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The Mandalorian finale delivers on its promise, sets the stage for season 2

An epic in the making

Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) delivers his ultimatum to the Mandalorian, surrounded by his contingent of Death Troopers. Image: Lucasfilm
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Episode 1 of The Mandalorian promised audiences a lean Western with a solitary hero, and a serialized format with foundations in a bygone era of TV. The show wavered for a moment in episode 5, where overwrought fan service and an emphasis on nostalgia threatened to undermine that thesis. But, with this season 1 finale titled “Redemption,” creator Jon Favreau and director Taika Waititi deliver the goods. The Mandalorian finishes the narrative arc that it began with its first three episodes, and in spectacular fashion. Taken all together, the eight episode season evokes the feeling of a Hollywood epic and an intimate miniseries at the same time.

The finale also manages to set the stage perfectly for season 2, revealing many — but not all — of the mysteries that have perplexed fans for months. It raises the stakes, while at the same time focusing laser-like on the central plot line that will propel the series forward.

For anyone upset over the culmination of the Skywalker saga that hit movie theaters less than a week ago, The Mandalorian is clearly the new hope the sprawling franchise has been looking for.

[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for episode 8 of The Mandalorian.]

Two imperial scout troopers shooting the shit on a ridge over the spaceport on Navarro in The Mandalorian, chapter 8. Image: Lucasfilm

Episode 8 picks up right where episode 7 left off, with two Imperial scout troopers in transit to deliver the Child (aka Baby Yoda) to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). We’re given the chance to wash away the anguish of Kuiil’s death with a hilarious exchange between the two lackluster soldiers.

While awaiting final bureaucratic clearance to enter the city with their prize, the pair take turns plinking at a tin can from about 20 feet away. Neither one hits the mark even once, leaving one of the troopers to start troubleshooting his blaster in nervous frustration. The Emperor’s finest, indeed. It’s the perfect moment for Chekhov’s droid, aka IG-11 (played by Taika Waititi himself), to show up and mop the floor with them. He rescues the Child, setting up the three major plot points that follow.

First comes the resolution of the standoff that ended episode 7.

Gideon knows that the Child has not been secured, so he stalls for time instead. Standing next to a massive laser cannon that will surely level the cantina where they’re holed up, Gideon reveals everything he knows about the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), Cara Dune (Gina Carrano), and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers).

In a lore dump that actually makes sense in context, Moff Gideon finally clues us all in to Greef’s true identity as a downtrodden former Imperial magistrate. He informs us of the fact that Cara isn’t just a former Rebel commando, but a native of the planet Alderaan (Leia Organa’s home planet, which was destroyed by the first Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope), which explains her deep-seated hatred of the Empire.

We also learn that the Mandalorian wasn’t born on Mandalore at all. His real name — revealed in November by Pascal during a random interview — is Din Djarin, and he was adopted by the Mandalorians as a war orphan. In truth he’s a well-trained refugee, but that doesn’t make him any less a Mandalorian. As Cara explains during that same scene, being a Mandalorian isn’t about being part of a certain species. Instead, it’s about upholding the Creed. Being a Mandalorian doesn’t mean being of a certain race; it means subscribing to a certain way of life.

IG-11 (Taika Waititi) cleans house in chapter 1 of The Mandalorian. From Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian. Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

Just as those secrets are revealed, IG-11 enters the town square at full speed. Moff Gideon’s forces are caught between Cara’s high-powered blaster and the droid. That’s when the Mandalorian himself steps out of cover, grabs hold of the biggest gun he can find, and starts laying waste to Gideon’s troops. It’s a callback to episode 1, where we saw Mando go full Schwarzenegger and empty a mounted gun into the henchmen holding the Child hostage.

But, just as quickly as they grasp the upper hand, our heroes — including IG-11 and the Child — are pushed back into the cantina. The Mandalorian has been mortally wounded, and vows to stay behind while the rest escape into the sewers.

Poetically, it’s IG-11 who saves him from certain death.

After spending seven episodes hating droids and hiding his face, Din reluctantly reveals himself to the automaton. With his helmet removed, IG-11 heals him with a quick spray of bacta. Beneath the mask we catch a glimpse of a man who bleeds like any other. It’s a rare moment of weakness, and hold more meaning than any of the half-dozen times that Kylo Ren has ripped off his own helmet in disgust.

Eventually, Mando puts his helmet back on and our heroes escape into the sewers together. That’s where they encounter the Armorer, who is presiding over a pile of battered Mandalorian armor. It turns out that the cost of saving the Child in episode 3 was the murder of virtually every member of the clan. No one is safe from Moff Gideon, and rather than pile guilt on top of Din’s shoulders she absolves him of “The Sin” from episode 3. Instead, she charges him with a quest; he and the Child are now a clan of two, and it’s up to Din to find his people, and to look after the green little man along the way.

“Until it is of age or reunited with its own kind,” the Armorer says, “you are as its father. This is the way.”

With that, the Armorer crafts Din his sigil — the penultimate piece of his armor set — in the shape of a skeletal mudhorn, the creature that Din and the Child worked together to defeat in episode 2.

In that moment the focus of the entire series shifts subtly, and also permanently. Pascal’s Din Djarin is no longer the eponymous Mandalorian. That moniker falls to Baby Yoda, who is now effectively his apprentice. It’s up to Din to teach him the way, as the elder Mandalorians taught him long ago. It’s a moving moment that goes almost unspoken, but feels nonetheless earned both by nature of the seven episodes that lead up to it and the amount of blood that’s been spilled along the way.

But The Mandalorian isn’t done dropping emotional bombs on Star Wars fans just yet.

The climactic battle pits IG-11 against a platoon of stormtroopers. The droid finally enables his self-destruct sequence, sacrificing himself and clearing the way for Din, the Child, Cara, and Greef to make good their escape. The only one standing in the way is Moff Gideon, whom Din dispatches with the help of his new jetpack — the final piece of his armor gifted to him by the Armorer.

In the episode’s final scene Din says goodbye to Greef and Cara, both of whom elect to stay behind and make a home for themselves and other bounty hunters on the planet. But there’s a postscript scene that leaves us wanting even more: We see that Moff Gideon has possession of the legendary Darksaber, a relic from ancient Mandalore last seen in Star Wars Rebels. It’s an iconic weapon that will fill fans with speculation from now until the premiere of season 2.

IG-11 marches to his doom through a river of lava in episode 8 of The Mandalorian. Image: Lucasfilm

Chapter 8 leaves viewers with Din and the Child — the new Mandalorian — riding off into the sunset. It’s a near perfect ending, one that rings true with the series’ Western roots. It also sets up season 2 perfectly. Expect plenty of bottle episodes, all moving inexorably toward an exploration of this “clan of two” and their search for other Force-sensitive creatures like baby Yoda.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, Din and the Child will come across one or more Jedi still in hiding somewhere out there in the galaxy.

The Mandalorian is proving out the fact that George Lucas’ universe is an awfully big place, with room enough for many more characters and storylines that fans have yet to discover. And, unlike The Rise of Skywalker, it’s a series that is bold enough to step outside the tropes that tell us every hero must be bound by blood to those who came before them. It’s a series about orphans, cut loose in a dangerous universe, and I’m excited to see where the next episode takes us.

Season 2 of The Mandalorian is expected to premiere some time in 2020.

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