The Mandalorian Saved Its Best Episode For Last

The Mandalorian Saved Its Best Episode For Last

Tears, cheers, shock, and awe. The season finale of The Mandalorian had all that and more, resulting in almost certainly the show’s best episode.

Let’s be honest though. If you’re reading this, hopefully, you’ve already watched the episode. And if you’ve watched the episode you definitely want to talk about the big reveal at the end, especially if you’re a fan of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars animated series. So I’m going to dive straight there, then work my way back to talk about the ridiculous mountain of revelations and amazing moments in the eighth and final chapter of The Mandalorian season one, “Redemption,” directed by IG-11 himself, Taika Waititi.

The final scene of the episode features Moff Gideon cutting himself out of his crashed TIE with…the Darksaber. MOFF GIDEON HAS THE MOTHERFUCKING DARKSABER AND YES, THAT REVELATION WARRANTS CURSING AND CAPS.

For anyone who has watched The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels, you know why I’m screaming. If you haven’t, The Darksaber was the lightsaber of the first Mandalorian to ever join the Jedi Order, Tarre Vizsla, years before anything we’ve seen in canon. It’s a one-of-a-kind, black-bladed saber that, after Tarre’s death, was kept protected by the Jedi until a group of his ancestors challenged the Jedi and liberated it. The saber passed through the generations, becoming a symbol of Mandalorian pride and strength, for both good and evil. Along the way, Darth Maul stole it, Pre Vizsla used it to start an uprising, Sabine Wren trained with it and, last we saw, Bo-Katan Kryze held it, an act that marked her as the leader of Mandalore.

In The Mandalorian‘s season one finale, called “Redemption,” we learn that Gideon was one of the Imperial leaders who led the Empire’s siege on Mandalore. The suggestion is that during what Gideon refers to as “The Night of 1,000 Tears,” the Empire all but wiped out the Mandalorians, and he took the saber from Bo-Katan Kryze. As the episode comes to a close we find out this ancient, powerful, Mandalorian weapon is back in play, just as Din Djarin, the actual name of the main character we’ve called “The Mandalorian,” sets off on a new quest. A quest to either find the race of beings Baby Yoda comes from or raise him as his own.

Pre Vizsla with the Darksaber from The Clone Wars. (Image: Lucasfilm)

OK, now let’s rewind.

From the very first seconds of “Redemption,” it was very obvious the episode was directed by Taika Waititi. In his Star Wars directorial debut, the director of Jojo Rabbit, What We Do In the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok presented a scene that’s the closest Star Wars has ever come to the famous fan film Troops. The two Scout Troopers who scooped up Baby Yoda at the end of the last episode (played by Mindy Project‘s Adam Pally and Saturday Night Live‘s Jason Sudeikis no less) spend some time bantering. They discuss the weird creature they just picked up, how evil the Moff is, and show how poor they are at aiming blasters. It was all very silly and enjoyable until Waititi’s character, the bounty hunter turned “nurse droid” IG-11, showed up and killed them, rescuing Baby Yoda in the process.

Meanwhile, Cara, Mando, and Greef are still in the stand-off at the bar with Gideon and his legion of Stormtroopers ready to unleash an E-Web heavy repeating blaster on them. But he also has some psychological warfare to wage. Gideon reveals that he knows all of the heroes better than the audience does. Cara Dune, middle name Cynthia, is from…Alderaan! Greef Karga is a disgraced magistrate and Mando’s real name is Din Djarin. (A name should have been a semi-big reveal but Pedro Pascal let it slip in an interview a few weeks back.) When he hears his real name, Mando realises the man they’re dealing with is Gideon because it’s a name he hasn’t used in decades and the only place it was stored was in the records on Mandalore. Records Gideon would have had access to because he was an officer during the Imperial siege there.

In this same, almost-too-densely packed exposition dump, it’s explained that Mandalorian isn’t a race of people, it’s a “creed.” In what is a larger cut of the flashbacks we’ve seen glimpses of throughout the season, we glimpse Din as a young boy once more. His parents were killed in an Imperial raid and he was saved by a Mandalorian soldier. That Mandalorian must have raised him as his own and, years later, Din pledged himself to the Mandalorian life. This information is crucial not just to give a larger context to his past, but for what happens later, between Mando and Baby Yoda.

As Greef, Cara and Mando continue to discuss their “distinguished” pasts, IG-11 hops on a speeder bike and races into town. Waititi’s point of view shots as he rockets through town are great, as is the reverse angle on Baby Yoda absolutely loving all of it. The one close-up, in particular, might be my favourite shot in the series to date, his tiny hairs blowing in the wind. Eventually, they arrive at the stand-off and IG starts blasting all the Stormtroopers. He creates enough of a diversion that Cara, Mando, and Greef are able to fight their way out. Mando grabs the E-Web and, much like in the pilot episode, uses it to mow down most of his enemies. In the exchange though, Mando takes a bad shot from Gideon and Cara is forced to drag him back inside.

As IG gets to work on an escape (through the sewers, which felt very much like an “into the garbage chute, flyboy” call back) Mando tells Cara he thinks he’s done for. He’s bleeding badly and begins to explain to her that she must take care of Baby Yoda. Meanwhile, Gideon tasks a Flame Trooper to burn the heroes out of the hut. The first blast almost lights everything on fire and the second blast is sure to burn them all to a crisp. Just then, Baby Yoda steps up and performs arguably the most heroic act on The Mandalorian so far. He uses the Force to stop a massive wall of fire and force it back at the Trooper, blowing him up in the process. To say the scene choked me up with pride and joy would not be exaggerating. It was beautifully staged and truly excellent.

It was very good to see IG-11 kicking arse again. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Making the moment even more powerful is that IG says he can save Mando, but he has to take off his helmet. Mando pulls a gun on him and explains that “No living thing” has seen him without his helmet in years. IG comes back with the obvious retort: he’s not human. And so, with little fanfare, and for the first time ever, the Mandalorian’s helmet came off and we saw actor Pedro Pascal under it. Obviously, it was a huge moment, but Waititi handled it in a very matter of fact, understated way, which gave the whole thing that much more resonance.

With the helmet off, IG is able to use some of Star Wars‘ favourite healing solution, bacta, to fix Mando’s head trauma and soon they catch up with Greef, Cara, and Baby Yoda in the sewers. The same sewers, in fact, where the Mandalorians had been gathering in the earlier episodes. Once they find the old hideout, the group sees a bunch of abandoned Mandalorian armour. It’s obvious something bad happened here and, though he doesn’t say it, we know it’s Mando’s fault.

Way back in chapter three, “The Sin,” the Mandalorians let their presence be known in an epic firefight to help Mando and Baby Yoda escape. Everyone knew that wouldn’t turn out well for the Mandalorians and the one remaining in their hideout, the Armorer, explains that the Empire came and attempted to wipe them out. She has hope many of her fellow Mandalorians escaped but doesn’t know for sure. Instead, she is staying there and trying to salvage what remains.

The Armorer is such a bad arse. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

She asks to meet the being that caused all this, the one Mando rescued, threw his life away for, and who saved his life during the Mudhorn fight. The group, finally accepting that this tiny creature can do some major shit, explains that Baby Yoda some kind of magical power. The Armorer then, for the first time, names the Jedi, an ancient race who had the same power. She explains the Jedi were often the enemies of the Mandalorians (a history deeply tied to the Darksaber), but that this one is not an enemy and is now bound by Mandalorian creed. Much like Din was raised as a Mandalorian, he now must either raise this foundling as a Mandalorian or return him to his own people.

“You expect me to search the galaxy for the home of this creature and deliver it to a race of enemy sorcerers?” Mando asks. “This is the way,” the Armorer replies, all but setting up the plot for The Mandalorian season two. “Until it is of age or reunited with its own kind, you are as its father,” she added, before giving him the signet he didn’t think he deserved five episodes ago. He and Baby Yoda are now a clan of two, the Mudhorn clan. Before they leave, she had one more gift for Mando. A “Rising Phoenix,” which is a fancy Mandalorian way to say “Jet Pack.” Though he’s hurt and on the run, Din Djarin is now a complete Mandalorian.

This scene, again, was a lot to take in, but learning about what happened to the other Mandalorians, their history with the Jedi, this Mandalorian creed between parent and foundling, was some much-needed information for the audience after eight episodes.

Reeling from all of those revelations, Mando, Cara, Greef, IG, and Baby Yoda find a large tunnel containing a lava river that will direct them to freedom. It’s piloted by what looked like a basic R2-unit astromech droid but it was actually an R2-unite astromech droid…with arms and legs. Watching basically R2-D2 meets a Battle Droid steering a boat on a river of lava was just a perfectly weird, what the fuck Star Wars moment.

After the oddly off-putting moment, Mando realises their escape has been discovered and the Empire is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. There’s no way out, except that IG has an idea. He figures if he blows himself up, it would save not just his friends, but Baby Yoda”his main directive since his reprogramming from the late Kuiil. Waititi’s performance opposite Pascal at this moment, who is pretending like he doesn’t care for the droid, and the droid explaining how he knows he does care, was another absolutely beautiful moment. (Once IG stepped into the lava, I half expected the score to just go into the Terminator theme. It was obviously a visual influence.) IG’s sacrifice worked. All the Stormtroopers blocking their path are dead and all that remains is Gideon. But instead of appearing on foot, he comes at them from the sky in a TIE Fighter their normal blasters are no match for. All seems lost once again, until Mando remembers his new accessory. He flips on his jetpack, flies into the air, and has a one-on-one battle with the TIE in mid-air. Yet another joyous, rousing action scene that resulted in the TIE blowing up and the day saved once more.

And so, season one of The Mandalorian ends with Greef and Cara staying on Navarro, hoping to get the whole bounty hunting business back up and running, and Din Djarin, the Mandalorian, setting off to explore the galaxy hoping to find where this incredible, adorable, green child is from. A green child he now fully considers his own. He even gives him his special Mandalorian necklace to wear. And yes, Moff Gideon is revealed to still be alive and have the Darksaber, but we discussed that already.

I don’t think there’s a question “Redemption” was the best episode of The Mandalorian. There was humour, amazing action, wow moments, big revelations, crucial exposition, and more. The only problem is that after almost two months of living with these characters, now we don’t have any new episodes for what could be a very long time. The second season has been in production for a while though so it’s almost certain to be released sometime in 2020. We just don’t know when. If I had to guess, though, I’d say not until the fall, just so it can be a big part of Star Wars Celebration in late August. We’ll find out soon, but not soon enough.

Dark. Saber. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Assorted Musings

  • I was all for the funny scene at the beginning of the episode but did those troopers have to keep hitting Baby Yoda? Each time they hit him, I felt like I was being hit. What jerks.

  • Kuiil got short-changed, right? Yes, Mando gives him a proper burial at the end but his whole death feels a little too ambiguous. I think you’re supposed to assume the troopers killed him and IG-11 was just too late to help, but the whole thing is handled so awkwardly you logically make an argument that maybe IG-11 killed him. Which, for basically the 5th lead in the series, kind of sucks.

  • Ludwig Göransson’s score has been stellar all season but that moment when IG-11 is blazing through town with Baby Yoda on the front like a hood ornament may have been his best stuff yet. Just awesome.

  • Cara mentions that if she gets captured by the Empire, they might subject her to a “mind flayer,” which Greef doesn’t think exists. When I think “Mind Flayer” I think Dungeons and Dragons creature that Stranger Things co-opted. So, what is it supposed to be in Star Wars? Is it maybe something like Bor Gullet in Rogue One?

  • “Watch your step, it’s molten lava” and “Do the magic hand thing” were two other hilarious lines that must have been written by Taika Waititi, right?

  • Who knew that the Mandalorian’s backstory was going to be such a Star Wars cliche? His parents hid him away to be protected, were then killed, and he got a new guardian. That sounds an awful lot like Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Jyn Erso, Ezra Bridger, Rey, the list goes on and on. For the most part, that tends to be the path to greatness, though.

  • If you said “You liked this episode because it had so many jetpacks in it” I wouldn’t call you a liar. Mandalorian jetpacks rule and I’m so excited that Mando now has one.

  • Now that we officially know his name is Din Djarin, do we call him that? Do we stick with Mando? I’m guessing season two will show us the way

Lastly, thanks so much for taking the journey of The Mandalorian season one with me. To write this much detail about a new Star Wars TV show every week has been a dream come true. And I know I’ve made mistakes and miscalculations of logic along the way but we do our best to get these up for you as soon as possible and do appreciate your kind corrections. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have writing them.

So now, until season two, I have spoken.