The Mandalorian: 1.08 Chapter 8: Redemption
The Mandalorian premiere season finale is rammed full of action, comedy, sacrifice, exposition and pathos. Show runner and writer Jon Favreau and director Taika Waititi combine to create a truly satisfying ending to the first ever live action Star Wars TV show. Continuing straight off the cliffhanger from the previous episode, Redemption has our heroes trapped and surrounded by squadrons of stormtroopers. Kuiil has been killed and Baby Yoda is now in the hands of Imperial biker scouts. With the evil Moff Gideon now pulling the strings things look hopelessly bleak for Mando and his team, but there might just be a glimmer of hope in the shape of a former assassin droid turned nanny.
After some hit and miss mid season one-off adventures The Mandalorian turned a corner in its penultimate episode and left everything setup nicely for a rousing finish. With all the pieces in place for a thrilling standoff and shoot out it looked like some much needed action was about to kick off. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be so funny. With Taika Waititi at the helm I shouldn’t have been surprised really.
Redemption opens with the 2 scout troopers who have Baby Yoda secured away in a bag. They’ve parked up their speeder bikes outside the town where all the action is currently taking place. As they wait for instructions we are treated to the funniest scene ever shown in Star Wars. Period. Acting less like crack Imperial troops and more like a couple of frat house bros, the pair proceed to fail to let Moff Gideon know they have captured their quarry because they are, quite rightfully, scared of interrupting him. He has after all just annihilated a bunch of his own men in his pursuit of Mando and the Child he so badly wants possession of. Once again the ability that stormtroopers have of not being able to hit a barn door from a few feet away is lampooned with one of our hapless scouts idly shooting at a piece of debris that is not very far away. After a bit his companion joins in. Neither of them hit it once. The quizzical look one of them gives his blaster as he shakes it as though there’s blatantly something wrong with it is hilariously perfect.
One of the troopers then continually moans that he hasn’t seen their captive yet and keeps coming up with excuses for his partner to open the bag so he can take a peek. This leads to some fantastic physical comedy as the trooper repeatedly punches the bag overtime Baby Yoda squirms inside. When he’s finally allowed a look the other trooper gets his finger bitten as a consequence. This leads to more punching of the bag. It is testament to the show and how it has made Baby Yoda into such a wildly popular character that you are both shocked and appalled, yet also find it hysterically funny, when he is repeatedly abused by the troopers. I imagine my household won’t be the only one where gasps of shock are elicited, as well as laughter, when the poor little guy is getting pummelled. Waititi handles this scene with such aplomb that by the time IG-11 turns up to reclaim his charge you are actively cheering for him to extract a huge amount of payback on the biker scouts, which he does. It is extremely satisfying to watch him repeatedly smash one of them into his speeder bike.
Comedy in Star Wars can be a hit and miss affair. In the prequels Lucas too often strayed into some far too broad territory with Jar Jar stepping in bantha dung and some cringeworthy lines from Threepio, remember the “this is such a drag, I’m beside myself” fiasco? The whole opening scene of Redemption works brilliantly and shows you can play Star Wars for laughs when done properly in the hands of talented writers and comedians. Later in the episode there is another good example when Greef Karga suggests they can escape their predicament by getting Baby Yoda to do his “wavey hand thing”. The look on Baby Yoda’s face as he cheerfully waves back is hilarious as well as charming. I never thought I’d be up for seeing an actual comedy set in the Star Wars universe but after this episode of The Mandalorian I’d happily watch Taika Waititi take aim at some more targets in the galaxy far far away.
As well as the comedy we also get some serious action scenes as befitting a show that is basically a spaghetti western in space. Mando, Greef and Cara are holed up in the bar where their meeting with The Client has gone all shades of wrong. Moff Gideon and a plethora of stormtroopers and deathtroopers are raining laser fire down on them. The only route of escape is down into the sewers but a heavy duty grate covering the entrance is blocking their path. It is fortunate for our heroes then that Moff Gideon decides, for no real reason, to give them until sundown to surrender. I can see that this sort of fits in with the western trope and is a classic villain move. It doesn’t however really make any sense for Gideon to do this and all he does he allow his prey to buy some time in figuring out an escape plan. The other thing it does allow Gideon to do is dollop out a large amount of exposition. He proceeds to wax lyrical about the 3 protagonists, showing us that he is very familiar with them and filling us in on some backstory. The main nugget he dispenses is Mando’s real name. It turns out Din Djarin is the actual moniker of the helmeted hero, a name Gideon could only have got from the official records of the Mandalorians back on their home world of Mandalore. Cara provides some much needed backstory for Gideon, once presumed dead, he was the ISB agent in charge at the siege of Mandalore, an event that takes place at the end of the Clone Wars. This slaughter of Mandalorians by the newly formed Empire is dubbed The Night of a Thousand Tears and shows just what a ruthless person Gideon is.
There is also time during this segment for Din Djarin to get everyone up to speed on his backstory too. The brief flashbacks we have seen previously of him as a child are fleshed out further as we get to see how he became a part of the Mandalorian clan. We have previously seen him being hidden by who we assume are his parents and then being discovered by a prequel era super battle droid. Now the flashback is completed by a squad of Mandalorians swooping in on their jetpacks and making short work of the droids. Din reveals how he was adopted by the clan and raised in the Mandalorian ways. As he says to Greef, “Mandalorian isn’t a race, it’s a creed”. After we’ve been brought up to speed on everyone’s backstories it’s time for IG-11 to save the day. In a thrilling sequence he rips through the town on a speeder bike mowing down stormtroopers as Baby Yoda gleefully looks on from the chest pouch he’s being carried in. There is a fantastic shot as all the stormtroopers facing the bar where our heroes are holed up all simutaenisously look to the side as IG-11 wreaks havoc off camera. A blaster battle ensues in the time honoured Star Wars fashion which ends up with everyone cornered back in the bar but this time Din has now been critically injured from an explosion that occurred when Gideon shot the power supply unit of a heavy repeating blaster he was using to decimate the trooper ranks. There is a bit of clunky dialogue regarding the blaster that seems only out of place. I’ll admit that as the gun is being set up my geeky Star Wars brain thought ooh that’s an E-web heavy repeating blaster. Cara then confirms this by exclaiming the same. Moff Gideon then reiterates this is exactly what it is. The words “E-web” are said far too much and it just seems odd. Perhaps Jon Favreau just wanted everyone to know he’s a geek too.
Din’s injury does allow the writers to get around a corner they’ve written themselves into. After IG-11 cuts open the grate allowing an escape into the sewer system he is left alone with a dying Din. The Mandalorian creed means he can never remove his helmet in front of another living creature. After IG-11 reminds him that he is not technically alive we finally get to see Pedro Pascal’s face as the droid uses a bacta spray to heal his injury. It will be interesting in future seasons as to whether or not we get to see more of Din sans helmet. Whilst this would mean he has broken the Mandalorian code it would certainly help with some of the more dramatic scenes. An example of this is where Cara and Greef are forced to leave him behind to what they think is his certain death. I’m sure the scene would play out more effectively if you could see the emotion on Pascal’s face. He does a good job emoting through the armour as much as is possible but I’m sure being robbed of his main acting tool must be frustrating for him too. Likewise a scene later where IG-11 sacrifices himself to save everyone else would probably also play better when you could see the actor’s face, especially when this is the scene where Din overcomes his prejudice towards droids. One thing this does allow for however is a nice exchange between the 2 where IG-11 tells him not to be sad. Assuring him he’s not sad, when he obviously is, Din is called out on it by IG-11’s nanny programming that can monitor his vocal patterns. It’s a touching scene and shows once again that with quality writing even an assassin droid can be made into a fully fleshed out character that you come to care for.
By the time Din and his companions escape the scene has been set for what will follow in the second season of The Mandalorian. An encounter with the Armorer during the underground pursuit has left Din with a new mission. He is now essentially Baby Yoda’s father and is tasked with returning him to his people. They are a clan of 2 and their signet is the mud horn, the creature they defeated back in the second episode, which the Armorer apples to Din’s armour. She also gifts him his very own jetpack, thus completing his full Mandalorian suit. It’s also very satisfying to see a squadron of stormtroopers get thoroughly decimated by just the Armorer wielding her tools. The bone crunching impacts and splintering trooper helmets are particularly nice touches.
Pulp science-fiction wouldn’t be anything without a cliffhanger ending and Redemption serves up a doozy. There is a stunningly realised jetpack versus tie-fighter battle as Din takes to the skies to fight Moff Gideon. The sequence shows that Taika Waititi is just as at home with action as he is with comedy, something he’s already proved with Thor: Ragnarok. After attaching a few charges to the tie-fighter Din manages to make a slightly clumsy landing. Gideon isn’t so lucky as the resulting explosion causes his ship to crash in spectacular fashion. Din then leaves in the Razorcrest to seek out Baby Yoda’s family and Cara and Greef are happy to stay on Navarro now that the threat of the Imperials has been eliminated. Alls well that ends well. Except for one final surprise. As jawas start looting the crash site they are startled by something cutting its way out of the wreckage. A determined Moff Gideon appears holding what can only be described as a black lightsaber. Anyone familiar with the Star Wars: Clone War or Rebels cartoons will know instantly that this is the fabled darksaber, a blade that has been integral to Mandalorian culture. How it has come to be in the possession of the evil Moff is something I imagine we’ll get to see in future seasons. Its addition to The Mandalorian is not surprising given the role played by both Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau in fleshing out Mandalore and its people in the animated series.
So we reach the end of the first season of a Star Wars live action TV show. Has it been a success? The obvious answer is yes. The show has been a hit with both critics and fans alike. Baby Yoda has transcended pop culture and entered the zeitgeist with just a wave of his diminutive hand and his ability to become a broth drinking meme. In a time when reaction to The Rise of Skywalker was mixed Disney must have been over the moon to have such a hit on their hands. It has to be said that The Mandalorian is sometimes a victim of its small screen trappings. Star Wars has always told epic stories on the big screen and it does take some adjusting getting used to a more intimate tale with fewer characters and less galaxy sized threats. It does lack the scope and large scale of shows such as Game of Thrones and I hope that in further seasons we get to see some bigger battles and action sequences that we know televisions capable of.
I think the main problem with the show is that the story could have been told in far fewer episodes. If you edited episodes 1, 3, 7 and 8 together you would have had a perfectly good 2 hour TV movie that told the entire story. When half of the 8 episodes in your premier season are filler then you know you’ve got something of an problem. Whilst the show is always entertaining, to some degree or another, I can’t help but think the time could have been better spent serving the main storyline. Most of the characters introduced seem either throwaway or end up dead by the time the credits roll. The only other issue I have is that I’m still confused with what Disney is doing regarding the Jedi. Much like in The Force Awakens it seems that virtually no one in the galaxy knows what the Force is or who the Jedi are. You could sort of argue that’s valid in the sequel trilogy although people should really remember, it’s not like it’s set hundreds of years later. With The Mandalorian you’re only talking a few years after the end of Return of the Jedi yet everyone seems to have completely forgotten everything about them. It’s only been about twenty five years since they fought a galactic war on the side of the clones, sometimes side by side with Mandalorians! Very strange.
With season 2 in post-production and season 3 already in pre-production Disney are obviously one hundred percent behind Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and all the show’s other creators and why not? They’ve produced an entertaining, if slightly flawed, show that looks and sounds exactly like a Star Wars show should, full of action, aliens, bounty hunters and little green force users. Hopefully they can build on what they’ve achieved so far, learn from a few errors and make the next season into a bonafide classic. I should probably end this review by saying something along the lines of “this is the way” but I don’t think I’m going too.
I have spoken.