The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 7 Review - 'The Believer'
On the surface, "The Believer" seems designed to be a table-setter for The Mandalorian's Season 2 finale - a stepping stone that gets all the pieces in place for the showdown between Mando and Moff Gideon. But while the episode ostensibly spends much of its story moving pieces around the board, it also excels at the worldbuilding that has become one of the show's hallmarks. It doesn't quite have the action spectacle or nostalgia factor of episodes 3, 5, and 6, but in the confident hands of returning director Rick Famuyiwa, who helmed Season 1's "The Prisoner," Chapter 15 still provides some meaty character development for Din Djarin and his reluctant ally Mayfeld (Bill Burr). Watch the first trailer for Star Wars: The Bad Batch:Ever since Mando encountered Bo-Katan and her band of Mandalorians in "The Heiress," we've been seeing subtle signs that our hero is reevaluating his devotion to the strict rules instilled in him by his adopted Death Watch clan - having lifted his helmet in front of Grogu earlier this season to drink. He's already proven that he'll do pretty much anything to protect Baby Yoda at this point in the series, so it's no surprise that he's willing to compromise his beliefs to rescue the child when necessary, but given that he was ready to die back in the Season 1 finale rather than allow a droid to take his helmet off, it's still a satisfying and well-earned progression to see him remove it in a room full of Imperials.Pedro Pascal plays the moment beautifully, fully embodying Din's discomfort and awkwardness at being so exposed after years of hiding behind that impenetrable armor, even when it seems like the most normal thing in the world to everyone around him. As much as the costume and helmet have become an iconic part of the character, and Pascal and the stunt performers have done a spectacular job of imbuing Mando's physical presence with nuance despite the armor, I can't help but hope Din becomes comfortable enough to show his face a little more freely in Season 3, if only because we're missing out on so much expressiveness from Pascal's performance under the helmet.
Famuyiwa's script finds other clever ways to illustrate that Mando's out of his element here - we see just how much he relies on his beskar steel when his trooper armor shatters under the pirates' attack, forcing him to be a little more creative as he's swarmed by enemies - naturally, though, he adapts impressively to the challenge.
While Mando's figuring out which lines he's willing to cross, Famuyiwa also finds time to further develop Mayfeld, who - along with the other members of his mercenary team - came across as a little one-note back in Chapter 6. Here, freed of the jailbreak gimmick, Burr gets to sink his teeth into Mayfeld's obvious PTSD from his time as an Imperial sharpshooter, dimensionalizing a member of the Empire in a way other live-action Star Wars projects just haven't had time for. (He still plays things a bit too broad for my tastes, but without Natalia Tena's hissing Xi'an opposite him, it's a little less egregious.)
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There's not quite enough time spent with the other Imps at the refinery to fully humanize them or get a sense of what they're fighting for - not in the same way that the Clone Wars managed to muddy the waters between the Republic, the Jedi, and the Separatists - but Mayfeld's takedown of the callous Valin Hess is satisfying enough. It is a little disturbing in context, though, when you stop to realize that the pirates who are sabotaging the Empire's rhydonium deliveries are really the good guys in this situation, and yet Mando doesn't hesitate to mow down anyone between him and the kid. Any parent would likely do the same, but while the show is examining the lines our characters are and aren't willing to cross, it would've been nice to spend a beat on the morality of that choice and its potential ramifications.
The show once again sneaks in another deep cut easter egg this week by referencing Operation: Cinder from Star Wars Battlefront II and the Shattered Empire comics - a contingency plan the Emperor designed to clean the slate following his death and rebuild the Empire in secret, using climate-disrupting satellites to devastate targeted planets like Burnin Konn, destroying civilians, Rebels, and Imperials alike. "What they really want is first order," indeed.Considering Mayfeld's sharpshooting skills, it's surprising that Mando and Cara Dune don't at least ask him to join them in the fight against Moff Gideon (although given how vehemently he refused to track Gideon at first, he'd likely have said no) but after how impressed Cara was at his aim, we'll probably see Mayfeld pop back up in the newly announced Rangers of the New Republic spinoff at some point.
This is also the first episode of the series that doesn't feature Baby Yoda at all, although we're not given much time to miss him, between the show's lively twist on the western train robbery theme, Mando and Mayfeld's snarky refinery break-in, Cara and Fennec Shand's eagle-eyed team-up, and Boba Fett hanging out in Slave I being a stone-cold badass. It's rad to see Boba's armor with a fresh coat of paint, and even more thrilling to see the Slave I deploying a seismic charge to take out two TIE fighters in a neat callback to Jango Fett's run-in with Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones. (That vwommmm sound is still chill-inducing after all these years.)
And while it's a little on the nose, Mando's Taken-esque holo-warning to Gideon is immensely satisfying, with our hero ominously using the Moff's Season 1 words against him with one key difference - calling Grogu "he" rather than "it." You mess with papa mudhorn, you get the... well, you know.