Just as season two started picking up the main plot pace, Chapter 12 slams on the space breaks for more “Adventures of the side characters!”
***Spoilers for everything leading up to and including Mandalorian Chapter 12: The Siege***
Season 2 of the Mandalorian has been to be kind, a bit up and down thus far. After a stellar opening episode, we’ve seen a soft horror experiment that fell flat, and a fan service bananza which ticked a lot of boxes, but could have done with a bit more oomph. Or at least screen time.
Chapter 12 is a mixed bag. Although we get the action, comedy and Easter eggs we’ve come to expect from the Mandalorian, it felt like there was something missing here. Like ordering a sandwich that you’ve ordered from the same deli for years, but the last few times have been less good. This time they forgot the sauce, and despite your fond memories you start worrying that the standards have dipped a little.
Repairs are always fun, right?
The Episode starts with Mando for some reason thinking a child with no ability to communicate effectively is the best equipped to fix a spaceship. This feared bounty hunter can be really thick sometimes. Predictably it goes wrong, so for the third time this season, the Razer Crest needs to go in for repairs.
In this kind of series, “repairs” are a writer’s way of telling the audience that we are about to get derailed… and that is just what we did not need. Frankly I would enjoy one episode entirely on the rails, showing smidgeon of the purpose and tension that season 1 had in abundance.
But alas, we are going to Nevarro to see how Greef (Carl Weathers, who directed the episode) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) are getting on. Before that we get a nice touch with Din lifting the mask ever so slightly to take a sip of water. Whilst we assume this is a frequent occurrence, displaying this along with the Child’s curious gaze tells us this is something recent; maybe a sign of his zealotry starting to ease up.
Upon landing, Greef and Dune are waiting and it was around here the directorial inexperience of Weathers started to show. The way the pair just stand there smiling goofily at each other reminded me of an 80’s action B movie and felt very out of touch with the otherwise polished product we’ve come to expect.
Everything that happens for the next five minutes is to be frank, skippable. The place that used to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy is all happy now. it even has schools with blue macaroons so Baby Yoda can churn out some memes this episode. Not to mention the return of a blue alien in Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) who to his credit, was a fun character in the season 1 pilot.
Of course as is tradition for the Mandalorian, fearsome bounty hunter, that where someone asks him to do an extremely dangerous task for free he obliges almost immediately. He’s gotten very far for a bounty hunter with those negotiation skills. Off we go to destroy an Imperial base then. Not like he has any other hobbies.
Level 1: Attack the Imperial base
The one shot style mission wouldn’t be out of place in the tutorial of a video game. Go to the imperial base that “should” be deserted and overload the core yada yada yada. Of course it isn’t deserted, and from entry the team are under fire from the resident troopers. Some blatant foreshadowing of a troop carrier and scout bikes later, the team have overloaded the thingy (there aren’t even guard rails!) and are on their way out.
It was then in an out of place shock that the episode briefly developed a hint of purpose. The team come across a scientific room full of bacta tanks, accompanied by convenient expositional hologram. Dr Perishing (Omid Abtahi) who you may remember as “nice guy imperial doctor” explains to Moff Gideon that the dead folk in tanks had reacted badly to “high m-count” blood from the subject. We can infer that this means Baby Yoda’s high midichlorian count blood is being given to test subjects… but we do not yet know why. There is already plenty of debate as to what this means, and perhaps whether it ties into the cloning of Snoke or the Emperor in the Rise of Skywalker. This may be the case, but with little else to go on we will have to wait and see.
Looking at the date of the recording Mando realizes that Gideon survived, and jetpacks off to grab the child. The rest of the team head for the exit.
The escape scene is unfortunately a little yawn inducing. For some reason the score was extremely quiet, and there is limited dialogue. This resulted in a couple of scenes of watching a retired M&A fighter, a fat man in a latex suit and a 70 year old running down hallways. I feel like a better director just puts this section together a little better. The shots are odd and don’t do a great job of capturing action, whilst also not hiding the physical limitations of the actors.
They reach the hanger, and with the elevator closed off they have no option but to drive the troop carrier off the edge of the cliff, producing a wonderfully 80’s “AAHHH” shot. It was a bit tacky but it is nice to see the cast having a bit of fun.
The chase itself is… fine. Speeder bikes come first, which are inventively dispatched, followed by Tie Fighters which pose a greater threat. There are some nice classic visuals (targeting system design really lags behind… well everything else) and when Mando returns to save the day the scene turned classic Star Wars. Whooping, cheering and some Tie Fighters showing their complete lack of competence. There are zero stakes, so zero tension, but isn’t this was Star Wars is about?
The episode wraps up with Din heading off, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s Captain Teva retrieving a report from Greef (Republic bloody love some due process). Before getting on his way he drops in for a deep chat with Dune, where we learn she is from Alderaan and he wants her to rejoin the republic forces. This could be an early warning that Gina Carano, who has endured some fan backlash for her political views, may be taking a back seat in the near future. Honestly if I hated everything which included people who talked crap on twitter I wouldn’t watch much television, but that’s just my view.
We also get a short scene, where a worker who repaired the Razer Crest informs the empire of a tracking beacon he planted earlier in the episode. This reaches Moff Gideon, who twirls his moustache as we see some form of battle suit/droid force he is building.
The Way is Forward
This episode was decent, but highlights an overall issue in Season 2. A lack of purpose.
In Season 1, the intrigue of Baby Yoda, the mystery of Din’s Mandalorian people and the introduction of new Star Wars characters was enough to engage a curious audience. Arguably the pay off wasn’t even that rewarding, but big battle plus the prospect of more Jedi and Mandalorians was enough to get people excited. The episodic nature was even praised – it doesn’t always need to be a galactic story we said, it’s cool to see the smaller skirmishes and motivations we said.
This is all well and true, but there needs to be some purpose, and right now the Mandalorian doesn’t have any. All Din has in his questbook is “return the Child to the Jedi,” but we have no idea as to why, what it means, or what impact it will have in the future. All the while, continual side quests with seemingly no bearing or at least, nothing interesting are just getting boring. Yes, we find out the Child’s blood is being used for experiments… but that was kind of obvious from the first couple episodes.
Thus far there have been lots of hints, name drops and Easter eggs, but we are now 50% in to Season 2 and I am none the wiser as to what this is all for. Will Mando help Bo-Katan save Mandalore? Will the Child help restore the Jedi? What is Bobba’s relevance after the big reveal in Chapter 9? Any of this could become clear at any point, but it kinda needs to start happening sooner rather than later. Whilst Chapter 12 was enjoyable, I found myself getting more and more impatient at the lack of a clear goal – hopefully the way will be a lot clearer in Chapter 13, where we are rumored to finally meet Ahsoka Tano.