“The Bad Batch” Episode 1 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

I’m gonna be honest, the Bad Batch didn’t make much of an impression on me when they debuted in The Clone Wars‘ final season just last year. The concept – an elite team of genetically-defective clones whose individual mutations give them special abilities – was admittedly quite intriguing, but the execution was only okay, never elevating the material. And despite their uniqueness being so crucial to their very existence, there wasn’t ever enough time in that season to clearly distinguish their character arcs; only their physical appearances, skills, and a handful of archetypal traits.

The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | brickfanatics.com

But now the Bad Batch have an entire sixteen-episode series in which to extensively explore both their team dynamic and individual storylines; and the series’ premiere event (which clocks in at 71 minutes, longer than any episode of The Mandalorian, or even Marvel’s Disney+ originals) sets an appropriately dark and sophisticated tone for that journey, much like the final season of The Clone Wars. The first episode dives into the fascinating question of what happened to the Old Republic’s clone armies after they had played their part in initiating Order 66: mindlessly slaughtering the Jedi and clearing a path for Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to conquer the galaxy.

While most Star Wars media has looked at Order 66 from the perspective of the Jedi who survived it and went into hiding, The Bad Batch picks up with the clones themselves, who have nowhere to hide from the shame and guilt of what they’re slowly beginning to realize was the entire purpose for their existence all along. The Bad Batch themselves didn’t even kill any Jedi – the inhibitor chips planted in their brains are faulty, giving them their unique personalities and casual disregard for orders – but they won’t turn their backs on other clones: especially not the one member of their team unit, Crosshair (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker), whose inhibitor chip is still working strongly enough to give him internal conflict as he fights between his programming and what he knows to be right.

Star Wars loves inflicting an undue amount of pain and grief on its fans, so it’s no surprise that The Bad Batch opens by once again reliving Order 66 – but what did surprise me was that we finally get to see the death of the Jedi Depa Billaba (Archie Panjabi), and the fateful moment at which she told her young padawan, Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to flee before the clones could kill him too, burdening him with years of guilt and setting him on the path to become the rogue knight Kanan Jarrus, whom we would later meet in Star Wars: Rebels. Is it slightly distracting that Dume – a young teen at this point in the timeline – has an adult man’s voice? Maybe, but Prinze Jr. is iconic and frankly irreplaceable in this role.

What Jarrus left out of his tragic backstory was that the Bad Batch were witnesses to this horrific moment, and that it was the team’s commander, Hunter, who allowed him to escape even though Crosshair was prepared to kill the young Jedi. Much of the episode’s first half revolves around this decision and its ramifications, including the wedge it drives between Hunter and Crosshair – eventually leading the sharpshooter to betray the team and join forces with Admiral Tarkin (Stephen Stanton).

The Bad Batch
Omega | starwars.com

But even with Tarkin and Dume’s cameos, the episode feels like it’s kicking off a fresh and unique story that will organically weave these and other cameos into the narrative (whereas The Mandalorian simply shoehorned them in wherever possible), while keeping the focus on our core cast of characters. The Bad Batch, thankfully, are all pretty interesting once you get to know a little bit more about them: I particularly adore Wrecker, the team’s big scary muscly sweetheart, and Tech, who’s an endearingly snarky know-it-all. Echo is the only member who still feels in need of a personality boost, but his character was originally a regular clone before joining the Batch, so that’s not entirely surprising.

The team also gains a new member in this episode – a young girl (voiced by Michelle Ang) with an adventurous streak, whose backstory is still something of a mystery. Ominously named Omega, she comes from the cloning facilities of Kamino, where she works as a medical assistant to the Kaminoan doctor Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo), but the episode doesn’t take long to confirm that she is in fact another defective clone. Since all clones are assigned male at birth, Omega’s gender identity is pretty significant – although I’m wary of concluding from this that she’s meant to be a trans character, as some fans have been saying. Unfortunately, I feel her distinctive white-blonde hair and possible Force-sensitivity give away that she’s more likely an early prototype of a Palpatine clone.

But even if that is the case, I like her character a lot – and her wide-eyed reaction to traveling through hyperspace for the first time made the simple plot device feel magical again after nine movies. Hopefully she survives through The Bad Batch, and doesn’t transform into Snoke from the sequel trilogy or something like that, but I genuinely won’t be surprised if her character is meant to explain away some of the plot-holes in The Rise Of Skywalker.

I want to believe that the show is too sophisticated to go down that route, however, because in other regards it displays the same level of subtlety and thematic cohesion found in most of Dave Filoni’s animated projects. On that note, The Bad Batch can certainly be enjoyed by both adults and kids, but the premiere’s longer runtime combined with its darker, more contemplative tone may cause the audience to skew a little older. The action scenes are fun and lively (teamwork is always cool, especially when it involves characters cleverly building off each other’s strengths), but there’s not a lot of fighting in this particular episode.

The Bad Batch
Admiral Tarkin | nbcnews.com

Considering that I went into The Bad Batch expecting to be bored out of my mind by characters who I hadn’t really liked when they first showed up, I regard all of this as a huge win – and I’m excited to see where the series goes from here. I’m not sure if it’ll be my next obsession like Rebels was, but I will continue to review it because I like Star Wars, even when it seems purposefully designed to cause me emotional distress.

Episode Rating: 8/10

Hera Syndulla May Be Star Wars’ Replacement For Cara Dune

I honestly couldn’t have been happier when this story popped up on my timeline last night: not only do I finally get an excuse to rave about Hera Syndulla, one of my favorite characters in the entire Star Wars universe (most of my favorite characters in Star Wars either originate in animation, or made the jump from live-action to animation and were improved in so doing), but I also get to address a deeply hilarious story that broke a few weeks ago, while I was on hiatus thanks to appendix surgery – the story of Gina Carano, and the string of wildly bad decisions that led her from Lucasfilm (and a paycheck of $25,000 to $50,000 per Mandalorian episode) to the Daily Wire, where she can now pursue her true calling as a figurehead for contrived right-wing outrage and an accomplice in Ben Shapiro’s attempt to get back at Hollywood for his own failure to make it big as a screenwriter.

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | syfy.com

Although Gina Carano long ago blocked me on Twitter, her history of harmful and downright hateful comments is well-documented public record – and in the past, I have tried to draw attention to this history, particularly her comments mocking people in the trans and nonbinary communities. For Disney, however, the final straw was a series of antisemitic images posted by Carano, followed by an Instagram story claiming that being a modern conservative is akin to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Carano was dropped from her contract with Lucasfilm later that day (too late, in my opinion; though Disney had apparently given up on her back in November), and the atmosphere on Twitter late into the night was celebratory. The joy of watching accountability in action even helped me power through the next morning’s predictable influx of enraged trolls shedding crocodile tears over the same actress they had branded as an “SJW” before they found out she was a bigot like them.

Carano’s future post-Lucasfilm is unimportant, and honestly we’d be wise to pay her no attention. But here’s the thing – for a long time, Carano was set to lead the Rangers Of The New Republic series heading to Disney+ in the near future, reprising her role as Rebel mercenary Cara Dune from The Mandalorian. But by the time Rangers Of The New Republic was officially unveiled at Disney Investors Day in December, Disney had already basically scrapped that plan in light of the controversy surrounding Carano’s social media presence. This has apparently left Lucasfilm in a predicament, as Rangers Of The New Republic is supposed to be an integral element in a multi-series crossover event planned for the streaming service, and Disney doesn’t want to simply recast the character and move on (and honestly, while some fans would prefer that approach, there’s been such a concerted effort by the right-wing to “claim” Cara Dune that I wouldn’t wish that burden on any incoming actress).

Hera Syndulla
Cara Dune | polygon.com

Enter Hera Syndulla. A new rumor from LRM Online¬†claims that Disney is looking at their back-catalog of Star Wars characters for a potential Cara Dune replacement going forward, and is considering picking Hera, the wise-beyond-her-years Twi’lek pilot and military strategist introduced in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels and briefly glimpsed in the Star Wars: Squadrons video game. One reason for this, LRM Online notes, is time constraints: it’s easier to introduce a character with an established backstory and an existing fanbase than it is to write a wholly original protagonist. Hera Syndulla, who was a major character throughout the series’ four extraordinary seasons, certainly fits the bill in that regard.

But there’s another reason: Rebels‘ creator Dave Filoni is one of the key ingredients in Star Wars‘ string of recent successes on Disney+, and he is set to produce and direct many of their upcoming series’. Filoni has already done an admirable job of bringing several beloved animated characters into live-action, including Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano, and The Mandalorian season two revealed that other Rebels-exclusive characters are on their way to live-action too, such as Admiral Thrawn and – presumably – Ezra Bridger. Hera Syndulla was bound to show up at some point, and I’m honestly surprised this wasn’t considered sooner, given that an Andor series is coming up that will intersect with her time as a Rebel.

Rangers Of The New Republic, however, would deal with events after the original Star Wars trilogy – and by that point in the timeline, we know surprisingly little about Hera Syndulla’s whereabouts. She served in the New Republic as a general and earned her own flagship, hunting down ex-Imperial terrorists all while raising her son Jacen Syndulla on her own (because it’s not Star Wars unless there’s a single parent somewhere: not that I have any complaints about that). That’s pretty much the extent of our knowledge, leaving plenty of gaps for the Rangers Of The New Republic screenwriters to fill in with original content. As long as her character’s quiet nobility and fierce compassion remain intact, I would be hyped for this. Voice actress Vanessa Marshall could easily reprise the role in live-action, being the right age and already bearing some physical similarities to the character (minus the lekku and green skin).

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | starwars.com

As a big fan of Rebels, there’s nothing about this news that doesn’t excite me – Hera Syndulla is always a win, especially when her inclusion would make Rangers Of The New Republic my most-anticipated Star Wars series at the moment. For comparison, when Carano was supposedly attached to star, this series rested at the very bottom of my tier-ranking, and I was perfectly prepared to leave it there.

But what do you think? Would Hera Syndulla make a perfect protagonist? Is that even a question that needs to be asked? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Post-Credits Scene Reveals A Surprise 10th Spinoff!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

My complete review of The Mandalorian‘s season two finale went up earlier today, and I had plenty to say about my deeply conflicted feelings on the entire episode. As a loving and only slightly passive aggressive nod to the way in which The Mandalorian‘s showrunners and writing team have seemingly structured seasons two and three as a two-parter (because there’s no way the cliffhanger “ending” we got works for the self-contained story that the series liked to claim it was up until this point), I have similarly composed my thoughts into two separate posts, which exist symbiotically. The first dealt with the episode itself: the second, the one you’re reading right now, is all about that shocking post-credits scene.

The Mandalorian
Fennec Shand and Boba Fett | ew.com

A post-credits scene that, to be honest, I would have completely missed if I didn’t have a habit of watching through the credits – partly because, as someone who reviews films and TV, it’s important to know about the talented individuals who pour their heart and soul into making entertainment possible; partly because it’s an instinctive thing, from the days when Marvel movies still existed. I also had a feeling that, even though Star Wars hasn’t (to my knowledge) experimented with post-credits scenes before, there had to be something there, because the finale itself ended without any big stinger – whereas season one concluded with the iconic shot of Moff Gideon standing atop his wrecked TIE-fighter with the Darksaber in hand. No way was season two going to end with any less dramatic reveal.

What season two went for, however, was completely unexpected. The scene takes place back on Tatooine, presumably only a short while after the events of the finale, in a very specific location that Star Wars fans know well: the mountaintop monastery once possessed by Jabba the Hutt and transformed into his personal palace, den of vice, and center of his flourishing crime empire. I’d always just assumed the place was abandoned after Jabba’s death by strangulation and the destruction of his entire court, but apparently not – and even more shockingly, it seems that members of his inner circle outlived the Huttese crime lord: most notably Jabba’s former majordomo, the pale and sickly-looking Twi’lek, Bib Fortuna (voiced by Matthew Wood this time around, and easily one of the top ten most hideous Star Wars characters even before his transformation in this scene), who it seems survived the attack on Jabba’s pleasure-barge and took over for the deceased Hutt, carrying on his vile legacy. This is the first reference to Fortuna’s survival in the new Disney canon, but the outdated Legends canon long ago confirmed that the Twi’lek escaped the barge’s explosion in a sand-skiff and took control of the palace before his death.

The Mandalorian
Bib Fortuna | starwars.com

Fortuna was tall and thin during the events of Return Of The Jedi, but in just the five years since the Empire fell, he has become a pale, bloated shadow of his master’s former glory, perched atop the Hutt’s dais with his massive lekku horns encircling his whole upper body. A few miserable-looking individuals wander around his palace looking bored, while a single Twi’lek slave sits chained to Fortuna’s throne.

And that’s where Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) suddenly come in, quickly defeating the slight resistance from Fortuna’s followers. As they come down the stairs, there’s a truly touching and memorable interaction between Fennec Shand and the Twi’lek slave, who struggles to unwind herself from the royal dais – a callback to the Twi’lek dancer who valiantly tried to strangle Jabba in Return Of The Jedi, before being fed to the Rankor beast beneath the palace floor. This time around, Fennec simply shoots the chains, exchanging a sympathetic and understanding look with the escaping Twi’lek before turning to the urgent business at hand.

Bib Fortuna briefly tries to plead his case, putting on an air of excessive friendliness when welcoming Boba Fett, who wastes no time shooting him in the chest and kicking his body off the dais. I imagine we’ve seen the last of this bizarre and truly repulsive character, but I guess it’s always possible we could see another story from Legends adapted: the one in which the ancient monks living below Jabba’s palace harvested Fortuna’s brain and transplanted it into a mobile spider-droid. It’s probably unlikely, but I thought you should know all the options.

What we know for sure is that Boba Fett, who settles comfortably into the throne vacated by both Jabba and Bib, is probably about to take the reins of Jabba’s once mighty empire, with plenty of help from Fennec Shand, who sits on the throne’s armrest, swigging from a flagon. The camera pans out, and a title card helpfully informs us that a new Disney+ series called The Book Of Boba Fett is coming in December, 2021. There are two distinct possibilities for what this means, both for Boba and for the future of The Mandalorian franchise.

The most popular and plausible theory is that The Book Of Boba Fett will be a new spinoff, a tenth new original Disney+ Star Wars series to add to the nine previously announced at the Disney Investors Meeting last week. There have been rumors that a Boba Fett spinoff is either in the works or actually already filming, and its absence from the official Disney lineup surprised many fans who have been following the news closely. Now it seems they may have been concealing its existence to preserve the surprise of this post-credits scene. I would love for this to be its own spinoff, because a Boba Fett miniseries gives us much more time to explore Fett and Shand’s new lair in Jabba’s palace, and for them to interact with all of the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals. The Mandalorian, which most of us originally thought focused on the bounty hunting business, has since become its own thing, freeing up this niche for The Book Of Boba Fett to fill.

The Mandalorian
Jabba’s Palace | starwars.com

The other possibility, and one that I don’t even want to consider, is that this “spinoff” is actually the third season of The Mandalorian, focusing on Fett and Shand rather than Din Djarin and Grogu. The strongest reason to believe this could be the case is the fact that both series’ are set to debut in December of 2021, and Disney+ hasn’t ever pitted two high-profile series’ from the same franchise against each other like that before (though, granted, The Mandalorian has been pretty much their only high-profile series from any franchise they own, so far). It would certainly be unusual if the two debuted against each other. It’s also convenient that Boba Fett, a Mandalorian, would be in a position to take over as the Mandalorian. His storyline is certainly compelling, and I’d watch anything with Ming-Na Wen in it, but I’m definitely not ready to give up Din Djarin and Grogu yet, especially not now that Djarin has just accidentally come into possession of the Darksaber, and Grogu is studying with Luke Skywalker at the newly rebuilt Jedi Academy. There’s still too much story left to tell with (and from the viewpoints of) those two characters. Or at least, I have to hope so.

What do you think? Is The Book Of Boba Fett going to be its own thing, or a continuation of The Mandalorian with a new and improved focus? Which would you prefer? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Finale!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

How The Mandalorian‘s second season finale will be judged largely depends on what happens next, in either the sequel season it sets up with a not-so-subtle cliffhanger ending, or the spinoff it teases in an unexpected post-credits scene (or…are they are one and the same?), because what we got is very clearly not the resolution to a self-contained original story, but rather the prologue to a wider saga spanning the Star Wars universe. But right now, for this one blissful moment, my feelings are deeply conflicted yet generally positive…because you simply can’t do what The Mandalorian season two finale did in its closing minutes, and not excite the Star Wars fan in me.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian | deadline.com

Just as in season one, when Din Djarin (voiced and played by Pedro Pascal) had to assemble a team to defeat the unnamed Imperial client on Nevarro (the true identity of whom will likely remain one of the series’ many minor, irritating, unsolved mysteries), this season’s finale revolves around assembling a small gang of heavily-armed misfits and saving Baby Yoda – or Grogu, or The Child, or whatever you want to call him. Djarin had already gained the allegiances of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano). The last piece in the puzzle is the Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), who plays a pivotal role in the events of the finale, even though…well, it’s complicated, in a weird and somewhat unsatisfying way.

It’s nothing, however, compared to the intricacies of Mandalorian societal structures, which continue to grow increasingly messier the more we learn about them – today culminating in a face-off between Bo-Katan and Boba Fett where the two are barely able to resist from killing each other on the spot. The reasoning for that goes back a long way, to the animated Clone Wars series, in which it was revealed that most Mandalorians regard the entire House of Fett as outsiders to their creed and community – and Boba specifically as something entirely alien, due to the bounty hunter having been created inorganically as an identical clone of his father, Jango. Bo-Katan, who cast stones at Din Djarin for unknowingly belonging to a group of religious fanatics, now taunts Boba Fett with questions about his “donor”, and comparing him to other clones she’s known (and yes, that’s extremely hypocritical and uncharacteristic of her, since clone armies were instrumental in putting her in power after the Siege of Mandalore), causing a scuffle between Fett and Bo-Katan’s second-in-command, Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks). Fett, in turn, is utterly dismissive of Bo-Katan’s goal to unite the Mandalorian clans behind her and retake their ancestral home planet of Mandalore, which the Empire supposedly desecrated. In the end, the promise of finally being able to confront Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and win back the Darksaber is what convinces Bo-Katan to join: though Din Djarin valiantly tries the “they-took-the-Child” route with her. It’s worked for everyone else, and it seems to be almost be enough for Bo-Katan, but the show is painting her as a low-key antagonist to Djarin for whatever reason, so they can’t have her be too kindhearted.

This is one of two instances in The Mandalorian so far (the other being Ahsoka’s refusal to train Grogu because of attachments) that I would be tempted to classify as character assassination if the term hadn’t been hijacked by trolls who use it broadly to mean anything that ever happened in the sequel trilogy. There’s a difference between character assassination and character development that a lot of people don’t get: and Luke Skywalker’s journey in The Last Jedi, for example, is a textbook example of the latter. Character development is organic and typically serves a thematic purpose; whereas assassination is a shortcut used lazily to rush the story forward (in Ahsoka’s case), or to force a conflict where there was none (in Bo-Katan’s case). What’s particularly frustrating is that audiences who don’t know Bo-Katan from the animated series’ will now remember her best as the borderline ruthless, prejudiced, ambitious-to-a-fault schemer she is here.

Laying out an elaborate strategy for how to infiltrate Gideon’s star-cruiser, the gang sets out in a small Imperial shuttle stolen from its previous pilot (played by Thomas Sullivan, whom I immediately recognized from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The Mandalorian somehow has time to flesh out his character, and give him a pointless back-and-forth with Cara Dune, where he manipulates what I guess are supposed to be her traumatic memories of the destruction of Alderaan. The event has now been referenced twice this season, and, leaving aside the fact that Carano’s acting does nothing to convey the trauma of its aftermath (the dialogue literally mentions her shedding a tear, while Carano’s eyes are dry), it’s honestly just weird that people keep bringing it up in-universe.

Omid Abtahi briefly reprises the role of Dr. Pershing, the other occupant of the stolen shuttle, but there’s no time to interrogate him about Grogu’s exact midi-chlorian count. The fact that he was on his way to and not from Gideon’s cruiser bodes well for Grogu, as it implies he may not have had a chance to extract any further samples from the child (Gideon later confirms he’s taken his own samples of the child’s blood, but, well, that will be insignificant in the long run).

Director Peyton Reed is at his best while orchestrating the high-stakes, action-packed break-in – a stark contrast to his Ant-Man movies, which have mostly been low-stakes, filled with comedic action scenes and sight gags. Between this and the exhilarating spider chase he directed earlier in The Mandalorian‘s second season, he’s definitely given himself an upgrade before his next Marvel film, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. His exceptional use of each character’s individual strengths makes for a very memorable string of fight scenes, and there’s a real sense of urgency and danger, even though most of our heroes are encased in beskar steel, which is nigh on impossible to shatter, dent, or damage in any way.

The Mandalorian
Din Djarin and Grogu | polygon.com

Din Djarin finds this out the hard way when he singlehandedly takes on Gideon’s elite platoon of robotic dark troopers – even with one of these super-sized metal juggernauts repeatedly hammering his face backwards into a wall with the force of a small battering ram, it’s the wall that gets broken to bits and Djarin who escapes unscathed, thanks to his beskar steel helmet. Hilariously, he’s then able to temporarily eliminate the dark trooper threat by blasting them all out an airlock.

While Bo-Katan and her all-female team storm the ship’s bridge looking for Gideon, Djarin accidentally but predictably encounters the Moff personally guarding his most prized possession, Grogu, with the Darksaber in hand. Finally, we can see why Lucasfilm hired Giancarlo Esposito for this role, as the ex-Imperial sneakily manipulates the conversation, feigning disinterest in the Mandalorian political situation while freely offering the child to Djarin. Although Djarin initially buys into his lies, it takes all of five seconds for Gideon to reveal his true colors and start hacking ferociously at Djarin with the Darksaber. The beskar steel gifted by Ahsoka Tano finally comes in handy, allowing Djarin the means to fight back in one of the series’ most hyped-up duels. The whole sequence is over suspiciously quickly, however, and Gideon is soon captured and dragged up to the bridge after being disarmed by Djarin.

When they reach the bridge, we find out just how cunning Gideon has been – possibly at the expense of established Star Wars canon. It was revealed a while ago in Rebels that, to wield the Darksaber and claim it as one’s own, one must first defeat the previous owner in combat. Or, at least, that was the case until Sabine Wren yielded the Darksaber willingly to Bo-Katan…who soon after lost it to Gideon himself, and spent years hunting him down, trying to make up for her failure and render her claim to the sword irrefutable. Gideon, by intentionally losing to Djarin, has now created a situation where Bo-Katan “can’t” take the sword unless she wins it in combat…from Din Djarin. Except she can. Sabine Wren set the precedent. Djarin offers it to her several times, only for Gideon to interject each time with a gleeful reminder of how Mandalorian law supposedly works. My best guess is that Bo-Katan blames her willingness to defy tradition and take the sword freely for all her failures, and for that reason won’t do so again. This whole thing is weirdly reminiscent of the Elder Wand debacle in Harry Potter.

It’s at this moment that the dark troopers return, flooding back onto the ship and charging towards the bridge, all while Gideon gleefully torments his captors with quips and boasts. His menace is rather undercut, though, by the sheer stupidity that compels him to grab a blaster and aim for Bo-Katan, who, reminder, is wearing beskar steel. He gets knocked unconscious by Cara Dune, and that’s literally the last we hear of him. A humiliating defeat for a villain that had just come into his own.

In the chaos, a single X-Wing fighter appears out of nowhere, heading for the cruiser. At first, I assumed it had to be the New Republic, come to save the day and convince us that a Rangers Of The New Republic spinoff series is actually necessary, but once the ship is confirmed to be flying solo and lands without communicating with the bridge, I figured I knew who its occupant had to be. Reed draws out the big reveal, forcing you to agonize and wrestle with your emotions and your “this can’t be happening” impulses, even as all the visual clues add up. And the brutal, beautiful suspense makes it that much more conflicting when the smoke clears, each and every dark trooper has been obliterated, and the person standing there is indeed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)…but is also very much not.

The CGI replacement for young Luke – which uses Hamill’s digitally de-aged voice and likeness – is perhaps not quite as unnerving as the CGI Princess Leia in Rogue One, but nowhere near the seamless, stately elegance of CGI Tarkin in the same film. CGI Luke’s eyes are haunting and slightly unfocused, and his voice doesn’t quite seem to match the movement of his lips. He is, of course, revealed to be the Jedi that Grogu contacted back on Tython, but when they meet at last, Grogu waddles over immediately – only to spend most of the scene talking to Luke’s sidekick, R2-D2, in an excited chirping language matching the droid’s beeps, boops, and bops, while CGI Luke stands to the side; his ghastly top half purposefully out of frame, his lower half standing too still, like a background character in an animated movie.

The Mandalorian
Luke Skywalker and Grogu | menshealth.com

Disturbing digital effects aside, the Luke reveal is emotional and brilliantly executed, and it makes sense that he’ll be the one to train Grogu in the ways of the Force. But of course saying goodbye is hard: and so Djarin removes his helmet willingly, revealing his face to Grogu for the first (and hopefully not last) time. The puppet’s tiny claw reaches out to touch Djarin’s cheek, wide eyes take in every feature of his face…and yes, those muffled sobs you hear are mine. What can I say? I love character development.

And with that, CGI Luke sweeps Baby Yoda into his Ken doll arms, and takes off, concluding the second season of The Mandalorian. So much is still unresolved! Moff Gideon is defeated, Din Djarin commands the Darksaber and must now either embrace a new destiny or pass it on to Bo-Katan, and Grogu is headed to Ach-To, I guess. Oh yeah, and Boba Fett and Fennec Shand are getting a spinoff (or maybe just taking over The Mandalorian), which we’ll discuss in greater detail, in the second half of my finale review.

Because this show is so frustrating, one just wasn’t enough.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10