by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Chapter 16 of The Mandalorian
Wow. Just wow.
The second season of The Mandalorian concluded with what can only be described as a Star Wars fan’s wildest dreams come to life. The show has repeatedly indulged fans with brilliant connections to canon and thrilling moments, but it has never reached the jaw-dropping level that Chapter 16: The Rescue does.
The episode does not waste any time as the audience is immediately and unexpectedly thrown into an action sequence from the get-go. Every time the Slave I has showed up in The Mandalorian it takes a moment or two to sit back and return to reality, because the inclusion of this iconic symbol in Star Wars lore is so breathtaking. That being said, the opening, pre-titles sequence of Chapter 16 felt a little choppy. The interchange between Cara Dune and the pilot holding a blaster to Pershing’s head was interesting in highlighting that the galaxy’s conflicts are more complex than merely good versus evil. The pilot’s point that millions died on the Death Stars was a sobering note and something Star Wars fans have spoken about for a while. Nonetheless, the dialogue feels a little forced and unnatural and it isn’t until the title card comes up that the episode really kicks into gear.
It wouldn’t be Star Wars without an intense cantina scene and Chapter 16 delivers just that. Similar to the conclusion of season one, which saw many fan favorite characters from previous chapters re-appear, we were thrilled to see Bo-Katan Kryze and Koska Reeves again (although Simon Kassianides’ Axe Woves is mysteriously absent). The entire exchange between Din Djarin, Boba Fett, and the two Mandalorians both served a story purpose in setting up the plot of the episode, but also offered an interesting glimpse into Bo-Katan’s motivations and how Boba Fett is perceived by Mandalorians. The highlight of this sequence was Bo-Katan mockingly responding to Boba’s statement that the armor belonged to his father by saying, “Don’t you mean your donor?”, ridiculing Boba’s status as a clone and acknowledging that she’s heard thousands of voices like his before. Just seeing characters like Bo-Katan and Boba interact in a post-Return of the Jedi era in live-action was something amazing to behold.
After the team is assembled and the rescue plan is formulated, Chapter 16 delivers relentless action to the very end. The plan to deceptively board Gideon’s cruiser by using Slave I as a distractor was really well conceived and entertaining to watch unfold. Upon boarding, the team splits up in classic Star Wars fashion, with Djarin trekking through the cruiser on his own, while the rest of the team try to breach the bridge of the cruiser. Djarin secretly weaving through the halls of the cruiser reminded us of Rey on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, not to mention countless other stealthy missions seen throughout the Star Wars universe. Seeing this plan unfold was really intense as the stakes were high with the dark troopers slowly being turned on and innocent Grogu helplessly captured somewhere aboard.
Djarin’s battle with the dark trooper was perhaps the episode’s most intense action sequence. Not only are the dark troopers incredibly intimidating and beautifully designed, but the brutality they exhibit while fighting was startling. Seeing Djarin thrown around the halls of the cruiser like a rag doll as he desperately attempted to defend himself further affirmed how intriguing it is to have a vulnerable protagonist, rather than an invisible, perpetually successful one.
Djarin’s confrontation with Gideon was also a highlight of the episode. Giancarlo Esposito’s villainous character has always lurked in the shadows of The Mandalorian so far, so it was great to see the Moff play a more significant role in the season two finale. And, as always, the incredible Esposito does not disappoint. Gideon luring Djarin in to take Grogu in exchange for letting him go actually felt genuine, in large part due to Esposito’s threatening, yet charismatic performance. The fight sequence that ensued was something fans had predicted ever since Djarin got Morgan Elsbeth’s beskar spear in Chapter 13: The Jedi. The fight, however, was a little underwhelming. It was brilliantly choreographed and entertaining while it lasted, but felt rushed and concluded too prematurely.
Everything that occurs from this point onward in the episode was truly unexpected. Gideon’s giddy demeanor upon playfully revealing that Bo-Katan must now challenge Djarin for the darksaber sent chills down our spines. However, we can’t help but think that Bo-Katan had no issue taking the darksaber from Sabine in Star Wars Rebels, so why is this an issue now? Hopefully, this point of confusion is cleared up in the future. Nonetheless, this added even more tension to an already intense episode. We thought that this confrontation between the two may happen then and there, but the arrival of the dark troopers quelled that idea. It felt like we were in store for a massive fight when the dark troopers began threateningly pounded on the door of the bridge like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots.
But, perhaps no other moment in The Mandalorian so far has surprised and delighted us as much as the arrival of the lone X-wing fighter boarding the cruiser. The sense of “No…it couldn’t be” flashed through our minds. Are we actually going to get Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian? Was it Luke that Grogu was communicating with in Grogu? Is this real life? Well, all of these questions were answered upon the breathtaking reveal of Luke Skywalker. The build up to this reveal was palpable, seeing a hooded figure wielding a lightsaber easily take out dark troopers one by one on the cruiser. When the hooded figure is revealed to be Luke, it felt like our wildest dreams coming true. Luke’s hallway fight sequence with the dark troopers evoked memories of the brilliant hallway sequence with Luke’s father at the end of Rogue One.
This may seem blasphemous, but we had some mixed thoughts regarding the final moments of Chapter 16. Yes, it’s absolutely jaw-dropping to see a badass Luke Skywalker appear out of nowhere and chop down a battalion of dark troopers in epic fashion. But, when Luke removed his hood and finally revealed his face, things just didn’t look right. The computer-generated depictions of characters’ younger versions has become somewhat of a regular occurrence in big franchises. Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia notably appeared in Rogue One. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has featured de-aged versions of Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas, Kurt Russell, and more appear in their films. And, for the most part, these depictions work really well. Perhaps a few years down the line, the looks of Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One don’t hold up as well, but this is to be expected. At the time, I had no issues whatsoever with the looks of these characters and, in fact, found them quite convincing. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Luke in The Mandalorian. Luke looks best the first time he removes his hood in Chapter 16, but every shot of him after that is downhill from there. There’s just an off, unsettling look about the character with the head not looking like it fits on the body and an unnatural looking mouth being slightly out of sync with the dialogue. Even the way the scene is directed suggests that they were trying to avoid lingering on Luke for too long as the computer-generated imagery just wasn’t really up to the standards we’ve seen in other major blockbusters, not to mention the incredibly impressive array of visual effects on display in The Mandalorian more broadly. These issues somewhat dampen upon the appearance of Luke.
The goodbye between Djarin and Grogu was perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the series so far. We’ve come to really buy into the bond between the two and to see Djarin take off his helmet to look Grogu in the eyes was so touching. It was hard to not get choked up seeing the de facto father and son be split apart like this, especially when R2-D2 appeared out of nowhere and Djarin watched as Grogu is taken away. I’m somewhat torn on this ending though. The emotional impact of this moment is not in question at all. We’ve said time and time again that The Mandalroian’s emotional crux is the relationship between the titular character and the Child and, when the show has placed greater emphasis on this bond, it has really excelled. That being said, I feel as if the show has always been converging on the conclusion that the Child’s rightful home is being with the Mandalorian. It’s not that this cannot happen in the future, but there was something slightly off about these final moments as it didn’t feel right that Luke was taking Grogu away.
Just when we thought the episode couldn’t get any more unexpected though, we were greeted to the Star Wars universe’s first post-credits scene. I can see how some fans may claim that this feels too similar to an MCU film or superhero film and, while they may have a point with this, the fact that the post-credits scene is so cool in what it portrays and what it sets up makes us happy about its inclusion. Seeing Jabba’s Palace in live-action again was incredible, not to mention the glorious return of Matthew Mood as Bib Fortuna. Boba and Fennec easily taking down the palace guards, killing Fortuna, and claiming Jabba’s throne for themselves once again felt like a dream come true and sparked lots of speculation regarding the upcoming The Book of Boba Fett project.
All in all, The Mandalorian caps off an amazing second season with a truly stunning finale. This is a season that has set a high standard, with brilliant appearances by Cobb Vanth, Ahsoka Tano, and more in some of the best Star Wars content we’ve ever seen. So, Chapter 16 had a lot to deliver and, for the most part, it really did. The episode showcases thrilling action sequences and concludes the season’s overarching narrative on an emotional and unexpected note. We can’t wait to see what The Mandalorian has in store with the future as it seems like one chapter has come to an end while others have opened.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+