Episode 1 of The Mandalorian promised audiences a sleek western with a lone hero and a serialized format with basics in a bygone era of television. The show wavered for a moment in episode 5, when overloaded fan service and an emphasis on nostalgia threatened to undermine this thesis. But with the finale of the first season, entitled “Redemption”, creator Jon Favreau and director Taika Waititi deliver the goods. The Mandalorian spectacularly finishes the narrative sheet he began with his first three episodes. All in all, the eighth season is reminiscent of a Hollywood epic and an intimate mini series at the same time.
The finale also manages to prepare the stage perfectly for season two and to reveal many, but not all, of the secrets that have confused fans for months. It increases the effort and at the same time focuses laser-like on the central line of action that will drive the series forward.
For anyone upset about the climax of the Skywalker saga that hit theaters less than a week ago, The Mandalorian is undoubtedly the new hope the sprawling franchise has been looking for.
(Ed. Note: This article contains spoilers for Episode 8 of The Mandalorian.)
Episode 8 begins exactly where Episode 7 left off. Two imperial scouts are underway to bring the child (also known as Baby Yoda) to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). We have the opportunity to wash away the agony of Kiriil’s death with a funny exchange between the two lackluster soldiers.
While waiting for the final bureaucratic clearance to enter the city at their price, the couple take turns drinking from a tin can from a distance of 20 feet. Nobody hits the target even once and one of the soldiers starts nervously frustrated with troubleshooting his blaster. The best of the emperor. It is the perfect moment for Chekhov’s droids, alias IG-11 (played by Taika Waititi himself) to emerge and mop the floor with them. He saves the child and sets up the following three main points of the action.
First comes the solution to the standoff that ended episode 7.
Gideon knows that the child is not secured and instead stays there for a while. Standing next to a massive laser cannon that will surely level the cantina they’re in, Gideon reveals everything he knows about the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), Cara Dune (Gina Carrano), and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers).
In a knowledge gap that actually makes sense in context, Moff Gideon lets us all infer Greef’s true identity as a repressed former imperial magistrate. He tells us that Cara is not just a former rebel commando, but a native of the planet Alderaan (Leia Organa’s home planet, destroyed by the first Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope), which explains her deep-seated hatred of the empire.
We also learn that the Mandalorian was not born on Mandalore at all. His real name – revealed by Pascal in a random interview in November – is Din Djarin and he was adopted by the Mandalorians as an orphan of war. In truth, he’s a well-trained refugee, but that doesn’t make him a Mandalorian any less. As Cara explains in the same scene, it’s not about being part of a certain type when you’re a Mandalorian. Instead, it’s about preserving the creed. To be a Mandalorian does not mean to belong to a certain race. it means getting involved in a certain way of life.
Just as these secrets are being revealed, IG-11 enters the town square at full speed. Moff Gideon’s forces are trapped between Cara’s powerful blaster and the droid. Then the Mandalorian himself comes out of cover, takes the biggest weapon he can find and starts devastating Gideon’s troops. It is a recall to episode 1, in which we saw Mando driving full of Schwarzenegger and putting a mounted weapon in the sidekicks that hold the child’s hostage.
But just as quickly as they get the upper hand, our heroes – including IG-11 and the child – are pushed back into the cantina. The Mandalorian was mortally wounded and promised to stay behind while the rest fled to the sewers.
Poetically speaking, it is IG-11 that saves him from certain death.
After spending seven episodes of hating droids and hiding his face, Din reluctantly shows himself to the machine. With the helmet removed, IG-11 heals him with a quick Bacta spray. Under the mask we see a man bleeding like everyone else. It is a rare moment of weakness and more meaningful than any other half dozen times that Kylo Ren disgustedly tore off his own helmet.
Finally Mando puts his helmet back on and our heroes escape together into the sewers. Here they meet the armorsmith who sits over a pile of battered Mandalorian armor. It turned out that the cost of saving the child in Episode 3 was the murder of virtually every member of the clan. Nobody is safe from Moff Gideon and instead of being indebted to Dins shoulders, she releases him from “The Sin” from Episode 3. Instead, she accuses him of a quest; he and the child are now a clan of two, and it is up to Din to find his people and take care of the green little man on the way.
“Until you are of legal age or reunite in your own way,” says the weapons master, “you are like his father. This is the way.”
Armorsmith Din uses this to create his seal – the penultimate part of his armor set – in the form of a skeletal mud horn that creature Din and Kid defeated together in Episode 2.
At this moment, the focus of the entire series shifts subtly and permanently. Pascals Din Djarin is no longer the eponymous Mandalorian. This nickname falls to Baby Yoda, who is now practically his apprentice. It is up to Din to teach him the way the older Mandalorians taught him a long time ago. It is a moving moment that remains almost unspoken, but feels deserved both because of the seven episodes that led to it and the amount of blood spilled along the way.
But The Mandalorian isn’t done throwing emotional bombs at Star Wars fans.
In the air battle, IG-11 battles a platoon of stormtroopers. The droid finally enables its self-destruct sequence by sacrificing itself and clearing the way for Din, the Child, Cara and Greef to save themselves. The only one in the way is Moff Gideon, whom Din dispatches with the help of his new jetpack – the last piece of his armor that the armorer gave him.
In the final scene of the episode, Din says goodbye to Greef and Cara, who both choose to stay behind and make a home for themselves and other bounty hunters on the planet. But there is a postscript scene that makes us even more fancy: we see that Moff Gideon owns the legendary Darksaber, a relic from the old Mandalore that was last seen in Star Wars Rebels. It’s an iconic weapon that will fill fans with speculation from now until the premiere of season two.
In Chapter 8, the audience rides into the sunset with Din and the child – the new Mandalorian. It’s an almost perfect ending that matches the series’ western roots. The second season is also perfectly prepared. Expect a lot of bottle episodes moving inexorably towards exploring this “clan of two” and searching for other power-sensitive creatures like Baby Yoda.
And if we’re lucky, Din and the child may meet one or more Jedi who are still hiding somewhere in the galaxy.
The Mandalorian proves that George Lucas’ universe is a terribly large place that has room for many more characters and storylines that fans have yet to discover. And unlike “The Rise of Skywalker”, it’s a series that’s brave enough to leave the tropics. She tells us that every hero of blood must be bound to those who came before them. It’s about orphans dissolving in a dangerous universe, and I’m excited to see where the next episode will take us.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian is expected to premiere sometime in 2020.