by Hunter Johnson
[Editor’s Note: The following contains minor spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 7]
“The Mandalorian” soars in its second season’s penultimate episode, all thanks to none other than comedian Bill Burr.
“The Believer” follows Djarin and company on their mission to rescue Grogu from the clutches of Moff Gideon, and there to help them do just that is mercenary Migs Mayfeld, with Bill Burr (“F is for Family,” “Breaking Bad”) returning as his character from last season’s “The Prisoner.”
Burr brings a surprising amount of emotional depth to the outwardly wisecracking character. His snarky yet genuine performance, mixed with the brilliant writing of Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope,” “Talk to Me”), ends up turning a fairly conventional character into a truly wonderful addition to the “Star Wars” universe.
Speaking of Famuyiwa, “The Believer” is one of the few episodes of “The Mandalorian” not written by showrunner Jon Favreau. After writing and directing “The Prisoner,” Famuyiwa proves himself as a writer and director yet again with another worthy entry in the show’s canon. His careful handling of heavy issues in this episode impresses just as much as it pushes viewers to really think.
This is an example of a detour episode done right. While it may not move the overarching story that far along, it takes full advantage of its Mando/Mayfeld team-up and ends up being one of the most dramatically compelling episodes of the series. For the most part, Famuyiwa replaces the focus on big-budget action of previous episodes with an emphasis on captivating character interactions.
One specific scene features Richard Brake (“Batman Begins,” “Mob City”) as Imperial Officer Valin Hess. Brake’s dramatic talent is not wasted in this appearance, with his viscerally villainous portrayal of Hess contributing to one of the most absorbing scenes in “The Mandalorian” yet.
While the action takes a backseat in this episode, it would certainly be a lie to say it’s not present at all. During Mando and Mayfeld’s mission, they are pursued by a rowdy group of local pirates and are forced to fend them off. The sequence shows off Djarin’s skill in hand-to-hand combat as well as introducing a new “Star Wars” species, breaking the series’ potentially rote pattern of highlighting only Skywalker Saga background characters.
Other returning characters in “The Believer” include Gina Carano as Cara Dune, who has recently been instated as a Marshal of the New Republic, as well as Ming-Na Wen and Temuera Morrison as bounty-hunting duo Fennec Shand and Boba Fett, respectively. These newly formed alliances between characters make for a fun ongoing storyline of Djarin and company planning Grogu’s rescue.
However, while all three of these supporting characters certainly get their moments, this episode is primarily about Djarin and Mayfeld, potentially testing the patience of fans who were hoping for another Boba-centric episode. Hopefully, that character will most certainly get more chances to steal the show down the line.
But for this episode, it’s all about the little things: the conversations and the character moments. Mayfeld certainly gets a lot of them, but Djarin also has his time in the spotlight. It seems a bit odd that the main character of a show hardly ever stands out as the most captivating part, but that’s the nature of “The Mandalorian.” It’s a show where the star and his journey serve as essentially a blank slate upon which creative ideas can be explored. The writers can put Mando wherever they want, and they do: they put him in a Western, a horror movie and a swashbuckling adventure—and that was just the first three episodes of this season. The character and his “never takes off the mask” mantra come with endless possibilities.
Fifteen episodes into the series, the writers are slowly but surely taking meticulous steps to add to this blank slate. Djarin and Mayfeld’s clash of personalities makes for an enjoyable team-up, primarily because of Mayfeld’s constant berating of Djarin for always keeping the mask on. This allows for a fun dynamic that shows what Djarin is willing to compromise to save Grogu, who, at this point, might as well be his adoptive son.
It’s amazing to see what Pedro Pascal is able to achieve as this character. Throughout both seasons, he’s been able to exhibit a massive range of emotions using just his voice and his body movements, with the only exception being the briefest scene in the finale of season one. Pascal continues to deliver a solid leading performance and is given a true chance to shine in this episode.
Overall, “The Believer” is one of those episodes that benefits greatly from the show’s television format. It didn’t need to be any longer to tell its story, and the format allows for one-off episodes where past characters show up for self-contained stories. Hopefully, Burr’s character will return sometime in the future, but until then, fans get to look forward to what will likely be an epic conclusion in the season finale.
Hunter Johnson is a senior Theatre Performance Major and an A&E writer Cedars. He spends his time acting on stage, directing off stage, and critiquing the endless amounts of content that Disney pumps out.