Ranking the Episodes of Season 1 of ‘The Mandalorian’
Yesterday, we presented our Spoiler-Heavy review on Season 1 of The Mandalorian in honor of Season 2’s impending debut tomorrow on Disney+, and as we noted at the very end of that post, it was only meant to be the first half of this extensive retrospective on the Star Wars franchise’s first live-action TV series. Yes, today on The DisInsider, we’ll be ranking each of the 8 episodes that make up Season 1. Now, to be clear, this is not one of those lists that’s meant to be a case of the subjects in question being ranked from ‘worst to best’ because, to be perfectly frank, none of these eight episodes are ‘bad’. Thanks to the exceptional work from series creator Jon Favreau’s crew of directors, every episode is outstanding and instantly memorable in its own unique way.
QUICK DISCLAIMER: Also, just like yesterday’s review, today’s list will be full of spoilers. As such, we recommend watching the entire season first before delving into this post.
8. CHAPTER 2: THE CHILD
We start this list off with Chapter 2, ‘The Child’, which was the first of two episodes directed by Rick Famuyiwa, fresh off 2015’s critically-acclaimed coming-of-age drama Dope. Precisely continuing from the pilot episode’s unforgettable cliffhanger, this episode sees the Mandalorian begin the journey back to Nevarro with The Child in tow. He does begin to run into some trouble, however, when he fights off a bunch of rival bounty hunters who are also after The Child. And if that wasn’t enough, he then discovers that his ship, the Razor Crest, has been thoroughly scavenged by Jawas, thus forcing him to try and negotiate with them (with the help of Kuiil) so that he can get it back in working order. As I noted earlier, this episode’s placement at the bottom of the list doesn’t mean that it’s a ‘bad’ episode. Sure, it may be a rather short one at just half an hour long, but it’s chock-full of great action sequences such as the Mandalorian’s first attempt at pursuing the Jawas, which promptly ends with him getting hit with a whole bunch of electric shocks that knock him right off the top of their Sandcrawler. There’s also a lot of great humorous moments, like when the Mandalorian gets so frustrated with the Jawas during their negotiation that he nearly sets some of them on fire with his flamethrower. Eventually, though, he and Kuiil manage to strike up a deal with them that results in him having to collect the egg of a vicious horned creature known as a Mudhorn. And while the Mudhorn does proceed to give him quite a bit of trouble, he ends up being aided by The Child, who manages to subdue it with the Force. Thus, the Mandalorian acquires the egg and gives it to the Jawas, who promptly devour its contents, and he and Kuiil manage to fix his ship, with the latter rejecting his offer to tag along as his new crew member. All in all, this is a really fun episode that, like the pilot, does a great job of slowly but surely revealing more of the overall story which, in this instance, namely stems from the reveal that The Child is one with the Force. Really, the only reason why it’s at the bottom of this list is because it simply ends up being outdone by the other 7 episodes.
7. CHAPTER 7: THE RECKONING
I realize that placing this episode at, fittingly enough, the number 7 spot on this list may be a bit controversial given the fact that it was one of two episodes this season that received a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But just like Chapter 2, this ultimately comes down to overall preference rather than me having anything bad to say about it. The episode begins with the Mandalorian being contacted by Greef Karga, who requests his help in taking down the Client and his Imperial forces on Nevarro in exchange for Greef clearing up their current predicament with the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. He then proceeds to recruit both Cara Dune and Kuiil to aid in the mission but is surprised to learn that the latter has rebuilt IG-11 after he’d destroyed it in Episode 1 and has reprogrammed it so that it can now serve as The Child’s protector. Naturally, he ends up taking issue with this, not only because IG-11 was originally intent on killing The Child but because he’s also been established as having a severe distrust of droids, which is ultimately expanded upon in the finale. It also ties in to a recurring plot-point in this episode where the group is repeatedly riddled with personal conflicts, such as The Child force-choking Cara due to a misunderstanding and Kuiil revealing that he used to work for the Empire (albeit as an indentured servant), which doesn’t fly well with Cara given her history with the Rebels. Despite running the occasional risk of over-complicating these proceedings, these moments serve as some excellent bits of character development for the Mandalorian and his crew, especially since many of them are given highly effective pay-offs by the end of the season.
Anyway, the group eventually makes their way back to Nevarro, where they meet up with Greef and his crew and are informed that they’ll have to travel to the town on foot since it’s been completely overtaken by the Client’s troops. At one point, the group is attacked by a group of winged creatures and while Greef sustains some serious injuries from this encounter, The Child ends up healing him with the Force (On a side note, remember when Rey did the exact same thing in Rise of Skywalker and yet a lot of people gave her crap for it?). Because of this, Greef ultimately decides to go against his group’s ‘true’ plan of killing the Mandalorian by killing his associates instead and promising to legitimately help the Mandalorian and his crew protect The Child. However, instead of just ending with a traditional finale where the Mandalorian and crew successfully take down the Client by fooling him into thinking that they’ve brought The Child to him, the episode ends up taking a much different route. During the meeting between the two parties, the Client receives a call from one of his associates… before he and his men are promptly annihilated by a barrage of gunfire. The Mandalorian, Cara, and Greef barely manage to survive this onslaught before finding themselves cornered by the Client’s associate, Moff Gideon, and his army of stormtroopers. Gideon proclaims that he’ll soon have The Child in his possession as we see a pair of scout troopers pursuing Kuiil as he brings The Child back to the Razor Crest. The episode ends on a tragic note as the Troopers kill Kuiil and grab The Child. And so, while this may not be my personal favorite episode from this season, its incredibly intense climax is an undisputed highlight as it perfectly sets the stage for an epic finale.
6. CHAPTER 1: THE MANDALORIAN
While the first episode of a new series usually ends up being overshadowed by the episodes that follow, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be just as great by comparison, and that certainly applies to The Mandalorian’s pilot episode, which served as Star Wars mainstay Dave Filoni’s live-action directorial debut. Thanks to this episode, we get an excellent introduction to the title character and the section of the Star Wars galaxy that he inhabits right from the opening sequence where he nabs an overly talkative bounty. This, of course, then paves the way for our first glimpses at the season’s main plot as the Mandalorian accepts a high-paying commission that’s being offered by a mysterious Client with former ties to the Empire. It’s the episode where we first meet the good-natured Kuiil, who helps the Mandalorian prepare for his journey by helping him learn how to ride a mountable creature known as a Blurrg. Ultimately, though, the biggest highlight of this episode is its action-packed climax in which the Mandalorian reaches his target’s location and proceeds to take on a whole bunch of goons with the help of droid bounty hunter IG-11. As he’s basically known to do nowadays, Taika Waititi is an utterly delightful standout as the no-nonsense assassin droid and the comedic rapport between IG-11 and the Mandalorian is fantastic, especially whenever the latter has to keep the former from initiating his self-destruct function. This, of course, then brings us to the episode’s instantly iconic finale as the two bounty hunters find their target and discover that it’s a young alien child. And while IG-11 intends on killing it, the Mandalorian proceeds to subdue his new associate since he intends on bringing The Child back alive. Thus, thanks to Dave Filoni’s excellent direction and the sharp script from Jon Favreau, this first episode is a brilliant kick-starter for this great new series.
5. CHAPTER 6: THE PRISONER
Rick Famuyiwa’s second episode of the season begins with the Mandalorian reuniting with one of his old colleagues, Ranzar ‘Ran’ Malk (Mark Boone Junior), who requests his help in teaming up with a bunch of his mercenaries to rescue one of their own from a New Republic prison ship. And while this is the only episode in which Ran’s crew of mercenaries appears, they instantly manage to be a solidly memorable gang of criminals. This includes Bill Burr’s ex-Imperial sharpshooter Mayfeld (“I wasn’t a stormtrooper, wise-ass!”), Natalia Tena’s Xi’an, a fiery Twi’lek who’s implied to be one of the Mandalorian’s old flames, Clancy Brown’s Burg, the group’s Devaronian muscle, and a protocol droid named Q9-O voiced by Richard Ayoade. Overall, this episode delivers a delightfully exciting heist plot as the crew infiltrates the ship, fights off its collection of guard droids, and rescues Xi’an’s brother Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who’s shown to have a complicated history with the Mandalorian. Sure enough, the Mandalorian then finds himself double-crossed by Mayfeld and his crew but is eventually able to get back at them by subduing Mayfeld, Xi’an, and Burg and sticking them in one of the ship’s cells. And as for Q9-O, he gets destroyed when he attempts to kidnap The Child after learning about the Mandalorian’s current situation. The only one that he ‘spares’ is Qin, who is then brought back to Ran’s space station, and while Ran immediately sends a gunship after his old associate, he is instead met with a trio of X-Wing pilots who were ‘guided’ there by the Mandalorian thanks to a distress signal that he got from the prison ship and promptly attack his base of operations. Now admittedly, this is one of those episodes that, as I mentioned earlier, is more of a ‘filler’ type episode since it deviates quite a bit from the main plot. And unlike the other episode from this season that could also be described as a ‘filler’ episode, this one doesn’t open in a way that, at the very least, still feels somewhat connected to everything and there aren’t many allusions to what’s mainly going on apart from when the mercenaries discover The Child. Still, for what it’s worth, this is a highly entertaining episode that still managed to do quite a lot with its ‘B-plot’.
(It’s also worth noting that this episode features a bunch of fun cameos from various veterans of the Star Wars universe. The lone human guard that the crew comes across while on the prison ship, Davan, is played by Matt Lanter who, of course, is best known for voicing Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars. And as for the three X-Wing pilots who attack Ran’s station, they’re played by series directors Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow.)
4. CHAPTER 3: THE SIN
Chapter 3 proved to be quite notable upon its debut as it was the first piece of live-action Star Wars material to be directed by a woman. In this case, the honor goes to Deborah Chow, who’s directed episodes for various shows over the years such as Mr. Robot and Jessica Jones and is set to headline the production of another upcoming Star Wars series centered on Obi-Wan Kenobi. And sure enough, as far as her role in the future of this franchise is concerned, she immediately makes one hell of an outstanding first impression thanks to this action-packed episode that also does a great job of officially setting some of the series’ biggest character beats into motion. While it opens with the Mandalorian finally returning to Nevarro and delivering The Child to his client, it ends with him openly defying the Bounty Hunter Code to rescue The Child out of concern for its safety. This then results in one of the best action sequences of the entire season as he infiltrates the client’s facility and takes out a whole bunch of his stormtroopers, including one that he thoroughly torches with his flamethrower. But the action doesn’t stop there as he soon finds himself cornered by Greef Karga and all the other bounty hunters in the area who now have a new target… him. And yet, at a point where it seems as if he’s fully outnumbered, he ends up being saved by his fellow Mandalorian warriors, which is a nice bit of payoff to an earlier scene where he was criticized by some of them for working with Imperials since their Tribe’s past conflict with the Empire, the Great Purge, was what forced them to go into hiding. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop them from helping one of their own even if, as the Mandalorian points out, they’ll have to relocate now that they’ve made themselves known. This is, after all, the episode that properly establishes the Mandalorian tribe’s principles as best represented by what has easily become this show’s definitive quote, “This is the Way”. And with that, Chapter 3 is another standout piece of this great season thanks in large part to Deborah Chow’s fantastic direction.
3. CHAPTER 5: THE GUNSLINGER
Of these eight episodes, Chapter 5 has the lowest critical score of the bunch on Rotten Tomatoes with a 74% rating. While not panned, per se, the episode did catch quite a bit of flak from critics due to the one thing that has become the internet’s favorite topic when it comes to judging Star Wars, its use of nostalgia. But as I’ve said before, that sort of thing doesn’t affect my views on this franchise in the slightest, and because of that, I’d argue that this was a damn good episode regardless of how much it harkened back to the franchise’s past adventures. For one thing, it starts off on a fantastic note as the Mandalorian fends off a rival bounty hunter complete with a badass quip when the latter has the guts to use his “I can bring you in warm… or I can bring you in cold” line that he had used back in the first episode (“That’s my line!”). However, due to the damages that the Razor Crest sustained during the battle, the Mandalorian is forced to make a pit stop on Star Wars’ original sand planet, Tatooine, in that notoriously “wretched hive of scum and villainy”, Mos Eisley Spaceport. It is there that the Mandalorian meets a wannabe bounty hunter named Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) who asks for his help in capturing mercenary Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), who’s worked with practically every crime syndicate in the galaxy, so that he can officially join the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. The dynamic that forms between these two is easily one of the best parts of this whole episode as it’s largely defined by the great contrast between the battle-hardened and fully experienced Mandalorian and the rookie Toro, who’s clearly shown to be in over his head when it comes to this line of work.
As for the episode itself, we get a highly entertaining chase storyline as the two bounty hunters go after Fennec. They encounter some Tusken Raiders along the way (complete with a great humorous bit where Toro bad-mouths them before it’s revealed that a pair of them are standing right behind them) and unlike Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, the Mandalorian recognizes exactly what they’re up against when it’s clear that Fennec… has the high ground. Sure, the finale of this episode is a rather predictable one as Fennec convinces Toro to turn on the Mandalorian by revealing his situation with The Child, which results in the Mandalorian promptly taking him out instead, but that doesn’t stop this from being a fun little subplot that nicely complements the main plot. Like Chapter 6, this could very well be described as a ‘filler’ episode but that doesn’t mean that it’s any lesser when compared to the other episodes just because it doesn’t focus too much on the Mandalorian and The Child’s predicament. Case in point, the whole opening sequence with the rival bounty hunter is what gives this episode the edge over Chapter 6 since it starts the episode off in a way that properly sets up its main conflict while still continuing to stress the fact that the Mandalorian is a wanted man. The other noteworthy aspect of this episode is Ming-Na Wen, who’s fantastic in the role of Fennec Shand, especially thanks to how she’s effectively established as a considerable foe for both the Mandalorian and Toro. Plus, while her role in this episode ultimately ends with her getting shot by Toro (who, at the very least, recognized the possibility of her betraying him), the episode ends with a mysterious figure approaching her body, implying that she may not be dead just yet. And so, with all this in mind, I’d argue that Chapter 5 is the most underrated episode of this season. I’m not denying that a lot of it is driven by that classic Star Wars nostalgia, but just like The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, I don’t really see why that’s such a bad thing.
2. CHAPTER 4: SANCTUARY
Jon Favreau has noted that Chapter 4 was the most challenging episode of the season due to its large-scale action sequences and forest setting… which is why he intentionally gave it to the most untested director of the bunch, Bryce Dallas Howard (who, to be fair, has directed a few short films and the 2019 documentary Dads). Ultimately, though, Howard delivers a true gem of an episode that is not only a great action-packed affair but one that also delivers on some strong emotional poignancy. The episode begins with the Mandalorian and The Child, now firmly on the run from the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, landing on the forest planet Sorgan. It is here where we are first introduced to Cara Dune who, despite seeming hostile at first to the point where she and the Mandalorian get into a brief brawl, ends up becoming a friendly acquaintance. The bulk of the episode’s plot, however, revolves around the two of them being approached by members of a nearby village who ask for their help in fending off a band of Klatooinian raiders. And if that wasn’t enough, the Mandalorian and Cara then discover that the raiders also happen to possess an Imperial AT-ST. Thus, in a nod to classic films such as Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, the two proceed to train the villagers so that they can fight back, resulting in a great nighttime battle where the group is able to take down the powerful walker. Ultimately, though, the biggest moment of this episode occurs right at the end when the Mandalorian reveals that he plans on leaving The Child at the village so that he can be safe. One of the villagers, widower Omera (Julia Jones), suggests that he stays as well to the point where she nearly becomes the first person to take off his helmet since he was a child before he ultimately stops her. Sadly, this chance at a peaceful life is tragically shattered when another bounty hunter arrives on the scene, and while he’s quickly taken down by Cara, the Mandalorian quickly realizes that he and The Child are still very much in danger. And so, the episode ends with the two of them bidding a somber farewell to the villagers as they head back to their ship. With a devastating yet powerful ending like that, it’s easy to see why Chapter 4 has been touted as one of the season’s best.
1. CHAPTER 8: REDEMPTION
While Chapter 4 certainly gives it some competition, the best episode of this season ends up being Chapter 8, which was brought to us by everyone’s favorite comedic genius from New Zealand, Taika Waititi. Sure enough, the episode starts off in true Waititi fashion with a great comedic bit where the two Scout Troopers who grabbed The Child (played by Adam Pally and Jason Sudeikis) impatiently wait outside the town to bring it to Moff Gideon. One of them continuously tries to get a peek at The Child and they both shoot at a nearby transmitter with the exact kind of piss-poor accuracy that stormtroopers are notoriously known to have. And sure, there are a few points where the troopers mistreat The Child (to the point where one of them straight-up punches him after he gets bitten), but the little one is thankfully saved by IG-11. IG-11 then proceeds to help the Mandalorian, Cara, and Greef by riding into town on one of the scout troopers’ speeder bikes and taking out a whole bunch of Gideon’s stormtroopers. That said, though, there’s a lot more to the ensuing battle between the two sides than just that. For starters, even though he was only introduced at the end of the previous episode, Gideon immediately proves to be one hell of an imposing villain by subtly revealing that he knows all about our heroes. He knows that Cara was originally from Alderaan, that Greef is a disgraced magistrate, and that the Mandalorian’s real name is Din Djarin. And while the gang manages to put up quite a fight against Gideon’s forces (complete with The Child using the Force to fight off a flamethrower-wielding stormtrooper), the Mandalorian ends up suffering a devastating head injury. But while he initially tells the others to go on without him, he’s ultimately healed by IG-11, who becomes the first being to take off his helmet. And while the Mandalorian promptly reminds IG-11 of the Mandalorian creed that says that no one is to ever see his face, IG-11 reasons that he can be the exception given that he’s not human. It’s also worth noting that, after a few glimpses of it in previous episodes, we finally witness Din Djarin’s backstory where it’s revealed that he was the sole survivor of a Separatist droid attack that killed his parents before being rescued by the Mandalorians, who adopted him into their tribe as a Mandalorian foundling.
The group then proceeds to head to the Mandalorian tribe’s hidden covert but is stunned to find it almost completely abandoned save for the Armorer. After being shown The Child for the first time, the Armorer informs the Mandalorian that he’s to return it to its own kind, and given its powers, she suggests that The Child hails from an ancient enemy of the Mandalorians… the Jedi. Until then, The Child is a Mandalorian foundling and the Mandalorian is his protector as the Armorer officially appoints him his signet (modeled after the Mudhorn that they fought in Chapter 2) that designates them as a ‘Clan of Two’. He’s also given an official Mandalorian jetpack, which is a nice callback to a key moment from the end of Chapter 3 (“I’ve got to get one of those…”). But once again, the action doesn’t stop there. In their efforts to escape, the group finds themselves facing down a whole bunch of stormtroopers at the end of their escape route in the sewers. This then results in a solidly effective emotional moment in which IG-11 nobly sacrifices himself by finally initiating his self-destruct function to take them all out. And while the group is then attacked by Gideon in his TIE fighter, the Mandalorian uses his newly acquired jetpack to great effect and successfully manages to crash Gideon’s ship. With no immediate threat on the horizon, the Mandalorian officially heads off to find whoever The Child truly belongs to (though not before giving Kuiil a proper burial) while Cara decides to stay on Nevarro and serve as Greef’s enforcer. But then, if that wasn’t enough, the episode ends with Gideon breaking out of his crashed TIE Fighter with the help of a key weapon from Star Wars’ past, the Darksaber. This distinctive black lightsaber first appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and, over the course of both that show and Star Wars: Rebels, has been in the possession of several major characters such as Darth Maul. And while I’ll openly admit that I’m not exactly up to date on all of Dave Filoni’s Star Wars shows, I can still see why this big reveal must’ve been a huge deal for fans of the franchise. With all that in mind, it should go without saying that Chapter 8 is a kick-ass season finale. Admittedly, it does cover quite a lot of ground in just 46 minutes, but thanks to Waititi’s excellent direction, none of it ever feels rushed. Instead, it’s just a high-octane thrill ride of an episode that ends this outstanding first season on an equally outstanding note.
And that concludes today’s list ranking all 8 episodes of Season 1 of The Mandalorian. Thanks for following along and be sure to sound off in the comments below with your own personal ranked list of this fine batch of episodes. As always, be sure to follow us on Twitter @TheDisInsider and whatever social media network you may roam for all your Disney news.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian starts tomorrow on Disney+.