November 22, 2020

Streamin' Meemies: The Mandalorian Season 2 Ep 4, "The Siege"



 The Mandalorian's sweet spot for episode length is 30-40 minutes, seems like. Which is okay, as this show doesn't have--or doesn't yet have--the depth of themes and character found in some other shows I watch (particularly The Expanse and Star Trek: Picard). Again, this is fine: bright, cheery and occasionally mindless is fun too. But when you get action-heavy episodes like this one, you wish--or at least I do--that they would slow down just a bit, to let the show breathe and the characters reflect. 

This picks up right after the ending of episode 3, with Mando now knowing where to take Baby Yoda...except that he can't get there, as the Razor Crest is still broken down. The opening scene is quite funny, with Mando trying to fix the hyperdrive and even utilizing the baby, who has wiggled into a small compartment and is attempting to follow Daddy's instructions to "insert the red wire where the blue wire was, and the blue wire where the red wire was, and don't let them touch." (This must be a major jury-rigging of the system, since I can't imagine that the ship would have been designed so that such a crucial component could only be reached by a tiny green Yodaling.) Baby lets them touch, of course, and sparks fly and smoke drifts out of the compartment (don't worry, he's okay). After this Mando stops for lunch--soup--and tells Baby Yoda the ship must be repaired and they're going to Nevarro. This is another sweet scene, as baby is carefully watching Daddy and lifting his  cup to drink at the same time Mando drinks his. 

They limp back to Nevarro (and there must be some more time dilation going on here, as I got the impression that several months had passed), to find that Greef Carga and Cara Dune, from last season, are running the place now. Cara Dune is the Marshal and has cleaned up the most of the planet, as shown by the scene where she quite ably kicks the asses of several ugly growly aliens who have stolen something. She also rescues a little chittering critter they were about to eat that looks like a cross between a rat, an otter and a mongoose.

Mando lands the poor battered Razor Crest (he can't even get the off ramp to drop all the way down and has to jump off it), and Greef Carga gets his mechanics started on fixing it. He and Cara take Mando on a tour of the cleaned-up town, and stop at someplace I don't think has been shown in Star Wars before: a school, helmed by a protocol droid. They drop Baby Yoda off there, as both Greef and Cara want Mando's help with something. 

(Baby Yoda is really too young to be in school, but he's distracted by the bright blue macaroon cookies the student sitting next to him is eating. He waves his little hand and asks for a cookie, but the student turns him down. He waits a minute, until the student is distracted by the lesson, and uses the Force to drag the cookie sleeve off the other's desk and to his own, and when the other student looks around, baby is happily munching on his stolen cookies.)

This "something" turns out to be a mission to shut down an old Imperial base, supposedly staffed by a skeleton crew.  (This falls into the now-predictable series pattern of "Mando is talked or coerced into doing something dangerous before he can proceed to the next stop on his quest," which is okay, I suppose.) The group--Cara, Greeg and Mando, plus a fourth: Mythrol, the bright blue amphibian-creature Mando dragged back for a bounty in the very first episode of the series--set off in Mythrol's landspeeder. 

They reach the base, only to discover (of course) it's not quite as abandoned as Greef Carga thought. They slink through the hallways and finally reach the reactor, only to find it perched on the cliff above a lava pool with no guardrails. (Obviously OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, does not exist in the Star Wars universe.) Greef Carga bullies Mythrol into going out on the catwalk and sabotaging it, which he does. Then they run to get out of there before the reactor explodes and the base falls into the lava, only to stumble across a room where two people are frantically trying to wipe all records from a computer. 

This is the point of this episode, as the base was not hiding an armory as Greef thought, but a lab. A lab containing the twisted, mutated bodies of several beings floating in stasis. Cara insists that Mythrol break into the computer to find out what is going on. He does, and finds a message recorded only three days before, from the same scientist who was shown to be doing something to Baby Yoda in Season 1: using the baby's blood, with its high "M-count" (presumably midichlorians), in experimental transfusions to create....something. Which evidently didn't work, as the test subjects died and the scientist didn't have access to any more blood. This message was sent to Moff Gideon, who everyone had thought was dead. 

But Moff Gideon isn't dead, and Mando realizes he is in deep, deep shit. The four of them fight their way out; Mando to flies off with his jetpack to Baby Yoda, and Greef, Cara and Mythrol hijack a vehicle and lead first three Stormtroopers on speeder bikes and then four TIE fighters on a merry chase. (This is a slam-bang action sequence, by the way, tightly directed by Carl Weathers [who also plays Greef Carga]. I don't know if he's directed anything before, but he did a good job with this.) They do their best to outrun and shoot down their pursuers, but they're outnumbered--that is, until the Razor Crest swoops in and blasts the last three TIE fighters into fragments. This involves a great deal of spinning and swooping, with Baby Yoda cheering Daddy on and excitedly waving his cookies. (The Razor Crest's cockpit must have some helluva artificial gravity, as the neither Mando or Baby Yoda are belted in, but they're not thrown around or battered into mush during all of those fancy maneuvers.) As the last fighter falls in pieces to Nevarro's surface, Mando looks around in triumph--and Baby Yoda, made sick by all the spinning, promptly vomits. (And Mando has nothing to mop it up with except his cape. I wonder how he does laundry?)

After this, knowing he has to hide from Moff Gideon, Mando takes off. The last two scenes are on Nevarro: Captain Teva, the New Republic officer from two episodes ago, comes to question Greef Carga about the destruction of the base. Neither Greef nor Cara Dune gives Mando up, of course. Teva also talks to Cara, in a nice little scene that shows that Cara, as a refugee from Alderaan who "lost everyone," wants nothing to do with the New Republic, at least for now. 

But we're not quite done yet. The final scene shifts to a Star Destroyer, and we see the very much alive Moff Gideon. He gets a report from a spy on Nevarro--one of Greef Carga's mechanics--who informs him that the tracking device has been placed on the Razor Crest, and Mando does indeed still have "the asset." The camera pulls back to show Moff Gideon presiding over a hold full of--what? beings, perhaps clones, wearing black, very Darth Vader-looking armor? In any event, we know that Mando is now headed to find Ahsoka Tano, and Moff Gideon won't be far behind.

This episode definitely moved the plot along and ramped up the stakes. I can't fault it for that, but I still feel the show needs to delve into its characters a bit more, particularly given the bombshell dropped on Mando in the last episode. We need to see how he deals with that, or I'm going to be grumbling at Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.

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