With Tatooine in the figurative tail lights of the Razorcrest, The Mandalorian’s “The Prisoner” opens with the helmeted fugitive seeking out old criminal acquaintances for work. In short, it’s a heist plot to recover a prisoner supposedly captured by a rival gang. While the job ends up being more than promised, “The Prisoner” serves a wonderful example of how to bring up a character’s past, notably one a bit shady, and highlight how they have changed. As the last standalone episode of the season, it lets the Mandalorian’s actions speak louder than his words.
As noted, the Mandalorian has sought out an old gang leader, name not really important, in search of a job. It’s a job that the Mandalorian only gets because of his ship, which is somehow off the registries of both the Empire and the New Republic. Joining him in the enterprise are: a droid (Mando is less than pleased); a twi’lek named Xi’an, who hints that the two may have had some kind of relationship in the past; a sharpshooter, Mayfield; and a Devaronian named Burg, the muscle of the group, played by none other than animated Star Wars alum Clancy Brown, hidden in red paint. From the beginning, it’s clear that it’s company the Mandalorian puts up with, and does not enjoy. Particularly so when they discover Baby Yoda and treat him akin to a pet, or when they attempt to pressure the Mandalorian into removing his mask. While those actions are annoying, the fortunes of the mission don’t change until it’s revealed the captive in question is being held on a New Republic prisoner transport ship. The Mandalorian balks until promised that it’s entirely run by droids, but it’s our first sign of how our hero has grown beyond his former compatriots.
Aboard the New Republic vessel, we get to see the Mandalorian decisively take out security droids. He express his anti-droid feelings once again, impresses his temporary teammates in the process, and then makes the discovery that the crew is entirely droids. In the cockpit of the ship, they find a human New Republic soldier played by Matt Lanter, the longtime voice actor behind The Clone Wars’ Anakin Skywalker. The Mandalorian goes so far as to draw his blasters on Mayfield and Burg, trying to protect the soldier, only to have Xi’an fling a knife into somewhere vital. The New Republic officer drops to the floor, along with his tracking beacon to call for an X-wing strike. With the vessel now truly only manned by droids, the group find their prisoner and the cell, releasing another twi’lek, who happens to be Xi’an’s brother, Qin. The moment offers barely enough time for viewers to register that things did not end well between Qin and the Mandalorian before the team turns on the helmeted hero and locks him in Qin’s cell.
Should anyone want to make a film where a Mandalorian is the frightful antagonist of a horror story, the “The Prisoner” offers a recipe for the traditional take-down of one person after another by an angry armored warrior. In a series of short segments, we watch as our betrayed protagonist takes out each member of the team in turn, including Xi’an, who was mercilessly left behind by her brother. Unlike a horror movie villain, though, Mando has not killed them: the trio instead are enclosed in a cell, as a surprise gift to the New Republic.
While alarms on the vessel blare, the Mandalorian makes it back to his ship, joining the sole escapee of his ire, Qin, and the droid, who had stayed aboard the Razorcrest as the mission’s remote support. In something of a side story through the rescue, the droid had taken an interest in Baby Yoda, and just as it prepared to take advantage of a bounty to bring in the small one dead (versus alive), the Mandalorian reprograms its central processing unit with a blaster hole.
Minus the droid, the Mandalorian, Qin, and Baby Yoda arrive safely at the space station lair of the gang leader, who is a little surprised by the return of his former criminal colleague. Qin is veritably shoved off the Razorcrest and the Mandalorian receives his pay, then promptly flies off. Only then do the others notice a beeping sound emitting from Qin: the tracking device that fell from the murdered New Republic soldier. Cue a trio of X-wings dropping out of hyperspace, piloted by three of the show’s directors: Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, and Dave Filoni. Showing perhaps disturbingly little interest in confirming that the station belongs to anyone but an enemy of the New Republic, the X-wings light it up with torpedoes and head off on their merry way, with the Mandalorian long gone.
Directed by Famuyiwa, his second episode of the season, “The Prisoner” provides a solid and entertaining one-shot entry into the Mandalorian’s and Baby Yoda’s travels through the stars. Without relying on much exposition or flashbacks, it demonstrates how to show the evolution of a character over time. Given the success of both “The Prisoner” and his earlier “The Child,” it’s hopeful that Famuyiwa will be invited back to direct more Star Wars, whether The Mandalorian or another show or film.
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