The new episode of The Mandalorian, like “The Passenger,” is a whiz-bang blast of Star Wars fun, but doesn’t advance the story as much as we’d like.
With the poorly repaired Razor Crest struggling, Mando decides to get help on the planet Navarro, where Cara Dune (Gina Carano) is now an Aqualish-swatting town marshal. Leaving Baby Yoda in the new school, Dune and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) take Mando to see the blue-gilled bookkeeper Mythrol (Horatio Sanz), whom Mando froze in carbonite in the series premiere. Dune and Karga ask Mando to help them clear out an old Imperial base still operating on the planet.
Mythrol ferries Mando, Karga and Dune to the Imperial base: the plan is to vaporize the installation by detonating the power reactors, but they find more resistance than expected. With the reactor set to blow and the clock ticking, Mando and company discover the base is actually some kind of bizarre Imperial Frankenstein’s lab where Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) is attempting (and failing) to infuse living beings with the blood he harvested previously from Baby Yoda—and now he needs more.
Mando takes off to collect Baby Yoda while the others fight their way out of the base and commandeer a Trexler Marauder. A wild speedbike canyon chase follows. TIE fighters pursue our heroes, who are saved by Mando with a nifty bit of aerial dogfighting in the Razor Crest. Cara Dune is tempted to return to the ranks of the New Republic armed forces. An Imperial spy has placed a tracking device aboard the Razor Crest and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) plans his revenge.
This fun-but-unfocused episode is basically a reunion for the cast members of season 1. Enter the steely-eyed Cara Dune and Greef Karga, who have cleaned out the scum and villainy and turned the Navarro spaceport into a thriving trading post (there’s even a school, taught by a female-voiced C-3PO unit). We also get appearances from Mythrol, Dr. Pershing (via hologram) and a brief visit by Moff Gideon.
One magical aspect of Star Wars has always been the rough-edged feel of its lived-in universe. The battered Razor Crest, flying along after getting a shoestring fixit job, struggles along like so many other half-junk jalopies on the Outer Rim. Another Star Wars signature is plenty of cuteness and good-guy earnestness flowing against all that dark side evil, and “The Seige” supplies it in scenes like the opening blue wire/red wire comedy bit between Mando and Baby Yoda, the warm reunion of Mando with Dune and Karga, blue cookies eaten and barfed, etc.
The Mandalorian continues to delight us with familiar aliens, such as the grumbly, bum-faced Aqualish. Up until now, their most famous member was Ponda Baba, who had his arm amputated by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope. We see a Cyborg 3 Protocol droid, a landspeeder, speeder bikes, and a running chase through the familiar-looking corridors of the Imperial base, complete with the same old reactor control stations. This episode is stacked with more Star Wars nostalgia than usual.
There’s plenty to like in “The Siege.” We see how traditional Mandalorians (cultists like Mando) eat and drink without removing their helmets. The action sequences, too, are exciting and layered. And it’s damn fortunate that the ever-bumbling Stormtroopers still can’t hit the broad side of a Bantha at point-blank range.
But … “The Siege,” like “The Passenger,” falls into a trap The Mandalorian as a whole should work hard to avoid: the overindulgent side quest. Between superb, narrative-driven episodes like “The Marshal” and “The Heiress,” this episode is fun to watch but veers too hard into action spectacle at the cost of story development. For example, when we see Cara Dune sigh with relief after Mando flames the threatening TIE fighters, we feel no relief or catharsis—because there was no real peril and nothing important at stake.
Every episode of The Mandalorian thus far has been fun — it’s hard to go wrong when all the component parts are this strong. But it’s mystifying to me that the creatives won’t bend their considerable talents towards stories that advance the overall narrative.