***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Season 2, Episode 7 of The Mandalorian!***
This week's episode of The Mandalorian (“Chapter 16: The Believer”) began bridging the gap between the original and sequel trilogies, with a very obvious reference to the rise of the First Order. After losing Grogu in Chapter 15, Mando needs to track down Moff Gideon's ship, and to do that; he needs an old Imperial soldier. That would be Bill Burr's Mayfeld, the wise-cracking sharpshooter last seen in “Chapter 6: The Prisoner.”
Following his imprisonment last season, Mayfeld is serving 50 years in a New Republic scrapyard…that is, until Mando and Marshal Cara Dune (Gina Carano) spring him free for another mission. Dune brings Mayfeld to Slave I, and the latter nearly mistakes Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) for Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). Mando then walks off the ship, and Mayfeld nearly soils himself, thinking that the bounty hunter has come to kill him.
Obviously, that's not the case, but Mayfeld insists that he can't find Gideon without access to an Imperial terminal. And so, the ragtag group makes its way to Morak, a jungle planet that houses a secret Imperial refinery for rhydonium, a highly volatile explosive. However, once there, Mayfeld explains that the base has special facial recognition technology that'll sound alarms if any of their faces are contained with a New Republic registry. Even Boba Fett says he can't infiltrate the place in a nice little nod to the fact that he looks identical to the entire Clone Army that ended up serving Palpatine.
The only person who can accompany Mayfeld is Mando. Together, they hijack a shipment of rhydonium and make their way to the base. But since this is a sci-fi Western, the bandits become the… what the opposite of a bandit is? Well, Mayfeld and Mando contend with pirates trying to blow up the explosive shipment in a thrilling sequence that recalls daring train robberies of the American frontier. The action set piece is even more thrilling due to the fact that Mando had to swap his Beskar armor for vulnerable Stormtrooper duds.
Once again, bringing some meta Star Wars commentary to the audience, Mayfeld hilarious comments on how gross it would be to steal another person's outfit off their body. In addition, the drive to the refinery gives Mayfeld a chance to question the main character's ideology, continuing the thematic arc started by Bo-Katan earlier this season. When they get near enough to the refinery, Mayfeld and Mando get some much-needed backup from some Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters. Inside, they're greeted with a hero's welcome.
Shaking off the admiration, the two imposters seek out an Imperial terminal in the officer's mess hall. Mayfeld takes one step into the room before recognizing an old commander, Valin Hess (Richard Brake). Hess is perhaps a reference to Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy who was tried at Nuremberg after World War II. Brake, turning in a menacing and sleazy performance, definitely adds some Inglourious Basterds vibes to the proceedings as he asks Mando and Mayfeld to have a drink with him to celebrate their escape from the pirates.
Before that, though, Mando enters the mess hall to access the terminal. Here's the thing: it needs to scan his face, and for the second time in the show, the titular hero removes his helmet. As we know, Din's refusal to show his face is actually the belief of fanatics; he is the episode's eponymous “Believer.” So either he's starting to doubt his own worldview after those little chats with Bo-Katan and Mayfeld, or his love for Baby Yoda is so strong that it supersedes everything else. Whatever the case, we get to see Pedro Pascal's mug, but he nearly blows his cover with Hess.
Mayfeld comes to the rescue, and they all sit down for a drink. During this chat, Hess states that the New Republic is in complete disarray, which only makes the Empire (what's left of it, anyway) stronger all the time. “You see, boys,” Hess says in his oily Southern gentleman accent, “everybody thinks they want freedom, but what they really want is order.” There is our first inkling of the First Order, which is very cool because the sequel films never really explained how they came to be.
The toast doesn't go over too well because Mayfeld's got an old score to settle about an old battle where the Empire killed off thousands of its own troops without hesitation. Tired of his old commander's BS, Mayfeld shoots Hess, forcing him and Mando to take out a bunch of Stormtroopers and make a daring escape, which they do. They link back up with Boba Fett (who uses one of the seismic charges we saw in Episode II to take out a pair of TIE Fighters), Cara, and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen).
While they originally planned to return Mayfeld to the scrapyard once his work was done, Cara and Mando decide to set him free. Mayfeld, who promised not to say anything about seeing Din's face, walks away, a more fully-realized character who can be brought back in later seasons if need be.
Back on Moff Gideon's ship, the Imperial governor (Giancarlo Esposito) receives a hologram transmission from Mando, who throws Gideon's own words back in his face: “You may think you have some idea of what you are in possession of, but you do not. Soon, he will be back with me. He means more to me than you will ever know.” Except for this time, the little speech takes on a new meaning: Grogu has become like a son to Mando; he's not just some science experiment, and we all know what kind of lengths parents will go to to ensure the safety of their children.
Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa — who also wrote and directed “The Prisoner” — delivers another stunner of a heist-inspired adventure.
Only one episode remains for Season 2, and there's no telling where it'll end up. With the titular bounty hunter deciding to break his oath and remove his helmet for the second time, all rules are out the window. This is the way, folks!
For our coverage of Season 2 thus far, click the links below: