The Mandalorian season 2 has now concluded and what a journey it was. While not perfect, the show expanded in scope and connected to disparate parts of the canon, all while maintaining a strong and emotional core with the relationship between the eponymous hero and his little green friend. I just finished watching the finale a few hours ago and, in truth, I’m still shocked. For its first half, the episode felt fairly perfunctory, if not disappointingly so, before changing the series forever in its engrossing final minutes.
It’s difficult not to jump straight to the end but let’s restrain ourselves and travel all the way back to the finale’s beginning. Over the past few weeks, The Mandalorian has shined new light on the actions of our heroes and made us question just who we’re rooting for. The penultimate episode manipulated us into cheering for the Imperial Remnant, and in the finale’s opening scene a discussion straight from the fandom is canonised. The Rebellion blew up millions of beings on the two Death Stars and the galaxy celebrated in response. It’s easy to see why some hate the new regime and stick with the fading Empire. These small moments are why I love the show, straight after a dogfight between a Lambda-class shuttle and the Slave 1. Speaking of which, how exactly do those ships dock? What does that even look like?
With Dr Pershing captured – and his status as a cloner confirmed – Mando and the crew head off to an unknown planet to recruit Bo-Katan to the cause. I presumed Bo-Katan’s appearance would be limited to one episode so I’m overjoyed at her return, and no doubt her continuing involvement in the series next season. We even see a Mandalorian Gauntlet starfighter in live-action for the first time. It was great to see Boba be taunted with his status as a clone, and his angry response. I wish we got more of Boba this season and that he and Din could have actually had a discussion about his heritage. But it looks like we’re getting much more of Boba in the future so there’s always time. With the team together, the plan agreed upon, and Pershing… left behind on the planet I guess, the assault on Gideon’s cruiser begins.
I’ll happily watch, and listen to, the Slave 1 fly around for hours on end so I loved the brief chase and deception that allowed the crew access to the Arquitens-class Command Cruiser. Onboard however is when the episode felt a little flat. After several episodes this season featuring characters running down endless corridors that look exactly the same and blasting Stormtroopers that can’t hit a thing, I was tired of it by this episode. There were some fun, John Wick-inspired moments but most of the action with the Stormtroopers was dull. It was great to realise halfway through the sequence that, with Din elsewhere, everyone in the group was a badass woman. I just wish I enjoyed the overall sequence as much as I do the characters within it.
While the white-armoured Stormtroopers rag-doll at the slightest touch, the robotic Dark Troopers prove to be a much more powerful adversary. They also seem to play dubstep when activated. They must have a record deal with the Techno Union. I did enjoy Din’s fight with the Dark Trooper, and when it began punching his helmet I suffered flashbacks to Pedro Pascal’s brutal death in Game of Thrones. The Darksaber duel with Gideon was also good but maybe a little anticlimactic. I wasn’t expecting him to be captured though, and I haven’t a clue what’s next for him. Will he be rescued by the Imperial Remnant or spill the beans to his New Republic captors? There’s still so much to his plans and possible First Order connections that we don’t know.
Up until this point, the finale hadn’t been bad but it did feel somewhat unremarkable. That all changed with the arrival of a solitary X-Wing. I knew who it was instantly but Peyton Reed’s direction did a fantastic job of keeping you waiting until you start second guessing yourself. First, he’s just a cloaked figure. Then a cloaked figure on a black-and-white security screen wielding a lightsaber, which you can’t tell the colour of, slicing through Dark Troopers like blue milk butter. And then: GREEN! That’s right, it’s Luke Skywalker. Like father, like son, he gets his own hallway action scene as he makes his way to our heroes on the bridge.
I like how Luke was handled as a character, which is to say that they do very little with his character other than him perfectly fitting the mandate of a Master Jedi. I’ve seen cries of fan service in the hours since the episode has aired and I disagree. While the extended action sequence is a fan’s wet dream, Luke plays the role he needs to. He’s a walking, talking story beat that’s required to bring Din and Grogu’s journey to a conclusion. They are still the emotional and narrative focus of the scene, and Luke needs to prove himself a Jedi to allow Din to feel comfortable letting Grogu go with him. I was wary of the show bringing in such a major character but I feel Luke’s limited appearance and actions worked well to aid and conclude the story being told. He was servicing the show, not the other way around. But I’ve got to be honest, I did not care for how he looked.
The CGI face was terrible and worse than Tarkin in Rogue One, which just celebrated its 4th anniversary. The de-aging technology was working overtime. He didn’t look a day over 25 pixels. Although, I doubt it was de-aging technology and more just a recreation of young Mark Hamill’s face placed on top of a new actor’s face, with old audio being reused but not exactly matching the mouth movements. The videogame-ness of it all wasn’t a deal breaker for me but it was very distracting and made what should have been an incredible moment quite awkward. I’m fine with this technology being used if it looks good, but if it’s between what we got and recasting the role with a lookalike actor (such as the Internet’s favourite choice Sebastian Stan) then I might have plucked for the recasting. But at least R2-D2 didn’t look any different. I might have been more excited to see the droid than I was the Jedi.
What I found truly powerful about the end of this season is that, despite everything going to plan, it almost feels like a defeat. We lost Grogu again! Just five minutes after getting him back. I was not expecting that to happen. I was anticipating a Jedi appearing in the finale but I thought Din wouldn’t hand the kid over. That he had accepted his role as a father rather than just a protector and would keep Grogu. I thought the rescue would put everything into perspective for him and he would never let him go. But he does, and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. It’s powerful yet devastating. The final moments between Din and Grogu are some of the most emotional in Star Wars, and one of the characters is just a tiny puppet! Seeing Grogu gaze upon Din’s face and be the first being to touch it since his parents died when he was a boy was perfect. It’s a heart-breaking ending.
Is this a narrative dead-end or just the end of this part of the narrative? Will the show now have to find some contrived way to bring Din and Grogu back together after Favreau has written them into a corner, or was the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ plot only meant to be an introduction to series, developing Din for whatever the show now becomes? I’m desperate to see where the series goes next. I have to believe we’ll see more of Grogu in the show. I mean, we have to, right? This episode has broken me so much I can’t even convince myself of that fact. Hopefully he graduates Jedi school before Ben Solo burns it to the ground. Or maybe Luke brings him back to Din because his attachment to him is dangerously strong, or he’s annoyed that Grogu keeps stealing his blue macarons or something.
The possible new direction for the show could be the title itself. Din is now The Mandalorian. The Mandalore. The leader of the race, planet and creed. He bested Gideon in combat and now is the rightful wielder of the Darksaber and the heir to the Throne of Mandalore. In future seasons we could see him try and unite his people and retake the planet. He may not want the job but it’s now his – just like his fatherhood with Grogu. Bo-Katan could remain a begrudging ally or become Din’s enemy, wanting the Darksaber for herself. She began her journey in Star Wars as a terrorist in The Clone Wars before slowly becoming more heroic. I could definitely see her reverting back to her villainous ways. The season finale does a great job of concluding this era of the show and resetting the board for a different kind of story to begin next year.
But the episode’s not done yet. After some concept art-less credits, we’re treated to an amazing post credits scene. We not only see Jabba’s Palace but Bib Fortuna now in command of his former Hutt boss’ criminal empire, getting fat on his master’s wealth. Enjoyably, Bib is played by sound editor Matthew Wood, reprising his cameo as the character from The Phantom Menace. A blaster bolt and a cry of “Maclunky” later, Boba Fett now sits on the throne with Fennec by his side. “The Book of Boba Fett. Coming December 2021”. What a cool way to make an announcement. With The Mandalorian also returning next December, will be get two shows side-by-side? Is The Book of Boba Fett a Disney+ film or one-off special? Or is The Book of Boba Fett the subtitle of The Mandalorian season 3 and the show will now shift focus to a new character?
Either way, I look forward to getting some much-needed answers and development surrounding Boba Fett. His attitude and relationship with honour confused me this season. During the height of the Empire, he was a truly violent and vile individual, but in The Mandalorian he aids Din on his quest to reacquire Grogu. He treats the exchange of armour as an honourable deal in Chapter 14, which I would believe if he didn’t begin that episode by threatening to kill Grogu if Din didn’t do as he asked. That’s not a deal that you have to honour; that’s coldblooded blackmail. Maybe he’s a born again Mandalorian after his escape from the Sarlaac and struggling to restrain his angry, violent side. Now that he rules Jabba’s palace, will he be a good leader or an evil crime lord?
What began as a predictable final episode of the season ended in a way I found truly shocking. I saw everything coming right up until I saw nothing coming. I’m desperate to rewatch the finale and discover how I actually feel about many of the events that happened without this sense of shock hanging over everything. But I know I liked it. A lot. The finale has opened up a wealth of new storytelling options but also had a sense of finality. It almost felt more like a series finale than just a season finale. It’s a bold decision to remove the money-making merchandise machine that is Grogu from the show, which also eliminates the core emotional relationship too of the series too. I’m not exactly sure where it goes from here but I can’t wait to find out.
What did you think of Chapter 16: The Rescue? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.