I’m not sure I can recall a “previously on” segment that flexed as hard as the one before the finale of The Mandalorian Season 2. In a few quick clips, Jon Favreau reminded us how many times this second season dropped the mic, picked it up, and slammed it down again. Bo-Katan. Ahsoka. Boba Fett. Fennec. Dark troopers and Darksabers. The Razor Crest exploding, a Jedi beacon being lit, and Grogu getting captured.
That sizzle reel established where the story stood, but it also raised the bar for the finale. So how to up the ante? Here’s how: Luke Skywalker coming to the rescue. Oh, and R2-D2, too. Not to mention the first time Din and Grogu get to stare into each other’s eyes, and a major post-credits announcement. Chapter 16 of The Mandalorian, “The Rescue,” packed so much plot and narrative resolution into its 47 minutes that it could have functioned as a series finale if The Mandalorian’s ongoing success weren’t so central to the future of the franchise.
“The Rescue’’ wastes little time jumping into the action, so neither will we. Chapter 16, which—like the far less eventful Chapter 10—was directed by Peyton Reed (no stranger to CGI de-aging), starts with Slave I hot on the tail of a Lamda-class shuttle carrying clone engineer Dr. Pershing. The data dump Mando and Mayfeld obtained on their sightseeing excursion to Morak last week evidently contained not only Gideon’s whereabouts, but Pershing’s too. Look, if I were Moff Gideon and I knew that my nemeses had just raided and destroyed a base to find out where I’m chilling and then sent me a message to tell me I’m next, I might move elsewhere and tell my top scientist to do the same. But I’m sure Gideon knows what he’s doing.
After Fett disables the shuttle with a well-placed ion bolt and Mando and Cara Dune board, a standoff ensues between Cara and the Imperial pilot, who’s holding Pershing at gunpoint. “I saw your planet destroyed,” he says. “I was on the Death Star.” If, as the pilot professes, he doesn’t have a death wish, it seems like a strange strategy to tell the soldier who’s holding a gun on him that he helped blow up her planet. But pilots who work for Gideon haven’t had a high survival rate this season. “Which one?” Cara responds. Sick burn.
A discussion ensues that harkens back to Mayfeld’s monologue last week about how many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. “Do you know how many millions were killed on those bases?” the pilot asks. “As the galaxy cheered?” OK, buddy. We’ve all seen the Clerks “contractors’’ scene, but you’re not going to get us to feel equally bad about the destruction of Alderaan and a planet-exploding superweapon called the “Death Star.” Before we have time to wonder why this former Death Star resident is still alive, he isn’t: Cara head-shots him on behalf of her whole planet.
(Side note: While we’re on the subject—again—of who the good and bad guys actually are, how sure are we that those “pirates” Mando and Mayfeld fought off last week were actually pirates? Are we just taking the Empire’s word for that? Imperials refer to the Rebels as terrorists and scum, and they assumed that Slave I was full of pirates too. Maybe the “pirates” weren’t trying to steal those rhydonium transports because they were really freedom fighters who only wanted to stop the Empire from getting its hands on a dangerous explosive? Maybe they and Mando were actually on the same side, and he killed them because he fell for Imperial propaganda and stereotypes about pirates and colorful clothes. Food for thought.)
With Pershing in custody, Mando’s next task is adding Bo-Katan to his party. This time, he tracks her down easily—no frog family sidequests required—and finds her sitting in a cantina with sidekick Koska Reeves. (Some Mandalorian cast members seem to be straight-up lying about whether they’ll be back on the show: First Bill Burr fibs about reprising his appearance, and then Mercedes Varnado does the same. You can’t trust actors anymore.) For someone who hardly knows Grogu, Bo-Katan seems super upset that he’s gone. (Granted, it doesn’t take long to get attached.) “You’ll never find [Gideon],” she says, not knowing that his coordinates are easily accessible via an unsecured computer.
Mando offers Bo-Katan Gideon’s cruiser as the spoils if she’ll help him get his baby back. I’m pretty sure he had her at “Gideon” and “Darksaber,” but a cruiser that could help her retake Mandalore is a nice incentive too. “[Grogu] is my only priority,” Mando declares, though he may change his tune next season. Boba makes a gauche remark about how the Empire turned Mandalore to glass; between Captain Teva asking Cara if she lost anyone on Alderaan and the Alderaan and Mandalore discourse this week, I’m starting to suspect that some of these characters lack tact when talking to traumatized people from ruined planets. Boba, Bo-Katan, and Koska start squabbling about whether Boba is a Mandalorian, whether he deserves to wear his armor, and whether Jango was his father or his donor. Then Boba and Koska wrestle and call it a draw when the flames from their flamethrowers meet in midair like Dutch and Dillon’s arms in Predator. That bit of business behind them, the new crew of six congregates in the shuttle to pump Pershing for info and form a plan of attack.
Speaking of Carl Weathers, Greef Karga is still a no-show despite owing his life to Grogu, which means that the Grogu rescue crew remains one ally short of a magnificent seven. (Cue the Chris Ryan Greef voice: MANDO! I’M BUSY REVITALIZING NEVARRO RIGHT NOW, BUT LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED ME TO PUSH SOME OF MY MEETINGS.) Perhaps some other ally will eventually appear? One who might have something to do with that Force signal we saw in the “previously on?” We’re getting ahead of ourselves. First the strike team has to get to Gideon’s cruiser, where a dark trooper garrison awaits.
Pershing confirms that these are Phase III dark troopers—the kind without weak human soldiers inside the suits. The droids consume so much power that they’re kept in cold storage, which means they take time to boot up. The Rescuers settle on a time-honored tactic for infiltrating Imperial facilities: posing as Imperials in a stolen Lamda-class shuttle. The plan is for Fett to pretend to attack the shuttle, which will broadcast a distress call. When the cruiser scrambles its fighters, the shuttle—which won’t be flying casual—will slip through the launch tube, preventing additional fighters from exiting and gaining access to the innards of the ship. Then Cara, Koska, Bo-Katan, and Fennec will fight their way to the bridge, distracting the defenders while Din heads to Grogu’s cell. In theory, he’ll grab the baby and be out of there before the dark troopers get their core temperatures up.
Although Cara’s gun jams—which one wouldn’t think would happen so often with weapons that don’t fire physical objects—the plan goes off with only one potentially disastrous hitch: a single dark trooper escapes the storage room before Mando seals the others inside. As they try to punch their way out, the one who got out tries to punch its way into Mando’s brainpan. Personally, I’d suggest just lifting his whole head off his body—aren’t these troopers supposed to be strong—but the trooper prefers the brute force approach.
Mando’s helmet is too strong for the trooper, but most of Mando’s armory—blaster, flamethrower, whirling birds—is equally ineffective against the droid. Fortunately, the beskar staff Ahsoka gave Din does the trick.
Mando spaces the rest of the dark troopers and kills the stormtroopers stationed outside Grogu’s cell, seeming to relish choking the second one with the staff. My advice: Don’t make Mando angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. When Mando opens the door, Grogu seems surprisingly unexcited to see him; the little green guy’s been sedated. Gideon, who anticipated Din’s destination, is already in the room, brandishing his blade. “All I wanted was to study his blood,” he explains. “This child is extremely gifted and has been blessed with rare properties that have the potential to bring order back to the galaxy.” Ah, order to the galaxy; where have we heard that before?
Gideon pretends to be touched by the bond between Mando and Grogu, and he offers to hand over the Child if Mando will leave and let Gideon go on his way. Mando seems to fall for this obvious ruse (and turn his back on Bo-Katan and Mandalore, seemingly confirming what he said about Grogu being his sun and stars), despite having ample evidence that Gideon is a merciless zealot who’ll stop at nothing to get Grogu. Fortunately, Mando’s beskar bails him out again when Gideon tries to cut him in half. (“Assume that I know everything,” Gideon tells Mando, except he doesn’t seem to know that beskar can block the Darksaber—which seems strange, given his history of fighting Mandalorians.) Remember when Mando got his ass kicked by Jawas? At this point, he’s borderline OP. It’s a good thing they didn’t build the Death Star’s reactor core out of beskar.
Finally, we’ve come to the “iconic battle” that Giancarlo Esposito teased months ago: Mando and his beskar against Gideon and the Darksaber. After a flurry of slashes, stabs, and blocks, Mando wins the well-choreographed fight and walks Gideon to the bridge, Darksaber in hand.
There, a delighted Gideon reveals why Bo-Katan was so eager to find Gideon herself and seems less than pleased to see Mando holding him captive: Darksaber rules and regulations say that to be the rightful wielder of the blade, one must best its previous owner in combat. (Which sort of seems like it creates a loophole: No one can take the weapon from you if you refuse to fight.) Mando has already defeated Gideon, which means the Darksaber is his. He’s happy to hand it over, but to claim it correctly, Bo-Katan will have to fight him instead. Awkward!
Look, I respect tradition. But Mando got over his code and took off his helmet last week. Maybe Bo-Katan should consider bending the Darksaber rules just this once, especially considering that she’s wielded the weapon before. In fact, it wouldn’t be the first time: Bo-Katan accepted the saber when Sabine bequeathed it to her in Rebels Season 4.
Even if Bo-Katan wants to keep up appearances, can’t everyone just stick to the story that she was the one who beat Gideon? Or, if she wants to win the weapon fair and square, take a little liberty with the rules of engagement? Does a thumb war count as combat? Rock paper scissors? Failing that, they could just spar—I don’t doubt that Bo-Katan could kick Mando’s ass, and it doesn’t have to be a battle to the death. I’m just saying, this doesn’t seem like such a sticking point, and it’s pretty important to straighten it out, given that wielding the Darksaber gives Din a mandate to liberate and rule Mandalore (which, until now, hasn’t been on his to-do list).
For now, though, the group has a more immediate problem: The dark troopers are back, having been built to function fine in a vacuum. They’ve breached the hull, and they’re on their way to try to punch down a door for the second time today. I don’t mean to make light of the threat, but shouldn’t these unstoppable super droids have bigger guns, or explosives of some sort? It seems like a waste to equip them with the same weapons a human would have, and doors are really an issue for them. And why are they so big on body work? Can we get Carl Weathers to take them on in the ring?
All sniping aside, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until the droids knock down the door and help Gideon get Grogu back. But just as all appears to be lost, an alarm beeps, and an X-wing swoops by. “One X-wing? Great, we’re saved.” Cara says sarcastically.
Did I wonder for a moment whether the cavalry was Captain Teva, here to save the day and set up a starring role in Rangers of the New Republic? Yes, reader, I did. But it didn’t take long for understanding to dawn. The occupant of the X-wing could be only one man. No, not Trapper Wolf. This is Deus Ex Skywalker. When Grogu lit the Jedi signal, we mentioned many possible candidates for characters who could answer the call, but The Mandalorian went with the most obvious, logical, and exciting of all.
The dark troopers stop punching and descend on the intruder. To be as badass as possible, Luke doesn’t answer Bo-Katan’s hail, and he doesn’t lift his hood. He’s using the Force, so he doesn’t have to use his eyes. But then, through grainy security camera footage, we see him go to work. The green lightsaber. The black glove. And then the reaction shots: the glimmer of recognition of a fellow Force user from a groggy Grogu. And the look of sheer terror from the normally impassive and smug Gideon, who must see Skywalker in his nightmares.
This isn’t the illusion of Luke Force-projected from afar. This is Luke in the flesh, inexorably laying waste to droids like Darth Vader rampaging through Rogue One. I liked The Last Jedi’s vision of a jaded, guilty Luke who has to be convinced that the Jedi shouldn’t die, but that version of Luke is still decades in the future. This is the version that those who hated hermit Luke were waiting to see—the one who hasn’t scuttled his X-wing, still proclaims he’s a Jedi without reservation, and saves the day like the hero he is in the original trilogy. “We need Luke Skywalker,” Rey will say. Well, here he is.
Reading the writing on the wall, Gideon makes his move, drawing a blaster that the rescuers left lying around after killing the crew and firing at beskar-clad Bo-Katan, to no avail. Then he points the barrel at a fleshier target: Grogu. If Gideon can’t have him, then no one will. But Din dives in front of him to block the bolts, which would be a riskier move and a grander gesture if beskar didn’t render him impregnable. (When Fennec sniped Mando from a long way away in Chapter 5, he said, “At that range, beskar held up,” which suggests there is some range where it wouldn’t, but we haven’t seen that yet.) Gideon is disarmed, and Din opens the door. It’s time to meet the mysterious savior. He removes his hood, Jabba’s palace-style (and accompanied by a strain of “The Force Theme”), to reveal not popular fan-casting choice Sebastian Stan, but CGI Mark Hamill, looking less uncanny-valley-like than CGI Tarkin or CGI Leia from Rogue One, but still slightly too expressionless. Maybe we can chalk it up to Jedi discipline.
Thrilled as I was to see him, a part of me wanted Luke to leave. He’s here to save our fictional friends, but he’s also coming to take Grogu away. “Are you a Jedi?” Din asks. The answer seems obvious, but in Din’s defense, he only recently learned that the Jedi exist. Luke confirms that he is. (I half-expected to see some text on screen say “Quest Complete: Bring Grogu to the Jedi” and watch Din’s XP bar fill up.) “I will give my life to protect the Child,” Luke vows. So would we, Luke. So would we. But the Child needs training to harness his powers. Luke gestures to Grogu. “Come, little one,” he says, seemingly unfazed by his first in-person glimpse of the baby who may or may not be his old master’s secret love child. (I’m still sticking to that story.)
Grogu won’t go without permission from his metal dad. “That’s who you belong with,” Mando says. “He’s one of your kind. I’ll see you again. I promise.” In one sense, though, he hasn’t truly seen him for the first time. Grogu reaches out to touch Mando’s helmet, and Din gets the message. Grogu wants to see the face of his father. So just this once, Din will look on Grogu with his own eyes. This is the Way.
The moment might have hit even harder if Mando hadn’t unmasked last week, but this was still a fulfilling culmination of a two-season arc. With no visor between them, they stare into each other’s eyes and drink in the details. Grogu touches his cheek, and Din’s chin quivers as his eyes well with tears and he struggles to smile. Perhaps Grogu wonders why Din still sort of has a mustache.
When Din sets down the other half of Clan Mudhorn, Grogu clings to his leg like a toddler who doesn’t want to be dropped off at pre-school. But as both Grogu and Din have discovered, growing up means eventually learning to let go.
Only the appearance of a whistling R2-D2 can coax him across the room. Grogu waddles away from his dad. (By my rough count, we fell less than one minute short of five minutes of Pedro Pascal facetime this season, if we include the time when his head is on screen but not the whole time he’s unhelmeted.) Luke picks him up, and he and Grogu give each other another up-close inspection. Then Luke utters a “May the Force be with you” and, without so much as saying what his name is or where he’s going (or discussing visitation rights), walks away, Grogu looking back over his shoulder. We see master and padawan for one moment more, standing in a turbolift and looking like the Madonna and Child (and astromech droid). And then they’re gone, leaving us to ponder whether this might mean that Ben Solo kills Grogu. (It’s scary that the Luke of The Last Jedi—who’s well aware of Grogu—still says he’s “the last of the Jedi religion,” although that might mean that Grogu, like Ahsoka, follows a less rigid, Gray Jedi path.)
“If you should manage to finish your quest, I would have you reconsider joining our efforts,” Bo-Katan told Mando earlier in the episode. “Mandalorians have been in exile from our homeworld for far too long.” With the Darksaber in hand, Mando may have a new mission. His promise to Grogu was a promise to us all: Grogu isn’t gone forever forever. But the baby’s absence from last week’s episode could be a sign of a pivot to come. The Mandalorian may no longer be just about the duo that has been its beating heart. What’s next for the still-living Moff Gideon, whom Esposito suggested we would likely see much more of? Could Thrawn supplant him as the Empire’s Big Bad? Will the series—or its spinoffs—still touch on Pershing’s program and the efforts to resurrect Palpatine? If Grogu won’t turn out to be a Jedi, mightn’t he be better off staying with Din and cultivating that attachment rather than letting it go? Does the choice to render Luke with CGI mean he won’t get much more screen time, or could the character be recast now that this episode established who he is?
Just as I was lamenting that we missed out on a reunion between Boba and Luke—and wondering why Fett was in this series at all— The Mandalorian gave us a first for the series: a post-credits scene. In the quick clip (which I wish had an “in memory of” original Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch, who died on Thursday), Fennec and Boba blast their way into Jabba’s palace, where security is still lax and where the Hutt’s “maclunkey”-exclaiming former majordomo Bib Fortuna—who’s put on a few pounds—has taken control. (Bib is played by sound editor Matthew Wood, who has played or voiced several Star Wars characters, including Bib in an uncredited appearance in The Phantom Menace.)
Boba blasts Bib and takes his seat, laying claim to the palace where he once stood guard. Perhaps he’ll take over Jabba’s old empire while continuing to say stuff like, “Well if that isn’t the Quacta calling the Stifling slimy.” This is the setup for The Book of Boba Fett, due out in December 2021, when The Mandalorian’s third season is also supposed to premiere. A Deadline report suggests that this will be The Mandalorian’s third spinoff series, although there’s some possibility that The Mandalorian may simply evolve into a non-Mando-centric series; its title, after all, could refer to Boba or Bo-Katan as easily as Din. Whatever The Book of Boba Fett’s format, it will presumably explain how Fett survived the sarlacc, lost his armor, and teamed up with Shand.
That “The Rescue” ended with a Skywalker and a setup for another series is emblematic of the juggling act that this season sustained as The Mandalorian grew into its role as the star of Star Wars. As Favreau and Dave Filoni foreshadowed prior to the premiere, The Mandalorian’s second season significantly expanded the series’ scale and strengthened its ties to the rest of the franchise. Any notion that The Mandalorian would stay a somewhat self-contained story that existed apart from the Skywalker saga went out the window this year. But the series largely navigated the job of incorporating preexisting characters and setting up spinoffs without recycling ideas, sacrificing week-to-week entertainment, slowing the progression of the plot, or neglecting the development of its own homegrown core. A Skywalker stole some of the spotlight this week. But it was the look between Grogu and an unmasked Din that delivered the payoff we were waiting for.
Today, I’ll dispense with our usual recap-ending subsections, seeing as we’ve kind of covered the fan service of the week; Bo-Katan and Ahsoka may have been strangers to some, but I hope no one needs me to explain who that Jedi guy with the green saber was. Thanks for joining me on this journey for the past two months. I’ll be back soon to sum up the season and speculate about what could be coming in Season 3.