Our new motley crew of heroes (Din Djarin, Cara Dune, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand) travel to a penal colony to recruit Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr) into their adventure in exchange for a temporary release. (He crossed paths with Mando in last season's "The Prisoner" and got a lengthy prison sentence in the fallout.) They need Mayfeld because he's a former Imperial soldier who may know how to find Moff Gideon in Mando's quest to rescue the abducted Grogu.
Mayfeld directs the group to a mining operation on an Imperial-occupied world that exhibits a grittier war-torn impact than most Star Wars settings (the locals have clearly seen better days). If they can get into the base, they can access information on the whereabouts of Gideon's ship. Mando and Mayfeld pose as stormtroopers and seize control of one of the cargo trucks full of the flammable fuel, which they hope to drive straight into the base. But local marauders complicate the plan when they try to destroy the cargo convoy on its way back.
At first, "The Believer" seems to be settling into the tried-and-true Mandalorian action formula: Set up a MacGuffin-like mission to facilitate a long and elaborate action sequence. It does indeed do that, with Mando in his undercover stormtrooper outfit (far inferior to beskar armor) riding atop the transport trying to fend off waves of attackers and their thermal detonators. It's fun stuff, but after the extended TIE fighter pursuit through the ravine in "The Siege," these sorts of things start to seem a bit familiar.
Fortunately, there's more here, and it makes for yet another very solid episode of this compulsively entertaining action show. Once back at the base, Mando and Mayfeld have to retrieve the intel. But that requires a face scan, which requires Djarin to remove his helmet in the name of the mission even though it goes against the Way. (One quibble: Any security system that's only denying the known blacklist rather than requiring you to be an authorized user isn't worth much.) This series is clearly going to bide its time and make a Big Deal whenever its main character takes off his helmet once per season, but Pedro Pascal gets by far more face time here than in all the other episodes combined, and the story makes it work thanks to the earlier discussion about it between Djarin and Mayfeld.
Really, a surprising amount of this lives or dies on Bill Burr's performance, and he fits right into the team so much that I'd hoped he'd stick around. Like with his stand-up, Burr is someone who is funny (at one point Mayfeld references "TPS reports") but also seems to have a simmering rage lurking beneath the surface, ready to come out at any point. Mayfeld runs into a slimy commander from his past that he hates for his indifference in sending his buddies to die. Even after the mission is accomplished, Mayfeld can't look the other way after listening to the guy ramble on about fascism and feels compelled to shoot him in the middle of the break room. (I was reminded of how Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained just couldn't on principle let that one last thing go, despite knowing his ensuing action would be tactically disastrous.)
The big escape at the end shows how this series can work with the whole team involved, with Dune and Shand providing sniper cover, and Fett driving the getaway vehicle. It's well-executed if familiar stuff, and I was practically fist-pumping when Boba Fett deployed his seismic charges to take out the TIE fighters. (Seriously, those are one of the great weapons dreamed up in Star Wars.)
This sets up another season finale against Gideon, in which I hope he gets more screen time. Giancarlo Esposito has unfortunately felt largely wasted in walk-on roles this season, with his most prominent part having come at the end of last week's "The Tragedy." He's more of a looming presence in the margins than a character. But I guess you could say a lot of the characters on this show are somewhat thin, because they're defined by actions more than dialogue. Mayfeld seems to be an outlier, on the account that he talks a lot.
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