This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 8, “Chapter 16: The Rescue.”
I’ve made no qualms about my issues with The Mandalorian this season. As the premier series on Disney+, The Mandalorian had the budget and the talent to propel the series, as well as its streaming service, into the stratosphere. And it did, very easily. While the first season was uneven but was able to stick the landing, the second season exacerbated the problems that were evident last year.
There were numerous episodes where the show spun its gears and featured diversions that were less interested in telling an overarching narrative and more in setting up these future spin-offs. Episode 5 sets the stage for an Ahsoka spin-off, episode 7 establishes Bill Burr as someone who can pop up in numerous spin-offs, and now we have The Book of Boba Fett set up for a December 2021 release. What used to be a self-contained series has now grown to a point where it’s less interested in its own plot and more about milking this subsect of the fandom for all its worth.
After all of that, was the season finale, “The Rescue,” worth it? I would give a begrudging yes, but man, this finale paled in comparison to last season’s.
The bizarre pacing was the biggest issue for this episode. The first several minutes of “The Rescue” feature Mando (Pedro Pascal) and crew finalizing their attack on Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) cruiser. In order to do so, they get the aid of a returning Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and kidnap Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi from American Gods). All of this felt like development that could have happened last episode since here it just feels like a bit of leftovers that Jon Favreau forgot to include, involving puzzling questions like why Dr. Pershing was so willing to help Mando and crew and give them such confidential information.
Once the actual assault on the cruiser begins, the energy of the show returns and delivers some fun and notable moments. We see Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and Fennec (Ming Na-Wen) continue to be badasses with each other, there are some entertaining shootouts, and the Dark Troopers from episode 6 reappear. Their use inside of the episode is actually pretty brilliant, since at first Mando tackles only one, who proceeds to beat him relentlessly.
Even in a single fight scene, these droids are absolutely brutal, and the prospect of fighting a platoon of them is horrifying. At first I was disappointed to see the Dark Troopers be sucked into the vacuum of space, but their return later in the episode sealed just how helpless the situation turned for Mando and crew. Sure, they were able to defeat Gideon, but what does it matter if there is an entire army of invincible droids waiting to kill you?
Speaking of, Moff Gideon’s exchange with Mando in the brig was probably the highlight of the episode for me. Since his appearance last season, despite being played by the wonderful Giancarlo Esposito, we actually had very few exchanges between him and our heroes. His conversation with Mando depicted him as someone who’s rational and fairly level-headed. Gideon got what he wanted from Grogu, so he tells Mando he can take him as long as he can keep the Darksaber. Of course he goes back on his word, but it at least gives Gideon a different flair to him versus other villains. He’ll use diplomacy and tact first instead of going right for the jugular.
Once the rescue mission itself began, things were starting to look up for “The Rescue” with nice action and high motivation for Mando to save Grogu. Although, maybe because we spent so little time actually focusing on the relationship between Grogu and Mando this season, the rescue didn’t quite carry all the emotional resonance it could have. Mando saving Grogu felt less like an event I wanted to see happen and more an inevitability. How it was going to happen was the question.
And how it gets there is by throwing in Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as a deus ex machina. As soon as I saw his lightsaber appear, I checked right out.
Now, I don’t have a problem with Luke showing up in the context of the story. It only made sense that after Grogu called out into the Force during episode 6 that Luke would be the one to answer since I can hardly think of any major Jedi still around after the events of Return of the Jedi. In fact, I probably would have cried foul if it were anyone else who appeared since that would have contradicted the pre-established lore. No, my issue comes from how effortlessly he just beats all of the Dark Troopers and doesn’t break a sweat.
Everyone just stares at Luke from the cameras pecking off each Dark Trooper without getting hit a single time, marveling at how awesome he is because he’s a Jedi. We spend several minutes just watching Luke walk through the cruiser, slashing away at Dark Troopers as everyone watches on like the audience, removed from the action on screen.
His assault on the Dark Troopers tells one of two stories, and both of them are woefully depressing. It’s either the Dark Troopers weren’t actually all that tough, making our heroes look weak in the process, or the writers wrote themselves into a corner and needed an easy out. It’s not clever storytelling and it’s not badass seeing Luke essentially turn on God Mode and saving the day. It’s bad storytelling.
That’s a shame because the moment where Mando has to let Grogu go is the exact opposite. Grogu doesn’t want to leave since he loves his surrogate father too much, but Mando has to do what’s right and let Luke take him. It’s an emotional scene, made even more powerful by watching Mando remove his helmet to say goodbye. He used to live like a religious zealot, but now, after the adventures he’s been on, he wants his son to see his face before he leaves. A final memory of his father before leaving him potentially forever. One can also read this scene with a bit more tragedy, since if Luke goes on to train Grogu, then there’s a solid chance that Grogu may have been killed by Kylo Ren during his rampage depicted in The Last Jedi.
Of course, I don’t actually expect Grogu and Mando to be separated for season 3. Grogu is The Mandalorian’s cash cow, and his not being around for the third season would be an act of deliberant self-sabotage. Besides, the heart of the show has always been the relationship between Mando and Grogu. Taking that away would just make no sense. Sure, the conflict revolving around the Darksaber and Bo-Katan desiring it would be a good avenue for season 3 to explore, but it probably wouldn’t be as strong as that parental bond that was forged over two seasons. It also makes The Mandalorian stand out even more within the Star Wars universe as being one of the few genuinely positive parent-child relationships.
Speaking of the universe, “The Rescue” ends with a post-credits scene confirming a new Boba Fett spin-off, and man, talk about a way to deflate the events. Instead of concluding on a sorrowful note, Grogu leaving and Mando shedding a tear for his departed son, we instead needed Boba Fett to lay waste to Jabba’s Palace and Bib Fortuna and sit on Jabba’s throne.
Those two scenes kind of sum up everything that I liked and disliked about this season. When it was focusing on Mando and Grogu, the show continued to excel and stand as one of the best iterations of the franchise in years. But the last shot of the season wasn’t focused on our main character, instead setting up another side-character’s spin-off series.
It’s frustrating since I do still like The Mandalorian. For as critical as I am towards the show, it’s from a desire to see it do well, but this is not the way. I’m eager to experience the next leg in Mando’s journey, but the show doesn’t seem too interested in that. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Book of Boba Fett turned out to actually be the third season of The Mandalorian and Mando’s story is just dropped entirely. Both are set to release in December of 2021, and even by modern Star Wars standards, having two shows focused around Mandalorians releasing the same month is too much.
But if you had to force me to say if this finale was good, then yes, “The Rescue” was fine. Technically it works and fulfills the base functions of a finale. We have some solid action, good character moments, and an interesting new status quo for the next season of The Mandalorian. I only wish that we didn’t need to have a deus ex machina to get us to that point, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll still be watching this show in future seasons, but Jon Favreau and crew are going to have to work hard to rectify the sloppy worldbuilding they used this time.