TV Review: ‘The Mandalorian,’ Chapter 16: “The Rescue”

Joseph Braverman reviews the season two finale of The Mandalorian, "The Rescue" in which the Mandalorian forms a team to rescue his little companion.
User Rating: 9

Unlike Rose in Titanic, I will never let go of the familial love formed between Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu across two enthralling seasons of The Mandalorian. Near, far, or however long they remain apart, their bond is more durable than Beskar armor. This finale, “The Rescue,” is strengthened by their nurtured friendship, and not even poor visual effects nor “fan service” could diminish such tender emotion in the midst of chaos.

Grogu is no victim, and Djarin is no galactic savior — they are just two pals carving out their purpose. Figuring it out together is the best thing to come from Disney’s creative takeover. This is the kind of content George Lucas hoped for when he sold his baby to Hollywood’s most successful studio. At the end of the day, the two brands mesh perfectly because of their dedication to spellbinding, innovative, imaginative, and ultimately timeless family entertainment.

Star Wars would not be the pop culture phenomenon it is without its toy merchandise, New York Times bestselling novels that continued Luke, Han, and Leia’s story post-Return of the Jedi, countless video games, and the animated masterpiece that is The Clone Wars. Many people, especially adults who identify as casual fans of the saga, fail to comprehend how these other mediums’ success kept the flame of the franchise alive for decades after its initial 1977 premiere. Breaking Bad, this is not; even Giancarlo Esposito knows the playground he’s in and the audience he serves.

Speaking of our sinister Moff Gideon, Esposito maintains a calculated and measured demeanor as the band of mercenaries closes in on his villainous hide. Gideon may not have the tactical fortitude of Grand Admiral Thrawn, but he’s still steps ahead of his adversaries. After a visually disgusting Imperial shuttle landing — hijacked by Djarin and crew, who pose as pilots transporting Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi) — the team wastes no time firing on the stormtrooper welcoming party. Joining the fray are Mandalorians Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackoff) and Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado), the former hoping to reclaim the Darksaber from Gideon by honorable duel. Once defeated, the ancient weapon would immediately certify Clan Kryze as the rulers of Mandalore. The throne would be Bo-Katan’s once again, and the fight to take back her planet could commence.

Of course, destiny has other plans. Mando is stalled by the Dark Troopers, released from their pods by the merciless Gideon. While Din manages to eject the majority into space after opening the airlock, one manages to pry open the door and escape into the hallway to face the fearless bounty hunter. There hasn’t been an enemy as terrifying in Star Wars in a long time, the assassin combat droid pummeling our beloved hero with one mechanical blow to the helmet after the next. The violent onslaught is as brutal as the franchise gets, but the walking superweapon is finally short-circuited once Mando stabs its neck with his newly acquired Beskar staff. If one terminator is this difficult to defeat, imagine a legion of them. Oh, wait, we’re about to.

First, it’s time to rescue Baby Yoda from the brig. Naturally, Gideon stands over the Child, the hum and glow of his Darksaber daring Mando to come closer. Gideon feigns fairness by asking for an unharmed exit in exchange for Grogu. The ruse means to draw Mando to his killing blow, but the Moff underestimates the hunter’s keen sense of betrayal, dodging right on time. After grueling back-and-forth parrying, Mando finds an opening to best the Imperial Remnant leader, mostly thanks to the Beskar’s imperviousness to the Darksaber’s strikes. The good-ish guys have won, but not without one last cruel rug-pull.

When Din finally makes his way to the bridge and delivers Gideon to Bo-Katan, she isn’t smiling in triumph. Before he can question why, the Moff explains that the only way a Mandalorian can take possession of the Darksaber and claim their right to rule is defeating the current holder. Mando can’t just freely hand the weapon over to the Princess; he must surrender to tradition with his blood as repayment. Talk about a cliffhanger dilemma to be addressed next season! Before the group can tackle this diabolical wrinkle, the Dark Troopers use their built-in jets to fly back to the cruiser, their exoskeleton armor clearly designed to withstand the vacuum pressure of space.

The blast doors aren’t going to hold the mechanical monsters for long, but every member of the boarding party is ready to die to protect Grogu. Luckily, divine intervention has their backs. By the fate of the Force, a New Republic X-wing arrives, its pilot taking no time at all to slice the Dark Troopers into scrap with a jade-colored lightsaber. Mando realizes this is the response that Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) warned about if Grogu’s fate was bound to Jedi tutelage. Only Alderaanian survivor Cara Dune (Gina Carano) knows the identity of the robed figure who’s here to save them all: the Jedi who served justice against the Death Star, the planet killer that destroyed her home and its billions of inhabitants, including her entire family. With an acknowledging smirk, Dune is delighted to see the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) standing in front of them.

But his presence means the absence of Grogu is moments away. Before he goes, Mando imparts the Child with the gift of his true face. Seeing Din remove his helmet and Grogu lean forward to caress the skin of his vigilant protector, dear friend, and paternal figure is among the greatest moments in Star Wars history. Moreover, it’s Pedro Pascal’s finest hour of his career. As Mando, he demonstrates how loving another soul can seismically change a person for the greater.

Tears are earned, and while this aching goodbye may not sit right for everyone, it’s what needed to happen to give the show its space opera gravitas. Is Grogu the first in a long line of Force-sensitive discoveries that will rebuild — sadly, temporarily — the Jedi Order? We will see what happens with the Child and his involvement with Luke’s future Jedi Academy, but for now…let’s take a deep breath.

Ugly CGI aside, Peyton Reed directed one emotionally stunning season finale. The Skywalker cameo made the most sense, fan service grumblings be damned. You really think Luke would be minding his own business and ignore Tython’s Force beacon? I guess my previous comparison to it as the Bat-Signal wasn’t too far off in terms of the important hero it would summon if activated. Now that we’ve seen Luke looking like himself (I guess), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cast Sebastian Stan if the character were to make regular appearances. I believe Hamill would approve, though an anime-style series seeing Luke resurrect the Jedi Order would be equally exciting.

The Mandalorian Season 3 looks like it will confront Mandalore’s fate, hopefully uniting the warrior race as it reasserts its position in the galaxy. Regardless, where Din Djarin goes, I go. And so should we all. (Also: keep watching until after the credits roll — you’ll be bequeathed with a big fortune).

Season Two of The Mandalorian is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+

Written by
Joseph Braverman is a 31-year-old film school alum from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. He considers himself one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, living by a golden rule that there is no such thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie. Joseph lives in Los Angeles, CA, and enmeshes himself in all things entertainment, though he’ll occasionally take a break from screen consumption to hike in Malibu or embark on new foodie explorations. Vehemently opposed to genre bias, he feels strongly that any good film is worthy of Oscar consideration. Joseph is also a proud member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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