The Mandalorian, Chapter 3: The Sin
I'm in love with this show's expansion of the Mandalorian mythos, from the armor's creation to the enclave's many helmeted denizens having conflicting opinions on our protagonist and how he acquired it. It's very clear that in this space western, the Mandalorian and his kind are focused on preserving their heritage from disappearing from the galaxy. Thus their setting aside of beskar supplies for the "foundlings." Thus their argument over the Way of Mandalore. Their rules associated with a signet, and how a warrior earns one. This is a sci-fi depiction of displaced indigenous people that thankfully skirts the "noble savage" tropes and makes even the grey morality of bounty hunting into a satisfying motivation for our main character. He could spend his new fortune in brothels and spice dens, but no. He wants his birthright, and he wants the next job. This is the Way.
This is all necessary early on in the episode to establish just how invested Mando is in protecting the Child in the second half. He uses every one of his "whistling birds" when surrounded by stormtroopers, quite literally spending beskar on a measurable level to help someone who is not part of the tribe. And it's very necessary to add emotional weight to the thrilling climax of the episode when every Mandalorian hidden on the planet comes to the aid of their brethren, revealing the secret of their numbers and knowingly dismantling their entire underground outpost. Is this moment a little too chummy, with the previously disdainful Heavy Infantry Mando giving our main guy a little fly-by and salute? Yeah, that's dorky and doesn't fit the spirit of the thing at all. But it's a rare misstep in an otherwise breathless episode that invests a lot more than Chapter 2 did in ongoing plot and structure.
The episode is directed by Deborah Chow, whose background is exactly in line with what this show aims to be: she has credits on exciting television thrillers with big production design like Mr. Robot and BBC America's Copper, but has also directed features The High Cost of Living and a TV movie adaptation of V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic. Chow is a great choice for the episode that has to convey so much personal history and emotional turmoil in characters whose faces are always hidden, and she handles a focal point in the show very subtly. We have seen Mando receive a job from Greef Karga, execute his client's wishes, and retrieve "assets" with the cool detachment that his faceplate projects. This is the episode where we learn so much about what that faceplate is even for, what it means. And that knowledge casts Mando's routine resolution of his contract in an entirely different light. A disgusting one that even he cannot abide. A sin.
Carl Weathers finally gets some meaty scenes, and his Apollo Creed showmanship is on high display when Greef Karga gloats over his commission of the bounty. This side of him is a lot more fun, though the coldly professional side that greets Mando when the planet's collection of bounty hunters ambush our antihero is far more key to serializing this plot into further stories. If the show were to continue past these eight chapters, I have all good faith that Weathers could become a pivotal character based on the playful exchange of gunfire that peppers the begrudging respect in his chemistry with Pascal.
And speaking of Pedro Pascal, I haven't really commented much on his performance as of yet. This episode especially, the show's star really proves himself the correct choice for this role. His uncertainty in handing over the adorable Child, his palpable pride in his new armor, it's all there in his body language. He says a whole lot without any facial expression and meager dialogue. And yet, though this role would totally work as merely a Boba Fett imitation, it clearly isn't one. Pascal has made his Mandalorian a standalone character, in more ways than one.
I do see the seams of the show in the same light that detractors do. For anyone used to the "golden age of peak television" yadda-yadda-yadda, The Mandalorian is maddeningly simple, straightforward. One watches with the anticipation of Big Ideas, or at least Big Spectacle. Sorry to say, HBO has ruined a lot of us. This show ends every episode with lovingly painted renderings of key scenes from the very chapter that just finished, and that is a signal to me. It says, "This show is exactly what it looks like. It's a paperback novel cover. It's exciting, and dynamic, and probably a lot lighter than you expect it to be." Folks who are looking for some galaxy-brain meanings or implications are the ones who seem disappointed. And that's fine, but just like Herzog I am having an absolute ball with this every week so far.
Notes & Quotes:
-"When one chooses to walk the Way of Mandalore, you are both hunter and prey. How can one be a coward if one chooses this way of life?"
-Mando's parents were wiped out in what appears to be a Separatist attack during the Clone Wars. The super battle droid laying waste in his flashbacks are quite specifically dated to Episode II-III era.
-Jon Favreau's inevitable cameo as "Heavy Infantry" is fun and not too distracting. If I were in charge of this show, I'd definitely have mandated my own armor and helmet as well.
-I'm dumb and I went through the first two episodes thinking that Gina Carano was playing the Armorer, the Mandalorian who seems to be in charge of the Covert (the tribe's hideout). Carano's character comes in later in the series and predictably shows her face and fights a lot. So, many many apologies to Emily Swallow, the actress whose delivery of "This is the Way" is now as awesome and iconic for me as Nick Nolte's "I have spoken."
-Mando, upon seeing his brethren's impressive jetpack: "I've gotta get one of those." It's a cute final line of the episode, but what really makes it fun is knowing what, precisely, it would mean for him. A jetpack, no doubt, is a great honor for someone with a higher station. It's not just a cool gadget...none of them are just cool gadgets.