‘The Believer’ is probably my favorite episode of the season so far, largely because of how focused the plot was and how much character development happened in just 37 short minutes.
‘The Believer’ is written by Rick Famuyiwa, who also wrote ‘The Prisoner‘ from the first season. This means that Mayfeld is basically his creation and the fantastic character development between the two episodes is largely his doing. Back in ‘The Prisoner’, I felt that Mayfeld was a one-off antagonist whom we would never see again, but this episode explored a more complex side to him that showed he does have a personal creed. He’s not just a blank antagonist to be discarded one the conflict is complete.
While at the time of ‘The Prisoner,’ he just happened to be on the opposite side of the battle as our Mando, it doesn’t always have to be so. This episode has him helping our protagonists because it just happens to suit his goals at this time. Mayfeld is basically a True Neutral character who views both sides of these conflicts as harmful to the general population. Each side of any conflict feels justified with their actions, but the people who occupy the territory in which they choose to battle are just focused on survival. If you disregard the politics of it all, both sides are harmful. To Mayfeld, both sides are the same.
I personally don’t ascribe to ‘bothsidesism‘ as a philosophy in our real world. I have a pretty vested interest in progressivism as a queer woman who sees the policies set forth by the other side as actively harmful to me. Even in the realm of Star Wars I can’t help but align myself with the Rebels, as their goals appear to be freeing people from totalitarian rule. That’s a pretty great thing to me, and even many small villages that get liberated from Imperial rule seem grateful. But it is interesting having a character who disregards the messier details of political conflict and focuses on those who get caught up in the middle of it all. It adds a layer to the world we’ve gotten to know over the past 43 years.
This type of deep dive into the Star Wars universe is something I crave. It’s not something we usually get so blatantly, though. Trust me when I say this isn’t a criticism of the Star Wars universe as a whole, as I’m a pretty hardcore fan of literally everything that comes out of the franchise. But I’m used to this type of discussion largely taking place in fan spaces and not being spelled out so explicitly in the text. It’s pretty thrilling to get this in the text itself!
The only reason Mayfeld ends up actually helping one side in this particular conflict is because they offer him a deal. By helping them, he helps himself. It’s a realistic motivation to give him and I love how the whole plot played out. I expected it to be good based on who was writing and directing the episode, but I’m even more impressed with how they tackled this nuanced character philosophy. I kind of want him to return, but I don’t know what else there is to explore with this character, honestly. But I also felt that way the first time he appeared, so I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
Our Mandalorian also had quite a bit of character development in ‘The Believer.’ His main creed dictates that he can’t remove his Mandalorian helmet, but he tweaks this philosophy in order to disguise himself as a stormtrooper. As long as he isn’t showing his face, he reasons, its still within his creed. Mayfeld calls him out for this, but it is what it is. But then when his face is required for a terminal scan, he removes even the stormtrooper helmet and reveals his entire face and disregards any bit of his creed. There’s no way to wiggle out of it this time.
In the end, nobody but Mayfeld knows that this happened, but he made that choice before he knew that Mayfeld would keep his secret. He made this choice and prioritized getting Grogu back over keeping with his Mandalorian sect rules. Even if nobody knows it happened, it still happened.
Mando also seems to have accepted the fact that he’s in full Papa-Mode now. When Baby Grogu is referred to as ‘his kid,’ he doesn’t dispute this. And his hologram monologue to Moff Gideon at the end of the episode where he says Grogu means more to him that he ‘can ever know’ sent chills down my spine. While we know that Grogu has become attached to him, we can’t forget that this goes the other way around, too. Mando is his papa. And that’s just the facts, folks. But we kind of already knew that, didn’t we? It just became much more obvious in ‘The Believer.’
Now let’s get down to the pretty-shiny-fun stuff. Was the action great this week? Hell yeah it was. Especially all the moments when Fennec and Cara teamed up. I admit it’s still hard to enjoy Cara on screen due to Gina Carano’s beliefs, which I outlined in my review of ‘The Siege.’ It’s a struggle to enjoy her as a result of these harmful actions, but some part of me still appreciates that two badass women teamed up and were instrumental in taking out an Imperial base. I can’t set aside my disagreements with Carano, but I can still enjoy these moments on some disconnected level at least.
The explosions that resulted from the assault were also pretty damn satisfying. Setting ‘The Believer’ largely around a rhydonium refinery means it’s pretty easy to have big shiny explosions at pretty much every critical moment. The tension of the rhydonium possibly blowing up before they have a chance to execute their plan also heightened the tension. If you like these types of high-stakes narratives, this was basically the perfect set up for you. What’s more high-stakes than the possibility of exploding at any second? Not much, really.
And, finally -and most importantly for my reviews – was Baby Yoda cute? No. Because he wasn’t in this episode. But that’s okay, man. The plot was about getting the kid back to Papa Mando so he didn’t have to be actually present to be central to the plot. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of cute moments next week when they go to wherever the heck Moff Gideon is to execute their rescue mission. It’ll make up for his absence this week, I’m sure.
Next week is the finale of season two and it’s written by showrunner Jon Favreau, whom I have the utmost confidence in. I don’t think Favreau has ever let me down either with Star Wars, Marvel, or anything else he got his hands on. I look forward to it, but also dread having to wait for the inevitable season three. Hopefully the pandemic hasn’t slowed down production too much, because I need more Mandalorian injected directly into my eyeballs.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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