The Mandalorian The Prisoner Review

Naturally, there are spoilers here.

With nowhere left to turn, the Mandalorian looks up an old ally from his days working on a crew. This character, played by Mark Boone Junior, has a job for him: breaking onto a New Republic prison ship, breaking out a prisoner, and escaping. The Mando is sent with a crew that consists of an ex-Imperial sharp-shooter (Bill Burr), the Devaronian muscle (Clancy Brown), a droid (Richard Ayoade), and his old flame, a purple Twi’lek played by Natalia Tena. The Mandalorian is suspicious when his ship is what’s needed for the job and the droid, who he already doesn’t trust, is the one who needs to pilot it.

Eventually, the team puts aside their differences, makes it aboard the prison ship, and find themselves in a standoff with a New Republic Security guard (Matt Lanter.) When the officer is killed and a beacon has gone off alerting the New Republic to trouble, the team works to complete the job. With the clock ticking, they free the prisoner (Ismael Cruz Cordova), but it’s a double-cross. The Mandalorian is left in a prison cell while the rest make way for the Razor Crest to escape.

The only problem is that they’ve underestimated the Mando. He breaks out and hunts the crew down one by one as he makes his way back to his ship and the fan-named Baby Yoda. Then, after he’s victorious, they head off into the stars for their next adventure.

From Reservoir Dogs to Aliens

This episode brought Rick Famuyiwa back into the director’s chair and he might be my favorite of the roster so far. Coupled with a sharp script that he co-wrote with Christopher Yost, this episode simply sings. We’re dropped into the next phase of the Mandalorian’s story like it was the deep end of a pool and we’re given more hints about his background. He used to run with a crew like this before settling with his secret tribe of Mandos and it seems as though he was involved with the Twi’lek we’re introduced to. She is just one of a batch of brand new characters that I hope we could spend more time with.

Chief among them is the character played by Mark Boone, Jr. He evokes the same sort of Godfather vibe as Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs as he introduces all of the members of the team; the only thing missing are the color based codenames. The would-be shootout with the security guard reminds one instantly of the standoff that ends Reservoir Dogs, though this one ends with the cop being the only one dead instead of the only one living. 

The episode takes a turn into horror once the Mandalorian is trapped and escapes. Alien and Aliens come to mind, with the flashing lights and sci-fi corridors while group of well-armed individuals hunt a hidden threat. The Mandalorian plays the part of Xenomorph and we’re left to watch him hunt from the perspective of the prey. There are more flourishes from Aliens than just the hunt, though. The scene in The Razor Crest where the crew is getting ready for the mission is reminiscent of the drop ship sequences in Aliens, where the marines each jockey for attention and to impress Ripley.

What to look out for

One of the best things about this episode is the shocking number of cameos and guest stars from all kinds of different places. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to Mark Boone Junior of Sons of Anarchy and Memento fame as someone who used to run jobs with the Mando. Then we get The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayaode as a fascinating new droid named Zero. Harry Potter fans will recognize Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks) as the Twi’lek who used to be involved with the Mandalorian. Her brother is played Ismael Cruz Cordova, who gained fame on Sesame Street playing a character named…Mando.

There was a distinct influx of The Clone Wars actors in this episode, too. The Devaronian muscle is played by none other than Clancy Brown. Some might recognize him as the Kurgan from Highlander, others as Mr. Krabs from Spongebob, but this is at least his third role in Star Wars. In The Clone Wars he played Maul’s brother Savage Opress and in Star Wars Rebels he played the former governor of Lothal, Ryder Azadi. He was joined by Matt Lanter in this episode. Lanter played that security guard that caused the standoff and he was actually Anakin Skywalker from The Clone Wars. And the X-Wing pilot known as Trapper Wolf? Dave Filoni himself.

Filoni wasn’t the only X-Wing pilot cameo, though. He was joined by director Rick Famuyiwa as “Jib Dodger” and Deborah Chow as “Sash Ketter.”

The episode also has some references that Star Wars fans will likely catch. First, the scene where they come across a mouse droid is sort of like an evil inverse of the scene in A New Hope where Chewbacca roars at one. Second, the droids that patrol the ship (and get dismantled by the Mandalorian) look as though they’re the New Republic version of KX-series Security Droids. Instead of black, they’re decked out in white with orange New Republic phoenix symbols on the back. 

The last thing I’d point out is the uniform Matt Lanter wears for the New Republic. It’s blue, just like the pilot costumes we’ve seen in Star Wars Resistance, and it’s coupled with the sort of egg-shaped helmet you’ll remember from the Tantive IV in Rogue One and A New Hope. Bill Burr’s character points out his shoes as being nice, though, and they appear to be the same sort you’d find Stormtroopers wearing. An odd mix of old and new.

Coda

This might be my favorite episode of the show so far. The episode builds on the intrigue of the job and the new characters, slowly creeping toward the climax. Famuyiwa’s use of wipes kept the pace up and dragged you from moment to moment when he played fast and loose with the timing of events. When you’re obscuring so much from the audience in order to create reveals for them—such as perceived deaths and then reveal of the jail cell at the end of the episode—it’s important to keep things moving and keep the audience’s attention exactly where you want it. Famuyiwa’s blend of the transitions, cinematic ellipses, and musical cues was perfect for accomplishing the magic trick and it makes me think he might be the strongest director in the show’s stable.

This episode was a great mix of action, suspense, comedy, and fun. Everything you’d want from an episode of a show like The Mandalorian. With two episodes left, it will be interesting to see how they transition back from the episodic western serials and into something that brings back the over-arching story that was promised in the first three episodes of the show.

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