Hello there. If this is your first time clicking on The Mando Rewatch, my name is Nate, and over the past few weeks I have been revisiting The Mandalorian, starting from the very beginning. This week, I will be doing a deep dive into the key moments and thematic significance of “Chapter 6: The Prisoner.” As a reminder, these recaps are spoiler-heavy, and I am writing them under the assumption that you have not only seen this episode, but the rest of the series as well. It also helps if you have read my earlier reviews because I tend to circle back to previously established themes. So, go check those out if you haven’t already done so. With that out the way, let’s talk about Star Wars!
Like all of the chapter titles thus far, “The Prisoner” can be interpreted in multiple ways. On the surface, it would be easy to assume that the title simply refers to Qin, the Twi’lek convict aboard the New Republic prison ship. However, from a thematic point of view, the Mando himself is actually the prisoner. He is a prisoner to his past, as well as to his code, and this is manifested physically in his armour. Obviously, the feeling of being a prisoner inside one’s own armour is reminiscent of Darth Vader. Mando’s inability to remove his helmet and show his true self represents his emotional repression. Yet, as I have discussed in previous reviews, he is increasingly becoming more aware that there may be another Way for him to live. Unfortunately, at this point, he is still very much a prisoner to his code. That being said, this episode further demonstrates the fact that Mando has been breaking free from the prison of his shady past – quite literally in this case. Indeed, there are many hints throughout the episode that Mando used to be much more ruthless back when he was riding with Ranzar Malk and his crew. Most notably, when Ranzar says that Mando would go on jobs with them simply for the “target practice.” Clearly, Mando has grown as a person since then – Grogu has definitely changed him for the better. And, this change has been physically represented in his new armour. Sure enough, when he is reunited with Xi’an, she comments on the armour by saying, “this is shiny. You wear it well.” His clean, new armour coincides with his new moral compass. Remember, in the first episodes his armour is damaged, and incomplete. Then, after his battle with the Mudhorn, and subsequently having to hand Grogu over to the Empire, the armour had “lost its integrity.” Therefore, the fact that Xi’an points out his shiny new armour reminds the audience that Mando has a clean slate, and he doesn’t fit in with this crew anymore.
“Chapter 6” is written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, and despite the fact that it is fairly conventional, as well as predictable, it is still quite enjoyable. If we think of The Mandalorian as a space-Western, then this chapter represents the classic train heist. As a result, there is a lot of great Mando action, especially when he takes on the group of droids by himself. It is well-choreographed, and further demonstrates the character’s impressive physical abilities, while also re-emphasizing his hatred of droids. Since his honour as a Mandalorian was challenged by his fellow mercenaries prior to the fight, Mando shows that he is beginning to live up to the legends of his warrior culture (even though he takes a few shots in the battle). Moreover, his ability to outthink his opponent is demonstrated throughout this episode as well. He is able to escape his prison cell in record time, he plants the New Republic tracking beacon on Qin, and he easily hunts down his betrayers in an awesome horror movie-like sequence. The use of red lighting in the hallways brought back memories of the amazing Vader hallway scene in Rogue One. And, just as there was no stopping Vader then, no one on that ship was going to be stopping Mando. It’s worth mentioning that Mando does not kill every member of the crew, even though he could have. This is good storytelling, not only because it leaves the possibility open for those characters to return (Mayfeld already has in season two), but also because it shows his growth as a character. The old Mando certainly wouldn’t have let them live, but now is merciful. Mando doesn’t kill if he doesn’t need to. On the other hand, trapping the bad guys in a cell seems like a just form of retribution, considering that was what they were going to do to him. Now they are the prisoners, and not just literally, but also thematically – they are trapped in the way of life that Mando has moved beyond. Therefore, even though the plot comes across as somewhat cliché, that really is the point. “Star Wars is for twelve-year-olds.” It is black and white. There are good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win. Sometimes that means the beats of the story can be predictable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun along the way!
However, while my objectivity can often be blurred by my Star Wars-coloured glasses, my wife does not have the same problem. She is what I like to call a “casual fan.” As such, she is able to watch from an impartial point of view. I remember the first time we watched this episode, she was very annoyed with all of the quick-cuts in the editing. Meanwhile, I was so invested in the story that I didn’t notice it at the time. Unfortunately, having re-watched “Chapter 6” today, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the jumpy editing, and I found it to be quite distracting. Furthermore, the number of cameos in this episode is also distracting. Every actor in this episode is somebody I know from something else. I can’t help but be taken out of the story, if only momentarily, when I see them. For example, the New Republic officer on the prison ship is Matt Lanter – the voice of Anakin from The Clone Wars. It’s very cool to see him in live-action, but instead of paying attention to the scene, I am leaning over to wife and whispering, “that’s Anakin, you know” (as if she cares). Similarly, the three X-Wing pilots that show up at the end of the episode are Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow – three of the show’s directors. That is such an awesome scene, but Filoni’s face takes me right out of it. I am a big fan of Filoni, not only for his work, but also for the way he talks about Star Wars. Naturally, I am very happy that he was able to make an on-screen cameo, but I shouldn’t be thinking about Dave, I should be focusing on the X-Wings! The same goes for Bill Burr. He does a great job as Mayfeld, but it just bothers me that I am always aware that he is Bill Burr, and I can’t seem to get that out of my head, if that makes sense.
Minor nit-picks aside, this is another really fun episode, and I especially love the way it ends – with Mando and Grogu back on the ship together. Mando takes off the shifter knob, looks down at Grogu and says, “I told you that was a bad idea,” before handing the knob over to the child. This further highlights the growth in his character, as well as the growth in their bond. Nevertheless, even though Mando is beginning to show hints that he is willing to open up emotionally to Grogu, he is still a prisoner in his armour. And, as long as he intentionally hides himself away in there, he will remain a prisoner. Escaping the prison of his past is one thing, but much to learn he still has…
I have spoken,