This Star Wars: The Mandalorian article contains spoilers.
“The Believer” takes Mando deep into enemy territory. With the help of dubious mercenary Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), Mando infiltrates an Imperial rhydonium refinery on the planet Morak in order to find the coordinates to Moff Gideon‘s cruiser. The plan seems simple enough: go undercover as Imperial troopers, get into the refinery, download the coordinates from a terminal, and get the hell out of there. But things never go quite as planned in The Mandalorian.
After fighting off a pirate attack force on the way to the refinery with a load of extremely volatile rhydonium (starship fuel in the Star Wars universe), Mando and Mayfeld both make it to the facility in one piece by dressing up as grey-green armored tank pilots. It’s the classic scheme Luke and Han used to get around the Death Star in A New Hope, and it works here, too. But the plan goes awry when Mayfeld, a former Imperial sharpshooter, runs into his old commanding officer, a slimy man named Valin Hess, who is played by veteran actor Richard Brake.
In order to access the terminal in the facility’s mess hall, its security system must scan his face. Fearing that he’ll be recognized by Hess, who’s having a drink at a table just across from the terminal, Mayfeld tries to back out of the plan, but Mando stops him, deciding to access the terminal himself. Yes, this means Mando must take his helmet off and show his face, but it’s clear he’ll do anything to save Grogu.
The next few minutes are extremely tense, as Mando works on the terminal. While he manages to get the coordinates he needs, he also gets Hess’ attention. The Imperial officer calls him over and demands to know his TK number (the operating number used to identify all Imperial stormtroopers). When Mando can’t answer, Mayfeld steps in with a fake number and tries to defuse the situation, telling Hess that Mayfeld sustained an ear injury when his ship depressurized on the planet Taanab.
Satisfied with these answers, Hess invites Mando and Mayfeld to his table for a drink to toast the Empire. But when Hess begins to glorify the Empire’s efforts during Operation: Cinder, an Imperial attack that ravaged several planets and killed many people, including some of the Empire’s own men, Mayfeld shoots the officer.
Why did this trigger the mercenary? Well, besides the fact that the officer is worse than scum for celebrating this atrocity, Hess is also the Imperial who carried out Operation: Cinder on the planet Burnin Konn, where Mayfeld’s division was stationed. The attack, which turned the planet’s weather against its surface, killed thousands of Mayfeld’s comrades, as the Empire struck without prejudice in its campaign to spread fear across the galaxy after the Battle of Endor. It’s implied that it was this betrayal that convinced Mayfeld to abandon the Empire and strike out on his own.
For Mayfeld, killing Valin Hess is an act of revenge years in the making, but it also endangers Mando’s mission. Fortunately, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and Cara Dune are prepared to extract them from the facility just in the nick of time.
But this is the end of the line for Hess, a clearly vile man from the first second he shows up on screen. It’s no surprise that Brake, who is used to playing villains on big genre projects, nails the character perfectly.
If Brake looked familiar to you, it’s because he played Joe Chill, the man who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents, in Batman Begins as well as the Night King in seasons 4 and 5 of Game of Thrones. You might have also recently caught Brake as the drug-manufacturing Chemist in the psychedelic horror movie Mandy and as Otis’ despicable half-brother Foxy in Rob Zombie flick 3 From Hell.
Brake has clearly carved out an excellent career by playing villains, and it’s great seeing him bring his acting talent to Star Wars, even if it’s only for one memorable scene on The Mandalorian. Perhaps Valin Hess’ story will be further explored in the Expanded Universe?
Keep up with all of The Mandalorian season 2 news here.