NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Mandalorian”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
As I suspected, The Mandalorian started heading towards the climax of its debut season this week, as the titular character receives a transmission from a surprising source. “Chapter 7: The Reckoning” sees the Mandalorian making a return to Nevarro, after none other than Greef Karga gets in touch with him, claiming that the Client has taken over his town, and that he needs the Mandalorian’s help in order to rout him and his Stormtroopers. Obviously, Karga can’t be trusted though, motivating the Mandalorian to seek out some allies for his return to his old stomping grounds, at least one of which provides more than he bargained for!
This is a great story device through which to start bringing the first season of The Mandalorian full circle, as the Child must once again enter the proximity of the Client, in order for the Mandalorian to have any chance at permanently protecting the Child from harm. Better still is that we get some familiar faces joining this latest mission, between Gina Carano’s Cara Dune, whom the Mandalorian goes back to fetch on Sorgan, and Nick Nolte’s Kuiil, whom the Mandalorian most believes he can trust with the Child. Cara ultimately agrees to come along after the Mandalorian promises her a chance to take out some ex-Imperial goons, but the reunion with Kuiil is a little more uncomfortable, when it’s discovered that he repaired and re-activated IG-11!
Kuiil apparently retrieved IG-11 from the wreckage left after the Mandalorian first claimed the Child, way back at the start of the season, and has since been reprogramming IG-11’s parameters and personality. Now, IG-11 is a serving droid, though the Mandalorian still isn’t terribly comfortable with him. Despite this, IG-11 comes along with Kuiil to help look after the Child anyway, who ends up being the real danger near Cara, after the Child mistakes an arm wrestling match for an attack, and ends up Force Choking Cara! This is a pretty huge twist for Star Wars fans, since, as we know from the original movie trilogy, Force Choking is a Dark Side power! Could this mean that the Child has been bred for sinister reasons? It seems fairly likely, considering that former Imperial forces are desperate to get their hands on him. For now though, there’s a great mystery set up here, since the apparent guise of Yoda’s mysterious race would nicely catch viewers off-guard, after the Child starts exhibiting powers from the Dark Side of The Force!
Either way, after finally landing on Nevarro, the episode really kicks into high gear, as Karga reunites with the Mandalorian, and meets his friends. The rendezvous has to be far from the town in order to avoid suspicion from the Client and his Stormtroopers however, necessitating a long walk through some lava fields, eventually forcing the separate mercenary crews to camp when night falls. This results in an attack by some kind of ferocious winged creatures (these appear to be Mynocks, a winged alien menace that was originally featured in Stars Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back), leading to Karga becoming gravely injured. When the other mercenaries fail to help Karga however, the Child Force Heals Karga’s poisoning instead, at the cost of some of his own life force. This could be another Dark Side Force power, but after Disney removed the original Star Wars Expanded Universe from canon, it’s a bit vague as to which Force alignment this power falls on.
Either way, this selfless act by the Child motivates Karga to turn on his allies, who were apparently hired to kill the Mandalorian and his pals, and steal back the Child for the Client. While this is a solid twist on paper, Karga’s sudden betrayal of the Bounty Hunters’ code does feel a bit contrived to an extent, even considering that the Child saved his life. I guess we needed an excuse to get Karga on the Mandalorian’s side for the show’s upcoming season finale however, so, whatever. In any case, now that Karga has tipped the Mandalorian and the others off to the ruse, the Mandalorian suggests an alternate plan, wherein Karga pretends to capture the Mandalorian, with Cara’s help, in turn giving the Mandalorian the necessary proximity through which to ambush and kill the Client. Naturally, this has to be done with a lot more Stormtroopers around as well, because it really couldn’t be that easy, could it?
This already strong storyline definitely saved the best twist for last however, once the Mandalorian meets with the Client again, and manages to stall long enough for the Client to get a call. That’s certainly lucky, since the Child’s floating pram is actually empty, with the Child now being headed back to the Razor Crest with Kuiil. The call is very unlucky for the Client though, who is suddenly gunned down in a huge rain of blaster fire by Stormtroopers outside, which the Mandalorian, Karga and Cara just barely defend themselves from! After the dust settles, a TIE Fighter then drops nearby, with a mysterious man coming out, played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, who demands that the Mandalorian hand over the Child. While it’s not outright stated yet, marketing materials have already confirmed that this man is Moff Gideon, the true antagonist of The Mandalorian’s debut season, and the person that the freshly-dead Client was working for all along.
This episode ending with Gideon’s first appearance is pretty striking, especially after the brutal way through which he dispatches the Client! Even worse for the protagonists is that Kuiil was apparently killed before making it back to the Mandalorian’s ship too, with Gideon’s Stormtroopers successfully seizing the Child. Things look especially bad for The Mandalorian’s heroes at this point, but this shocking final twist with Gideon nonetheless presents an especially exciting cliffhanger for the season’s penultimate episode. “Chapter 7: The Reckoning” exceptionally returns The Mandalorian to top form, once again making another inspired shift back to the more shady, morally ambiguous format of the show’s first few episodes, without undoing the positive development of the protagonists as devout protectors of the Child. Moff Gideon’s big entrance certainly doesn’t disappoint either, leaving the Client and his forces gunned down like dogs, while the Mandalorian, Cara and Karga are at his mercy. Because of this episode’s early Wednesday premiere (so as not to conflict with the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on this week’s Friday), we have a couple of extra days to wait before The Mandalorian’s season finale, which doesn’t arrive until shortly after Christmas, but the wait should be worth it at this rate, hopefully presenting a golden opportunity to close out the season on a high note worthy of Disney+’s first original genre series!
- Exciting return for Cara, Kuiil and IG-11
- The Child displaying Dark Side Force powers
- Awesome cliffhanger introduction for Moff Gideon
- Karga's heel-turn feels a bit forced