This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian, “Chapter 8: Redemption.”
“Redemption” is a fitting title for this episode. For as much as I’ve criticized aspects of the series, most notably its pacing issues in the middle as well as its lack of an engaging protagonist, “Redemption” almost singlehandedly fixes every problem I’ve had with the series. It isn’t a perfect finale, but compared to all of the previous episodes, this has been the most satisfying and most entertaining episode of the series, allowing The Mandalorian to end on its highest note.
With Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) successfully trapping our heroes, there seems to be little hope for them to make it out in one piece. Even with the intervention of IG-11 (Taika Waititi), it’s still a desperate struggle for the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and associates to survive with several close encounters. At first, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any lasting repercussions for our cast, given how recent Star Wars movies have bent over backwards to make death meaningless, but I’m grateful that there are legitimate stakes at play.
While I didn’t believe for a second that Disney would kill off the titular Mandalorian in a show titled The Mandalorian, his near-death experience did allow for some notable character development. Even though we learned about it in a prior scene this episode, we finally learned that the Mandalorian has a name: Din Djarin. Din was raised by Mandalorians after his family was slaughtered during the Clone Wars as a child. It’s doesn’t do a whole lot to expand Din’s character, though it does somewhat explain his hatred or droids, but at least having the answer will satisfy fans. What personally satisfied me was seeing just how much Din has grown as a person, thanks to his comradery with IG-11.
If there’s one character who was the star of “Redemption,” it would easily be IG-11, the killer droid reprogrammed to be a nanny. His strict adherence to his programming, as well as Taika’s deadpan delivery, made every line of dialogue land and served to enhance his relationship with the cast. When Din lays dying, IG-11 convinces him to remove his helmet and administer bacta to save him. If this same situation had happened earlier in the series, Din would have blasted IG-11 in a heartbeat, but everything that IG-11 had done for him and the Child allowed Din to finally trust him, despite being a droid.
We never did learn where Din’s intense hatred of droids comes from, but to see his cold exterior slowly melt away when IG-11 offers to sacrifice himself to save the Child was touching. IG-11 correctly points out that regardless of what Din may say, he’s saddened to know that the only way for him and the Child to live is for IG-11 to self-destruct. The only way that scene could have been made better was if IG-11 told Din “this is the way” before doing so. IG-11 may not be the most compelling droid in all of Star Wars, and his sudden development last episode may have been somewhat rushed, but he got the job done and made himself a valuable asset to the show.
Karga (Carl Weathers) and Dune (Gina Carano) tagged along and assisted when needed, but this really was Din’s episode. Their contributions to the episode were just to support Din and help each other escape from the stormtroopers. The odds were against them and everyone needed to quickly learn to trust each other, especially given Karga’s admitted plans for betrayal last episode, or die in the sewers of Nevarro.
Because of this, the show delivered arguably the best shootout of the series thus far, with our heroes blasting down an army of stormtroopers with reckless abandon. Gideon may have given them a pleasant offer, but both he and Dune bring up good points; they can’t trust each other. Gideon openly tells them that the only reason he hasn’t killed them yet is that he still needs the Child and offers no guarantee for their survival. Except Dune knows she has no chance of survival, given her history with the Rebellion and her open hatred towards the Empire.
From the beginning to the end, I had a wide smile across my face with just how much fun I was having. I loved the intro with the two stormtroopers having a quirky and lighthearted conversation about their job. I loved the Child’s heroic last stand against the flamethrower-wielding stormtrooper, the melee brawl with the Armorer (Emily Swallow), and Din receiving a jetpack to fight Gideon in his TIE fighter. This is the show that I’ve always wanted, and I’m happy to have finally received it at the end.
I’m not going to say that The Mandalorian was flawless because it certainly had its flaws, but it reminded me why I liked Star Wars in the first place. It wasn’t quite as polished as the newer entries were. There was a layer of grit to the show that was very reminiscent of the original trilogy, with its significantly fewer special effect-laden fights, and there were countless references to the original trilogy and the prequels. It had all of the benefits of the modern entries but without any of the negatives that came with them. It was the best of both worlds, doing a commendable job at bridging the two styles.
The Mandalorian often lost its way, but it corrected it when it mattered most. The show started off as a sci-fi Western and slowly became a story of a father protecting his adopted child. When the show drifted from that concept in the middle of the season, the series took a dive in quality — and not just a little dip, but a big dose dive. That entire heist in episode 6 wasn’t just a bad episode of The Mandalorian, but a bad episode of television period. Whenever Din was left alone with the Child or had a few minutes to breathe with him, you could tell that this was where the real heart of the show lied — not in its lone-wolf action, but in its reminders that Din is human.
Disney+ launched in November with The Mandalorian as the crown jewel of its original programming. The rest of the shows on offer couldn’t possibly match the desire to watch The Mandalorian, and with that in mind, I think that the series does earn the title of being Disney+’s #1 original show. Granted, that’s a pretty easy title to hold until Marvel brings out its original programming, but a title is still a title.
The Mandalorian is how you honor a franchise. Not by shoving in references to previous entries without any reason other than to cater to fans, sacrificing story and character along the way, but by reminding the fans that there’s still a ton of untapped potential in the series and that good writing and acting will always shine through. You don’t need a Jedi to tell a good Star Wars story. You just need a good story.