Quote of the week: “Empire, New Republic, it’s all the same to these people.”
Though Grogu is completely absent from this week’s episode of “The Mandalorian,” he is by no means forgotten. His absence is etched into every decision, every action that Mando (Pedro Pascal) and his companions undertake in their effort to rescue him from the Empire’s clutches in “Chapter 15: The Believer.” The motivation to save him is strong enough to bend — or break — many of the rules we’ve grown familiar with over the series’ course.
At the end of the previous episode, Grogu was abducted by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Mando will stop at nothing to get him back, but he can’t do it alone: To find Moff, he needs the help of Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), the Imperial sniper-turned-mercenary who Mando put in prison back in season one. They free Migs from prison, and he provides them with the location of a secret Imperial refinery where they can use a data port to find Moff.
Once they arrive, Mando and Migs have to split off from the rest of the group — everyone else has DNA on file with the Empire and will trip the alarms the second they set foot in the refinery. And with his gaudy armor, Mando isn’t exactly low-profile, either. He has to swap out his gear with a uniform they pull off of a fallen Stormtrooper.
Though the costume change happens off-screen, it’s still a notable moment: We’ve only seen Mando remove his helmet once, and he only did so because his other option was bleeding to death.
The pair hijacks a transport vehicle and heads toward the refinery, catching vicious stares from townspeople as they go by. Migs remarks that the people caught in the middle of the war — who “Star Wars” usually overlooks in its focus on the central heroes — have no agency in this struggle, as they’re strangled by forces far beyond the scope of what’s immediately relevant to their lives.
The intriguing message taps into the topics that Rian Johnson dared to tackle in “The Last Jedi.” What are the two sides fighting for? Who are they trying to protect? Can good and evil be so easily discerned as the colors of different lightsabers?
Mando stiffly rebukes Migs’ observations of the galaxy’s tendency toward moral relativism, which prompts Migs to refocus his ire. If Mando is as faithful to his creed as he claims, why do the rules appear to change as easily as Mando did into the Stormtrooper outfit? Can he not remove his helmet at all, as we were told early in the series, or is he simply not allowed to show his face?
The pair make it to the refinery undetected, but they hit a major snag when Migs realizes the data port requires a facial scan to operate. Migs can’t do it because his former commanding officer just so happens to be having lunch in the same room and will recognize him as soon as he removes his helmet. Game over — or so it would seem.
Mando walks over to the data port, and Mayfeld was right: It won’t unlock if the user’s face is covered. So, without hesitating, he removes his helmet.
It’s only the second time we’ve seen Pascal’s face on screen, and it’s in a much more casual, much less intense setting this time. But this serenity is what makes the scene so moving.
Over the course of this season, we’ve watched as Mando’s feelings for Grogu evolved from reluctant caretaker to fierce, fatherly guardian. It wasn’t too long ago that Mando’s identity as a Mandalorian was of paramount importance, but now, he’s willing to sacrifice it for a shot at rescuing his foundling.
They get the coordinates they need and shoot their way out of the refinery, incinerating it in the process. Mando sends a hologram to Moff, making it crystal clear that anyone who stands in between him and Grogu doesn’t stand a chance. As we look toward next week’s season finale, the clash between these two unrelenting forces will surely be a battle to remember.
Matthew DuMont is a deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].