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The Mandalorian spent its first six episodes in a non-stop sprint to tether together every corner of the galaxy – Cobb Vanth! Bo-Katan Kryze! Ahsoka Tano! Boba Fett! – so it’s natural that “The Believer” might feel like a return to basics. This latest entry offers no new (significant) faces, no major twists in the plot.
As teased last week, “The Believer” sees Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) track down a former acquaintance, Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), now a New Republic prisoner. As a former Imperial sharpshooter, he’s their best hope of sourcing the location of Moff Gideon’s cruiser, so that Grogu can be liberated from his tiny, tiny handcuffs.
With the help of Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) – a truly rag-tag band of allies – they descend on a secret Imperial mining hub on Morak, where a terminal promises to give them the information they need.
Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa has delivered a spiritual sequel to last season’s “The Prisoner”, where Din and Mayfeld first crossed paths. It’s another high-tension tale of infiltration and fragile alliances. But “The Believer” is also deceptively simple. The action here may be straightforward – a whizz of punches, tumbles, laser blasts, and twirling spaceships – but it’s also the first time The Mandalorian has vocalised the themes it’s been quietly establishing all season.
As Mayfeld makes clear, in a short speech he delivers to Din, oppression can wear many faces. As the pair drive through a small, poverty-stricken settlement, he points out that, Republic or Empire, “invaders on their land is all we are”. After all, he’s only just been rescued from a New Republic outpost where prisoners were being forced into unpaid labour, picking through the rusted-out hulls of TIE fighters.
It’s hard not to think, in that moment, of DJ’s personal philosophy in The Last Jedi – “It's all a machine, partner. Live free, don't join.” He's being unabashedly cynical, but The Mandalorian has given his ideas some weight.
Here, X-wing pilots are no longer rebels, but the enforcers of a system. Their self-declared moral purity has been exposed, just as George Lucas, in the prequels, challenged the sanctity of a Jedi Order that would do nothing to help the slaves of Tatooine, including Anakin’s own mother. That betrayal was the first step in Anakin’s fall to the dark side.
What’s so crucial about “The Believer” is the way it connects the franchise back to its original intentions, when Lucas first imagined the Rebel Alliance as a star-bound Viet Cong, and his film as a subtle condemnation of the Vietnam War.
Although it might be packaged in the format of old serials and space adventures, Star Wars is, at its heart, a political allegory, asking what it means to fight against the powers that be. The Mandalorian adds a little extra nuance to the question.
Mayfeld’s words have a clear effect on Din, who has Bo-Katan’s dismissal of the Way of the Mandalore as a cult still rattling around in his head. He’s dedicated his life to a certain, rigid set of beliefs – but to what end?
It’s a thrilling takeaway, even if we’ve just experienced an entire, Grogu-less episode.