The latest chapter of DisneyPlus’ “The Mandalorian” is now available. “The Siege” is written by series’ producer/co-creator Jon Favreau and directed by recurring guest star Carl Weathers, who also reprises his role of Greef Karga for this episode. And yes, Baby Yoda does some cute stuff, too…
****IMPERIAL FORTRESS SIZED SPOILERS!!****
Chapter 12: “The Siege.”
Mando (Pedro Pascal) has taken off from Trask, but is limping through space. The Razor Crest is barely flightworthy. We see him using Baby Yoda to try and perform a dangerous circuit bypass in a narrow crawlspace (Mando won’t win any parenting awards, that’s for sure…). After Baby is nearly fried by polarity contact, Mando decides the Force-adept, 50-something year old infant isn’t cut out for vehicular repair. With few options, Mando takes the ship to the planet Nevarro, a rough-and-tumble, lava-gullied desert world which Mando left in better shape back in Chapter 8 .
Almost successfully exiting his cargo bay (the ramp doesn’t fully deploy), Mando greets his allies, new ‘administrator’ Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, who also directed) and ‘Marshall’ Cara Dune (Gina Carano). Mando, carrying Baby Yoda in his arms (no more hover-carriage), asks for repairs and Greef immediately puts his best people on it, and promises the Razor Crest will be good as new. As Cara and Greef ooh and aah over Baby Yoda, Mando is invited to take a look at what they’ve done with their little community on Nevarro… this former center of bounty hunter activity has become a respectable Outer Rim community.
The former headquarters of the crime boss known as “the Client” (Werner Herzog), where Mando once had a nasty shootout with Imperial forces, is now a school! In fact, it’s in the classroom (led by a protocol droid teacher) where Greef suggests Mando leave Baby Yoda for the time being, reassuring Mando that he’ll be safe. Greef adds that where they’re going won’t be safe for a baby.
Note: The scene in the classroom where Baby Yoda ‘force-steals’ a package of turquoise cookies from a nearby classmate is both cute and slightly mischievous. This is the kind of thing that makes Baby Yoda adorable, not wolfing down on a sentient frog lady’s last remaining eggs. We hadn’t seen Baby Yoda use his Force abilities for the last couple of chapters…and they really could’ve helped out in “The Passenger”.
Mando also runs into an ex-bounty of his, the blue-skinned hairless Mythrol (Horatio Sanz), who still kvetches a little about his time spent in Mando’s carbonite. Mythrol, like many in this formerly lawless abode, is doing his best at being a respectable citizen again.
Now that Mando is in town, Greef and Cara really need his help. Thinking they drove the remnant Imperial forces off of Nevarro, Greef and Cara learns there is another remaining Imperial stronghold on their planet. Located out of range of their fair community, Greef wants to enlist Mando’s ‘particular set of skills’ to take them out. Given Greef and Cara’s hospitality towards he and Baby Yoda, Mando readily agrees. The group enlists Mythrol and his landspeeder as their getaway car for the job. After Mando make short work of a rooftop stormtrooper sniper (thanks to his handy rocket pack), Mythrol is pried nervously out of his getaway speeder and helps the team melt the controls to the door.
Once inside, the group overcomes stormtrooper fire and enters a chamber filled with corpses suspended in some kind of formalin-like liquid. These were gruesome, failed medical experiments of some kind. Hacking into the station’s holo-messaging, they come across a recording made by Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), where he delivers a progress report to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) on specimens who were injected with “high M-count” blood from “the Child” (Baby Yoda), but didn’t survive the transfusions. These dead test subjects were attempts to make Force-sensitive supersoldiers (taking a page from “The X-Files”). That is why these vestigial elements of the defeated Empire are so keen on acquiring Baby Yoda, who has already demonstrated strong Force abilities, even as a mere toddler (his recent acquisition of cookies in the classroom, as well as levitating threatening monsters, force-choking Cara, etc).
Having seen enough, Mando and the others use the lava flow beneath the station to help destroy it. Needing to get Baby Yoda off the planet, Mando is forced to use his rocket pack to escape across a lava-filled chasm (Star Wars loves it chasms), but he promises to return.
The remaining trio are forced to escape in a heavily armored speeder transport they saw earlier as they made their way into the complex. Cara takes the controls, as they dive off of the base’s landing platform, straight down into a canyon below…crashing right on top of Mythrol’s prized speeder, of course; its repulser-lift hovering breaking their fall.
Mythrol has little time to mourn his lost speeder, as they are soon chased by a squad of stormtroopers on speederbikes. Greef goes to the rear of the transport and mans a rooftop gun turret control.
Note: Once again homaging a classic Star Wars scenario, as when Luke and Han manned the gun turrets of the Millennium Falcon to ward off attacking TIE fighters (“A New Hope,” 1977), or when Finn took one of those exact same gun turrets many years later in “The Force Awakens” (2015).
The speeder bikes swoop alongside the transport, whose heavy shielding doesn’t allow for great visibility on its sides. Greef, relying almost entirely on instruments and a single window, isn’t having the greatest of luck with their pursuers. A few of the speederbikes are taken out by the recklessness of their own riders, as well as Cara’s evasive maneuvering.
One of the tenacious troopers manages to climb onto the exterior of the transport in the hopes of dropping a grenade through the topside hatch! Relying entirely on scopes, Greef manages to sight the trooper just as his hand is poised to drop the grenade–and he’s blasted off their roof in a fiery death.
Note: As a former motorcyclist, I appreciate how the speederbikes move as if they were on wheels, with their riders able to lean into turns, use a single leg for balancing, etc. The choreography and movement of the speederbikes feels very ‘real’ (more so in newer Star Wars than the slightly less-realistic riding styles seen in “Return of the Jedi”). It must also be said that few stormtrooper deaths are quite as hilarious as when the poor bastards bite it on speederbikes...
As the lava begins to rapidly consume the base (and the evidence of its gruesome experiments), several TIE fighters lift off in pursuit of the escaping transport. Greef still can’t get a good fix on their pursuers, as he and Cara blame each other for their lack of luck in destroying their pursuit. As they exit the canyon, they hear incoming ship’s blaster fire that destroys one of the TIE fighters!
The ship, of course, is the repaired Razor Crest, which is (as promised) good as new. Mando takes the weapons controls and takes care of the pursuing TIE fighters, as Baby Yoda coos in delight at the obliterated Imperial fighter-craft. The base obliterated, and everyone in the town safe from Imperial reprisal, Mando remains airborne–he has to leave before word of his presence on Nevarro reaches Moff Gideon. Greef radios him, asking if he can at least buy Mando a drink, to which Mando replies, “Call it even.” Mando resumes his course to Corvus, in hopes of finding the former Jedi, Ahsoka Tano.
Relishing in their second victory over the Empire, Cara Dune is approached by New Republic X-wing pilot Captain Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), one of the two pilots who barely gave token assistance to Mando two weeks ago. Capt. Teva (who seems more like a bored bureaucrat than a heroic pilot) is searching for Mando, but Cara and Greef play dumb. Not buying the act, Teva notes that Cara is from Alderaan, mentioning that he served in the Rebellion during the destruction of Alderaan. Asking if she’s “lost anybody,” a bitter Cara replies “I lost everybody.” Teva makes former Rebel shock-trooper Cara an offer to join the New Republic. The ex-warrior turned Marshall mulls it over…
Note: The Alderaan references made by Teva clearly hit Cara where she lives (or used to live…). Alderaan was the first planet to be destroyed by the Death Star in “New Hope.” It was also the home planet of Princess Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) as well. Earlier, during their raid on the Imperial fortress, Cara’s taking charge during the escape reminded me very much of Leia’s taking charge of her own rescue following her prison break aboard the Death Star.
Cutting to a wedge-shaped Imperial vessel out in space (not a classic star destroyer), a young Imperial officer reports to Moff Gideon that the tracking beacon placed aboard the Razor Crest is working, and that they will soon have “the asset.” Moff Gideon is in a chamber lined with black-clad deathtroopers…
Note: That old homing beacon ploy is exactly what Darth Vader’s troops used to ‘allow’ the Millennium Falcon to escape in order to track it to the Rebel Base in “New Hope.” One wonders if the token resistance from the TIE fighters and speederbikes in this chapter were also part of a planned escape for Mando and company? This episode really drops quite a bombshell in its final few minutes, with the promise of a major confrontation between Gideon (who has Bo-Katan’s dark saber), Mando, Baby Yoda and hopefully Ahsoka Tano.
After last week’s thrilling chapter, “The Siege” nurses some of Mando’s hurt, while the second half kicks it into high-gear with a classic Star Wars-shootout between our heroes and Imperial forces. This is the series doing what it does best; tell a short (37 minute), simple story with a few strong guest characters that advances the series’ overall mythology. Yes, the series is once again retreading to a familiar planet (Nevarro) and revisiting familiar characters (Cara & Greef), but when it works this well, who cares? Mando and Baby Yoda certainly need a few friendlies in their corner. Nice that Greef and Cara also kept their word about cleaning up Nevarro, making it a decent place to live. We see a school, which is one of the best vital signs with which to gauge the health of a community… caring for its children.
And, of course, the mythology was well advanced, too. We learn that Dr. Pershing is back at his evil habits (not that he’d ever change, but still…) and that wants Baby Yoda for his blood, because of the “M-count”. And yes, I realize “M-count” means (the dreaded) midichlorians. I really hate it when Star Wars tries to science its way through the Force. This is just a bad idea (and I’m an atheist). The Force should be something mythical and universal that anyone can tap into, and not something only for those born into the ‘royal bloodline.’ Reducing the Force to something that can be analyzed and dissected in a lab takes something away from its fairytale aspect.
The following except is from “The Making of Return of the Jedi” (2013) by J.W. Rinzler, and it chronicles a story session between George Lucas, writer Lawrence Kasdan and director Richard Marquand about Lucas’ ideas for the Force:
Kasdan: The Force was available to anyone who could hook into it?
Lucas: Yes, everybody can do it.
Kasdan: Not just the Jedi?
Lucas: It’s just the Jedi who take the time to do it.
Marquand: They use it as a technique.
Lucas: Like yoga. If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing. Also like karate. Also another misconception is that Yoda teaches Jedi, but he is like a guru; he doesn’t go out and fight anybody.
That was always my idea of the Force, and apparently George Lucas’ as well, before he inexplicably retconned it. I was kind of hoping midichlorians were swept away with the new Disney Star Wars movies, which never mentioned them again, but I suppose “The Mandalorian” has to embrace the whole of Star Wars… even those less popular ideas (here’s at least hoping we never see Gungans). That nit of mine aside, Chapter 12 is a short but solid Star Wars offering. While this second season hasn’t quite hit the giddy excitement levels of the first, some of that may simply be due to familiarity–you just can’t make Mando and Baby Yoda new again.
At any rate, “The Siege” is a prime example of this sophomore series doing what it does best; offering easily digestible, handsomely-produced entertainment that advances its mythology for the faithful.
“The Mandalorian” Season 2 is available for streaming on DisneyPlus, as are most of the Star Wars movies and animated TV series. To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States are over 250,000 (a quarter of a million people) as of this writing. Meanwhile, there’s no vaccine or even effective treatment for COVID-19 as of yet. Yes, some businesses are reopening, but the overall situation is far from safe. So for the time being, please continue to practice social safe-distancing as often as you can, wear masks in public, and avoid overly crowded outings as much as possible.
Wear a mask. It is the way.