In what felt like the blink of an eye, the Star Wars series The Mandalorian has wrapped up its first season and left us with a very obvious cliffhanger. The Mandalorian proved itself to be one of the better, if not the best live-action Star Wars in existence, which is perhaps a feat, perhaps not, depending on your view of Star Wars.
The last week or so I’ve seen so many lists in so many different orders about where the Star Wars films rank. To say that there is no real consensus is saying it mildly. The only real conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that fans of Star Wars are all fans for very different reasons and trying to pin down context beyond the strong emotional bonds most of us have towards this universe feels fruitless.
I’m turning 37 in January and for me the original trilogy will always be my favorites. As someone who branched out, had a film snob phase and continues to be interested in a lot of different media and art, I’m more than willing to admit that the original trilogy is good but not without its share of problems. I mean, Return of the Jedi could have had like an hour lopped off and it would’ve been better, A New Hope can be goofy, Empire Strikes Back is still mostly fine. Luke, a character we grew up loving and thinking was super cool, is a giant whiner who barely trains at anything and just excels at everything by dumb luck.
I could go on. There were some problems.
People that grew up later and saw the prequels first have said those are their favorites! Can you believe that? I’m sure that younger fans will have similar views of the JJ Abrams trilogy!
My point here is that Star Wars is a lot of different things to different people and that’s okay.
The Mandalorian’s first season was mostly very good, had a few episodes that strayed a bit, but came back strong in the last two episodes. The final episode was one of the best of the lot, although, of course, not without its problems.
If you’re the type of fan that likes to focus solely on the positives and break out in hives at the first scent of criticism, that’s okay, you can probably cut out here. Don’t worry, it’s cool. Not that I’m gonna be unreasonable or anything, either. This was a fun episode! I enjoyed it! The Mandalorian season one was great! I just strongly believe in criticism—even of good things—and deconstruction.
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We picked up where we left off with our heroes trapped by Moff Gideon and his forces and the two scout troopers that scooped up Baby Yoda having a very long, very disconnected discussion while they waited to get called in for the big reveal. I don’t have a problem with comedy mixed in with my big, goofy space opera stuff, even if this felt sort of out-of-place considering the tone of the scene and the contrast with the life-or-death situation down the hill. The scene also lingered and moved at its own pace, definitely something from director Taika Waititi. The stormtroopers were trying to shoot a can and were missing miserably, having conversations over their comms about how Moff Gideon was nuts and bickered about Baby Yoda while both hitting the poor lil dude before IG-11 showed up and crushed both of their skulls to secure Baby Yoda for the good guys.
We get some firefights and our pal Mando gets dinged in the back of the helmet by Moff Gideon to the point where he’s pretty sure that he’s a goner and refuses to remove his helmet. Okay. The escape plan was to slip down into the sewers, find the Mandalorians for backup and escape. Greef and Cara take the baby and head into the pristine sewers (seriously, c’mon) while IG-11 stays behind and tells Mando that he can heal him, he just needs to take off his helmet. Mando explains it’s against his creed for a living thing to take his helmet off or see him without it, only for IG-11 to explain that he’s not a living thing. He then somewhat easily sprays him in the back of the head and he’s… fine? Okay.
We’re in the pristine sewers that just look like a pretty clean hallway before they uncover a pile of Mandalorian armor just chilling in the middle of one of the hallways. Oof. The Armorer comes along and is just casually picking up Mandalorian armor and reforging it, explaining that someone probably got away, but she had no idea who did or didn’t, who died and who lived. She explains that Baby Yoda is his son until he can find his people and forges him a sigil, the two of them now a clan. He also gets a rocket pack that she tells him he probably shouldn’t use yet. IG-11 kills a lot of troopers off screen and our pals head down to a lava flow where they take a raft only to discover that a swarm of troopers were waiting at the exit. At this point, IG-11 talks about his manufacturers programming to self-destruct if captured and somehow it takes precedence over Kuiil’s programming to protect the baby at all costs. They talk about the contradiction and it’s more or less a wink-wink, nudge-nudge that IG-11 was more aware and sentient than he let on and his programming was more of a suggestion than a rule.
So he walks through the lava, the troopers go to shoot him but he self-destructs and kills all the troopers. Apparently all it took was one thermal detonator to do this, I dunno. Gideon comes after them in a TIE fighter and our pal Mando decides to just use his jet pack anyway, which makes for a really cool, aerial fight scene including his grappling hook and placing a few charges on the wing, sending Gideon’s plane crashing to the surface.
Our heroes take stock, Greef and Cara talk about staying on Navarro, Mando talks about leaving with Baby Yoda to go on their quest and possibly return as a friend and continue his guild work. Meanwhile, Jawas are trying to scrap the TIE only for Gideon to slice his way out with the much-fabled Darksaber.
Mando takes off and Baby Yoda is wearing the Mandalorian necklace, which Mando tells him to keep.
A lot happened here!
They try to deal with his feelings about droids and expand on that, show some character growth and that’s good. That’s really what you can ask for, although it is a bit muddled considering the gray area IG-11 ended up occupying as a reprogrammed nurse droid beyond his control. Even if he sort of seemed like his programming could be overcome. I don’t know. It’s fine?
The best part of the episode also happened to be the most frustrating part for me: the fact that we finally learn his name and get the full origin story scene, including an unnamed Mandalorian rescuing our young Din Djarin from a bin and thus beginning our hero’s journey.
We also find out about Cara Dune’s history as a shock trooper, how her platoon was shredded by a machine gun and we learn that Greef Karga was once a low-level Imperial bureaucrat forced to retire in shame before his role in the bounty guild happened. All of this pretty vital backstory came in the last episode of the season, shouted from the big baddie and there are gonna be different schools of thought on if this was good or bad.
I’m not sure how I feel about it honestly.
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Here’s a group of people willing to fight and die for each other and they know about as much about each other as we know about them, which is to say nothing. The thing is, they’re cut from the same cloth and Gideon attempts to weaponize their pasts to use against them, to weigh them down and make them doubt themselves. On the one hand, yeah, they could absolutely have given us these reveals earlier, allowed for us to get to know the characters better and flesh things out more, but this still worked.
I have a theory, I’m not sure how accurate it will prove or anything, but it’s my theory: they stretched the story they wanted to tell out for one season out into a second season. There’s very clearly more meat on the bones of the story considering the cliffhanger and truly, they just introduced Moff Gideon within these two episodes. Last time out, I busted out the trusty story mountain and now I’m going to talk about another storytelling convention: the second act belongs to the villain.
The second act of a three act story is where the villain is fleshed out, given some meat on their bones and we can understand their motivations better. Since we just met Gideon and got to see the first real interactions between Gideon and the heroes in episodes 7 and 8 it’s fair to assume that they’re the beginning of this story’s second act. I’d go as far as to guess that the first episode of two of Mandalorian season two will heavily feature Gideon, that we’ll see some filler around the middle again before they bring the story home at the end of next season.
That’s not a bad thing, really. I’m all for experimentation in storytelling, especially in narrative form, but I’m still left wondering if this was the original intent or if there was some meddling involved to drag things out.
Then, of course, there’s the whole DARKSABER thing. If you watched Rebels you’ll know the story behind it and the link to the Mandalorians. There are definitely some clues as to where the show will be heading, which points to Dave Filoni’s past shows. Of course, he’s involved with this show, so hey. Cool.
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