"Su’Kal" would be a reasonably okay sci-fi story in the standalone tradition of Star Trek if the circumstances were different. This is an alien contact within a holographic simulation that has some things to recommend, including notable atmosphere and characters trying to use psychology and storytelling to communicate with someone who has endured a lifetime of isolation. The problem is, this is tied into the season’s central mystery of the Burn in a way that’s crushingly disappointing. (At least, so far. Specifics are not yet revealed, although I can’t imagine any technobabble explanation could salvage this general idea.)
I’m reminded of DS9‘s "Extreme Measures," in which a big piece of the fate of the Dominion War was riding on a virtual-reality probe to explore the mind of Section 31 operative Sloan, but the device was mostly used as an excuse to give O’Brien and Bashir one last buddy adventure. The idea of one last buddy adventure was fine, but the vehicle was inappropriate and the timing was terrible.
Well, that was pretty awesome.
"The Rescue" completes an arc of The Mandalorian so definitively and satisfyingly that it could simultaneously serve as a series finale and a backdoor pilot for multiple spinoff series. It may do the second of those things, but since it won’t be doing the first, that means a third season of this series will have to include a fair amount of reinvention by giving Din Djarin a new purpose.
Season two of The Mandalorian slowly but surely charted the course of this series from a frontier space western to the driving force behind the future of the entire Star Wars franchise. Disney is going all-in on Star Wars streaming shows on Disney+ (with the announcement of nearly a dozen Star Wars streaming projects in the coming years), and The Mandalorian this season has steadily been building a launchpad for several of those projects. (A great post-credits tag at the end of this episode shows Boba Fett and Fennec Shand storming the palace formerly known as Jabba’s, shooting all the guards and its recognizable girth-expanded owner, then Boba sitting in the boss’ chair, with a title card promising us The Book of Boba Fett in December 2021.)
When you have the audacity to connect your story to a piece of Trekkian lore as iconic as the Guardian of Forever, the device at the center of "The City on the Edge of Forever," one of the most heralded episodes in the entire canon, you’re probably asking for trouble. You’d better put up or shut up.
They probably should’ve shut up. Or just not used the Guardian of Forever.
I’ll give them this: They tried. They put a character dilemma front and center and played it all the way through. But in the end this is oh-so-earnest, and overplayed, and frankly unearned. But we’ll get there.
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.
"Terra Firma, Part 1" works best if you think of it as the universe trying to teach its central character a lesson, like Groundhog Day did to Bill Murray. The mirror universe version of Philippa Georgiou, who has been a fish out of her universe’s water since she was brought over in the first season, has been walking around the corridors of Discovery for the past two seasons acting mostly like an insufferable jerk who is more caricature than character.
That caricature has at times been amusing (the one-liners are sometimes creative, and her aversion to all things Starfleet makes her an occasionally useful outside voice, when she’s not merely insulting everybody), but it has also become very repetitive and started to wear thin of late. But I’m suspecting now her unremitting abrasiveness this season was a deliberate ploy to set us up for this episode where she has to face the music.