The Mandalorian cranks up the action and raises the stakes

Chapter 3. Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian in THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+
Chapter 3. Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian in THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+ /

The Mandalorian: Episode 3 gets down to business and amps everything up. It’s also a showcase for director Deborah Chow.

Pardon me for a moment while I gush: This week’s installment is not only the best episode of The Mandalorian yet, it’s also one of the best Star Wars-related TV episodes yet. Excuse the hyperbole, but it’s a barn-burner, folks.

Admittedly, I’ve been positively fawning in my coverage of the show since I began this column (because it mostly lives up to the immense hype), but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to be looked at a bit more critically.

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Indeed, one of the issues that has popped up in the show’s first two chapters is the character of the Mandalorian himself; mainly, that he doesn’t seem to have any agency.

He goes where he’s told to go, and we lack any insight as to how he feels about this, because the audience is unable to even see him emote. Now, this tends to be true of any masked character in movies or TV, but because the Mando is the lead character (and often the only human in any given scene), the audience must depend on him to do the emotional heavy lifting.

Well, it turns out that all it takes is one simple choice to assuage my concerns for the time being, as Mando finally gains some agency by betraying his Imperial clients and the strict, no-questions-asked code of his bounty hunting guild and saving Baby Yoda from whatever nefarious purpose the Imperial scientist intended.

The episode expands the lore of the show in a significant way. We learn that the Mandalorians, much like the Jedi, are a once proud sect of noble warriors, religiously bound to their code of ethics and are now in hiding after what’s being referred to as The Great Purge.

Normally, what would be treated as an exposition-dump is here utilized in a way to make the Mando’s decisions more impactful and to give the audience a better connection to who he is and what he’s really about. It also opens up some interesting narrative questions to potentially be answered later.

Now that his entire tribe of jetpack-sporting compatriots have left themselves in the open to help him get Baby Yoda offworld, where does that leave the Mandalorian’s standing with his tribe? How will this change how he views his line of work, his relationships with others and even his view of himself?

The fact that episode director Deborah Chow and lead actor Pedro Pascal accomplished all of this without dialogue and with meaningful camerawork and subtle body language, is nothing short of exemplary.

Speaking of Deborah Chow, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two big action setpieces in the episode. In the first sequence, we follow the Mandalorian as he stalks his way through the dark and dingy hallways of the client’s hideout, moving with a predator’s purpose and using almost every weapon in his arsenal to rescue the little green child. Chow deftly infuses the scene with the camera moves of a claustrophobic horror film and the deliberate, yet, unrelenting pace of an action-thriller.

From there, the action spills over into a classic, one-man-against-an-entire town of gun-toting-crazies shootout reminiscent of spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars. Throughout it all, Chow keeps the cinematography and the edits clean and clear, never losing focus on The Mandalorian and keeping the audience invested in the stakes, even as the special effects ramp up considerably.  Simply put, it’s awesome.

dark. Next. The Mandalorian: Pedro Pascal is engaging, even in a helmet

What does this all add up to? An utterly captivating half-hour of TV that I immediately needed more of. I think this Obi-Wan show is in capable hands, folks.