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Not wanting to steal any Force lightning away from the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the gang over at The Mandalorian dropped this week's episode a couple of days early. Surprise, even more Star Wars! Chapter 7 of the first live-action Star Wars series dropped on Disney+ this morning, directed by the returning Deborah Chow and written by Jon Favreau.
We've had some fun with our main Mando and Baby Yoda over the past couple of episodes, as it has been made increasingly clear that every scoundrel and bounty hunter in the galaxy far, far away is after him. Mando still gotta pay the bills, so he still has to work ... but as we're now in the final two episodes of this first season, we're ready for the larger story to come back into focus.
Did the new episode begin that journey, or was it another week with the Mando being a simple man trying to make his way in the universe?
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Chapter 7 of The Mandalorian and previous episodes below.**
To catch up on the previous six installments of the series (as well as join in the celebration of anything and everything to do with Star Wars), be sure to give a listen to SYFY WIRE's podcast Jabba the Pod, embedded at the bottom of this story.
TEAM MANDO AND THE RETURN TO NEVARRO
Baby Yoda soundly snores as the Mando gets a holo-call from Greef Karga. He tells Mando that he's still alive, and he guesses that they can "call it even." He says that The Client has imposed despotic rule over his town on Nevarro, and that the Imperial numbers have grown. He offers Mando a final commission — if he returns and helps him out, Mando can keep the child and be cleared with the guild. As he says, "... a man of honor should not be forced to live in exile."
Mando is going to go, but he's not going to go alone. We get the title of this installment, which is "Chapter 7 - The Reckoning." Mando then takes a trip through the season and puts together a team of his own. Finally!
His first stop is Sorgan (from Chapter 4), where he finds Cara Dune fighting (and beating) a Zabrak while connected to him via some kind of power coupling. Cara is resistant to Mando trying to recruit her, and when he says he thought she was a veteran, she says she's "been a lot of things since." What things might those be? We are so curious, but we don't find out. The second that Cara hears that their target is imperial, she says, "I'm in." Team member one: check!
Baby Yoda decides to have some fun with the controls of the Razor Crest, and Cara says they need someone to look after him. Who better than Nick Nolte the Ugnaught, aka Kuill? Soon enough we're landing on Arvala 7, and we are back with Kuill, who finally tells Mando what his name is. When Kuill remarks on Baby Yoda, Mando says he thinks he might be a "strand-cast." Kuill responds, “I don’t think it was engineered. I’ve worked in the gene farms. This one looks evolved. Too ugly.”
We don't know what a "strand-cast" is, but this and the "gene farms" line makes us think of cloning, and if Kuill doesn't think that cloning is involved, then neither do we. (We do take issue with the "too ugly" remark, however.) This is when a reprogrammed IG-11 enters with a tray of tea — Kuill found him and built him back up again. It was his right to do so, "in accordance with the Charter of the New Republic." Again, we don't know the specifics of that, but if Kuill says it, we believe it. After some huge doubts from our droid-hating Mando, Kuill assures him that the new IG-11 (still voiced by Taika Waititi, thankfully) is not a hunter any longer. He will protect.
Kuill will program him further for nursing and protocol, and he tells Mando, “Droids are not good or bad. They are neutral reflections of those who imprint them.” Mando says he's seen otherwise — likely during The Clone Wars, because we've already seen flashbacks of Super Battle Droids killing his family. Just to twist the knife a little further for Mando, Kuill says he's bringing his Blurrgs along too. The team is complete!
HEALED (AND CHOKED) BY THE FORCE
Mando and Cara arm-wrestle on their way to Nevarro, because there's always room for a little horseplay. Baby Yoda watches, thinks that Cara might be hurting his Dad, so he reaches out and starts to Force choke Cara. This ... was a shock. The only other characters in live-action (or any action) in the saga who we've seen do this are of course Darth Vader and then Kylo Ren — Luke Skywalker only ever did it once (alright twice), but we've never seen this done by someone so young, or so adorable. Mando stops the choke as Cara asserts, "That is not okay!"
After seeing this, Kuill says that the story Mando told him about the Mudhorn (Baby Yoda using the Force to make it float in Chapter 2) makes more sense. He's heard rumors of this ... presumably, rumors of the Force. That he doesn't know about the Force, or say it out loud, is a curious thing. He continues to have some friction with Cara, and flings off a tidbit that Ugnaughts may have a long life span ... he's seen enough s*** for "three human lifetimes." He's either being hyperbolic or giving us canon. Once again, because it is Kuill, we buy what he's selling.
After Cara shares a feeling with Mando that more is going on here than they realize, the ship lands on Nevarro and we are reunited with Karga and a couple of his idiots from the Guild. Team Mando strides off of the ship on Blurrgs. They decide to camp out close to town and go in when it is light. Despite Karga's protestations, Cara will come with them.
As Kuill feeds Baby Yoda that night, Karga talks about how much they Imps were willing to pay for the little guy. Right after saying, “Trust me, nothing can go wrong," a swarm of giant, poisonous bat creatures attacks the camp. Team Mando fights them off, but they lose two Blurrgs in the process. Karga himself is also wounded ... and poisoned. Cara does what she can, but it doesn't look good.
That's when Baby Yoda totters up, reaches out his hand, and heals Karga with the Force. We'll write that again because it bears repeating: He HEALS KARGA WITH THE FORCE. The poison is gone, and the wound closes.
This is not something we've seen before. The closest would be Obi-Wan Kenobi using a Force trance to help Luke recover from the Sand People in the very first Star Wars film. No other instances of "Force healing" canonically exist on this level — some video games and stories in the old legends did things like this; Jedi like Shaak Ti and Barriss Offee were among the ones that could do it — but in the new canon, and in full live action? This is new. What can't that little guy do? He can choke, he can heal, can he play Handel on a piano turned upside down and blindfolded? We're guessing yes.
When approaching the town the next day, Karga's guild friends try to get the draw on Mando and Cara. They don't get very far, because Karga takes his own guys down first. His original plan was to kill Mando and take the kid (shocking), but the events of the previous night have changed him. Experiences with the Force tend to do that.
After Cara makes it fully clear to them (and everyone watching) that, that's right, say it with us, "it's a trap," they form a new plan. Karga will go in with Mando acting like he has captured him, and when they get close to The Client, they'll take him out. Cara insists on coming, and Mando sends Baby Yoda back to the ship with Kuill. They take along the floating pram to try and make their ruse last a little longer.
Baby Yoda looks concerned as Kuill rides off with him, and we're a little concerned for our adorable, Force-choking friend ... but if we're gonna fully trust anyone in this series to look after him, once again, it is Kuill.
DEATH AND CHAOS
Arriving at the gates of the town, Mando, Cara, and Karga are greeted by two Imperial scout troopers, one of whom is played by Adam Pally. They ask to see chain codes, and Karga gets them through. There are a ton of stormtroopers around, and Cara voices her displeasure. Soon enough we arrive in a new Imperial enclave and are back with The Client.
Werner Herzog continues to play the kriff out of the role, first admiring Mando's new beskar armor. He then says, “Can I offer you a libation to celebrate the closing of our shared narrative?” We don't know if this was scripted, or if it was something that Herzog just said. It could go either way. An RA-7 series droid (aka a "Death Star droid") is tending bar — we famously saw them on the Death Star in the first film, but we also saw one on Jedha during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and one of them, AP-5, featured as a hilarious recurring character on Star Wars Rebels.
Herzog ... sorry, The Client ... then expounds a little on the troubles of the Mandos. "Why did Mandalore resist our expansion? The Empire improves every system it touches," he says. We know (and saw) Mandalore resist the Imperials in the Season 4 opening of Star Wars Rebels — the ongoing talk about a "great purge" in this series makes us think that things got worse after the events of those episodes.
"Compare Imperial rule to what is happening now ..." the Client says. "Look outside. Is the world more peaceful since the revolution? I see nothing but death and chaos.” Before he can check on Baby Yoda, he gets a call that he simply has to take. Over the holo, we finally see Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon. The Client begins the call with “Yes, Moff Gideon?”
That may not sound like a big deal, but it is.
"Moffs" have been in Star Wars since the beginning. Most of the Imperial stooges and flunkies use the title of "Moff," and even Governor Tarkin was given the special title of "Grand Moff." You see the title in the closing credits for the films, and you read the title in books — never, ever before, however, has the word "Moff" been said in a movie or a show. It's never said in film, and has never been said in animation. For the first time since 1977, someone on screen has finally said the word "Moff." It is oddly fitting that Werner Herzog gets that honor. Also, yes, this is something we get excited about. Moff!
MEET THE MOFF, GREET THE MOFF
The conversation is not long. Gideon asks if the child is with them, and Herzog says it is. Gideon suggests that he check again, and then suddenly the entire place starts getting blown away. The Client gets blasted (likely dead, unsure), and behind a now-crumbling wall we see a squad of death troopers assemble. We first saw these highly elite and cybernetically enhanced soldiers in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and since then have seen them in Star Wars Rebels and also spent some time with them in books. They are not to be underestimated.
Speaking of Star Wars Rebels, the next thing we see is an "Imperial Troop Transport" hover its way in and deploy a ton of stormtroopers. This vehicle was invented for that series (based on the classic trooper carrier toy), but it is now making its live-action debut.
Mando realizes they are neck-deep in poodoo, so he comms Kuill to get his status. Kuill is still on his way back to the ship with Baby Yoda, but unfortunately the scout troopers pick up this call, gun their bikes, and speed off after Kuill. Not great, Bob!
A classic TIE fighter flies in overhead, and lands in a very fancy wing-folding fashion, something else we've never seen in live action before. The top hatch pops open (another live-action first, sorry, but it is) and out comes Moff Gideon, looking cool, shiny, and confident.
He makes it simple: “You have something I want.” As we see the scout troopers close in on Kuill, he adds, “It means more to me than you will ever know.”
We then cut to Baby Yoda alone on the ground, getting scooped up by one of the scouts. No! Making this even worse, we pan over to the body of Kuill. He certainly looks dead, and his body is smoking. We think he has spoken his last ... our hearts break.
SO ... WHAT NOW, MANDO?
Where to start?? The amount of new canon and story brought into the mix in this episode was staggering. If viewers wanted to get back to the main tale after a series of "one-off" missions, well, here we are.
We seem to have a formidable villain in Moff Gideon, which is exactly what we'd expect from Giancarlo Esposito. We love that the Mando went around and gathered everyone from this season who wasn't horrible, but the death of Kuill hurts.
The most puzzling, intense, and exciting thing of all, though? Baby Yoda Force powers. The Force choke was insanely shocking, and the Force healing was impressive in a totally different way. We already understood why these Imperial holdouts would want to get their hands on this little guy — now we really know. Do we want to see Baby Yoda end this season by Force-choking an entire garrison of stormtroopers? Kind of, yeah.
One lingering thought — Jon Favreau did say that this show would "tease" the beginnings of the First Order, and we know that at this point most of what was left of the Imperial Remnant has scattered off to the Unknown Regions to regroup and begin that transformation. Will Moff Gideon and Baby Yoda's wild Force powers have anything to do with that? Everything and anything seems to be on the table at this point. If Moff happened, than anything can happen.
The Mandalorian will return for its Season 1 finale on December 27. For more on the Mando and everything else in the galaxy far, far away, be sure to listen and subscribe to Jabba the Pod. This is the way. Moff happened.