These days, it can be nice when in a world rampant with spoilers, some things can still surprise you.
I remember wandering around Star Wars Celebration in 2019, and seeing people psyched up for The Mandalorian. Even with a prop speeder bike from the show on display, I just dismissed the show as some way to placate the Boba Fett fanboys.
Imagine my surprise later that fall, when I found out how series creator Jon Favreau had something a little different in mind: a series that tapped into the western and samurai tales that George Lucas sought inspiration from, and attempted to tell a live-action story outside the confines of The Skywalker Saga.
Pretty soon, I was drawn into the adventures of Din Djarin (aka the Mandalorian), and his unexpected charge Grogu, aka “The Child.” The show managed to hit me with just enough nostalgia, while taking us off into places that the films would not generally go to.
And now, we find ourselves at the end of the second season, and it’s much-anticipated finale.
With the coordinates to Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) cruiser now in his possession, The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) puts his plan into action to rescue Grogu.
Along with cohorts Cara Dune(Gina Carano), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Mando recruits fellow Mandalorians Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), and Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks) to help them out.
After episode 6 of this season, I did wonder if the season finale could do everything it needed to in just 45 minutes. Turns out, I didn’t have much to worry about.
One thing that has been clear over much of season 2, is how the show feels no guilt in reaching back into it’s cast of characters to pull some into the light for various missions. Characters like Mythrol and Miggs Mayfield were definitely a surprise to see play larger supporting roles this season, but I didn’t expect to see Bo-Katan and Koska return before the season ended.
For much of the episode, the action is split-up (with Boba taking a backseat to much of the action). While Mando goes in on his own, it was a nice touch seeing the women of the episode work together in infiltrating the ship. Each of them brings something useful to the fight, and getting to see them interact was a highlight. One highlight for me, was seeing a bit more action given to Fennec Shand, whom I have felt had been rather downplayed since her return to the series.
Seen briefly in episode 6, we also get some of our first full glimpses of Moff Gideon’s nightmarish Darktrooper squad in action. The Terminator-like creations provide some nice tense moments, with an added musical cue from composer Ludwig Goransson to make things seem even more harrowing when our group encounters them on the cruiser.
Like a number of episodes this season, this one attempts to balance out action with emotion, and when it comes to emotions, this episode might hit viewers in ways they never imagined.
Certain revelations given in this episode did push a number of my emotional buttons, but once I had some time to recover and collect my thoughts, I had to judge the episode on it’s overall merits. In fact, one revelation would have probably pushed the episode to the top of my favorites of the season, if certain information hadn’t been given away a few times prior to this episode.
One of the things about the first season of The Mandalorian that I really enjoyed, was that Din Djarin seemed to be a part of the Star Wars galaxy, but quite removed from the previous “lore” that had been a major part of our lives. Seeing Mando encounter characters like Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano I feel is okay, but I often felt that with Star Wars being such a large sandbox to play in, the show could have done a better job of carving out it’s own way in the universe. That to me seems to be the teeter-totter that the series rests on: it tries to make it’s own way, but has a “habit” of diving a little too often into “the familiar.”
The Rescue definitely feels like a turning-point for the series. It draws a curtain over the eight episodes we’ve invested in over the last few months, but much like The Empire Strikes Back, leaves us at a point where we don’t know just where its characters can go. While some mysteries have been solved, new ones have been revealed. It doesn’t feel like there are any easy answers regarding where most of our main characters can go, and that will surely have many of us guessing as we wait once again, for a new season to start up.
I will admit that season 2 of The Mandalorian didn’t win me over as much as the first season, but watching it there were moments where I wished I was watching these episodes with a theater audience. I saw scenes where I could imagine audiences being just as rowdy and enthusiastic as I recall from the opening night of some of the Star Wars films.
If anything, my one hope is when the series returns, we get a lessening of “guest stars,” and focus a little more on developing the cast of characters surrounding Din Djarin, and where his journeys will take him next.
Final Grade: B+
We’ve now reached the 75% mark for Season 2 of The Mandalorian, and the episodes have tended to bounce back-and-forth between great and good. With the last several episodes delving into The Clone Wars series, the latest episode catches up on a real blast from the past.
After their encounter with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu (formerly known as The Child) head to Tython, where there exists a place that can possibly help them contact other Jedi who might help them give Grogu safe haven.
Shortly after touching down, things don’t go as planned when Mando finds himself facing off against stormtroopers, a foe he once thought dead, and a bounty hunter with a familiar ship.
Following last week’s events, the opening moments show some further understanding between Mando and Grogu, though it is soon after this that their latest adventure becomes like a video game level. Ever play video games where you have to keep the enemy from advancing on a specific target? This is the episode-equivalent of that very game level!
One thing I was largely on the fence about as soon as it was announced, was hearing that Temuera Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones) would be appearing as Boba Fett this season. I’ve long been of the thought that while he looked cool, Boba had served his purpose and perished in Return of the Jedi. However, the reappearance of his armor and the final shot of the Season 2 premiere episode The Marshal, piqued my interest.
For this episode, Jon Favreau manages to write Boba as being much more interesting than just the cool-looking guy standing around in the original trilogy (even giving Boba a small callback to his father). We can believe Fett knows his way around blasters and jetpacks, but going into action without these things was most unexpected. A highlight was seeing Morrison wield a gaderffii stick like a Maori warrior, causing me to get drawn into the character for the first time watching him onscreen.
We also get the return of Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), whom we last saw on Tatooine in the first season. Much like that appearance however, she’s mainly just along for the ride, making me wonder if the show is just saving her for a much more interesting bit later on (maybe she’ll get her “moment” like IG-11 in the first season?).
When it comes to the arrival of the stormtroopers (coming in some pre-Episode VII troop-transports), this is where the video game-style feelings of the episode begin. Pretty soon, the standard white of the trooper armor gives way to several different varieties, making it feel like a group of online players are mounting an assault on the show. There’s even the appearance of some troopers that play into what was shown at the end of the last episode, making me develop some ideas regarding what the villainous Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wants Grogu for.
The episode is short on revelations, and feels moreso like the kind of action-oriented fare we saw in The Siege. Director Robert Rodriguez (known for his El Mariachi trilogy) never keeps the action from getting dull, and there are some moments that really pushed my buttons emotionally (including one that made me sense a great disturbance in The Force). There are a few times where I did question some things he made Mando do that were somewhat repetitive. It might have been meant to make it seem humorous with each attempt he made, but it felt like it was merely a way to stretch the run-time out a little (this episode clocks in at just 33 minutes, the shortest chapter of the season so far).
The results of The Tragedy, feels like we are entering the Empire Strikes Back portion of Season 2. not that the first 5 episodes weren’t hard on Mando in their own right, but this episode ends in probably one of the most tense cliffhangers yet. It isn’t on the same high shelf that I place Season 2 episodes The Marshal and The Jedi, but it manages to make due with what it has to offer. I do hope that with the final episodes, we get a return to stories that have been longer than most of what we’ve encountered this season.
Final Grade: B
When The Mandalorian first started, it felt like we were going to see a world where most of what we had learned via the Star Wars films, would take a backseat. Series creator Jon Favreau, looked to be shifting his focus to the grittier side of the galaxy we had glimpsed just briefly in George Lucas’ films.
With The Child showing a resemblance to Yoda and possessing Force-based powers, there was a hint that the Jedi might be showing up in the series…and now, it looks like that time has come.
Going on information given to him by fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan, Mando takes The Child to Corvus, where he hopes to find a Jedi that will accept his young charge.
It is here that he encounters the walled city of Calodan, presided over by the cruel Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), and her lieutenant Lang (Michael Biehn).
Elsbeth requests Mando’s help to take down a Jedi named Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), who has been attempting to breach the walls of her city.
It just so happens, that Ahsoka is also the Jedi that Mando is looking for.
While the series has shown us a galaxy following the aftermath of the events of Return of the Jedi, this season has also shown us that the series is not afraid to reference things from the prequel films, let alone The Clone Wars animated series.
With The Jedi, writer/director Dave Feloni gets to bring one of the characters he created to life, showing us Ahsoka Tano far removed from what has been seen. Rosario Dawson disappears into her character, showing us someone who seems to have chosen her own path, but still remembers much of her days before the Jedi Purge. The way she is portrayed here, it’s a good bet that current fans of hers will be pleased, and a number of new fans for Ahsoka will be joining them soon.
The episode also gives us some of the most intimate moments with Mando and The Child we’ve seen yet. It feels like it has been awhile since we saw them connect like this, and Ahsoka acts as an intermediary to help Mando better understand the little one (even revealing it’s name!). Though much like his seeking out Mandalorians in the episode The Mistress, Mando’s search for a Jedi does not quite provide him with all the answers he seeks.
In terms of antagonists, Morgan Elsbeth is more of a low-key villain this time around, a figure who stands calm-and-collected in many situations, but is willing to fight if the need arises. A surprising guest appearance was seeing actor Michael Biehn as her lieutenant. Much like Timothy Olyphant earlier in the season, he just blends in surprisingly well for his brief appearance.
For the theming of this episode, the stylings of samurai films are on full display. From the high walls surrounding Caloden, to the barren stalks of trees silhouetted against the moonlit sky, Feloni is tapping into some familiar theming. Even the opening that introduces Ahsoka feels like it has Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s fingerprints on it. The episode overall feels more like an exercise in quietness and contemplation, than the pulse-pounding action we’ve seen in recent episodes.
This is definitely an episode that requires multiple viewings. Much like how George Lucas would layer in details for the prequels, Filoni does the same here, making me think even a few viewings may not be enough to catch a number of the details included here.
The Jedi will surely provide those with fond memories of Ahsoka Tano, an enjoyable trip down memory lane. Its story swings more towards a samurai tale than a western, but it helps act as a nice change of scenery, where we get to slow down and learn more about our lead characters, without having a major threat to contend with. This may also be one of the most emotional episodes we’ve had in the series so far, but we should be wary as dark clouds still loom on the horizon, and the journey for Mando and The Child, may be a ways off from coming to its conclusion.
Final Grade: B+