When it’s not about killing a big critter in a cave, this season of The Mandalorian has mainly focused on bringing back old favorites for redemption arcs and possible spinoffs. Last week, we learned that, despite doing hardly anything cool in the original trilogy, Boba Fett is pretty badass. Now, as teased in that episode’s closing moments, it’s time for Bill Burr to reveal he, too, is pretty badass.
As you may recall, last we saw of Burr, he was locked up in SPACE PRISON. Well, it seems that since then, he’s been transferred to the distant planet California, where he’s doing cheap prison labor for vice chancellor Ka’Mala.
Gina Carano’s appointment to town sheriff or whatever a few episodes ago seemed really casual. Like, no more official—and not much more significant—than when Handsome Cowboy took it upon himself to be marshall of a ghost town. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, she is now able to requisition Burr to be transferred to her custody (per Mando’s request at the end of last week).
She flies over and takes Burr from his droid slavemaster, and Burr is moaning the whole time about it, like he was really into the prison labor. They reach Boba Fett’s ship, and when Fett walks out, we see he’s got a new paint job on his classically scuffed armor. It’s hilarious, because, what, like he had a little craft box of paints and knocked this out on the trip over? But, with his undoing the iconography of the original films with a shiny new coat of paint, it’s even more hilarious as accidental metaphor.
We finally then find out that Mando needs Burr because he used to be an Empire employee, so he knows how they can find Los Grogus Hermanos. Burr’s like, yeah, I can get you in, but we need to get to a terminal. Arbitrarily, how about this one I know of on Whateverthefuck Planet?
Mando is shocked to hear this. “Whateverthefuck Planet is uninhabited, though!”
It is so annoying how everyone in Star Wars knows the history of about every goddamn planet in the universe. This planet where there’s supposed to be nothing is somehow known for having nothing. “Oh, MORACK!? Of course! The Big Horn, Wyoming of space! Everyone knows that place for having nothing at all going on there!”
Burr explains that it is not, in fact, the Big Horn, Wyoming of space. It is secretly an Empire mining operation, where they collect a highly volatile… ore or fluid or something. It doesn’t really matter. It’s some explosive shit.
So the team of Mando, Bill, Ming-Na, Boba, and Gina zip over there, but once they get there, Burr gives us some loose explanation for how anyone going into the Empire compound will have their genetic signature scanned and background checked by the Imperial CIA. There’s actually a couple hazy “scanner” explanations in this episode, and it doesn’t feel very Star Wars. For a world where clearance codes, rotating little electro-screwdrivers, or simple blasting opens any door, “scanning” feels unfittingly, modernly formal.
Anyway, it again doesn’t matter, because the whole point of this mechanic is just a lazy excuse to force Mando onto the mission. Carano’s scan would have revealed her as a Rebel, Ming-Na is wanted, and Temuera Morrison says “they might recognize [his] face.” Cute one! He’s the guy they cloned, everyone!
It’s up to Mando. But there’s one problem: his determined bashfulness.
He is sworn to be the Bashful Boy, and the Bashful Boy must never show his face. He is too bashful, and that is his oath; his identity; his only truth. He is the Bashful Boy.
There’s this anecdote Ben Affleck, somehow unashamed, shared with the New York Times. It’s about a scene in Gone Girl where he was asked to put on a fucking ballcap. Let me pass it on:
“I said, ‘David, I love you, I would do anything for you,’” Mr. Affleck recalled. “‘But I will not wear a Yankees hat. I just can’t. I can’t wear it because it’s going to become a thing, David. I will never hear the end of it. I can’t do it.’ And I couldn’t put it on my head.”The New York Times
It’s so stupid, unprofessional, and childish—and it’s exactly where Mando goes here. He insists that he is still going to need to cover his stupid face.
He needs an Empire helmet.
Thankfully, that is not even a big deal at all. Just about everyone in the Empire is already wearing helmets. It’s actually far weirder when Bill Burr is later disguised as a Stormtrooper and not wearing a helmet. Also, wouldn’t they need disguises to infiltrate the base to begin with? It’s such a non-issue that Mando needs a helmet, but for some reason, like the Yankees cap, it becomes a whole thing.
Carano hijacks a transport and steals some Stormtrooper costumes, and when Mando puts his on, they’re all acting like it’s hilarious. Like he looks like an absolute clown. But he looks exactly like the last guy wearing the outfit. We’ve got Boba over there about to burst out of his freshly-painted suit and we’re pretending this completely normal trooper getup is the goofy shit. How quickly Cara Dune forgets that the Rebel helmets made them look like complete assholes.
Now that Mando and Burr are in costume, they get in the transport truck and start off toward the Empire base. They have a little time on the way, so Burr starts going on about how he could never wear a helmet, boasting how much better he can breathe having taken it off. Being an anti-masker seems like it sort of tracks for being a Space Southie.
There’s a disruption on the way, though: a couple transports in front of them explode! The transport’s Imperial Waze tries to re-route them around the fiery traffic, but it doesn’t work. Some ugly guys on some crappy little hover-rafts have pulled up alongside—and they’re trying to board!
They’re pirates! As explicitly stated! But apparently really bad ones; instead of stealing the cargo, they just keep blowing it up? What are these guys getting out of this? What is your endgame here, Ugly Pirates?
At the wheel, Burr can’t outrun them because of this on-rails driving mission’s inverted, duller Speed mechanic that he can’t drive over, like, 40mph. Mando is forced to go topside to fight these idiots off, and he quickly learns something Star Wars fans have known for more than forty years: there is absolutely no reason to wear Stormtrooper armor. Blaster shots get through it, it breaks when struck; it’s purely cosmetic and absolute trash. This guy has been dining at his Beskar’s Per Se, and here he is force fed the fast food of the Stormtrooper armor. It’s kind of satisfying. Can’t just lazily lay there taking shot after shot this time, can you, asshole?
Mando nonetheless takes out a lot of them, but a half-dozen more hover-rafts full of dubious pirates are incoming. Lucky for him, in the franchise’s umpteenth “ship swoops in to save the day at the last second,” a couple TIE fighters fly down, take some incredibly careless shots, and just happen to hit the correct targets.
So-called pirates vanquished, Mando and Burr pull up to the base, where they’re greeted with an over-the-top heroes’ welcome. I get that Stormtroopers don’t have a great success rate, but they must really be down in the dumps to get this excited about a couple guys saving some cargo that’s coming in at a regular rate. Getting taken out by a bunch of little space bears must completely destroy your confidence, because these Return of the Jedi losers are treating this like their “blew up the Death Star” moment.
Our infiltration team gets inside, they get all these needless high-fives and cheers, and they very quickly locate the terminal. Son of a bitch if there isn’t another issue, though.
In Burr’s second scanning explanation of the day, he lays out that when accessing the terminal to download Esposito’s location onto their USB stick, one of their faces has to be scanned. Burr figured he’d do it, but he can’t. A former ranking officer of his is in the terminal area that seems to double as a break room, and that guy might recognize him. It’s up to Mando.
But does the Bashful Boy love his Goblin Son enough to renounce his shyness???
Yes. Fuck yes he does.
Mando approaches the terminal and is like, I know it was just explained that it has to scan my face, but let me give it one quick shot with the helmet on, just in case that also works.
Honestly, I kind of get it. I’d probably try it too, because that makes just as much sense as any face working. Like, anyone with a face can access this? They just want to make sure it’s not a headless body downloading the location of Ichabod Crane’s Star Destroyer? It makes no sense at all that it just needs to scan a face.
Predictably, his brief, initial failure at the face scan draws the attention of Burr’s old officer. This guy approaches and is like, hey, what’s your deal? Mando says he’s a transport dude, and this prick is like, noooo, I want your TK number for no reason and you could definitely say any three or four digits at all and I’m not going to know either way.
But the Bashful Boy freezes up! His face is exposed, and he’s SO BASHFUL.
Lucky for him, Burr takes control of the situation. He also says that Mando’s nickname is Brown Eyes, and there ain’t no wonderin’ why; Pedro Pascal’s peepers are as deep a brown as fresh mud, and like a fresh mud, you better believe you’re gonna get stuck in ‘em. Real sunk in.
Anyway, this Empire officer wants to show his appreciation for these two soldiers who bravely saved the bullshit cargo. He wants to take them out for a drink, and also the TIE fighter pilots who saved them and are sort of the bigger heroes are not invited. Those guys can fuck right off.
Across the Star Wars franchise, we’ve frequented so many cool cantinas, populated by oddball, questionable characters. Here we go again! Oh… nope. It turns out this jerk isn’t much of a bar guy. He just goes up to his apartment or whatever and comes down with a bottle of booze to share around this shitty breakroom table. What a letdown.
True to Bostonian form, Burr starts getting a bit riled up once he has some alcohol in him. He starts going on about this operation the officer ran that killed a bunch of civilians and Stormtroopers—not so thinly veiling that he actually fought alongside them. In the end, Burr ends up getting blasted enough that he blasts the guy, so he and Mando have to take off out the window.
Throughout this, Carano and Ming-Na have been watching the compound through their sniper sights. They start picking off the pursuing Imperial troops, while Boba Fett pulls his ship down for yet another quick swoop-in-and-save.
As they fly off, Burr asks for a sniper rifle. He fires at whatever explosive cargo it was they rescued, and everything goes kablooey. Carano and Ming-Na, who just picked off like ten guys a piece without missing, are like, wow, he’s pretty good too. Mando went real sniper-heavy when forming his latest adventuring party, and it shows.
So now that Burr is sort of redeemed enough, Mando and Carano give him this cute hint that he can just fuck off and they’ll pretend he’s dead, so he doesn’t have to return to prison; after overcoming some painfully sitcom-y ignorance, he finally gets what they’re suggesting and fucks off.
In the epilogue, Mr. Moff Gideon receives a hologram message. It’s Mando, who essentially says, “I am coming for my son and YOU WILL NEVER BE HIS DAD.”
Written and directed by Dope’s Rick Famuyiwa, “The Believer” is at least one of the better episodes of a season filled with series lows and mediums. Like The Mandlorian’s enjoyable Chapter 2, between its surrogate Nazi disguises and truck-top battle, it stinks of Indiana Jones—with a light scent of The Wages of Fear tossed in there with what ends up being the pretty inconsequential inclusion of a volatile substance’s transport. Very back to basics, but it works.
The season still feels pretty lackluster, but it’s at least on the upswing as it heads into its Favreau-scripted finale. And if there is not a dramatic Darksaber vs. Beskar spear battle, I will eat space crow.