[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 8, “Chapter 16 – The Believer.”]
“Chapter 16 – The Rescue” is essentially the big-budget CGI equivalent of watching a small child smash their collection of action figures into one another. It’s messy, incoherent, and utterly mindless. But hey, at least the kid is having fun.
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“The Mandalorian” Season 2 finale marks the long-awaited showdown between Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) following the latter’s abduction of Grogu earlier in the season. Though the episode delivers on that front, features a team-up between many of the show’s standout characters, and resolves the quest Mando set off on at the beginning of the season, it does so with so many noisy and plodding action scenes — and aggravating unanswered questions — that the end result isn’t particularly cathartic.
The episode kicks off with Mando, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) intercepting Gideon’s sniveling underling Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who provides the protagonists with important exposition on Gideon’s spaceship. (There’s zero context on how the heroes tracked down Pershing, but if it spared viewers from another side-quest episode, so be it.) Cut to a dingy cantina where Mando and Boba form an uneasy alliance with Mandalorians Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado), and the stage is set for an all-out assault on Gideon.
Between Mando’s quest to save Grogu and deliver him to a Jedi, Gideon’s ill-described plans for the little green guy, Bo-Katan’s mission to reclaim the Darksaber weapon and her position as Mandalorian leader, and enough filler dialogue and action to justify the presence of Boba, Fennec, and Cara, “Chapter 16” had to juggle a lot of moving parts. Even with its extended 40-minute runtime, “Chapter 16” tries to do too much, too fast, especially when so much of the episode revolves around watching Stormtroopers and Dark Trooper droids getting obliterated in the kinds of action scenes that have been done better in the season’s earlier installments.
The raid on Gideon’s ship lasts for around 20 minutes and has about enough interesting shots to justify half of that runtime. Stormtroopers die during run-and-gun encounters in the Imperial corridors that have already served as the backdrop of several other episodes. Stormtroopers die when Bo-Katan and Koska shoot them while flying on their jetpacks. Mando breaks a Stormtrooper’s neck. Cara mows down a handful of Stormtroopers with the “Star Wars” version of an LMG. Much like the show’s prior episodes, the season finale’s action is colorful, visceral, and tailor-made to titillate the senses of franchise fans who have strong attachments to these characters and their gadgets. When “The Mandalorian” is at its best, such as the Dave Filoni and Robert Rodriguez-directed episodes earlier in the season, the action stands out because the antagonists are just outmatched enough to make watching the protagonists prevail seem empowering.
The problem with “Chapter 16” is the pacing is so frantic, the dialogue so expository, and the bloodbath so ceaseless that sensory overload sets in well before the dust settles. There’s a scene around halfway through the episode where a Dark Trooper repeatedly punches Mando in the face while other Dark Troopers punch their way out of a room they’re being kept in. The music indicates this as menacing, but the scene comes after so much wanton destruction that it seems slapstick to the point of unintentional hilarity. Later, Mando engages Gideon in a climactic duel that commits the cardinal sin of making the Darksaber seem weak: Exposition is offered on how the weapon can’t cut through Beskar armor, but this is the one time the beloved black-bladed lightsaber has been used in actual combat in two seasons of “The Mandalorian” and Mando takes the hits like the weapon is a wet noodle. Lame.
Anyway, Gideon is defeated and Mando reunites with Grogu. Unfortunately, a legion of Dark Troopers advances on the protagonists and all hope seems lost.
And then Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) appears to save the day.
Like Ahsoka Tano’s and Boba’s introductory scenes earlier in the season, Luke’s grand entrance is handled with religious devotion. There’s a shot of the Jedi’s X-Wing swooping in, then Grogu perks up, realizing that the Jedi he reached out to earlier in the season has finally arrived. The music swells. A cloaked figure with a green lightsaber and black-gloved right hand carves a path through the Dark Troopers.
Exciting lightsabering and Force powers aside, Luke’s effortless dismantling of the supposedly all-powerful Dark Troopers isn’t really that different from the copy-pasted carnage that permeates the rest of the episode, but it doesn’t matter because it’s Luke Skywalker. The high-profile cameos on “The Mandalorian” have been about as blatant as fan service gets, but even the most cynical “Star Wars” fans won’t be able to resist cracking a smile. Luke’s scenes, be it his combat, his brief conversation with Mando, or R2D2 appearing to make some nostalgic bleep-bloop noises, steal the show. (This is a younger Luke and though the de-aging effects used on Hamill are much better than the grisly CGI in Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” it’s still off-putting. Thankfully, it doesn’t ruin the moment.)
After a brief, amiable conversation with Mando, Luke departs with Grogu and then… That’s it. Roll credits. See you in late 2021 when Season 3 drops, Disney+.
The mic drop ending is certain to keep franchise loyalists on the edge of their seats waiting for more “The Mandalorian” content, but the finale’s stellar cameo isn’t enough to rid the feeling that Season 2’s central narrative ended on an unfulfilling note. Mando and Grogu shared a goodbye and Gideon has presumably been detained, but there’s still no clear indication of what Gideon planned to do with Grogu’s blood or how Bo-Katan’s mission to rule Mandalore will be resolved. Mando completed his mission to deliver Grogu mere seconds before the credits rolled, nullifying any opportunity to celebrate his victory, reminisce, or plan for his future. And what exactly happened to Luke and Grogu between the events of “The Mandalorian” and the Sequel Trilogy when Luke’s new Jedi Order was destroyed?
There is no doubt that all of these questions and loose ends will be resolved in future seasons of “The Mandalorian” or one of Disney’s myriad other upcoming “Star Wars” titles. Like the company’s Marvel Cinematic Universe films, every plot point that is resolved in “The Mandalorian” leads to two more loose ends that promise to be resolved if viewers keep subscribing to Disney+ for the next chunk of the story. It’s a shame that the Season 2 finale was more interested in mindless slaughter than exploring any of these potentially interesting threads in greater detail.
“The Mandalorian” Season 2 is streaming on Disney+.
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