Ricky Church reviews the sixth episode of The Mandalorian….
After last week’s rather mediocre episode, The Mandalorian has bounced back in a big way with ‘The Prisoner’ in an episode riddled with tension and nice action as Rick Famuyiwa returned to the director’s chair. With an entertaining story draped in the heist genre along with some new, though at times mildly irritating, characters, ‘The Prisoner’ is the series’ second strongest episode after ‘The Sin’.
It’s interesting how over the last couple of episodes since Mando broke from the Guild we’ve seen him working with others instead of being the solitary figure he was initially assumed to be. But rather than working with another lone fighter, the biggest aspect to ‘The Prisoner’ was Mando working as a member of a team aiming to do a prison break on a New Republic ship. It was a very different setting for the character to be in but a very refreshing one that threw plenty of curveballs into the story. The twists provided a nice amount of well crafted tension as each moment during the heist/rescue just kept upping the ante in ways that felt natural to the story instead of just drama for drama’s sake alongside some well choreographed action beats.
The action featured a nice variety as the group had to contend with droids and then Mando hunted down the others one by one using a combination of stealth and brute force. Placing all the characters in such cramped quarters like the hallways or the small control room just added to the tension and brutality of the fights as Mando would often find himself surrounded by droids or physically outmatched with very little room. It has been a little while since we’ve got to see Mando utilize his skills in this manner so it was a nice and very welcome reminder just how dangerous he really is.
Mando’s companions were an interesting bunch with nice guest stars. Among the crew were Bill Burr, Clancy Brown, Natalia Tena, Richard Ayoade and Ismael Cruz Cordova as the eclectic group with Mark Boone Junior as their handler. They had an interesting dynamic and brought something new to the series. Each actor gave a good performance, with Burr and Tena being the stand outs among them, and they sell their own dangerous skills throughout their mission. Brown gives off a fairly intimidating presence as the towering alien Burg and his fight against Mando is one of the most memorable moments here. The cameos from others in the Star Wars franchise, like The Clone Wars‘ Matt Lanter or the directing trio of Famuyiwa, Dave Filoni and Deborah Chow, were also pretty neat Easter eggs to throw in. Whereas the directors were somewhat of a throwaway bit of fun for them, Lanter’s actually held a lot of significance for both the story and the characters as Mando had to grapple with a moral dilemma.
However, some of these characters could be a bit irritating at times, particularly Brown who, despite his intimidation, is played too much as the dumb one for laughs while Burr’s Mayfeld couldn’t stop cracking one-liners and being pretty snarky. Tena’s Xi’an and Ayoade’s droid Zero had moments where the levity was a bit much too, but they still weren’t quite as bad as the other two. ‘The Prisoner’ would have been better served if the humour was more balanced and relegated to one character instead of everyone. The one positive of this, though, is that the child aka Baby Yoda was put more in the background to the episode, though he did get a compelling sequence of his own as Zero hunted him on the ship. It’s a good move for the show at this point to rely less on Baby Yoda’s cuteness and humour and allow other characters to take his place in that regard.
‘The Prisoner’ was a very nice bounce back for the series after last week’s episode with a compelling story and insane fights. Famuyiwa’s direction is solid and the action scenes in this episode come pretty close to topping ‘The Sin’s big sequence. The guest cast was pretty good, though their characters could be a little annoying with all their humourous elements. Despite the lack of balance between the drama and the humour, the latest Mandalorian succeeds in nearly every other area with its compelling story and neat action.