Stefanos Yoo-Min Florakis
Red Burr Redemption - The Mandalorian: Chater 15
Just a year ago, we had the penultimate episode of the first season of The Mandalorian- The Reckoning. That chapter found our group of misfits on a mission for the safety of Grogu (formerly known as Baby Yoda) by going against the remanence of the villainous Empire, ending up being overtaken and suffering losses within their troops.
Based on how last week's episode, The Tragedy, ended with Moff Gideon capturing Grogu, and Din Djarin making an alliance with Boba Fett and Fennec Shand, as well as asking the assistance of the new Mashal of the New Republic, Cara Dune, we had a supposed clear idea that the penultimate episode of the second season would be on a similar narrative to The Reckoning. We were wrong, and possibly for the best.
Instead, the episode titled The Believer, starts with the return of Bill Burr as Mayfeld,the ex-imperial sharp trooper from last season's episode, The Prisoner (also was directed by this week's episode helmer). The sole purpose of Mayfeld was to be used by Din for his old imperial credentials and knowledge to locate Gideon's light cruiser in order to save Grogu, and possibly end Gideon once and for all. The only way to do this is for Mayfeld to access a mainframe from an imperial base, with the only one still operating being in a hidden mining facility of unstable fuel, that are carried around in big ground vehicles. No, I am not describing Mad Max, but for sure there is some "fury road".
When the first layout of the mission was presented to us, it seemed it would become another side-mission to fill-up the time for the week. Not necessarily a negative criticism, as the show does thrive in episodes such as that, especially since this season has made a massive improvement to the stories and characters. Here, that was certainly the case for Mayfeld.
Even though The Prisoner had some negative responses since its release, personally I did find myself enjoying it far more than I would have expected (maybe because I do like a good heist). But I did agree with the characters of that episode being a bit too boring and one-sided, something that I felt true for Mayfeld. however, this episode has completely changed my opinion on this.
Somehow, the show managed to present the character of Mayfeld with a bigger sense of empathy, mainly from the information about his backstory, which could be the main reason why he is not that vocal about his past with The Empire.
Learning that he used to be a soldier that was lucky to survive after a massive attack from his own commanding officers, who killed all his fellow troops and innocent civilians made it clear that it all had a toll on him.
That trauma had altered the way he sees anything or anyone, including any government, loyalists, or beliefs. This is especially apparent during his drive with Din, talking about the fact that the planet they are on still suffers colonialism, either under The Empire or The New Republic. Mayfeld even remarks that him and Din are not that alike, as they both need to bend their beliefs to survive.
That is where the title makes an impact. In typical Star Wars fashion, the title of each part of the franchise has multiple meanings besides the obvious. The Return of the Jedi signifies both the return of the Jedi Order in the form of Luke and the redemption of Anakin after defeating the Emperor. The Rise of Skywalker is both the turn of Kylo to Ben Solo and Rey's allegiance to the light side of the force. The Believer in that sense is for Din, Mayfeld, and even The Empire itself.
During this season, Din found his belief in the Mandalore to be challenged by multiple characters in the past seven episodes.
Cobb Vanth proved that an outsider using Mandalorian armour is not a sin, Bo-Katan revealed the fanatic ideas of his creed, Boba Fett presented the long historical inheritance that could be placed on a foundling. With Grogu by being a surrogate son to Din, it makes him willing to break rules, as he deems it important. In this case, revealing the handsome face of Pedro Pascal for more than a minute to actual people and not just droids.
Mayfeld questions the belief of Din's helmet, but also comes to question his own mortality, as we learn of the survivor's guilt he has bottled, along with his hidden hatred for The Empire. By the end of the episode, we see a different Mayfeld, someone who actually cares and acts on behalf of his own moral stance.
This season has managed to give a re-write to several characters to the best, not only from just the show but the franchise in general. Fennec, from being a one-off villain in the first season, has become a vital member of the gang; Cara Dune is an actual person now with more than two layers (one, hating the empire, two, being a good fighter) while Boba Fett is an actual badass with real motivation.
Mayfeld ends up falling into to the same category with the rest, but possibly with the most compelling backstory, added to an emotionally thrilling scene, reminiscent of Inglourious Bastards, with him, an unmasked Din, and imperial Valin Hess. Added to a surprisingly strong performance from Burr, you can not help but cheer his guns blazing action against The Empire.
Even The Empire falls into the allegory of the title, as Valin Hess, effectively played by character actor, Richard Brake, monologues about his idea of The Empire being a righteous regime, worthy of all the pain it has caused (and still inflicts).
Of course making the analogy between the Empire and the Third Reich, is nothing new, although Valin's words do sound loudly in today's age and the rise of far-right movements and fascistic ideals, something that The First Order has been compared to a lot of since the release of The Force Awakens.
The episode also had a short moment of glory towards the Empire as troopers and TIE fighters come to the rescue against pirates, that normally would be seen as the heroes in fighting off The Empire from the planet.
Even though with the unexpected narrative and deeper themes of the episode, there is one recurring element from last year's The Reckoning. Din's final lines to Gideon echo and paraphrase those said by the Moff at the end of last year's penultimate episode.
The main changes see Din refer to Grogu as "him" instead of "it" showcasing the actual importance the child has to him, and the difference between the two foes as the Moff wants Grogu as nothing more than a tool, while Din wants him as his family.
The Believer ended up being a surprising episode, with an effective character progression for our lead and a side-character. We get more well-made action sequences and the inclusion of deeper themes for both the show and Star Wars in general. And of course, lets not forget Fett looking fresh with his newly polished and painted armour, along with the glorious return of his seismic charge (one of the few objectively awesome things from Attack of the Clones).
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