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A child in need. An ancient weapon to be won. An enemy’s plans waiting to be wrenched into the light.
Will a Jedi answer Grogu’s call and agree to train him? Will Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) recover the Darksaber and reclaim Mandalore? Will Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) ever find Admiral Thrawn and, in turn, her lost ally Ezra Bridger? Did Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) experiments lead to the creation of Snoke?
The season finale, titled “The Rescue”, provides a few answers. It also keeps its cards close to its chest. But it’s a triumphant curtain call – flowers tossed, the audience on its feet – for a season that’s surpassed its predecessor in both scale and wonder.
Show creator Jon Favreau, alongside his team of writers and directors, have set an example of how original stories can interact with a familiar world in a way that isn't cheap or forced.
Ahsoka and Boba Fett’s (Temuera Morrison) places in Din Djarin’s (Pedro Pascal) story feel earned because there was always something that narratively propelled them to be there. There’s lost armour to be found; a Jedi Order to be reborn from the ashes. This isn’t Poe Dameron, in The Rise of Skywalker, solemnly declaring to a crowd of disbelievers: “Somehow, Palpatine returned”. The Force has always had a way of bringing the galaxy together; The Mandalorian simply puts those ideas into practice.
“The Rescue” intertwines with the familiar in a way that, at the end of the day, makes sense for the wider history of this galaxy. Its delivery is imperfect – but it feels like one, small sacrifice in service of something far bigger. There’s an emotional pay-off here that is wholly satisfying. Tears will flow.
— Star Wars (@starwars) December 18, 2020
And it’s a relief after what came before. Peyton Reed directs a true nail-biter of an episode – he traps his audience in a vice then, scene by scene, slowly screws it shut. Din locates Gideon’s Imperial Cruiser, where Grogu is still stuck in his tiny handcuffs.
He assembles his crew. Their plan is airtight, with little room for failure. One group (and it’s notable that they’re all women) leads the charge. Din slips round the back. There are minutes to spare before the dark troopers, the heavily armoured combat droids that first kidnapped Grogu, are deployed. Every turn around the corner might bring a new danger.
Din, our own Man with No Name, can longer just square up to his enemies and engage them in a game of quick draw. He’s out of his league here. Gideon is manipulative. Esposito’s masterful performance – as a man who presents himself as reasonable even when he isn’t – makes him an ideal scene partner for Pascal, who’s so subtly allowed Din to soften and become vulnerable over the course of the show.
Once a ruthless bounty hunter, he’s now just a dad who will do anything for his kid. All that tension, that relentless back-and-forth, eventually ends in a beautiful moment of release.
But this isn’t the end of the story. The Mandalorian has already been renewed for another season and its post-credits scene hints at something curious – a spin-off or a change in focus for the show, depending on who you ask. It’s an intriguing tease.
Underneath all the action, there was a second, more quiet tension simmering – a conflict between Mandalorians of all stripes. They are a people divided, who have rushed into the safety of factions and tribalism. Can they survive this way? Or can Mandalore only be restored by a people united?
We can't wait to find out.
The Mandalorian returns with a third season on Disney+ in 2021.