Warning: Huge spoilers for Season 2, Episode 8 of "The Mandalorian" below
The second season finale of "The Mandalorian" on Disney Plus will result in just about every different reaction possible: joy, sadness, shock, awe and yes, disappointment too. There were some high and there were some lows, making this an extremely emotional end to Season 2.
Straight out of the starting blocks we're in the thick of the action as Slave 1 is chasing a Lamda class shuttle, blasting at it left and right. On board Boba Fett's (Temuera Morrison) ship is Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) and the Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). And on board the Imperial shuttle is Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). Fett disables it with a shot from his ion cannon and both Dune and Djarin board, although quite how the two ships are able to form an airtight seal isn't explained.
One of the two Imperial pilots is more than happy to surrender, but the other — who is clearly more committed to the Imperial cause — is less willing. He blasts his co-pilot and grabs the Doc as a hostage. Demanding Dune lower her blaster, he tries to intimidate her; recognizing the tiny Rebel Alliance starbird tattoo she has on her left cheek as an "Alderaan tear," he goes on to gloat that he actually watched her home planet get destroyed by the Death Star. (Obviously departing not long afterwards.) He fails to get a rise out of her and she puts a shot right between his eyes, narrowly missing Pershing who screams and clutches his now-singed ear.
Following the brief opening credits, Slave 1 arrives at a Class-M planet with large refineries dotted about the landscape and lands among a collection of parked spacecraft. Djarin and Fett enter a cantina where Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado) are sitting. Credit to Varnado for saying recently in interviews that her character doesn't appear again, so that was a nice surprise.
Bo-Katan mocks Fett for being a clone as she understandably takes offence since he's effectively the same stock as a Clone trooper, which ended up occupying Mandalore towards the end of the Clone Wars. Consequently, he and Koska get into a scuffle, but Djarin convinces Bo-Katan to help rescue Grogu, but she's very clear that her aim is to get the Darksaber from Moff Gideon to restore her homeworld.
A complex plan, but effective plan is formulated. Fett will follow the Imperial shuttle in Slave 1 and they'll both exit hyperspace by Gideon's cruiser, making it look like it's under attack. Bo-Katan will emergency land in the cruiser's landing bay, cutting off any potential interceptors, while the girls will engage the main thrust of the enemy's defenses, creating a distraction, while Djarin will attempt to prevent Gideon from unleashing the Dark Troopers by sealing them in their containment bay and locate Grogu.
Both ships burst out of hyperspace and the shuttle immediately begins requesting permission to land as Slave 1 unleashes a barrage of blaster fire; it's the beginning of a thrilling, action-packed attack on Gideon's cruiser that effectively adds layer after layer of tension for over 15 minutes. Fett makes his attack look convincing, but Gideon is still suspicious and refuses the shuttle permission for emergency landing, instead ordering that TIE fighters be launched. This is not what our gallant heroes had hoped for. (The manner in which the TIE fighters launch is a nod to "Battlestar Galactica" according to IMDb.)
Still being denied permission to land, Bo-Katan takes the shuttle directly into the landing bay for a controlled crash, as it's the only way to prevent more fighters being launched. Once that hair-raising maneuver is completed, Boba gets the Fett out of there. Imperial troops flock to the hanger bay and are quickly and efficiently dispatched by the four femme fatales. Stormtroopers are fundamentally just cannon fodder and can be used very easily to satisfy the twisted side in all of us that enjoys seeing them meet their end in extremely unfortunate ways. And this show has certainly embraced that, proving us with some award-winning examples and here, for the very first time, we get to see one fall through a magnetic field and out into the vacuum of space. Cool.
The sound design seems to have been changed for Dune's heavy blaster, which is a shame, because when she let rip with it in the Season 1 finale "Chapter 8: Redemption" it had a mechanical element, like that actual prop firing it, which worked really well.
With this firefight in full swing, Djarin sneaks out while up on the bridge, Gideon gives the order to activate the Dark Troopers, as we knew he would. The clock is ticking now. The music is one element of "The Mandalorian" that has been consistently brilliant through this season. Not only is Ludwig Göransson's score amazing, but the familiar theme has been performed in modified ways to suit all manner of situations and this one is no different: this time the tempo varies to stress urgency and the race against time that Djarin faces.
Moreover, there's a number of cover versions in every musical style imaginable online and one of our absolute favorites is here. (When the drums kick in at 0:45 you can imagine smoke clearing and the Mandalorian slowly walking into view, battered and blood-soaked, from a particularly brutal fight against overwhelming odds...)
Djarin gets to the door of the containment bay in time to lock it and prevent any Dark Troopers getting out — except one, that practically pummels the poor Mandalorian to within an inch of his life. Thankfully though, he's pretty good with that Bevii'ragir beskar spear and he just about manages to defeat it. And then, from outside, he opens the other end of the containment bay and the explosive decompression sends the entire platoon of Dark Troopers tumbling into space.
Reaching the detention center, he finds the cell Grogu is in…and also finds Gideon in there too, menacingly looming over the Little Green One with the Darksaber activated. Djarin says all he wants is the child — despite what the Darksaber means to Bo-Katan and Mandalore and everything he has promised her — really showing what Grogu has come to mean to him. Gideon agrees as he boasts that he has taken what he wants (blood with an exceptionally high M-count) as long as he keeps the Darksaber. For a fleeting moment it seems like this is the way it's going to go down, but as Djarin stoops down to pick up Grogu, Gideon launches his attack.
And what a battle it is. Only the Mandalorian's armor saves him from a relentless barrage of heavy blows as Gideon unleashes his full fury. Once again, the only weapon that can save Djarin is his simple, seemingly indestructible spear. The fight is well choreographed and watching the Darksaber repeatedly clash against beskar is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Eventually, Gideon is overpowered, but the Mandalorian spares his life and drags him to the bridge where everyone else is waiting. Once here, Gideon tries to play mind games with Djarin and Bo-Katan over who has rightful ownership to the Darksaber, suggesting that she must now fight and defeat Djarin to claim it, saying, "It must be won in battle." The look of horror on her face is intriguing as she agrees with Gideon, at the same time, the casual attitude of Djarin is amusing as he remarks, "I yield. I don't want it. It's yours."
What's bizarre here though is that in "Rebels" Sabine Wren gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan, who by virtue of holding the weapon became the new ruler of the Mandalorians. So, without a fight. This will probably be addressed in the third season, as hopefully we'll see more of Bo-Katan. Djarin didn't actually kill Gideon and perhaps it's a rule that only applies with a combatant outside the Mandalore creed. Who knows.
But as they themselves ponder that very dilemma, an alarm sounds and we see that the Dark Troopers have propelled themselves around in a 180-degree turn and are preparing to board the ship and attack. This is good story writing as we know they are equipped with rockets and we also know it would take more than the minor inconvenience of being expelled into space to stop these guys. It's really great to see the Dark Troopers in action, especially in numbers operating as a platoon.
Everyone readies themselves for the hard fight ahead. They close the blast doors leading to the bridge and the Dark Troopers begin their attempt to breach the blockade. Then a lone T-65B X-wing fighter is detected landing in the hanger bay. Suddenly, the Dark Troopers cease their attempts to access the bridge, instead they turn and ready their blasters. A lone figure walks briskly through the corridors of the ship. Director Peyton reed (who also helmed the action-packed installment "Chapter 10: The Passenger") keeps us guessing and the music helps build the suspense. We see on the security camera monitors that this mysterious individual is making extremely short work of the squad Dark Troopers, with a lightsaber no less. Soon, they reach the bridge.
Bit-by-bit, we can piece together the clues: the arrival of the X-wing, black robes, a green lightsaber — OK, these could be anyone — then the gloved hand and finally the removal of the hood and it's the shock reveal of 2020! It's none other than Luke Skywalker and we're gasping, "Oh my gosh, it's LUKE!" and then, less than a second later, we're sighing, "oh, it's Luke."
Even now, we have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand we're wondering why every "Star Wars" IP has to include a Skywalker? Honestly, it could've been any number of characters, opening all sorts of possibilities, but instead, John Favreau and Dave Filoni couldn't resist the urge to dial the nostalgia up to 11 and they're capable of more compelling storytelling than this, because we've seen in the past. But this clearly didn't stop the internet from exploding as "Star Wars" fans went bananas over the reveal.
And on the other hand it does actually wrap up this storyline quite nicely. Luke was voiced by Mark Hamill, but a full computer-generated face was used over another actor's and to be perfectly honest, we didn't think it was too bad, although just like Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia in "Rogue One," the CGI never seems to be able to get movements of the mouth quite right.
But the emotion doesn't end here as the farewell between Grogu and Djarin is a real tearjerker. The Mandalorian removes his helmet for the second time this season — another indication of how much the child means to him and another clue that perhaps he's coming around to Bo-Katan's way of thinking. Little Grogu reaches to touch his face and you will be reaching for another tissue to wipe the flood of tears away. It's beautiful, there's no denying that and much credit should be given to both Pedro Pascal and the puppeteers for acting so convincingly in such an important scene.
This is pure fan service, but it's still a nice mix of "Star Wars" past and "Star Wars" future and effectively hands the baton on to the next round of movies and live action shows. It's a reminder of what made this franchise great once upon a time: well-written stories, amazing action and great characters that we become invested in. All that said, the appearance of R2-D2 was overkill. He could've just stayed in the X-wing.
But there's one more thing. For the first time in "Star Wars" there's a Marvel-style post-credits sequence. Suddenly, we're on Tatooine and inside Jabba the Hutt's palace no less. We see Jabba's former right-hand man and presumably inheritor of the gangster's underworld empire, Bib Fortuna (Matthew Wood). Shand walks down the steps into the throne room, blasts a couple of Gamorrean guards as Fett follows just a few steps behind her. Fortuna's just as shocked as we were when we first heard Fett has survived the Sarlacc. Without so much as uttering a word, Fett blasts him, pulls Fortuna's bulky body of the throne and sits there himself, with Shand at his side, giving off a serious Zam Wessel vibes. In fact, these two seem to be developing a similar dynamic to the one Wessel had with Jango Fett.
Finally, the words, "The Book of Boba Fett" appear on screen followed by "Coming in December 2021." It's thought that this will be a limited series while Season 3 of "The Mandalorian" is "on schedule" and will premiere on Christmas Day next year as Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced during Disney's recent 2020 Investor Day event.
Sadly, there's no artwork at the end of this episode. It's also a shame Lucasfilm couldn't have added a tiny tribute in the end credits to English actor Jeremy Bulloch, who sadly passed this week, aged 75. Bulloch played Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." They can digitally remove Jeans & T-Shirt Guy in just a few days, how much effort is it to add one screen with one line to the end credits?
Finally, in other related news, Ming-Na Wen has confirmed that she'll reprise her role of Fennec Shand in "Star Wars: The Bad Batch." "It’s a younger Fennec and ... I’m thrilled and beyond happy that Dave wanted to create more of a backstory for her," she said on starwars.com. And Disney has announced that "Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian" returns with the "Making of Season Two" documentary, dropping on Disney Plus on Dec. 25.
The first and second season of "The Mandalorian" is available on Disney Plus, which is available for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year in the US and in the UK, it's £6 a month, or £60 a year. It's also available in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, India, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, France and Japan. Season 3 of "The Mandalorian" will premiere on Christmas Day 2021, but the cost of Disney Plus will increase to $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year in the US beginning on March 26, 2021.
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