What the Wild Season 1 Finale of 'The Mandalorian' Means for the Show
This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 1.
The first season of The Mandalorian on Disney+ wrapped up just in time for 2019 to come to a close with a boatload of Star Wars discourse. In case you missed the hub-bub last week, the final episode of the Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker, hit theaters to mixed reviews and an overall rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. So far, The Rise of Skywalker hasn’t fallen by a large percentage in box office from week one to week two, so while the story of Rise’s legs is still being written, The Mandalorian gets to end its eight-episode season on its own terms.
Somewhat surprisingly, The Mandalorian beats Rise of Skywalker as a Star Wars treat. Where the new movie feels like a serial for the majority of its runtime, hopping between fetch-quest and MacGuffin exposition, The Mandalorian took its time. It was frustrating for the two weeks where we got one-off Star Wars tales of the Mandalorian doing crime and not protecting The Child (Baby Yoda), but the season finale managed to successfully point the way forward and answer the questions the first season left hanging. Well, it answered most of the questions.
"Chapter 8: Redemption" continues to pay off many of the previous episodes’ adventures, but starts with a comedic scene between two Scout Troopers voiced by Adam Pally (Happy Endings, The Mindy Project) and Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live, Olivia Wilde’s husband). Let’s assume it’s just "voiced," since the Mandalorian himself is often played by a stunt double, then voiced by Pedro Pascal,, and the many masked individuals of The Mandalorian season one gives ample opportunity for physical performers to be forgotten. On stunts we have Solomon Brende, Richard Cetrone, Mark Chadwick, Jimmy Chhiu, Whitney Coleman, Paul Darnell, Mike Estes, Ross Kohnstam, Trevor Logan, Donald Mills, Katherine O’Donovan, Joe Perez, Jerry Quill, Nick Stanner, Amy Sturdvant, Albert Valladares, and Stephen Jackson (as the Mando stand-in). Here’s hoping that between seasons one and two of this show, Lucasfilm and Disney can lighten up on the spoiler policing and allow some basic questions to be answered about the talented people who made this show. How did they make Kuiil look like an Ugnaught Nick Nolte? Who puppeteered The Child? Spotlight these badass stunt performers playing Mandalorians and Stormtroopers, throwing themselves over desert landscapes and executing choreography with buckets over their heads! The Mandalorian has been great action television, and you’d think the PR gods would let the stunt folks off the leash. Make them Google-able.
The thing The Mandalorian has in spades that Rise of Skywalker sacrifices to tell a greater story of the Sith and Jedi in the galaxy is the actual "war" part of Star Wars. If we’re worried about Rey’s parentage and what’s going to happen to Princess Leia, we get to spend less time with the other people in the galaxy, the ones who lived through their second galactic conflict once The First Order showed up. In the time period of The Mandalorian, set more than 20 years before Rey gets off Jakku in The Force Awakens, the Empire slowly crumbled (or retreated to the Unknown Regions) leaving behind destruction in its wake. The Mandalorians, once a race of people from a planet called Mandalore, are now, definitively, a “creed,” or a way of life. This is a good example of Star Wars official canon reclaiming something from the uncanonized Expanded Universe (“Legends”). During the Clone Wars period and leading into the Imperial period, Mandalore was a race, but one beaten down by the Siege of Mandalore (something we’ll get to see for the first time on the small screen this spring with a new batch of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes on Disney+) which included something called “The Night of a Thousand Tears,” which sounds like the beginning of the end of the Mandalorian race.
The actual end of the Mandalorians is probably something we’ll be dealing with next season, because it looks like Moff Gideon had something to do with it. For those of you who are venturing into Star Wars television for the first time: Moff Gideon having the Darksaber (that black-bladed sword he uses to cut out of the TIE fighter at the end of the episode) is a very bad sign for any Mandalorians. Last seen in the possession of Bo-Katan Kryze in Star Wars: Rebels before the events of A New Hope, it shouldn't be in the hands of a former ISB (Imperial Security Bureau) officer during the Purge. The Darksaber in Rebels was given to Bo-Katan as a sign of her being the new Mandalore (the title for the leader of the Mandalorians). The Darksaber was built thousands of years ago by a Mandalorian who became a Jedi; his ancestral house, House Visla, managed to keep hold of the Darksaber up through about 22 BBY (22 years before the events of A New Hope), when Darth Maul took possession of the Darksaber and the Mandalorian militant group Death Watch.
Maul kept the Darksaber after the Seige of Mandalore and stored it on Dathomir, where young rebel and Mandalorian by blood Sabine Wren reclaimed it for Mandalore. Sabine trained with the Darksaber under Jedi Master Kanan Jarrus (this is from Star Wars: Rebels), then gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan to lead what was left of the Mandalorians through the Age of the Empire. The final minutes of the last Star Wars: Rebels episode does show Sabine leaving the known galaxy after the events of Return of the Jedi, but does not clarify when the Mandalorian race fell and the Mandalorian Creed rose. Whenever that happened, Moff Gideon came out on top: the Mandalorian race would not have given up the Darksaber. Also, he was supposedly executed for war crimes -- what do you bet those war crimes are straight-up genocide of the Mandalorian race? That really ups the ante for the Vader of the TV series.
Moff Gideon is our big bad for the Mandalorian; he knows everyone and their backstories already. In the final episode of the season, we get to meet the team: Din Djarin, our main character, raised as a Foundling by the Mandalorians after he was saved off his home planet during a droid army massacre. We finally got to see the whole flashback, and without any forging this time! OK, that’s a lie, there is forging in the episode, just not during the flashback. It was pretty cool to see the Mandalorians already becoming a Creed back in the time of droid armies, and the B2 Battle Droids still being used to subjugate worlds suggests this is adjacent to Order 66, or before the fall of the droid army and the rise of the Empire. Din says he was “raised in the Fighting Corps” as a Foundling. We don’t know the different degrees of Mandalorian and if the Fighting Corps was race-based or Creed-based. The only record of his name was in “registers of Mandalore.” For all we know Din is the first of the Foundlings, which now seem to be a core group of the Mandalorian Creed, if Mando’s season two mission is anything to go by.
Cara Dune is revealed to be Carasynthia Dune of Alderaan, which explains a lot about why she felt more comfortable fighting the Empire than keeping the peace as a New Republic soldier. If she was dropping in and executing Imperial War Lords, then she was avenging her planet just like her Princess. During the period of the Empire, refugees from Alderaan tried to gather together. In “Legends” there is a New Alderaan planet colonized by the former Alderaan people. In the new Canon, a New Alderaan has been mentioned once in passing, but it’s more likely by now that the Alderaan people are scattered throughout the galaxy. Much like the new Mandalorians, they are a people without a planet.
“People without a planet” also applies to Greef Carga, who was a Magistrate before he ran the Bounty Hunter’s Guild. “Magistrate” as a rank has only appeared in Star Wars for the Corporate Alliance (Clone Wars era) and the Galactic Empire. Sure, the Bastatha Security Forces in the novel Star Wars: Bloodline also have Magistrates, but if Rinnrivin Di's cartel shows up in live action, I’ll eat my hat. Best guess here is that he’s ex-Imperial, just not one of those evil ex-Imperials like Moff Gideon or The Client.
Nurse and protect
Last week’s Mandalorian ended with the promise of a standoff with our heroes trapped in a cantina and The Child in peril. This week picks up and assuages our worry with IG-11, a droid that has a full arc through the eight episodes and might be the second or third most successful character of the season. Taika Watiti, this episode's director, also voices IG-11, who gets a hero turn and a huge score moment with the Ride of IG-11, “Nurse and Protect.”
When The Mandalorian was spinning its wheels in space with heists and teasing Boba Fett for no reason (seriously, Tatooine episode, why did you exist?), it was easy to forget the through-lines of IG-11. Mando hates droids because he watched them massacre his home planet. Mando doesn’t trust droids can function outside of its programming. IG-11 gets shot in the head and disappears for six episodes, only to be reintroduced through an extended training sequence. Now IG-11’s primary goal is to protect The Child, and he blows himself up to accomplish it. If anyone (besides us, the audience) deserved to see the Mandalorian’s face, it was IG-11. He was never living, but he was one of the best characters. I have spoken.
The Mandalorian tossed out a dozen or so memorable characters, a lot of which have been placed in stasis (or space prison) so they can return at a later date. I’m so sad Kuiil and IG-11 won’t be coming back, as they had complete arcs that were fifty times as interesting as a purple Twi’lek suggesting she’s slept with Mando at some point in the past. Kuiil and IG-11 were both beings whose entire lives were upended by the evil in the galaxy, but they persevered and turned to the light no matter how they were mistreated.
The Child is E.T.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian gets set up by the Armorer as she makes Din’s signet: a Mudhorn. It turns out the Creed is very specific about Foundlings. If a Foundling is claimed by a Mandolorian, that Mandalorian takes over parenting duties until the Foundling comes of age and takes the Mandalorian Creed itself or the Foundling can be returned to its family/culture. The Armorer is the only character in the whole series who remembers the Jedi, and is the first person to bring them up in association with The Child’s Force powers. In the conversation, Mando suggests the whole species has Force abilities, which we’ll have to take as canon until we hear otherwise. All three members of the species -- Yoda, Yaddle, and The Child -- have been Force users. The Armorer mentions the Mandalorian wars with the Jedi (which is when the Darksaber was reclaimed from the Jedi), but says not all Force users are enemies. Which... is a leap. Outside of Kanan training Sabine Wren and Obi-Wan Kenobi falling in love with Duchess Satine, the Jedi haven’t been great to Mandalore, and it sounds like the whole race got wiped out while the galaxy was waiting for Luke to save them... oops.
The Armorer has a mission for Mando: return The Child to its home planet. Which is a huge promise in Star Wars lore. We weren’t supposed to get more of the Yoda species at all if George Lucas had his way, and here we are promising to eventually end up at the home planet of Yoda. YODA PLANET. The Mandalorian 2: Search For Yoda Planet is supposed to hit sometime in 2020, and our Mandalorian and his son have both geared up for it. They wear each other’s signets (Baby Yoda earning a Mandalorian signet necklace in the last scene to go with Din’s Mudhorn signet), and Mando finally gets his jetpack he longed for the last time he left Navarro.
Cara Dune and Greef Carga both decide to stay on Navarro, meaning they can pop up when and if the Mandalorian needs some back-up in the new season. Or maybe they’re not as safe as they think since they’re unaware Moff Gideon, armed with Darksaber, has survived. We also have Boba Fett (or someone in his armor) over on Tatooine, where Fennic Shard is probably not dead. And there are those space pirates that Mando locked away in prison, waiting to come back for a return appearance.
Mando has a fantastic aerial action sequence where he fights Moff Gideon’s TIE fighter and forces it down on Navarro. The sequence is so well placed that we completely forget that we never got an answer to why Moff Gideon wanted The Child. Presumably the technology of cloning plays some factor, as it was introduced in this season then never addressed again, but -- as we’ve been warned -- cloning the Force means talking about midichlorians, and nobody's got time for that. Maybe The Child is the key to finding the planet of Yodas, like another alien who has a healing touch: E.T.!
If you’ve ever ridden the E.T. ride at Universal Studios, you’ll know that the ride ends with you going back to E.T.’s planet, where his healing touch brings the planet back to life: The foliage turns green and a bunch of baby E.T.s frolic around. That seems like the arc The Mandalorian as a series is taking. It was bold to introduce The Child as a character in secret, and now that we know the concept of the entire series has been shackled to this character that doesn't get a name in the first season, the ending has to be The Child’s return to the Yoda Planet, right? You still can’t kill Kid Green, so that’s our only option. How many side adventures can Mando and Mudhorn go on before the series needs to give us a conclusion and bow out on top? Four seasons?
Stray blaster bolts
- I don’t like the idea that you can give an R2 unit legs and arms. The ferryman on a river of lava is a great visual, but R2 units are astromech droids, and the name suggests SPACE. Why not build a new droid just to row-row-row-your boat? Is it supposed to drive home the “droids can be reprogrammed” message? Because it’s extraneous.
- No, the Troopers at the top are not Tag and Bink canonically. They’re credited as numbered troopers.
- Cara Dune mentions “mind flayers” which are a species from Dungeons & Dragons. The best idea as to what she means in Star Wars lore is the Bor Gullet, the semi-psychic tentacled creature first glimpsed in Rogue One. It could probe the mind. Or we’re just adding D&D creatures to Star Wars, which wouldn’t be the worst idea. Let’s see Mando fight a Bugbear.
- Moff Gideon has a red-masked Flametrooper who gets blown up by Kid Green, but that’s a new type of Flametrooper. Bully!
- Sure, we’ve already got Baby Yoda merch on the way in May, but where’s my toy of this?
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