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Top 10 Worst ‘South Park’ Episodes

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5. D-Yikes!

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At risk of being controversial, it must be said: Mr/Mrs Garrison is not a great character. He/she only works in small doses, and often as an antagonist. Any story centering on him/her being the hero rarely works because he/she is just too toxic to root for. Even Cartman, as monstrous as he can be, still has a touch of childhood innocence that can somewhat forgive his actions.

In any case, at this point in the show she was Mrs. Garrison, and this episode explored yet another aspect of her sexuality.  Any possible compelling dive into her sexual identity though is wasted, as her change basically stems from her decision that all men suck, so she might as well become a lesbian. That’s it.

To prop up the story, even though it starts with the boys outsourcing a school assignment to cheap Mexican labour, it suddenly becomes a parody of 300. It has a similar problem as “Human CentiPad,” feeling less like a purposeful parody/interpretation and more like a reference to something popular at the time. It’s not like they take especially clever turns with it, like in the classic “Return of the Fellowship of the Rings to the Two Towers.” They’re just fighting over a night club from would-be Persian buyers. One doesn’t even have to have seen 300 to see why this doesn’t work. In the movie, Leonidas had been defending Sparta his whole life, so he has true motivation to protect it. Meanwhile, Mrs. Garrison only found out about the night club a couple days ago. It’s also not hard to see that the crux of the story of 300 involves these brave warriors facing insurmountable odds, and while they all end up dying in battle, their sacrifice saves their way of life. There’s no such sacrifice in “D-Yikes” though, as the episode merely borrows iconic imagery from it, and ends with a cheap joke at Xerxes’ true gender.

South Park has ripped into other shows like Family Guy for relying on cheap referential humor, but this episode indicates that even they are not immune to it.

4.  A Million Little Fibers

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At the onset it was stated that for an episode to be considered among the worst, it had to create a strong emotional reaction. This episode is an exception though, and to be honest, its placement on this list is more out of pressure from the many South Park fans who see this as one of the worst. That said, it’s hard to argue against those claims.

While Towelie can be a fun side character, he was intentionally created to be the lamest character ever, and as such, can’t carry an episode on his own. Beyond that, there’s also the plot of (I can’t believe I’m writing this) Oprah Winfrey’s vagina and asshole plotting to get her fired from work and eventually hold up reporters at gunpoint.

Look, this episode is just too weird, okay?

Though “Toilet Paper” suffers a bit from having little grounded in reality, this episode is all the way out to Mars in how absurd it is. As Matt and Trey both admitted, they basically put weirdness on top of weirdness, and it makes the barrier to entry too impenetrable. Any interesting points to make regarding the “Million Little Pieces” controversy get buried in the oddness, and we’re left with an episode that just makes one scratch one’s head and wonder: “what were they thinking?”

3.  Ginger Kids

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South Park often gets labelled as hateful given some of the taboos they address, and while there’s some valid criticisms of their work to be had, it’s a disingenuous to lump them along with that unpleasant crowd. They just seem like two people doing whatever makes each other laugh, and likely don’t have any serious prejudices to be concerned about

That being said, this is an ugly, vile episode that has no reason to exist. While there are historical cases regarding discrimination towards people with red hair, it’s mostly obscure and not nearly as founded as other prejudices involving sexuality, race, or gender. If anything, one could argue that with this show’s wide reach, they actually brought to light that these negative preconceptions even existed in the first place.

The thing is, this could have still worked. It could have been used as a statement to harp on how arbitrary and absurd racial discrimination is, and at first it seems like they’re heading in that direction. After Cartman delivers a hate speech on Ginger kids for a class presentation, Kyle takes it upon himself to stand against his rhetoric and prove him wrong. Unfortunately for him he discovers parents who are ashamed and terrified of their ginger kids, while the kids are eventually swayed by Cartman (who’s been led to believe he “turned Ginger”) to be hateful themselves. This isn’t treated as a sad commentary on the state of our world, but just a natural, logical consequence. Ultimately, what dooms this episode is that the satire has no point to it at all.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, this episode inspired “kick a ginger day” at certain high schools, leading to actual discrimination in the real world. As far as lasting legacies the show will have, that is a shameful reputation to leave behind.

2.  Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina

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Another Mr. Garrison episode, albeit the one where he has his sex change and officially becomes Mrs. Garrison. Parker and Stone flat-out admitted they came into this episode with zero ideas, to the point where they nearly ended up using 5 minutes worth of footage from real sex changes to eat up time.

In any case, this episode is a sad relic from a time when transgender people got next to no recognition at best, and hate and scorn directed towards them at worst. And while equality is far from achieved at this stage, there have been prominent steps towards attaining that goal. Even season 18’s “The Cissy” shows Matt and Trey have matured on the issue and recognize the importance of accepting members of the community for who they are. Sadly, the nuance of that episode plot is nowhere to be found here.

Garrison’s transformation into Mrs. Garrison inspires both Kyle and his dad to have their own cosmetic surgeries. Specifically, Kyle wants to be made black and taller because it will apparently allow him to play basketball, while his dad sporadically decides he always wanted to be a dolphin. As offensive as that joke is in implying those various surgeries are comparable, the biggest problem, again, is the gag makes no sense.

 For all of his problems, having Mr. Garrison decide to have the surgery is not an out-of-left field choice. He’d been grappling with his sexual and personal identity for the bulk of the series, and has acted impulsively before. Kyle, meanwhile, has never displayed a hint of interest in basketball, and has seldom been shown acting like he was ashamed of who he was. If anything, he’s often touted as the voice of reason on the show, so taking him in this direction either feels out of character, or that the creators really thought the issues were similar.  At least Gerald’s sporadic desire to be a dolphin is so ridiculous that it can almost be forgiven, but it still makes light of an important issue in a sloppy and tasteless way.

Point being, even if you take away all the baggage of how it depicts transitioning, and the harm it can cause to the trans community, the situations being compared are too different, so the connection isn’t funny. It’s one thing to be edgy for the sake of comedy, but when you fail at the comedy aspect, all that’s left is an embarrassing show.

1.  ManBearPig

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Speaking of attempts at satire that make no sense, it’s time to unbox ManBearPig. South Park has done many takedowns of celebrities over the years, and while they’ve hit the bullseye more than a few times (“The Passion of the Jew”, “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset”, and “Fishsticks” to name a few), their lampooning of Al Gore misses the mark spectacularly.

In this episode, he comes to South Park (wearing a cape to save the day) to warn the children about the dangers of ManBearPig, an obvious stand-in for the real Al Gore’s crusade to raise awareness for climate change. The kids initially take pity on him (he seems to have no friends), and follow along with his delusions, but they soon turn against Gore as they realize exactly how delusional he is, and how far he’ll go to convince people that “ManBearPig” is real.

While in the past they’ve attacked celebrities for being bigoted, untalented or narcissistic, their main issue with Gore seems to be that he’s a loser who’s hungry for attention. That’s a joke’s that has not aged well, as Gore is seldom in the spotlight nowadays and never framed the fight against climate change as his claim to fame. He’s also owned the idea of being a bit of a boring loser (see his self-portrayal on Futurama for proof), so mocking him for that seems pointless. Hell, they do a better takedown of him in the DVD commentary of this episode when they state that An Inconvenient Truth wasn’t a movie; it was a PowerPoint presentation. That’s a topic they could easily do a whole episode on, but it’s never addressed. Fact is, if they took their Al Gore caricature and renamed him, there’d be nothing of recognition left.

Even if you make that disassociation, the character doesn’t generate many laughs, nor does his illusory boogeyman, “ManBearPig.”  They both fare far better in the “Imaginationland” Trilogy as well as The Stick of Truth, as those stories were absurd enough to make that distance work. Both of those were written far better too, and didn’t feel nearly as aimless and pointless as this does.

The key thing though that makes this the worst episode is the idea it communicates about climate change. To be clear, my personal issue isn’t that I disagree with their message. “Douche and Turd” advocated that John Kerry and George W. Bush were equally bad and that voting can be pointless; two ideas I reject whole heartedly. That’s still one of my favorite episodes though, as it’s tightly structured, presents its points in a challenging way, and whether you like it or not, speaks certain truths. “ManBearPig” has no thoughts about climate change to present, and has no interest in diving into it. It’s content to belittle those who believe in it and state those who are trying to improve things are losers.

What’s worse about it is it again proved influential. To this day, people still dismiss advocates for climate change as trying to fight against “ManBearPig.” It has become a symbol for people to snidely dismiss real issues, which has caused some people to see it as representative for the entire series, which is a real shame.

South Park at its best tackles subjects that others wouldn’t dare approach, and it forces you to think about them in a new way. They do this by being wickedly funny and surprisingly insightful, whether what they say matches with what you think or not. They do not just cheaply resort to smugly putting down other people.

If every episode was like “ManBearPig” though, it’d be hard pressed to deny otherwise.

***

Disagree? Any episodes you felt should have made the list? Any entries here you feel are being unfairly picked on here? Let us know in the comments…

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Ever since I could remember, people have told me I should become a writer. I had no training unfortunately, so I did the sensible thing and secluded myself in various hotel rooms with only a typewriter to keep me company. I came out of that experience with a permanent case of disheveled hair, bloodshot eyes and an overall 50% decrease in sanity, and still never managed to type a single word. I still haven't fully recovered, but I now fit in too well with everybody in my MFA class, so I have to keep the charade going...

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. BLADE

    October 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Pip isn’t on the list?

    • Daniel Philion

      December 31, 2018 at 4:17 pm

      Well, the list specifically said it wouldn’t be tackling early episodes like that, but yeah Pip is an odd one…

      I totally get why some people wouldn’t like it; I’m not the biggest fan of it, but to me, being upset at it is like being upset at “Terrence and Phillip: Not Without My Anus”. The fact that the episode exists as all is kind of a joke, and looking back, it’s basically harmless

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My So-Called Life: “So-Called Angels” is a Timeless Classic

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My So-Called Life: “So-Called Angels”

Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today we look back at My So-Called Life.

What’s it About?

In 1994 Winnie Holzman introduced to the world her critically acclaimed TV series My So-Called Life, a realistic mid-nineties teen drama that takes a look at a 15-year-old girl and her trials and tribulations. From the instant, Angela Chase (Claire Danes) dyed her blonde locks a bright red, this teen angst series earned its place in the annals of television. Audiences were captivated by the rising star’s performance, and teenage girls swooned over the school’s gorgeous rebel-without-a-cause Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto). The show gave a voice to millions of young women who otherwise had none on network television, but unfortunately, due to low ratings (and several parental complaints about being too realistic), the series was canceled after one season. My So-Called Life has since been referred to as one of the ten best “one season” TV shows of all time and still lives in the collective minds of its fans.

Synopsis: Christmas arrives in Three Rivers, and it finds Rickie (Wilson Cruz) out on the street running away from his abusive uncle. The family Chases’ Christmas gets complicated when Angela’s anxious search for Rickie, aided by a mysterious homeless girl (Juliana Hatfield), leads her into the seedy underground warehouse inhabited by runaway kids.

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Review

My So-Called Life often took a comic plot and subverted it by playing it for realistic drama, rather than just for laughs, but of all the 19 episodes of this short-lived teen drama, “So-Called Angels” is without a doubt the biggest tear-jerker. The episode opens with a whispery voice-over prayer, as Rickie Vasquez stumbles and falls along the cold winter snow – blood dripping from lips, his face battered and bruised. From Rickie, beaten, and alone, it quickly shifts to Juliana Hatfield, a homeless teen hipster with a guitar and the voice of, well, an angel. We’re just over a minute in, and the tone has been set for the upcoming 44 minutes – downright sentimental. The scene fades to white as a guitar plays the single notes of “Silent Night.” Gradually, the single notes of the guitar become the solitary keys of a piano. The camera pans downward and we fade into the Chase home.

If there was ever any evidence that the series played out like an After School Special, “So-Called Angels” would be the ultimate case study, complete with an actual PSA at the end, voiced by Wilson Cruz, for an organization which helps locate missing kids. Aside from existing as a solid stand-alone episode, it also kicked off one of the best subplots of the series: Rickie and his attempts to find a family. The show was notable for dealing with hot topics with relatively little melodrama. Some episodes often involve guns, drugs, sex and so on, but with the fifteenth entry, came the topic of child abuse and runaway teens. The episode remains both strong and current even today due to the then-and-still controversial subject matter and story elements. From the trials and tribulations of an openly gay character to the problems of child abuse and homeless youth, Winnie Holzman’s series doesn’t always paint a bright picture but it does present a truthful view of young America.

While the emotional force of this episode lies with Angela helping Rickie, there’s also a subplot about her two best friends: Rayanne (aiding a Holiday teen helpline) and Brian (dealing with his Holiday loneliness), who accidentally reach out to each other via a 1-800 number. Amidst the depressing, dark subject matter at the core of this sequence, come flashes of unexpected comedy (MSCL-style), culminating in one of the most awkward phone sex exchanges ever.

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Note: Fans of the show will notice that a scene that somberly recalls Brian and Rayanne’s Halloween night in the school basement, wherein Rayanne revealed a secret to Brian. Here, Brian unknowingly reveals his feelings to her.

The moral weight of So-Called Angels rests on Patty, Angela’s mother, who struggles to come to terms with her newfound knowledge of Rickie’s situation and then do “the right thing.” Her struggle is made clear by their transformation into one of the most loved Christmas icons, Ebenezer Scrooge. And let’s not forget Juliana Hatfield (the ghost of Christmas Eve), disappearing, reappearing and in general hammering home the message that any teen can end up a runaway, including Angela herself. It’s a heavy-handed focus on the issue no doubt, but somehow the execution works well against the backdrop of the Patty-Dickens storyline.

Note: Fans of the series will remember Angela already bumping into other class holiday-related characters (see the Halloween episode).

Back to Patty’s Christmas transformation: The first challenge comes from Angela, when she asks why the family doesn’t go to church, and whether her parents believe in God. It’s an interesting way to examine how a religious holiday has become a consumer event, even within the household of two self-described spiritual parents. The second test Patty endures comes when she shows little concern that the Krakow family left Brian home alone on Christmas while taking off on a holiday vacation. The third confrontation comes when Rickie arrives at their house looking for comfort and shelter and Patty outright refuses Angela’s request to let him stay the night. Graham then challenges her by asking if it would be any different if it were Brian instead of Rickie. Just as Scrooge is visited by three spirits which challenged his understanding of the world, so has Angela’s mom.

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The multi-layered characters in My So-Called Life were easily the highlight of each episode, but the show also offered top of the line production values. Keep in mind the pilot, as well as this episode, was directed by Scott Winant, who would go on to helm episodes of Breaking Bad  The direction is disciplined, and the sharp editing deserves special mention, as transitions often appear seamless. Juliana Hatfield’s ghostly sequences drift freely in most cases, creating a dreamlike pace and a smooth story flow. Charlie Lieberman’s photography here tops any of the other series’ entries and composer W.G.  Walden crafts a number of organic, poignant music cues that work well with the Holiday spirit. From the percussion-driven moments of heightened drama to quieter, more reflective sequences, the music sets the episode’s tone incredibly well.

Mushy and sentimental, perhaps, but one can’t diminish the overall effect this heartwarming tribute to the true Christmas spirit has. This holiday classic is worth an annual viewing – a truly classic, timeless episode, and one of the few that never grows old.

“Remember, folks: no man is a failure who has friends.”

Overall, “So-Called Angels” is without a doubt one of the all-time great Christmas specials, from what might be considered one of the “best shows ever”.

– Ricky D

How Christmassy is it?

Combine the story, the message, and the take on A Christmas Carol, and it’s easy to see that this is 100% Chrismassy.

Who’s it for

Everyone.

Other observations:

As Patty and Graham converse in their bedroom, the television silently runs It’s a Wonderful Life. Their faces are framed alongside the TV set in such a way that Jimmy Stewart is practically standing in the room with them. The scene from the classic Holiday film is the sequence in which George Bailey out of desperation, prays for help. By setting up this shot, director Scott Winant foreshadows the presence of Angela’s guardian angel – Hatfield. She is to Angela what Clarence is to George Bailey. These juxtapositions continue throughout the episode. A second example comes later in the Chase home when the television is showing the scene from Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol where the philanthropists have come to solicit donations from Scrooge. We don’t get to hear Scrooge’s response, but Patty’s reaction speaks volumes when she outright rejects Angela’s invitation to have Rickie and the mysterious girl, over for Christmas dinner. The scene establishes the complete transformation of Patty into Scrooge.

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The Expanse Season Four Episode 2 Review: “Jetsam”

The Expanse’s fourth season inches forward in another captivating episode.

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The Expanse Jetsam

“So what do we got here?”

Miller’s inquisitiveness isn’t just a reminder of the show’s noir-ish roots; it’s an important framing device for “Jetsam,” an hour of The Expanse‘s characters and governments sizing each other up, poking at the edges to see what holds and what bends. And like the ancient structures Holden ends up unleashing at the end of the episode, it’s clear there is just something a little off, an unexpected wrinkle that keeps two sides of every conflict just out of arm’s reach.

Like Naomi, The Expanse is gaining density quickly; whether it will be quick enough is yet to be seen, though these first two hours leave me quite confident in both to pull through.

The ancient, towering structures sitting on Ilus prove to be a powerful metaphorical device, along with being a fascinating mystery to unlock: centered around the idea of unexpected wrinkles, everything in “Jetsam” is not exactly what it appears on first glance. Bobbie’s invitation to Avasarala’s peace-making dinner, Naomi’s slow adjustment to a new atmosphere, and Multry’s demeanor are but a few examples of the subtle shifts and turns “Jemsat” holds under its surface.

The Expanse Jetsam

But perhaps this episode’s approach to storytelling is best exemplified by Avasarala; when we first see her sitting and holding a conversation, it is assumed she’s still on Earth somewhere. But then she stands up, grabs a pen out of mid-air, and smiles as she thinks about Amos teaching her about using mag-boots; the wrinkles are simple, and disposed of quickly, but they’re nonetheless effective narrative devices to unify its universe-traversing plot.

The disparate parts of “Jetsam” follow this basic blueprint: Klaes guiding Camina to understand their purpose outside the ring, Bobbie being dismissed by her Martian counterparts as a disgrace, Miller’s curiosity about a root obstructing the mysterious function of the ancient alien tower… everything in “Jetsam” flows through this idea of subversion, and it makes for a rewarding – if meticulously slow-paced – episode spring to life in its few truly dramatic moments.

But “Jetsam” is not just narrative winks and literary masturbation; with characters like Naomi and Bobbie, it is more than capable enough of delivering powerful personal stories among the larger ideas and stories it hints towards. Naomi and Bobbie form a strong foundation for the episode, two women whose sacrifices aren’t being rewarded by the powers that be; Bobbie is basically condoned as a traitor on Mars, while Naomi’s cardiovascular system can’t keep up with her ambitions of experiencing a terrestrial’s life.

Like Naomi, Bobbie is able to stay focused on the horizon in front of her, driven by her inherent nobility (and ability to effectively beat the shit out of anyone, physically or verbally) – but both are being rejected by the places they’re trying to settle in, abstracting The Expanse‘s everlasting fascination with the various sociopolitical and biological forces that drive us as a species.

The Expanse Jetsam

The rest of “Jetsam” is no slouch, an hour particularly focused on the women of The Expanse, only occasionally wandering to let its audience marinate in the Miller/Holden dynamic, moments of supernatural noir that coalesce with the episode’s smaller moments in brilliant ways. Another great parallel can be found in Camina and Avasarala’s attempts to forge forward in their respective duties, struggling to find positive ways to assess the dire situations in front of them.

With ships of refugee belters stranded around the ring, violent pirates are having their way picking through the easy targets waiting on the intergalactic shores; the UNN, as it is often want to do, stagnates on making a decision on what to do with both the refugees, their own disillusioned society – and now, the settlers of Ilus, claiming a planet as their own right under the government’s noses.

Though I don’t expect Kaels to walk off the job like Avasarala’s Home Secretary did, there is definitely a shared uncertainty between them, the gnawing sensation that their pessimistic instincts are leading them in the right direction; a direction ripe with moral conflict, that may find them both fighting against their own people to keep the stalemate going long enough to figure out what’s really going on.

The Expanse Jetsam

So what is really going on? Besides Amos immediately… well, settling in with an Ilus local, “Jetsam” continues to keep the larger picture a bit fuzzy. A few things are made clear: Murtry’s landing was a work of sabotage, and the ancient tower’s inoperable state was due to nature playing the saboteur; in short, everything in Ilus already appears to be pretty fucked, and Earth and Mars haven’t even started claiming their space rights on it yet (how many episodes until someone utters the phrase “manifest destiny”?).

Another way to look at “Jetsam” through its strange opening sequence is where “Miller” frustratingly details its attempt to “see if something clicks”; outside of the crew of the Rocinante, most characters are just running around trying to shove squares into circular pegs to see if something sparks. The aptly-named Sojourner, after spending 13 weeks waiting patiently in space, falls victim to these ambitious attempts to find connection: they make it through the ring, but as corpses floating through the core of the ring, reduced to a byproduct of UNN’s attempts to establish space domination in a place it doesn’t understand, and is too afraid to actually explore.

The Expanse Jetsam

Given that it’s a ten episode season, it’s not surprising to see The Expanse already linking together its many strands of story and character spread across its vast universe; it is an impressive balancing act, one that’s able to ebb and flow between the personal and political – and at times, even veer sharply into violence, whether it be Murtry’s murder of an aggressive belter or Naomi’s body rejecting her attempts to speedily acclimate to living on a planet, instead of a rock spinning through space. Like Naomi, The Expanse is gaining density quickly; whether it will be quick enough is yet to be seen, though these first two hours leave me quite confident in both to pull through.

Other thoughts/observations:

a few other ‘unexpected wrinkles’ in “Jetsam” I enjoyed: Amos letting someone take his drink, Alex’s crush turning out to be married, and Avasarala’s job offer to Bobbie (the Get Bobbie Back in Fuckin’ Space campaign is looking strong this week, folks!).

Even though the black feather shuireken weapons were made of proto-molecule material, the infection didn’t spread to anyone injured by then. Important – maybe?

I’m willing to bet we see Avasarala’s former colleague show up somewhere this season.

Fred Johnson? Fred Johnson? Fred Johnson??!!

Bobbie fucking up a bunch of drug dealers reminds me of season one adventures with Miller, getting into fights wherever he went.

The different aspect ratios for Ilus and everything else is jarring, though it does give the Ilus scenes a particular cinematic flair I can’t help but enjoy.

Avasarala remembering Amos teaching her how to use mag boots is a great little moment.

“I like the things you see, better than the ones I do.”

Where the hell is the Reverend Doctor? Did I miss that detail somewhere?

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The Mandalorian “Chapter Six: The Prisoner” Confronts Old Villainy and New Rebellion

The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode Six Review: “Chapter Six: The Prisoner”

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Very minor spoilers ahead!

If this episode did not ooze of Dave Filoni’s earliest Clone Wars and late Rebels bounty hunting and pirate-infested heydays, then this is only the beginning of what’s to come. While it is not an episode that skyrockets the plot a whole lot further in the grand scheme of things, The Mandalorian “Chapter Six: The Prisoner” certainly delves deeper into the background of the title character as we see how he was previously involved with as Obi-Wan Kenobi would have put it “a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” before his more civilized days began.

While not exactly getting entirely back to what many people have been hoping to see after last week’s uninspired fillerish episode, “Chapter Six: The Prisoner”- directed by Rick Famuyiwa and co-written by Christopher Yost- heads for a clearer direction to what everyone wants to see and still holds on to all the reasons as to why The Mandalorian might just be one of the best shows of the year; tight and well-directed action, interesting characters, and gorgeous set-pieces that are on par with the Star Wars movies. This group of bounty hunters’ latest heist just might be one of the best episodes in the series so far.

“Chapter Six: The Prisoner” endures the path of both a standard and outlier episode as it proves that a strong focus on plot might not always be the most necessary aspect for some stories to walk away with a strong character narrative.

In pursuit of more work outside of the empire’s grasp, the Mandalorian finds himself arriving at the feet of his old criminal dealing ally Manzar “Ran” Ralk who is in need of a fifth person to run a newly assigned job. In desperation to earn whatever funds he can gather, Mando signs on to an unfair breakout rescue operation where to his surprise a team of his old partners and he have to infiltrate and free a former fellow bounty hunter by the name of Qin from a New Republic prison ship guarded by only defense droids. The human sharpshooter Mayfield, the untrustful droid Zero, a Devaronian named Burg, Xi’an the Twi’lek female, and of course Mando set off on his junk ship the Razor Crest to find Qin.

While “Chapter Six: The Prisoner” does not have a major overarching plot, this episode dives deeper into the past of the Mandalorian himself as we get to hear how he used to operate with groups of rag-tag scoundrel bounty hunters such as those present before his ethics and ideologies took a drastic turn down the line. It is by far one of the deepest character-driven episodes in a while and it never shies away from opening up Mando’s past through the other characters’ hatred and distaste towards him. Mando constantly remains silent like a protagonist in an old-western film, but he consistently establishes his higher status in the room as he looks down on everyone and repeatedly out-smarts them through both words and combat.

The bounty hunters are quite unorthodox compared to the batch that has been shown so far in the previous episodes. Without spoilers, each character in the group is uniquely developed in their own way as we see how they interact with Mando and even The Child. The members of the group clearly have it out for him as whenever he is in danger they choose not to help, disagree with the majority of his personal methods, and they even attempt to crack some humorous jokes at him every now and then as they take aim at Mandalorian religious practices such as never removing their helmets- you know your fate will not end well if you compare a Mandalorian to a Gungan! All four of them are deeply characterized and hit the sweet spots of showtime even if they may just be one-time appearances.

The tension between Mando and his former allies always remains at the roof throughout the episode which ultimately establishes and builds a more intriguing cast of characters that I’m sure no one would mind if they returned for another episode or two down the line in some form. Xi’an makes an effort to flirt with Mando, Zero proclaims himself above him due to his droid intelligence, Burg attempts to use his height to show dominance, and so on. This group of bounty hunters is without a doubt the most memorable cast of characters to show up in any episode so far. Compared to the last five chapters, “The Prisoner” takes a major leap in the right direction when it comes to satisfying build-up and delivery. You can clearly get a better idea of how the Mandalorian has developed as a character before the beginning events of “Chapter One” took place because of how the bounty hunters interact with him here.

Viewers prone to epilepsy should be warned for this episode that there is a ton of flashing lights, specifically within the last fifteen minutes of the episode. Cinematography and directorial wise, these sequences are incredibly well put together and are taken advantage of on several occasions when it comes to incorporating action, but I would not be honest if I did not admit it will be difficult for some viewers to watch for its entirety. If you easily attract headaches from these types of sequences or once again are prone to epilepsy, this is just a heads up but do not worry since this segment does not last for that long. Nonetheless, it results in one of the highlight sequences of the episode- dare I say the series.

Speaking of, the most notable part about this episode is by far the close centered action that never disappoints. The Mandalorian has always contained engaging action, but there is nothing sweeter then Star Wars close range firefight sequences. Due to the setpieces focusing on smaller corridors and tight spaces within the prisoner ship, the action sequences remain extremely compact and close up. While Mando gets to flash some flames, fire some blasters, and even use his satisfying wrist rocket tools, everyone this episode gets a shot to throw some punches and lasers. Even The Child- or better known as Baby Yoda- gets a hand in the action as he has a humorous cat and mouse chases with Zero inside the interior of the Razor Crest.

“Chapter Six: The Prisoner” is without question overall one of the least involved episodes in the overarching plot of the series so far for season one, but that does not automatically strike it down as an uninteresting narrative. It continually aims to provide more insight into the past of Pedro Pascal’s unnamed softy Mandalorian character who we truly do not know too much about- a subject that I’m sure the show will continue to delve deep into as it proceeds to find a stronger footing. As per usual, when it comes to action, design, and character development, this episode is The Mandalorian rightfully showing off at its absolute peak. The sheer amount of passion and high-quality production values are never shy out from making themselves outstanding. This episode will only make viewers even more excited for whatever comes next in the final two chapters of season one.

Other Thoughts/Observations

Composer Ludwig Goransson adds a new sci-fi remix to the western roots of The Mandalorian theme for the opening title and it comes off as nothing but welcoming. The phenomenal original score for this series keeps snowballing into Star Wars music that proves that it is in no need of John Williams- although it certainly would be incredible to have him guest star for a score down the line.

The New Republic should be noticing that they are in need of better defenses in the future as their defense droids were as useful as clanker cannon fodder from the days of the clone wars even though they were able to put up somewhat of a fight when the bounty hunters first dropped in.

By far one of the most admirable cameos in the series so far was not actually a reemerging veteran character in the episode but rather renowned Star Wars television writers and executive producers Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow who starred as the X-Wing pilots during the New Republic’s attack run. Matt Lantern, the voice of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, also plays the doomed rebel guard on the prisoner’s vessel at the halfway point of the episode.

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