The Mandalorian has done a lot of work toward making a lot of things frightening that have frankly been jokes in the past. In a previous article, we talked about how “Sanctuary” did that with the AT-ST; but the Sandcrawler and the Jawas got that treatment way back in “The Child.”
Take the second half of “The Prisoner,” for example. This episode overall was pretty good: Famuyiwa’s direction was frantic and distinct, the music took a gritty, electronic turn, and the guest acting—particularly Natalia Tena’s turn as the twi’lek knife freak Xi’An—was captivating. But the really excellent part about this episode is the turn it takes at the twenty-minute mark. It’s been a heist/jailbreak for the first half, but with Mando’s escape from the cell, it becomes an alien attack story—and Mando is the alien. It has all the hallmarks: dark, flickering lighting, enclosed spaces, repeated sets, Mando moving toward Mayfeld in jumps with every strobe of the lights around him.
We haven’t seen Mandalorians (or at least those in Mandalorian armor) so frightening in live-action Star Wars before. Boba Fett is almost laughable in Return of the Jedi, originally presented as this terrifying bounty hunter prone to premature disintegrations, feared even by Han Solo and Chewie—until he meets his untimely end, ignobly and accidentally, at the hands of the Sarlacc (or did he?) during a fight against Luke, having done next to nothing other than take delivery of a quarry Vader already captured. Jango does a little better in the prequels; but we only ever see him doing skulduggery against Padme, barely holding his own against Obi-Wan, and then being quickly dispatched by Mace Windu. In this episode, we see why the Mandalorians are feared as dangerous hunters and fierce warriors throughout the galaxy: because to anyone who isn’t a Jedi, they are. He single-handedly takes down four hyper-skilled mercenaries, a handful of prison guard droids, and a droid that was literally trying to shoot a baby in a basket (that’s like three different metaphors he’s trying to mix there).
So Mandalorians look good this time around. They’ve grown better, cooler, more interesting. And compared to this old crew that he used to run with, so has Mando. Grown more beautiful, I mean. If you don’t want to grow angry, grow a Disney+ subscription and watch The Mandalorian because spoilers approach from a vector that only a droid could fly.
That Was A Long Time Ago
Don’t go to high school reunions, it’s always a disappointment. Partially because everyone else is still the same, and while all the old rivalries are covered over with years of regret, perspective, and fleeting memory, they’re still there.
But they’re also disappointments because we don’t feel how much we’ve grown until we’re around people who show us what we used to be; and we don’t like the reminder. For Mando, that was Xi’an, Zero, Mayfeld, Burg, Ran, and Qin. Reminders of who he used to be; literally (as in the case of Ran, and the Twi’lek) or figuratively, something in each of these four men, one woman, and one droid dredge up old memories of a life he’d rather forget.
We’ve seen throughout the series that Mando doesn’t rely on anyone, if he can help it—he is a man who doesn’t readily trust (one has to wonder if Xi’an and the others are why); and in the events so far, he’s had to do it a lot. But it might not be a good idea, since they’re all mad at Mando, and we don’t know why until they open the cell with Qin inside.
I Know Who You Really Are
Something happened back on Alzoc III, and Mando doesn’t want to talk about it. Perhaps that’s when Qin was left behind. Maybe everything just fell apart. But Xi’an is certain that, by invoking the name of the planet and the fact that he liked what went down, that she knows who Mando is and what makes him tick; probably something cruel and unkind, almost certainly something violent. His worst moment defines him, she insists. Maybe even imprisons him. “I know who you really are.”
It’s hard to deny that “Baby Yoda” has made Mando a better person. Back in the article for Chapter 2, we looked at how he saved Mando; but we’ve had enough of a look at the show’s hero to know for sure that Baby Yoda has changed Mando, too. Would a man who “enjoyed” whatever happened on Alzoc III have stayed to protect the people of Sorgan? Or agreed to help a young bounty hunter wannabe in Mos Eisley? Or even have gone back to get The Child back from The client’s hideout in the first place? He never even froze the kid in carbonite on their way back.
And, sure; something else might’ve happened on Alzoc III. But with the relish and delight Xi’an takes in relaying the tale, I am convinced that it could only be worse. Burg might be the Devaronian, but Xi’an is more like Satan; she claims to know Mando and accuses him accordingly. “You’re just like us, Mando. You haven’t changed, Mando. Take off your mask and be part of this family again.”
He seems unhappy, even entrapped as she tells it. He has no escape from his past. Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer writes,
Mando is a prisoner, too—of his past, his tribe, and his armor. He’s trapped by his training, which hasn’t taught him to take care of anyone else, to ask questions, or to form plans beyond making money and completing his immediate mission. He rescued the Child, but he’s having trouble breaking free of his former life.
“I know who you really are.”
But he isn’t anymore.
Just Like the Good Old Days
Maybe you feel trapped by who you were before you heard of Christ. Whether you’re a Christian or not, this imprisonment might be stopping you from diving deep and finding out more about Jesus; surely the weight of your former self would drag you down. Should I really grow and become something more, or should I just give in and be what they think I am? Am I fooling myself to think I can be better?
Growth is out there. But you can’t do it alone.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
—Philippians 1:6, ESV
Baby Yoda has changed Mando; he’s become the type of man who could almost settle down on Sorgan with a beautiful young widow and raise the Child, sipping spotchka. While he still has a long way to go, he has changed. He doesn’t run with that crowd anymore.
When your Xi’an comes to accuse you of not changing, to throw you back into that prison, the answer is simple: Jesus has begun a good work in you. He is responsible for your growth. He will sanctify you.