After a shocking turn of events last week, Chapter 15 of The Mandalorian opts not to go down the traditional “finale, part 1” route, but instead tells a fairly standalone story that’s routed in where the characters are at this moment in the story. There’s no big plot developments here (Grogu doesn’t even appear), but it is an interesting exploration of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and where he is emotionally at this point in the season. His belief in the Mandalorian creed was shaken by Bo-Katan in Chapter 11: The Heiress, his connection with Grogu was cemented in Chapter 13: The Jedi, and then everything – his ship and the Child – was taken away from him in Chapter 14: The Tragedy. In Chapter 15: The Believer, Din even loses his armour – albeit temporarily – and forges an uneasy alliance with Mayfeld (Bill Burr), who questions his entire moral code throughout. How far will Din go to rescue Grogu? Far enough that he’ll remove his helmet, which the series has constantly reaffirmed is not “the way”. Din is developing in a really interesting way, and I’m intrigued to see where he ends up by the end of the season (which is only next week…).
This is another episode from Rick Famuyiwa, co-writer and director of last season’s best episode Chapter 6: The Prisoner, and director of the wonderful Chapter 2: The Child (“the egg! the egg!”), whose script is filled with interesting touches throughout. We get a glimpse of what life is like for an Imperial Stormtrooper when off-duty, and we hear from one of the senior officers – Valin Hess (Richard Brake) – just how wholeheartedly they believe that whatever terrible mistakes they may make, it’s all in service of the Empire. To former Imperial sharpshooter Mayfeld, it’s a horrifying revelation – the officer doesn’t care how many of his own soldiers he’s killed, only that the Empire will live on to rule the galaxy. Mayfeld justified his old life in the Empire under the idea that Imperial rule was no different from the rule of the Rebellion or the New Republic – not so different from Benicio Del Toro’s DJ from Star Wars: The Last Jedi – but realises from talking to Hess that maybe there really is evil at the heart of the Imperial remnants, and does what he can to destroy it at the end.
Mayfeld might not have completely redeemed himself by the end of the episode, but he’s clearly a changed man – now a free one, thanks to Cara Dune. The New Republic prison planet Mayfeld is freed from is one of the more interesting in Star Wars, with the various machines and ruined spaceships stretching out across the horizon. It feels like a planet with a history, in that way only good Star Wars can create. The Imperial-occupied planet may have seemed more generic, but the chase with the pirates was filled with some spectacular action beats and genuine tension; how can Din and Mayfeld reach the base without either being killed by the explosives on board or the pirates attacking them? Famuyiwa has already proven himself to be an apt director for this sort of material, but Chapter 15: The Believer is a very welcome reminder.
This instalment of The Mandalorian certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but I have to say that Chapter 15 proved to be a surprisingly great addition to the series, with some great character development for Din Djarin and Mayfeld, some terrific action and a good story about belief (after all, it’s in the name of the episode). It isn’t perfect: it was a bit vague as to why they needed to go to this Imperial base (although to be fair, without it there’s no story), Cara Dune and Fennec Shand just seemed to be watching the events unfold from a distance without really contributing much, and after his great (new) first impression last week, Boba Fett did almost nothing. At least he’s finally cleaned up his armour. I’m not sure what to expect from Chapter 16 next week, but I’m hopeful that The Mandalorian season 2’s final episode can be as good as this penultimate instalment, and I hope to see Famuyiwa return to write and direct next season.