see.

About five minutes into the episode, nerds worldwide let out a collective sigh of satisfaction, as we finally saw after 40 years a demonstration of exactly how stuff in the hull of the Slave I stays upright when the ship changes orientation. It still amazes me that this show is actually turning out to be a combination of my most sugar-rush-hyped-up fantasies as a 9-year-old, 20-year-old, and 49-year-old: And and and then, Boba Fett shows up, and they’ve both got jetpacks, and then Ming-Na Wen is in the group too, and they all get in the Slave I and fly to a bunch of new planets, and then there’s a scene like the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and they just BOOM destroy a ton of Imperials, and there’s like multiple Mandalorians, and they have these bad-ass fight scenes but also when they take their helmets off, they look like Timothy Olyphant, Temuera Morrison, and Pedro Pascal.

Oh! And then for no reason at all, they had Boba Fett launch a seismic grenade to blow up multiple TIE Fighters at once, which might be the only scene I liked in all of Attack of the Clones. At that point, I was already like No really, I couldn’t take any more fan service, I’ve had so much…. oh well all right then.

I’d also been about to complain about how Star Wars keeps reusing the same biome over and over and over again; how many desert planets are in this galaxy, anyway? The only thing I really liked about Rogue One was the production design, and part of that was putting so many familiar Star Wars elements into a completely unfamiliar South Pacific-esque jungle environment. The last episode seemed to have been set in the same area near Los Angeles that episodes of Buck Rogers and Star Trek took place, and this one seemed even closer to being a real place. I’d love it if the live action series were to get as experimental with exotic environments as The Clone Wars series did.

A perfectly paced, satisfying episode like this one proves how much of what works in The Mandalorian is about restraint. There’s still a host of phenomenally talented concept artists and CG artists (and sound designers, and costume designers, etc. etc.) but here, their work is allowed to stand out, because the stories are more straightforward, the action is more old-fashioned chases and beat-em-ups, and the stakes are more personal. In this episode, I actually had the chance to appreciate the design of the pirates’ speeders, since they weren’t lost in a sea of other things fighting for attention.

It’s no knock on Disney or Lucasfilm to say that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to keep this same level of quality with every one of the new Star Wars properties in the works. But if this one is so eerily able to deliver exactly what I want to see, I imagine that they’re eventually going to have a Star Wars that’s perfectly tailored to everybody.

And yes, the only reason I wrote this post is because I’m so inordinately proud of making the “I’m a Believer”/”saw his face” connection that I felt the need to spell it out explicitly.