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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mandalorian sticks the landing with a funny, thrilling, heartfelt season finale

Illustration for article titled The Mandalorian sticks the landing with a funny, thrilling, heartfelt season finale
Photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm

As both the director of The Mandalorian’s season one finale and the voice of the droid whose actions exemplify its title, Taika Waititi is the clear star of “Redemption.” We pick up immediately after last week’s adventure, with two Scout Troopers zooming across the rocky surface of Nevarro with poor Baby Yoda bonking against the side of their speeders in an Imperial-issue messenger bag. Then they arrive at the rendezvous point, and the trooper on the other end of their comms link says to watch out, because Moff Gideon is in a bad mood.


Those Scout Troopers turn out to be Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally, the latest in a line of comedians whose cameos have been a consistently charming and playful addition to The Mandalorian. “Redemption” is the funniest episode of the season hands down, from Pally and Sudeikis’ banter (and inability to shoot a can with their blasters) in the cold open to Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) yelling for Baby Yoda to “do the magic hand thing!” and the Jawa’s perfectly timed jump when a nearby Stormtrooper gets shot later in the episode. (Hell, every one those bits landed better than any of the jokes in The Rise Of Skywalker, at least for me.) Waititi’s comic timing as a director is unparalleled, and it’s interesting to see how his time working within the Disney machine has improved his action chops as well: This episode was also a standout in that regard, with lots of tension and surprising, thrilling moments.

Viewers who are well-versed in Star Wars and/or extremely online won’t be surprised by all of the revelations in “Redemption”: Pedro Pascal revealed Mando’s real name, Din Djardin, in an interview in mid-November, for example, and there have been snippets of flashbacks to Mando’s childhood throughout the season. The story of a child hidden by their parents to protect them from evil Imperials is such a common one in Star Wars lore—Jyn Erso, Rey, and of course Luke Skywalker all have similar backstories—that it was pretty easy to put together what happened the day little Din became a foundling, even without the extended flashback in this episode.

That being said, it was alarming how much Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) knew about Mando, Cara Dune, and Greef Karga moments after swooping into town in his TIE fighter. In a testament to the consistent planning Jon Favreau et al put into this season (unlike some other Star Wars creative teams we could name), each of these reveals was an “ahh, okay” rather than a “wait, what?”: Cara, a.k.a. Caracynthia Dune, turns out to be from Leia’s adopted homeworld of Alderaan, which explains why she hates the Empire so much. Greef’s past as a disgraced magistrate is fitting for a character who still has a conscience, despite his work in the no-questions-asked field of bounty hunting. And while Mando’s backstory was nothing new in terms of Star Wars storytelling, it also filled in some gaps in his character—his aversion to droids, for example.

Meanwhile, Moff Gideon’s personality beyond being a late-season Big Bad is still unclear, at least to me. I understand why Werner Herzog’s Client remained faithful to the Empire after it fell; he’s an amoral pragmatist of the “Mussolini made the trains run on time” variety. Gideon’s motivations are murkier. He’s got some sort of grudge against Mandalorians in general—I’d suggest he’s a space racist, except that, as we learned in this episode, “Mandalorian isn’t a race, it’s a creed”—but his demeanor isn’t that of a frothing bigot. The best clue we have at the moment is his past as an ISB officer; that’s the Imperial Security Bureau, the Star Wars equivalent of the KGB or CIA. But why “The Night of 1,000 Tears” has stuck with him more than any of the other horrible things he’s presumably done is still a mystery, perhaps to be explored next season.

Speaking of setup, I was honestly moved to see Mando get his Mudhorn signet for his “clan of two” from the Armorer, as well as a jet pack (excuse me, “rising phoenix”) of his very own. Although also laden with exposition, the scene skillfully threaded a number of narrative needles, setting up a clear, coherent motivation for next season’s adventures while providing closure for Mando in this storyline. Mandalorian life is often tough and lonely—think of the Armorer, melting down the helmets of the dead in deep underground solitude—but it gives life meaning for lost souls like Mando, and the only family he’s ever known disapproving of his actions, then coming to help him anyway, in “The Sin” must have been emotional for him. Now, the Armorer tells Mando that protecting foundlings like The Child (a.k.a. Baby Yoda) is the true meaning of The Way, that the deaths of his fellow Mandalorians on Nevarro were in service of that larger purpose, and that he has done his adopted people proud. It’s the kind of validation everyone’s inner child craves, even if they weren’t orphans adopted into an ancient mystical martial clan. And now Mando’s life has a new purpose, taking care of Baby Yoda as he was once cared for by other Mandalorians—although, based on Baby Yoda’s skill in throwing the fireball back at that Flame Trooper, soon enough Mando’s (now officially) adopted son will be protecting him.


Mando is matched in nobility by the reprogrammed IG-11, who’s now a nanny droid flying around Nevarro with a blaster in each hand and Baby Yoda strapped to his chest in an improvised Baby Bjorn. (Baby Yoda’s giggling as they flew around on a speeder was the cutest moment of this episode, hands down.) Droids don’t really have consciences, and IG-11's circuitry was so scrambled after the first episode that he wouldn’t have remembered being programmed to kill Baby Yoda anyway. So IG-11 wasn’t consciously making up for past sins when he sacrificed himself to protect his human (and Baby Yoda) friends. In a way, though, that made the gesture even more selfless. I felt the same way about the moment IG-11 persuaded an injured Mando to take off his helmet for a vulnerable, yet understated moment; “I am not a living thing” is not usually a statement you’d describe as “sweet,” but here, it worked.

In some ways, The Mandalorian ends its eighth episode back where it was at the end of its third, with Mando and Baby Yoda taking off in the Razor Crest from the surface of Nevarro with a trail of dead Stormtroopers behind them. The difference this time is that they’re leaving friends as well as enemies behind, and although Moff Gideon and his ex-Imperial flunkies aren’t going to give up their pursuit, for the moment, they’re safe. The season’s arc has been partially concluded and partially expanded, as the initial storyline wraps up while opening a door for cool new aliens, planets, and guest stars to walk through next fall. (Or maybe they’ll just go to Bespin and Hoth, who knows.) There are so many mysteries left to explore in The Mandalorian; the name and homeworld of Yoda’s species, for example. And with a satisfying conclusion layered on top of the impressively high level of craft in season one, the future of Star Wars is actually looking pretty bright—at least on TV.


Stray Observations

  • If you’re not caught up on the animated side of the Star Wars universe, the black sword Moff Gideon uses to cut himself out of his downed ship at the end of the episode is a Big Deal, capitol B, capitol D. Specifically, it’s the Darksaber, a weapon which originally belonged to the first Mandalorian to join the Jedi Order. The Darksaber has a history that spans millennia, and reflects the complicated nature of both Mandalorian politics and the relationship between the Mandalorians and the Jedi.
  • As funny and charming as Stormtroopers Pally and Sudeikis were, they still deserved a beating for their rough treatment of Baby Yoda. Never punch a baby, especially not a magic one!
  • “If you’re asking if you can trust me, you cannot.”
  • I’m still going to call him Mando. It’s cool, and easier to say/spell.
  • Mind Flayers are a new addition to the Star Wars canon as far as I can tell. I imagine they’re something like the interrogation chairs Poe and Rey are strapped to in The Force Awakens?
  • I had a feeling that The Mandalorian wouldn’t be able to make it through an entire season without mentioning the Jedi. It would have been cooler if they hadn’t, honestly.
  • Shoutout to Emily Swallow as The Armorer in this episode. Her smashing a stormtrooper’s jaw with her blacksmith’s tool was one of the most badass things I saw all season.
  • It was selfless of IG-11 to sacrifice himself and all, but there were barely a dozen stormtroopers outside that cave. Mando and Cara Dune could have taken them easily.
  • This week’s drinking game: Take a drink every time IG-11 mentions his programming.
  • That’s all for this season, folks. Go off and polish your beskar, write a couple novels’ worth of backstory for this dude, make yourself a batch or six of Baby Yoda cookies, and we’ll see you in fall 2020.
  • Oh, and one more question for the road: If Baby Yoda has a growth spurt and learns to talk in the period between season one and season two, who should do his voice?
Illustration for article titled The Mandalorian sticks the landing with a funny, thrilling, heartfelt season finale
Screenshot: Disney+/ Lucasfilm