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If you ask most Day 1 subscribers to Disney+, they’ll likely tell you that they signed up specifically because they wanted to watch The Mandalorian. Little did we know back then just how spectacular the show would truly be. We didn’t know that in many ways, The Mandalorian would surpass the recent movies. Nor did we know that Baby Yoda would become a phenomenon. In a lot of ways, Season 1 of The Mandalorian has proven that in 8 short episodes, we really got all the Star Wars we could ever want.
But what are the best episodes of the first season? Honestly, there are no bad episodes of The Mandalorian, but some episodes are definitely better than others. This is a list of those episodes in order from “worst” to best. You may not agree with these picks, but one thing that we can all agree upon is that we can’t wait to see what happens next in season 2. I have spoken.
#8. Chapter 4: Sanctuary
Is The Mandalorian's Chapter 4: “Sanctuary” a bad episode? No. Again, there are no bad episodes of The Mandalorian. But “Sanctuary” is probably the least memorable, AT-ST notwithstanding. Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, we get introduced to one of the most important characters on the show in this episode with Cara Dune, played by the wonderful Gina Carano. In an attempt to leave the Child in a safe place, Mando offers to clear a planet of bandits for some shrimp farmers. But the problem with this episode is that it almost feels inconsequential. Mando gets rid of the bandits, obviously, with the help of Cara Dune, but he then has to escape to another planet because he finds out that Baby Yoda wouldn’t be safe here.
As a whole, the episode feels like filler. And in an already short season, this show definitely didn’t need any filler episodes. Sure, the AT-ST in the climax is the stuff of nightmares, but other than that, the episode almost feels pointless. This is not the way.
#7. Chapter 5: The Gunslinger
The Mandalorian's Chapter 5 suffers from many of the same problems as the fourth episode. A lot of it feels like it’s just wasting time until we get back to the further adventures of Mando and Baby Yoda. In "The Gunslinger," Mando needs money to get his ship fixed after a dog fight in outer space. He ends up at the Mos Eisley spaceport and meets up with a wannabe bounty hunter named Toro who desires to get into the Guild. But he’s in way over his head in who he wants to capture, so he hires Mando, who takes the job for the money.
There are a lot of cool moments in this episode, like the callback to the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope, and the Tuscan Raiders appearance. But otherwise, it again feels like a filler episode. It’s a better-paced one than Episode 4, and there’s a cool shootout at the end reminiscent of a western (Hence the title), but overall, it just feels like wasted time. Fun wasted time, sure, but wasted time nonetheless.
#6. Chapter 1: The Mandalorian
You really can’t get a much better intro to a series than the first episode of The Mandalorian. We get a sense of the character, his world, his motives, and everything in about the first five minutes of Chapter 1. In this episode, we also get farmer Kuiil, played by Nick Nolte, which also gives rise to the show’s first catchphrase (“I have spoken”), the head of the bounty hunters guild, Greef Carga, played by Carl Weathers, and the bounty droid, IG-11, voiced by Taika Waititi. The episode is fast-paced and the mission is clear. Find the package, and deliver it.
And then, you have that twist ending with Baby Yoda. At the time, it was mind-blowing and raised a ton of questions. Honestly, the only thing keeping the first episode from being even higher on this list is the fact that all of the next episodes here are just that amazing. Still, it’s one of the best first episodes in recent memory, and it’s infinitely re-watchable. A fine, fine episode.
#5. Chapter 2: The Child
Chapter 2 really does feel like a two-parter to the first episode. So much so that I don’t know where else to place it on this list than in the next slot. Chapter 2 starts off with no dialogue and then leads into a fantastic fight scene. Mando is then deciding what to do with The Child when he finds that some Jawas have been messing with his ship. What’s great about this episode is that we just saw Mando defeat some intimidating foes handedly, but when it comes to some Jawas, he gets his butt kicked.
The Jawas send him off on a mission to fight a massive beast, and he would have died if not for Baby Yoda, who gives us our first sign of the force on the show. Overall, there’s a lot going on in this episode, but it all feels natural and organic. And again, you can’t go wrong when you have Jawas. Jawas make everything better. Ooh tee-tee!
#4. Chapter 3: The Sin
Chapter 3: “The Sin” is a really badass episode. This is when the story of Willow became John Wick in a matter of minutes. After dropping off The Child to Werner Herzog’s character, known only as the Client, Mando starts to have second thoughts. And this is AFTER he has already taken the money and gone off to get some boss Beskar armor from the Armorer (“This is the way.”) What ensues is a killer fight scene with Mando basically demolishing all of his foes and leaving with Baby Yoda in tow.
What makes this episode so special though is its climax. Pinned down with no real chance of escape, Mando gets the help of other Mandalorians, who decimate the bounty hunters tracking Mando and prove just why Mandalorians are known as the toughest warriors in the galaxy. An utterly thrilling 37 minutes of television.
#3. Chapter 7: The Reckoning
The penultimate episode of the season is a reunion of sorts. Quiil, Cara Dune, Greef Carga, and even IG-11, this time as a repurposed nurse droid, all come back. But the star of the episode is definitely Gus Fring himself, Giancarlo Esposito, playing the dastardly former governor in the Empire, Moff Gideon. Greef Carga lures Mando to a planet, telling him that he wants him for a mission that obviously turns out to be a lie. But after Baby Yoda saves Carga’s life, he has a change of heart. But it’s not soon enough, since Moff Gideon pins them down in a cantina and basically lays waste to everybody inside except for Greef, Cara Dune, and Mando. All the while, Quiil is racing to get Baby Yoda back to Mando’s ship, but… he’s too late!
From front to back, this episode never lets up. It’s great to see that all of our favorites have returned, and Moff Gideon is a great, late coming antagonist. Giancarlo Esposito eats up every scene in the same manner than Gus Fring totally did in Breaking Bad. And that cliffhanger at the end had us all eagerly anticipating the next week’s episode. It's episodes like this that have already made The Mandalorian the stuff of legend.
#2. Chapter 6: The Prisoner
The Mandalorian attempted standalone episodes in the past with the previous two episodes, but neither of them was very effective. Episode 6, “The Prisoner”, on the other hand, hits all the right notes. The Mandalorian is offered yet another job in this episode, this time to rescue somebody on a prison ship. What at first seems like another meandering adventure, turns out to be a startlingly good episode. It’s probably because of the new characters, one of which apparently once had a romantic relationship with Mando, and another being a character played by Bill Burr. (He’s my favorite.)
Of course everything goes wrong, and the people Mando is supposed to be working with double cross him. But not before a man on board hits a distress signal, alerting some X-Wing pilots that are on the way to handle the problem. What makes this one of the very best episodes of the season is just how different it is from all the other episodes. It almost feels like a bottle episode. But with all the cool explosions and robots, it looks like the most expensive bottle episode ever made. Mando is as resourceful as ever, and even crushes a guy with a door. Throughout the episode, you’re impressed that the show would actually take it that far with such a grisly death, but by the end, you find out the bad guy is fine and just holding his head. Gotta love that Disney+ mentality. Nobody can actually get squished by a door on Disney+. Don’t be silly.
#1. Chapter 8: Redemption
Don’t you just love when the last episode of a season is its best? Scoring a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, the final episode of the season, directed by Taika Waititi definitely deserves it. It picks up right where episode 7 left off, but in a surprising location. The stormtroopers that picked up Baby Yoda are having a conversation about the baby and also show off their atrocious shooting abilities, which is an ongoing gag in Star Wars. Stormtroopers can’t shoot. But that’s when IG-11 swoops in, shoots them, takes Baby Yoda, and then proceeds to shoot EVERYBODY. He rescues Mando, Greef Carga, and Cara Dune, but winds up having to destroy himself to get them to safety. But not before lifting Mando’s helmet so we actually get to see his face.
This episode is just a firecracker. Baby Yoda blocks fire, the Armorer slays with a hammer, and Mando even gets that jetpack he's been pining for since Chapter 3. He uses it to plant a bomb on Moff Gideon’s Tie Fighter. But that’s not all! Moff Gideon, surviving the crash, cuts himself out of the Tie Fighter with the darksaber, leading to all kinds of fan theories for Season 2. The whole episode is just a lot of wow with absolutely no filler. Chapter 8 is the best episode of the season and we can’t wait to see what happens next. Hopefully, the show continues to be must-watch TV. This is the way.