Two seasons in and with a third already in the works, I’m still not sure if I actually like The Mandalorian. It’s a slow-moving series that I find to be generally lacking in direction or purpose, and Baby Yoda’s cuteness factor is starting to wear off, but it has its moments of greatness. And one of those moments was the season two finale post-credits stinger that unexpectedly set up a spinoff for the season’s biggest guest star, a legendary villainous bounty hunter long believed dead, who rose from the sands of Tatooine with a new lease on life.
And Boba Fett. Okay, so technically, the spinoff series is actually called The Book Of Boba Fett, and technically yes, he’s the star and Fennec Shand is his costar…but Fennec Shand is played by one of my long-time idols, Ming-Na Wen; the unmistakable voice behind the original Mulan and the incredible physical performance behind Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Melinda May. I am thrilled to see her in another leading role now that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has wrapped up its seven-season run, and the first trailer for The Book Of Boba Fett indicates that she and Temuera Morrison’s Fett will share almost equal screentime.
Both actors are honestly phenomenal and although I’m a Fennec Shand stan first and foremost, I think Morrison is doing a great job of bringing depth and nuance to a character that for the longest time was a one-dimensional baddie who happened to have a really cool spaceship. We’re finally being given a good look at the man behind Boba Fett’s iconic helmet, and he’s profound, insightful, deeply philosophical, and still just as awesome as ever. Probably more awesome now, in fact, because The Mandalorian made it canon that he fought his way out of the Sarlacc pit after the events of Return Of The Jedi.
In the aftermath of Boba Fett and Fennec Shand storming Jabba the Hutt’s old palace and unceremoniously disposing of his gelatinous right-hand man Bib Fortuna, The Book Of Boba Fett picks up with the duo as they attempt to build a new criminal enterprise out of the ruins of what Jabba left behind. Every mercenary, bounty hunter, warlord, and villain in the galaxy wants a piece of the profit, and you know what that means: palace intrigue, one of my favorite tropes in fantasy and sci-fi. The trailer introduces us to a host of new characters, each shadier and more suspicious than the last, who will all be vying for a place in Boba Fett’s good graces.
These characters are also, for the most part, aliens – a nice change of pace from the human-centric stories found in other Star Wars properties. I’m not sure if this is an unpopular opinion or if I’m just weird, but the arachnid B’omarr monks are pretty high on my list of coolest character designs of all time, so I want to give a round of applause to the trailer editors who chose to open this trailer with a sequence of a B’omarr monk scurrying across the desert on business of its own. I want the B’omarr monks to be important in this show, but even if they just skitter by in the background every now and again I’ll be happy.
That being said, if The Mandalorian found a way to squeeze in cameos from Bo-Katan, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, and Boba Fett himself, then I can’t imagine The Book Of Boba Fett will feature any fewer guest appearances. I’m thinking Bossk, IG-88B, Cad Bane, Hondo Ohnaka, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and any number of characters who showed up for all of two seconds in the Mos Eisley cantina and yet somehow have thirty pages of elaborate semi-canonical backstory. If Emilia Clarke isn’t too busy with Secret Invasion and other projects, I’d love to know what crime boss Qi’ra has been up to ever since the events of Solo. Basically, I just want a smorgasbord of bad guys.
Hey, what can I say; there’s a reason Jabba’s palace was (and, based on the sound I made when I saw it onscreen again in The Mandalorian, still is) my favorite location in Star Wars. I love villains, especially well-designed alien villains. Seeing them all together under one roof, scheming and plotting and being fabulously evil, is extremely my jam. I can’t excuse the cringeworthy musical number that George Lucas inserted into the re-release of Return Of The Jedi, but it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the Jabba’s palace sequence nearly as much as it probably should.
Boba Fett, for his part, claims that he wants to lead with respect rather than fear. Will his palace still be full of corruption, bribery, backstabbing, and deceit? Undoubtedly. But I imagine Disney would prefer if the star of one of their most hotly-anticipated series’ wasn’t willingly engaging in such immoral activities, at the very least not without balancing out his crimes with some selfless or noble deeds, and anyway it makes sense that Boba Fett has grown as a person since his brush with death, so I think we can all excuse it. He’s still morally gray, and he’s got Fennec Shand to do his really dirty work for him.
This kind of storytelling, somewhat evocative of Game Of Thrones (the early seasons at least) with its layers upon layers of treachery and complex webs of intrigue, is something truly different for Star Wars. The franchise continually finds new ways to expand across multiple genres and mediums, and that’s what keeps it ahead of the competition. We saw it with Star Wars: Visions, and I think we’re seeing it again with The Book Of Boba Fett. This trailer is brief, but it’s giving me all the vibes I want from a series that takes place in my favorite Star Wars location and combines some of my favorite Star Wars characters. December 29th can’t come soon enough!
Every live-action franchise should consider experimenting with the medium of animation. It’s worked out extremely well for DC Comics (one of their most popular characters, Harley Quinn, originated in Batman: The Animated Series), and the MCU is starting to get into the business too, with What If…?, but Star Wars really redefined the ways in which animation could support and enrich a live-action franchise. And with the release of all nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions, Star Wars displays a willingness to think outside the box that shows why the franchise is still at the forefront when it comes to bridging that gap between live-action and animation.
Star Wars: Visions is an anthology series like Marvel’s What If…?, but whereas the various storylines in What If…? will eventually converge, the stories told in Star Wars: Visions are wholly unconnected – there’s no overarching plot, no framing device like What If…?‘s narrator, and no single animation style. Visions is also not intended to be viewed as canon, and most of the stories seem to exist outside of the Star Wars timeline, either unimaginably far into the franchise’s past or even further into its future. That’s not to say they couldn’t be integrated into canon, and there are several characters I’d love to see more of, but it’s not constantly in the back of your mind the way it is with What If…?
Because all of the episodes have been released already (robbing me of the chance to review them weekly), and they are all so different, I’ve decided to structure this review as a kind of episode ranking – moving from my least-favorites to my favorites.
The only episode of Visions that I found myself tempted to fast-forward through at multiple points, Studio Colorido’s Tatooine Rhapsody is a bland and uninspiring genre mash-up that feels like it was originally intended to be the pilot of an Apple TV original sci-fi series, and then got awkwardly reworked into a Star Wars story at the last minute. It’s the only episode that goes a little too heavy on the callbacks and nostalgia, with cameos from Boba Fett (voiced by Temuera Morrison), Jabba the Hutt, and Bib Fortuna, as if the writers realized that their main storyline about a garage band looking for work on Tatooine felt nothing like Star Wars, so they tried to force in a whole bunch of iconic characters to make it more natural.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like the writing, and I didn’t like the animation style here either. Some of the character designs were pretty cute, like tiny little Boba Fett with his big bobble-head helmet and even Bib Fortuna, but not enough to save the episode from looking like a low-budget Cartoon Network show devoid of charm or whimsy.
Episode Rating: 1/10
There’s so many words to describe this episode…the most flattering of which is perhaps “quaint”. A vaguely disturbing twist on the story of Pinocchio, seemingly styled after that and other Disney cartoons from the 1940’s, T0-B1 plays out like the plot of the 1993 video game Putt-Putt Goes To The Moon…which is to say, there really isn’t all that much of a plot. T0-B1 (voiced by Jaden Waldman), a clumsy little droid who wants to be a Jedi, searches around his home planet for a hidden kyber crystal, and at any moment you expect him to turn to the audience and ask for you to click on objects on the screen. Occasionally he’ll report back to a zany old professor who teaches him valuable life-lessons about the Force.
If this were supposed to act as a lighthearted diversion from some of the heavier episodes, it would be one thing. But that’s very much not the case, as the zany old professor ends up being killed by a Sith Inquisitor and T0-B1 gets impaled (he’s a droid so he survives, but it’s still quite brutal). The hauntingly beautiful animation by Science SARU makes this an interesting watch, I suppose, but not a particularly fulfilling or even exciting one.
Episode Rating: 3.9/10
I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this macabre tale of horror and suspense, which plays with some very intriguing concepts about fate and destiny while also reusing the whole story (down to some awfully specific plot-beats) of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. Tsubaki (voiced by Henry Golding) is our Anakin stand-in, a rugged young Jedi knight who falls in love with a princess in a political crisis and becomes her guardian, all while suffering from visions of her death (although in this case, he doesn’t realize it’s her in the visions, or that he’s the one killing her). He ultimately joins the Sith in a desperate effort to save her life, after accidentally killing her in a rage.
Regardless of the episode’s quality, I would not have chosen it to close out the first season of Visions. It’s a deeply morbid and depressing story of people stripped of their agency by invisible forces, and the eerie (yet strikingly beautiful) animation by Science SARU only heightens the feelings of dread that the episode inspires. I enjoyed it, and this episode had some of the best voice-acting in Visions (particularly Golding, Jamie Chung channeling Padmé Amidala in her character Misa, Lorraine Toussaint as Sith warlord Masago, and George Takei as a much-needed comedic relief character), but it’s not a fun watch.
Episode Rating: 4.9/10
Fast-paced, well-acted, and stunningly animated by Studio Trigger with a clean-cut futuristic aesthetic, this lean and mean story was right on the edge of greatness. With its tale of twin siblings bred and birthed by the dark side of the Force, one breaking free from their appointed destiny and the other bound to it, The Twins acts as good counter-programming to the hopeless messages of Akakiri, but it’s weighed down by a lot of exposition, and the action isn’t as thrilling as you’d probably expect, possibly because it’s so heavily stylized that it sometimes feels like a lightshow instead of an actual fight.
That said, there are some very cool elements here too: Karre (Neil Patrick Harris)’s multi-colored lightsaber gave me serious She-Ra vibes, and Am (Alison Brie)’s six robot appendages and lightsaber-whips make for some striking visuals. I also enjoyed seeing Karre employ the controversial Holdo maneuver from The Last Jedi, although seeing it recreated in a series of almost identical shots felt a tad unimaginative. And the ending lends itself to continuation, whether in animation or in live-action.
Episode Rating: 5.9/10
Of all the Visions episodes, each beautiful in their own right (except for Tatooine Rhapsody), Kamikaze Douga’s The Duel is surely the most striking from an artistic standpoint. Designed to resemble grainy black-and-white film, the animation style pays homage to Akira Kurosawa, the Japanese director whose work inspired George Lucas’ original vision for Star Wars. The story is a sci-fi twist on a classic scenario from the samurai genre: a war-weary sword-fighter, usually a rogue samurai (rōnin) comes to town and helps the local people in a conflict with another great sword-fighter, typically the leader of a band of raiders who’ve been pillaging the area’s natural resources.
Because it features such an archetypal setting and cast of characters, the outcome of the titular lightsaber duel between the subtly-named Ronin (Brian Tee) and the umbrella-wielding Sith Bandit Leader (Lucy Liu) is never in question, but there’s something comforting about that, as well as the gracefulness with which Ronin conducts himself in battle. The real subversion of expectations is that Ronin isn’t a former Jedi as you’re initially led to believe, but a former Sith repenting for his evil deeds, which is ten times cooler. In short I loved this, and I hope to see more of Ronin in the future.
Episode Rating: 8/10
Lop And Ochō
This episode would likely have cracked into my top three if the story hadn’t ended quite so abruptly. Even more so than the beautiful and richly-detailed animation by Geno Studio or the incredible score by Yoshiaka Dewa, what really stands out to me about this story is the character work. Set sometime during the reign of the Galactic Empire, we follow the disintegration of an ancient clan as its patriarch, Yasaburo (Paul Nakauchi), and his biological daughter Ochō (Hiromi Dames) fall to fighting over whether to side with the Empire in the best interests of their family, or fight back and try to protect their planet. Standing between them is Yasaburo’s adopted daughter, Lop (Anna Cathcart), a leporine alien who feels like an outsider in her own house.
The episode delivers a great message about found family as Lop emerges as the true successor of the Yasaburo clan, and even inherits their most precious heirloom: a green-bladed lightsaber that is probably one of the most beautiful in all of Star Wars history. I was perfectly prepared for this to become my favorite episode – and then it just ends, having not only not resolved the conflict at hand, but with the situation even more dire than before. If this story ever continues, I think the relatively small scope of the story, the beautiful backgrounds, and Lop’s ability to leap long distances and glide around via umbrella are all good reasons to make a Lop And Ochō video game.
Episode Rating: 8.5/10
The Ninth Jedi
Coming in at third place, I have The Ninth Jedi – which, of all the Visions stories, screams out for some kind of continuation. This gripping tale of mystery, suspense, and political intrigue, filled with extraordinary action and instantly endearing characters, comes to us from the mind of writer/director Kenji Kamiyama at Production I.G, who will also direct War Of The Rohirrim, an upcoming anime film based on The Lord Of The Rings. I was already excited for that, but now I can’t wait to see what Kamiyama will do with characters and stories I know like the back of my hand.
In this story, set hundreds of years after The Rise Of Skywalker during a new conflict between the Jedi and an emboldened faction of Sith, Kamiyama devises a whole new set of rules regarding lightsabers (specifically their colors) that honestly makes more sense than the established canon. Here, a lightsaber’s color is a visual indicator of the wielder’s personality as well as their strength in the Force, which is why as the heroine Kara (Kimiko Glenn)’s confidence increases, her blade goes from transparent to green. And the color can change even after that, based on the wielder’s actions. These changes have made some fans mad (of course), but this is the kind of expansive creativity I hope Kamiyama brings to Middle-earth.
Episode Rating: 9/10
Visions is quite a scary series, and Studio Trigger’s The Elder is a perfect example of how the most effective horror is almost always subtle, shocking our senses but more importantly affecting us on a psychological level. We can close our eyes to avoid a jump-scare, but there are things that lurk in the corners of our minds that are much harder to shake. Good horror plays on that, and gets into our heads. With a powerful message about accepting the inevitability of death, The Elder is able to do just that.
The episode is anchored by three characters at different stages in their lives – The Elder (James Hong), a mysterious Sith lord clinging to his frail mortal body, Tajin (David Harbour), a world-weary middle-aged Jedi knight, and Dan (Jordan Fisher), Tajin’s reckless young padawan who tries to defeat The Elder in combat and is soundly defeated, just barely escaping with his life. It’s Tajin who must ultimately defeat The Elder, and conquer his own fear that his best days are behind him. Their duel is appropriately mythic in proportions, and the episode ends with a tantalizing mystery about The Elder’s true identity that could easily support future chapters of this story.
Episode Rating: 9.5/10
The Village Bride
I had a hard time deciding my favorite between The Elder and The Village Bride, but there’s just so much to love about this story, from the way it masterfully interweaves elements of Shinto philosophy with Star Wars’ concept of the Force, to the ethereal score by Kevin Penkin, and the fascinating new character of F (Karen Fukuhara), all wrapped up in a vibrant, colorful package courtesy of the delightfully named Kinema Citrus. The Village Bride is the episode I would have chosen to close out Visions: it sums up everything the series is, and everything that Star Wars can be in good hands.
The story is similar to that of The Duel, with the crucial difference being that the cynical former Jedi F is inspired and her faith in the Force restored by the local townspeople when she learns how the titular village bride Haru (Nichole Sakura) is actively trying to save her people from their enemies. It acts as a wake-up call for her, reminding her that a Jedi’s first and foremost duty must always be to help those in need. And when she joins the townspeople in their fight, it made me respect the Jedi again in a way I haven’t felt as a viewer for a while now.
The episode has something for everybody, from amazing action (let’s just say, you do not want to get on F’s bad side while she’s wearing heels) to a genuinely happy ending that feels so rare for Star Wars sometimes that I had to mention it. This is my favorite Visions episode, and it’s the kind of hopeful story that I need to see more of from the franchise.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.