The Mandalorian S2E8: The Rescue

by thethreepennyguignol

There are going to be two parts to this review: that, and then, that.

Firstly and most foremostly, we must take a look at how this episode, The Rescue, works as a culmination of season two of The Mandalorian. Are the pieces pulled together in a satisfying way? Does it all hold up as one coherent story from start to finish? How does this function as the final piece of this series?

Quite honestly, in terms of the actual throughline of the series – Din as the greatest space-dad ever to father beyond the stars, and Grogu trying to find his people once more – this is very satisfying closer. While there’s a lot more going on in this episode than just that (we’ll get to it), Pedro Pascal nails the landing on this emotional arc. As I mentioned last week, the show has been nudging him towards a shift in his priorities, often depicted through his removal of his helmet, and the choice to have him take it off so that Grogu can see (and touch, in a really heartfelt, genuinely earned moment of pathos) his real face before they part – it’s downright great storytelling. Din Djarin might have started this show as a Mandalorian first and foremost, but where we leave off this season, he’s become something far more than that, and the show has taken great effort to show us exactly how and why that’s happened. It’s the definition of good serialized storytelling, compounded by the sheer talent of Pascal in bringing Din to life even behind his helmet, and The Rescue delivers on that promise.

This episode is, of course, built around the rescue of Grogu from Moff Gideon’s ship, so we get the whole gang back together to make that happen. There is some stuff I appreciate a lot about this story, most significantly the fact that the main attack on the ship is led by four women, something that the show doesn’t feel the need to underline eighteen times to point out just how Woke they’re being (see also: that one seen from Avengers: Endgame where Marvel chortled contentedly about how great they were to their women characters when they had only bothered to put out one film with a female lead). It reminds me a lot of Dave Filoni’s take on the Star Wars universe; men, women, and others share positions of power and strength, and it’s so normal that nobody thinks to even comment on it. In this version of Star Wars, sexism isn’t even worth commenting on because it’s so downright irrelevant, and I just enjoy that a lot. If we’re doing science-fiction that pushes the very realms of imagination, I’m glad we didn’t have to bring misogyny along for the ride, you know?

To be quite honest, though, I found a lot of this stuff pretty…boilerplate? I really enjoyed Bo-Katan’s first appearance in the series, but this one feels like a rush-job to set her up for a live-action show of her own, and Katee Sackhoff feels downright clunky in this performance. The same goes for Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon; great actors, thrust into a story that hasn’t really had much to do with them for a while, trying to get as much set-up for their spin-offs in before the credits roll. Grogu and Din are at the heart of this episode, and that heartbeat is enough to keep the whole thing feeling vital, but the fatty tissue around it doesn’t add a lot to this finale, for me. Maybe I’ll feel differently once I see how these characters are worked into the next season, I’m not sure, but right now, I’m pretty indifferent on their involvement.

But let’s be honest: when you clicked on this review, you clicked on it for one thing only, and that’s to share in the thrill and excitement of Tatooine’s premier farm twink, Luke Skywalker, making a live-action return to the universe.

(this is irrelevant but funny so have it anyway: I wrote a Star Wars cinematic universe retrospective last year, and the review for A New Hope was where I first referred to Luke as a farm twink. The word “farm”, for some reason, dinged on some keyword servers for an actual, real-life farming group, many of whose social medias automatically shared the article, thinking it contained relevant information about the state of modern farmwork, and I had to deal with a number of confused, remonstrative farmers in my inbox wondering why my pointlessly gay reading of the first Star Wars movie was being shared alongside actually useful information on crop rotation)

And let me be real with you: I didn’t know how this was going to come off. When I saw that X-Wing approaching at the end of the episode, it was hard not to have that instant thrill of excitement, but hey – what if the show was just relying on Luke as a touchstone to get fans excited without bothering to earn much of that reaction?

But, to be quite honest, the brief appearance of Luke Skywalker is probably one of the most singularly impressive things the show has ever done. This is a moment, honey, this is a mömént. I know this is a TV show, but The Mandalorian is downright cinematic as it brings the character who brought this franchise to life in the first place back to our screens; that slow build of seeing the X-Wing, the lightsabre, the gloved hand, the robes, the power, the presence; we don’t see his face for a good five minutes, because we don’t need to. We know who it is. I literally had my hands clasped in front of my face the entire build-up to his reveal, even though I knew who was coming by the time the robes dropped. This is the man himself – the new hope, himself. After the year we’ve had, it’s hard not to get a little emotional over that. Or maybe it’s easy to if you’re not terrifically over-invested in Star Wars and on your period. Either way, I don’t care. I loved it.

Thematically, it makes a lot of sense for him to be the one to pick up Grogu and take him back to his training again, given that it was Adult Yoda who trained him, but honestly? This is about the iconography of this moment, of this return. It could have felt cheap if the show hadn’t put in the effort to build up to this moment, to give Luke his due and make this one-scene wonder feel as monumental as it did, but it works beautifully. Peyton Reed, directing this week, does a tremendous job giving Luke what he deserves, and by the time that we get to see him again, it feels like running into an old friend. It’s given time to breathe without overwhelming the episode or Grogu and Din’s central story, and I can’t ask for much more than that.

I think there were a couple of wobbles this season, but, as a whole, The Mandalorian came out swinging for the second series and really delivered a far superior outing to its first. It helps that it’s going out on a high, but even if there are aspects of this episode that I didn’t like, this is still a remarkably well-constructed, well-thought-out climax to the emotional arc of Grogu and Din. I don’t know how the show will pick up next season, but right now, let’s just enjoy a story well-told – and an old friend gratefully met.

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(header image via NDTV Gadgets 360)