An old associate of the Mandalorian (Mark Boone Jr.) recruits him into a job to team up with four other shady characters to retrieve a target (identity unknown to Mando, but a job is a job) being held prisoner. The leader of the mission is Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr, bringing lots of attitude and zingers), a former Imperial soldier and sharpshooter. Mando isn't impressed by the notion of an "Imperial sharpshooter." Mayfeld: "I wasn't a stormtrooper, wiseass." Also on the team is the Big Muscle Dude (Clancy Brown, unrecognizably bulked up and looking like Hellboy), the Droid (voiced by Richard Ayoade), and the Vixen Knife Expert (Natalia Tena), with whom Mando has a murky past history.
One of the running gags seems to be Mando getting pulled into jobs where certain information — in this case the fact the target is actually a New Republic prison ship filled with tried criminals, and not some lawless regional thing — has been omitted and the terms change once he arrives to do the job. You'd think he'd stop reluctantly agreeing to follow through with jobs having altered terms.
To call this team tenuously allied would be an understatement. Like many teams composed of villains, the bickering quotient is high (much is made of the fact Mando won't remove his helmet), as is the potential for betrayals. Mando is good at watching his back, though, and when the betrayal aboard the prison ship inevitably happens, he's ready to fight back.
"The Prisoner" is a slick B movie that's all technique, and if I'm detecting a trend in the middle passages of this season, it's that The Mandalorian does a really good job of packaging reliable sci-fi action and western clichés. I mean that seriously; it's good at what it does. I just wish it was doing a little bit more than this. "The Prisoner" is a step up from "The Gunslinger" because it isn't quite as spare in the plot department, but if previous episodes went all-in on westerns, this one goes all-in on Alien. Well, that and comic books.
This episode almost overcomes its clichés simply by being well-paced and entertaining. And Mando's moral code trying to keep innocent bystanders out of harm's way is admirable. But while it's fun to see Mando outwit and outfight his opponents at every turn with wily cleverness, his invincibility drains the tension from the proceedings, making this an exercise in watching the villains get their comeuppance one by one. Nothing really wrong with that. Always bet on beskar.
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