After a series of catastrophes, The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) starts the season two finale at a low ebb. He’s lost his ship, his weapons, his Baby Yoda – hell, he even had to ditch his helmet last week. He’s on the back foot and out of his depth, with only a ragtag band of outlaws ready to take on the full force of Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) Imperial Forces.
But this is Star Wars, right? Don’t the good guys always triumph? Isn’t the Force always, truly, with us? Well, yes – but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few stumbling blocks to victory along the way.
The episode begins with a couple of quick-shot (literally) action scenes, with the gang grabbing hold of clone expert Dr Pershing (dispatching a couple of sassy Imperial twins, which is a phrase I never thought I’d write) and recruiting fellow Mandalorians including Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff).
After a little tension between the Mandalorians and non-Mando Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), which leads to another fun (if brief) clash, it’s not long before this intergalactic Suicide Squad is splitting up to storm Moff Gideon’s cruiser in a tricksy Trojan horse manoeuvre. But once they’re in, they face more than the usual Stormtrooper tomfoolery, with Gideon’s deadly droid Death Troopers making for a more serious (and pretty scary) threat.
While The Mandalorian is sometimes criticised for taking a while to get to the point, this finale is all business, arriving at the main assault fairly soon in the episode and moving swiftly through the beats from thereon out. A combination of the series’ regular sneaky heist sequences (as Mando hunts Baby Yoda in the shadows) and the Original Trilogy’s Death Star infiltrations, it’s a pleasing scale up for the Disney+ series (remember when the season one finale was just a blaster fight in a small town?) that only builds as the episode continues.
While the assault succeeds at first, a squad of Dark Troopers (looking positively demonic) soon break free to threaten Mando, and the series does a great job at establishing them as a greater threat – powerful, relentless and nearly indestructible – which is all the more impressive given what a joke the droid soldiers were in the Star Wars prequels.
Still, the real target of the team is Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon. And after a couple of seasons of build-up he finally gets to do his best moustache-twirling villain speech, yammering on about order in classic Imperial fashion before a knock down saber-vs-Beskar battle which fans have been hoping for for weeks.
Yes, Chekhov’s Beskar spear finally came into play, and while brief the battle was a fun cap to put on a season that’s really expanded the action potential of TV Star Wars.
Soon, though, we were back to more familiar territory. With Moff Gideon captured and already sowing discord in the ranks (unfortunately, having won the darksaber in battle, Din couldn’t just hand it over to Bo-Katan, who’d only come along to take it), the tension was punctured by the arrival of even more Dark Troopers, punching their way back into the story like rock-em sock-em robots.
But then, but then. One lone X-Wing came to the rescue… Grogu’s ears unfurled… the Dark Troopers stopped their assault… and a familiar, robed figure walked into play.
“A Jedi,” one of our heroes whispered. One with a green lightsaber and the skills enough (shown well on-screen) to handily cut his way through the Dark Troopers, even as he slowly approached the fascinated Baby Yoda.
OK, it made the the Dark Troopers seem like less of a threat after all – but then Luke Skywalker isn’t just any Jedi. Maybe we’ll let him have this one.
Oh, did we say Luke Skywalker? Yes, emerging from the smoke, his lightsaber drawn like his father was none other than the saviour of the galaxy… though with a slightly different look than we’re used to… offering to take Grogu into his protection. How well the deepfaked Mark Hamill works may depend on the resolution of your TV, but whatever – Luke Skywalker is back!
It’s an astonishing, long-awaited return… but wisely, the Mandalorian knows to focus its energy on its central pairing. In a heartrending farewell where Din tells Baby Yoda “don’t be afraid” he removes his mask willingly for the first time, showing his face to see off his child.
“May the Force be with you,” Luke says as he walks off, Baby Yoda in hand, and I’m sure plenty of fans will have been just as devastated as Din Djarin to see him walked away under inspirational music. Surely that’s not the end of this partnership?
Well, for now we’ll have to wait and see. The episode ends with Mando and Grogu parted once more, with a big question mark over how the series continues going forward. Will the series really try to not include its biggest selling point, or will it concoct some new way to reunite its central duo? And what will Mando even get up to now that his quest is at an end?
However, we do get a fun hint at what could be next for another masked member of Mando’s team, with a post-credits sting (always worth watching the credits) seeing Boba Fett and Fennec (Ming-Na Wen) taking over what remains of Jabba’s palace from Return of the Jedi. Do we smell another spin-off as Boba takes Jabba’s throne? Well, yes – The Book of Boba Fett is announced at the end of this episode, coming December 2021. Time to add that one to the list.
Back to the episode proper, the separation of Mando and Grogu is a slightly bittersweet end to what has been a tremendous season of television. Overall, The Mandalorian’s second year has been a big step-up on the first season, which admirably carved out a small corner of the Star Wars universe with style and grit when it debuted in 2019.
But following this season two has raised the stakes in almost every single way. Once upon a time, the canonical return of Boba Fett in live-action would have been momentous – here, it’s one of many subplots forming the rich tapestry of Din Djarin’s world.
These episodes have been exciting, well-directed and – crucially in this year above all others – uniting, a true cultural moment with fans tuning in and discussing the series worldwide.
Going forward the Disney+ Star Wars universe looks set to get even bigger, with a few characters spinning off from The Mandalorian season two directly, and I’m as excited as anyone to see what’s coming next.
But I also hope that despite all the excitement, The Mandalorian can continue to thrive on the Outer Rim of the franchise. If nothing else, I very much doubt anyone – including this series – is done with Baby Yoda just yet.
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