It’s been a while since I read the Bible, but I’m pretty sure there’s a proverb about how “When God takes away a Werner Herzog, he adds a Giancarlo Esposito.”
As this is the penultimate episode of The Mandalorian, it’s not a shock that it serves largely as set-up for what promises to be a pretty explosive finale; while “The Reckoning” is not the longest episode of the season to date (that would be episode six), it definitely takes its time with the pacing.
Things begin with Mando receiving an invitation from our ol’ buddy
Carl Weathers Greef Karga to get their stew on come back to Nevarro and take down The Client. Greef pitches this idea as mutually beneficial: He’ll be able to take control and get rid of the stormtroopers infesting the settlement, and the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda will be free of the hunters trying to track them down.
Mando decides to take Greef up on the deal, but knows better than to trust him, so he decides to go collect some people he does trust, dropping by Sorgan to enlist the help of Cara Dune as back-up, and then returning to Arvala-7 to ask Kuiil to babysit Baby Yoda. Kuiil has conditions for helping, specifically that he gets to bring his blurrgs as well as the IG-11 droid that Mando killed in Chapter 1, but that Kuiil has since reprogrammed. Mando is okay with the blurrgs but very much not okay with the droid (his argument is that this particular droid can’t be trusted, though his tragic backstory might also indicate other bias).
The MandoSquad, including Baby Yoda in a sick new whip crafted by Kuiil, meets up with Greef and his people a day’s journey outside of town. Everyone’s pretty wary of each other, though not nearly wary enough of winged creatures who attack them that night. One gouges Greef badly, and its poison comes close to killing him... until Baby Yoda steps and lays his healing hands upon the wounds, which heal with Force magic.
Greef, having confronted his mortality, changes the plan the next day, shooting his own men and confessing to the MandoSquad that he actually did plan to betray them and hand over Baby Yoda. Mando decides then to change the plan, sending Kuiil back to the Razor Crest on blurrg-back with Baby Yoda while he, Greef and Cara head into town with the sealed-up baby “pram” (as the Client later calls it).
Cara’s playing the role of bounty hunter here (and after repeated reminders, does eventually cover up the tattoos that reveal her past as a shock trooper), but she’s very, very uneasy, especially when the number of stormtroopers roaming around the settlement turns out to be a much much bigger number than four, even inside the Client’s quarters.
The Client plays host (by the way, if “a libation to celebrate the closing of our shared narrative?” wasn’t a Werner Herzog adlib, I’ll eat my shoe) while Mando slips out of his cuffs and Greef slips him a blaster, but just when they’re about to make their move, the Client gets a call from a man he calls Moff Gideon — just before getting killed by a rain of blaster fire.
The MandoSquad takes cover while Mando calls Kuiil, telling him to bail on the planet with Baby Yoda rather than wait for them. Unfortunately, some of the stormtroopers overhear the call, and take off on speeder bikes...
...while the aforementioned Moff Gideon makes a truly baller entrance, striding through a crowd of stormtroopers to inform his pinned-down prey that “you might think you have some idea of what you’re in possession of, but you do not, and in a few moments it will be mine.” And, sure enough, the episode ends with the stormtroopers successfully retrieving Baby Yoda, leaving behind the bodies of Kuiil and his blurrg.
Plot-wise, “The Reckoning” is very clearly a prologue, but while that aspect is frustrating, the script by Jon Favreau and Deborah Chow’s direction take advantage of the lulls to develop out the characters more than ever.
Mando and Cara’s casual friendship, especially the playful arm wrestling, was a welcome touch. When the lead character of your show never shows his damn face, it can be tricky to bring out his humanity. Learning as much as we do about Kuiil’s backstory — specifically, just how hard he had worked to create a life of peace for himself — gives his death at the end far greater weight than it would have otherwise. And the Client’s quiet musings about whether life without the Empire in control is really all that much better brings up the sort of grey areas that we don’t often get from the big-screen Star Wars stories.
That said, something I’ve been wondering about over the course of the season is how easy it would be to take the plot of all eight episodes and condense it down to approximately two hours or so. Maybe it’s because this show feels like Jon Favreau came to Disney with a feature film pitch and the execs said “nah, but what about a TV show?” Maybe it’s because, minus credits and the “Previously on...” recaps, the first seven episodes of The Mandalorian have a total runtime of approximately 232 minutes.
That’s long, to be sure (The Irishman comes in at 210 minutes), but with some pretty judicious cutting, it wouldn’t be hard to get that runtime down. As fun as Amy Sedaris’s Ripley wig and a horny Clancy Brown were, Chapters 5 and 6 currently appear to be pretty much completely non-essential to the plot as it stands — Chapter 7 indicates as much by barely referencing them in the “Previously on...”s. Just drop those two episodes, and you’re down to 164 minutes without touching a single one of Mando’s side quests in the first half of the season.
This isn’t technically a complaint — stories can originate one way and then be altered to fit new models. (Fun fact: Sam Esmail originally wrote Mr. Robot as a stand-alone feature film, before deciding to try it as a television series.) But it is a way of understanding the structure of the season, especially as the tragic death of Kuiil is a pretty classic indicator that we’ve reached the end of this story’s second act. Which means the finale will have to deliver an entire third act’s worth of punch, while also potentially setting up what to expect for season two. Fortunately, Chapter 7 seems to have gotten all the set-up out of the way. Now, it’s time for battle.
- It’s hard to be sure just how much time has passed over the course of the season — Cara’s hair does look a little longer, though, and Kuiil being surprised that Baby Yoda is still baby-sized seems to indicate months, as opposed to weeks.
- Baby Yoda, you may be very cute, and you may be literally magic, but you are also TOO YOUNG TO DRIVE.
- “Trust me, nothing can go wrong.” You just had to say it, Greef, didn’t you.
- Um, exactly how big is the Mandalorian’s ship? Blurrgs are not small creatures, and Kuiil packed three of them! Is the Razor Crest secretly a TARDIS?
- The Mandalorian has done a nice job of reminding us, all season long, that unless you’re hanging around with Skywalkers, the idea of the Force being real is pretty much science fiction. (Or whatever you call it when you live in space. Oh. Fantasy. That’s what you’d call it.)
- Thanks to Katie for letting me fill in this week — she should be back for the finale! Bet some stuff is gonna go down.