Tha Mandalorian and Baby Yoda meet up with old friends and enemies in “The Siege”

Now I have this week’s Star Trek Discovery review out of the way, it’s time for my episode by episode reviews of season 2 of The Mandalorian again. Previous installments may be found here.

Also, since Star Wars is a Disney property now, may I remind you that Disney is not paying the royalties due to Alan Dean Foster and possibly others as well.

Warning: Spoilers under the cut!

Mando’s quest to find the second-to-last Jedi Ahsoka Tano will have to be postponed for a bit, because the Razor Crest simply can’t go any further after the beating she’s taken. Mando’s attempts to enlist Baby Yoda’s help for repairs inside the Star Wars equivalent of a Jeffries Tube fail, because the instruction are too complicated for a toddler and Baby Yoda also manages to cross two wires in spite of Mando’s urgent appeal to do anything but that and gets himself electrocuted in the process (Don’t worry, he’s fine). In many ways, that scene calls to mind a similar scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where everybody’s other favourite alien baby Groot also fails to understand instructions regarding a detonator. What is it with Disney-owned space opera characters and trying to make toddlers do electrical repairs?

We are now treated to a sweet scene of Mando and Baby Yoda eating some soup. Mando lifts his helmet just enough to be able to drink the soup (spoons are apparently not a thing in the Star Wars universe) and Baby Yoda tries to take a quick peek. Which makes me wonder if the fundamentalist Mandalorian “Never take of your helmet in front of others” rule also applies to family members and children in one’s care and if Baby Yoda has really never seen the face of his Dad. Now I have no idea about the development of Yoda’s species, though Baby Yoda behave very much like a human toddler. And as the so-called “still face” experiment proved, human babies need to see their parents’/caregivers’ facial expressions to develop and thrive. So now I worry about Baby Yoda’s emotional and psychological development. Honestly, Mando, you’re a clan of two. You can take your helmet off in front of the kid.

Mando decides that he’ll need to have the Razor Crest repaired, so he heads to his old familiar stomping grounds in Nevarro. Except that Nevarro has changed a lot since Mando was last there (And how long has it been since the end of season 1 anyway? Weeks? Months?). The central town (cause all planets in the Star Wars universe only have one town, even Coruscant, only that the city covers the entire planet there) has cleaned up nicely, the market looks much more inviting and the various lowlives that used to hang out in town have largely gone underground (quite literally in one case). There is even a statue of the heroic droid IG-11 in the background, which was a nice touch. And it’s all due to the new magistrate Greef Carga (whom I suspect wasn’t elected democratically) and the new marshall Cara Dune, whom we see in action early on, taking out some alien bandits and adopting their supposed dinner, a meerkat like creature. As reviewer Emmet Asher-Perrin points out, the aliens are of the same species a member of which harrassed Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope, before losing an arm to Obi-Wan’s lightsabre.

Greef Carga and Cara are happy to see Mando, even if they can’t quite suppress a few smirks and jabs about the state of the Razor Crest, which is so badly damaged that Mando can’t even fully lower the ramp and instead has to hop down. Baby Yoda gets some cuddles and Greef Carga even insists on carrying the little one around. Cause ever since Baby Yoda saved his life back in season one, Greef Carga is his number one fan.

While the Razor Crest is being repaired (by his best people, Greef Carga declares), Cara and Greef Carga show Mando around town. We meet another familiar face, Mythrol, the blue gilled alien that Mando captured in the very first scene of season one, well before we even met Baby Yoda. Nobody seems to know whether Mythrol is the name of the character, as Guardian reviewer Paul MacInnes believes, or of the species, as AV-Club reviewer Katie Rife thinks, but since we have no other name, I’ll go with Mythrol for now. Last time, we saw Mythrol, he was frozen in carbonite. Greef Carga thawed him out (though Mythrol still complains about vision problems in his left eye) and put him back to work as an accountant, though he will have to work of his debts (Mythrol made the bad decision to steal from Greef Carga) for 350 years. I hope his species is that long lived.

Greef Carga and Cara Dune also have a proposition for Mando. Since it will take a while for the Razor Crest to be repaired, they’d like his help with a mission. For it turns out that even though Greef Carga and Care Dune have cleaned up and control most of Nevarro, there is an old Imperial base on the far side of the planet that they’d like to be rid of. The base is still active, but should only have a skeleton crew. “Piece of cake”, they assure Mando.

Mando decides to go along on the mission, because Greef and Cara are his friends and besides, Greef Carga promised him the much needed repairs on the Razor Crest for free. But first Mando reluctantly drops off Baby Yoda at the local school – formerly the bounty hunter guild headquarters – which Greef and Cara assure him is safe. Coincidentally, this school with a battered protocol droid serving as teacher is the only school of any kind we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. The closest thing to a school we’ve had previously was a clone indoctrination facility in Attack of the Clones. Of course, Baby Yoda is still too young for school and by far the smallest kid there. But he has the Force, which he promptly uses to steal some blue macarons from another kid, though to be fair, he does ask first. Still, somehow I don’t think that this is what Yoda had in mind, when he said, “Use the Force.”

The bulk of the episode is given over to Mando, Cara Dune, Greef Carga and Mythrol (who initially is only there as a driver, but eventually gets a lot more to do) trying to blow up the Imperial base, which is not nearly as deserted as they initially assumed. For starters, the supposed skeleton crew are a whole lot of Stormtroopers, who fare about as well against our heroes as Stormtroopers usually do. Mando literally throws one from the landing deck to the ground far below. There are technicians and other Imperial personnel as well. Our heroes quickly deal with them.

The base is drawing geothermal energy from Nevarro’s everpresent lava flows, so Mando and the gang decide to cut the cooling lines, which should lead to the lava overflowing and destroying the base. It’s a solid plan, but unfortunately the controls for the cooling system happen to be right above a lava shaft with no railing and some angry Stormtroopers firing at our heroes. In the end, Mythrol is the one who deactivates the cooling system, while Mando, Cara and Greef cover him.

The Imperial base looks very much like any Imperial outpost in the Star Wars universe, down to the very retro looking switches and data sockets we’ve seen first in A New Hope. It’s also notable that the Empire still doesn’t give a shit about even the most basic of safety precautions. Platforms have no railings, trash compactors have no emergency shutdowns, reactors can be accessed via entirely unprotected shafts, control systems are located above bottomless chasms, again with no railing. Even though railings and emergency shutdown systems were commonplace in the real world even in 1977, when A New Hope came out. It seems as if technology progressed very differently in the Star Wars universe. Emmet Asher-Perrin has a theory why that might be so.

On their way to escape the base that’s about to blow up, Mando, Greef, Cara and Mythrol come across a lab with deformed humanoid beings pickled in blue liquid. They also fine a holographic message from Doctor Pershing, the scientist we saw doing strange things to Baby Yoda in season one, to Moff Gideon, which contains some very worrying information. For Doctor Pershing regrets to inform Moff Gideon that the experiment failed, because the subject rejected the blood transfusion they were given. And unfortunately, Doctor Pershing doesn’t have any more high M-count blood left, because he was only able to take a little from the donor, since the donor was still a young child. Mando knows what this means. The reason Moff Gideon (whom our heroes didn’t even know was still alive) wants Baby Yoda is to use his blood in his experiments. Which means that Baby Yoda (and a whole school full of kids) is in mortal danger.

There are a lot of speculations about what precisely the experiments Doctor Pershing is perfoming for Moff Gideon are about. Is Moff Gideon trying to create his own Force-sensitive supersoldiers, as io9 reviewer Germain Lussier and AV-Club reviewer Katie Rife suspect? Is he trying to clone Palpatine, as Emmet Asher-Perrin suspects? Whatever it is, it’s certainly bad news for our heroes.

And so Mando takes off on his jetpack to rescue Baby Yoda (a scene which sadly happened off screen), while Cara, Greef and Mythrol have to fight their way out. When their way is cut off, Cara commandeers an armoued and armed Imperial ground transport and the three of them escape, pursued by Stormtroopers on speeder bikes and later TIE-fighters. The action scenes in this episode – which was directed by Carl Weathers, who also plays Greef Carga – are truly impressive, particularly the lengthy chase scene in the canyon.

Just as a TIE-fighter is about to blow up the transport, Mando comes to the rescue in the newly repaired Razor Crest and proceeds to take out the remaining two TIE-fighters (Greef Carga had shot one of them down) with some impressive flying manoeuvres, while Baby Yoda sits in the passenger seat, munching macarons and cheering. The little one clearly loves fast movements of any kind. But anybody who has ever ridden a rollercoaster on a full stomach knows that this is not a good idea. And so Mando blows up the last of the TIE-fighters only to be rewarded with some blue vomit, which he manfully tries to clean up, though personally I don’t think a cape is at all suitable for cleaning up baby puke.

The episode ends with Greef Carga getting a visit from Captain Teva of the New Republic, whom we last saw in “The Passenger” two weeks ago saving Mando, Baby Yoda and the Frog Lady from the monster spiders. Captain Teva wants to know just why an Imperial base suddenly exploded (you’d figure the New Republic would be grateful, no matter what the cause) and if a wandering Mandalorian was involved, but Greef Carga isn’t telling. Neither is Cara Dune, even after Captain Teva brings up her past as a Rebel shocktrooper and tries to re-recruit her. He even leaves her some kind of badge. But Cara wants nothing to do with the New Republic, at least for now, and Teva asking her if she lost someone on Alderaan doesn’t help either. After all, it’s obvious that every survivor – and so far we’ve only met two, Leia and Cara – must have lost not just their home, but their families and friends as well. Talking of which, Alderaan certainly breeds impressive women, even if there is something of a backlash against Cara Dune because of some unfortunate remarks actress Gina Carano made on Twitter.

The scene then shifts to what looks like a slightly redesigned Star Destroyer, which is introduced in perfect New Hope manner. Aboard that ship, a female Imperial officer – the first and only female Imperial soldier we’ve ever seen, though the First Order did have several women in its ranks – receives a message from one of the mechanics who repaired the Razor Crest. The tracking device has been installed, the mechanic reports. Thrilled, the young officer reports this to Moff Gideon. So Mando and Baby Yoda are not just in danger, they’re also bringing that danger to the doorstep of the second-to-last Jedi in the universe.

This episode was almost pure action. For once, it also contained more callbacks to Star Wars itself, particularly A New Hope, than to other genres. However, unlike some of the other action heavy episodes, “The Siege” also moves the story forward, because we now know just why Moff Gideon is after poor Baby Yoda.

There have been some complaints about the meandering and episodic nature of The Mandalorian, but then the show follows (and has followed from the very first episode on) the old “a stranger comes into town” pattern that lies at the heart of anything from The Fugitive and Route 66 via Doctor Who and the original Star Trek (and The Next Generation, since Star Trek only had longer arcs from Deep Space Nine on) via the 1970s Incredible Hulk and The A-Team to Jack Reacher. It’s a very old pattern that goes back to the pulp era (Conan and Eric John Stark and pretty much every pulp series character are variations of “a stranger comes into town”) and likely even further to the dime novel era. It’s also a pattern that works, which is why it has been used for so long.

It seems to me as if the complaints mainly come from younger viewers who are used to the heavily serialised storytelling style of many TV shows of today. Indeed, a commenter somewhere said that they had problems adjusting to the episodic style of The Mandalorian, because the more serialised style of e.g. Game of Thrones was much more common, which made me think, “Uhm, how old are you exactly?” Because serialised TV-shows were not at all common until the 1990s. Twin Peaks is the first US TV-show that was heavily serialised, soap operas like Dallas or Dynasty notwithstanding. And even well into the 2000s, the majority of TV shows still used the episodic “case of the week” format or were hybrids that had a few arc episodes and a lot of standalone cases of the week. It’s only very recently that fully serialised shows became more common, probably because of the lower episode counts of streaming series. And The Mandalorian has a lot more internal continuity than e.g. The Fugitive or The A-Team, which can usually be watched in any order.

Now I’ve said before that I quite like the “a stranger comes to town” approach and use it for several of my own series. And I’m happy that there are still TV shows which use that time-tested approach, because while fully serialised TV shows can be a lot of fun, you also can’t watch too many of them at the same time.

Even though The Mandalorian is a brand-new show using cutting edge technology, it feels very retro. And so a more retro approach to storytelling is certainly appropriate.

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