The Mandalorian Delivers Some Depth to Discussion
Some minor spoilers ahead
Finally. It’s taken several episodes, but finally, all the elements in The Mandalorian coalesce to deliver another great episode of television by any standard, Star Wars or otherwise. It’s not the tautest adventure so far by any means, but it works well. I watched The Mandalorian “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” alongside my parents, and despite never having seen The Mandalorian before now, they were invested, laughing at the scant moments of levity and gasping at the suitably tense sequences. That sort of immediate investment in characters is hard to manufacture, and it speaks to the emotional authenticity and general dramatic craftsmanship displayed in The Mandalorian “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” under director Deborah Chow.
The Mandalorian “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” is one of the finest episodes of the series so far, where characters move beyond the stasis of archetypal roles and actions have significant consequences.
When I say all the elements coalesce, I do mean that quite literally: as I have been hoping for several episodes now, our Mando assembles a crew from the allies he encountered previously—Cara Dune, Kuiil, and even Greef Karga are along for the ride. While there’s more to their meeting than simple character interplay, surrounding Mando with their more vibrant personalities makes scenes feel denser. The three’s ideas reflect off of each other and Mando’s shiny Beskar armour, and then quickly scrapes beneath his chrome exterior moreso than several middle and middling episodes this season. The gang coming together is honestly something that should have happened earlier for the sake of character development.
As to why it didn’t happen before, well, that perhaps strikes at the heart of the episode, and indeed, the theme of the whole season: incremental progress overcoming intrinsic qualities. Early on in “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning”, Mando is repulsed by the idea that IG-11—the assassination droid sent to murder the Yodaling in “Chapter One”—could possibly have been reprogrammed as a domesticated, tea-serving droid. As far as Mando is concerned, it’s against his “nature”.
The conflict between changing personality and inherent characteristic nature is probed by characters multiple times: ex-Rebellion shock trooper Cara Dune slanders Kuiil as a former indentured Imperial slave; Mando is unsure of whether Greef Karga is bluffing when he invites him back to Navarro in peace; Werner Herzog’s Client laments the Hobbesian chaos of the galaxy sans the structure of Empire. Even Mando’s dismissal of IG-11 is focussed on mistrusting that particular droid because of previously being a threat to the Yodaling, which is very different to Mando’s blanket anti-droid stance at the beginning of the season.
Mando’s arc is one of change over seven episodes. As a whole, this first season has progressively made Mando receptive to his repressed emotions, then to other people starting with the appearance of the Yodaling, had him work readily with people, and finally forging bonds of trust and protection. If “Chapter Six: The Prisoner” was a final salute to his distrustful instincts of the “old times” (“Chapter Six: The Prisoner” also repeats the horror imagery of “Chapter One”, where Mando was a steely phantom), then Mando’s actions in “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” are the product of his growth. His choice to recruit others in safeguarding the Yodaling would have been unthinkable several episodes ago.
The Yodaling then embodies another variable in this equation of change against nature—the influences our exploits have on augmenting those people around us. Mando may be a decent surrogate father, but he is a dangerous one, and the violence witnessed since “Chapter Two: The Child” has started rubbing off on the Yodaling—he almost Force-chokes Cara Dune when he thinks Mando is in peril during a friendly arm-wrestle.
As such, “Chapter Seven: the Reckoning” is more directly philosophical than previous ones, although its weakness is that the strands of thought are somewhat neutered, because the issues between the partners from which they arise never have enough time to be fully developed, ultimately making the pensiveness a little muddled. This is mildly concerning, as they invoke heavy topics such as slavery. The implicit questions posed really would require more discussion to feel explored with deserving gravity and not bordering on cavalier. The episode’s script thankfully does enough, however, to not be flippant with emotions, and there is leeway with these miscreant characters to express opinions with fiery ego and passion, rather than totally profound consideration.
That’s good, because it would tarnish the effect of an episode that, while it doesn’t have a strong central set-piece to focus the episode like previous entries, still manages to be the most thrilling story so far. There is an attack from pterodactyl-like creatures, and a speeder-bike chase, but neither feel as significant as say the imperial base break-in and shootout featured in director Deborah Chow’s previous episode, “Chapter Three: The Sin”. No, where “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” feels different is the disarray caused by events.
A problem with the most recent episodes of The Mandalorian is how neatly resolved everything has been in spite of the challenges the episodic narratives possess. Maybe this is merely the fault of expectation based on the initial tone conveyed by the series, but the tidiness certainly has hampered feeling the morally grey fringes of the galaxy Mando ostensibly occupies. Not so with The Mandalorian “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning”, which leaves things on a perilous cliffhanger. Having been lulled into anticipating pleasant resolution, the turns this episode takes are welcomingly quite shocking.
One gets the sense that “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” was not just a crucible for the characters, but the production crew as well, because both Baz Idoine and Greg Fraser are credited as Directors of Photography this episode. The shared responsibility does not create any obvious dissonance in tone or style, and so credit to all involved for making a cogent and intense episode.
The Mandalorian “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” is one of the finest episodes of the series so far, where characters move beyond the stasis of archetypal roles and actions have significant consequences. Hopefully, next week’s finale will build on the ramifications to close out the first season memorably.
Thank you very much to Marc Kaliroff for covering “Chapter Six: The Prisoner” last week while I was travelling and dealing with jet-lag. I’m certainly hopeful that director Rick Famuyiwa’s profile is heightened as a consequence of working on the show, because his two episodes have had the most interesting stylistic composition. It amuses me that he went from thick mud to clean white walls.
I’m even more excited about Deborah Chow running the Obi-Wan Kenobi series now.
Releasing Chapter Seven: The Reckoning two days before the US release of Rise of Skywalker may not simply be to prevent scheduling conflict. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.