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Except Baby Yoda. He's fine!
[The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of The Mandalorianand The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.]
The Mandalorian has been playing a very patient game for the past two months, revealing very little, taking its time to set up characters and stakes, and taking half-steps towards an eventual confrontation that has cast a shadow over the entire show. As this was the final episode of Season 1, questions will be answered, characters will die, confrontations will be had, and Season 2 will be teased.
We've spent all season curious about the origins of Baby Yoda, the motivations of the Imps who want him, namely Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), and the identity of the Mandalorian (what exactly does he look like under the helmet?). This final episode contains fewer and smaller answers than one might expect, in payoffs ranging from satisfying to, well, not. But overall the episode provides a fitting conclusion to the first season.
The episode starts, refreshingly enough, by largely ignoring the speeder-bike-propelled plot of the cliffhanger by indulging in some light comedy: Waiting for Godot starring two hapless scout troopers (Adam Pally and Jason Sudeikis). Director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows) makes his The Mandarlorian debut extremely obvious in his first scene, as the two troopers exchange small talk barbs with his now trademark deadpan. Here they accept the reality that their boss, Moff Gideon, is cavalierly murdering their coworkers for "interrupting him," as if this is just a regular workday in the life of a "sharpshooting" Imperial Stormtrooper.
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For a show that has had trouble with naturalistic dialogue, this scene is a real highlight, and unfortunately the only one of its kind. After a hilariously embarrassing display of their skills with a blaster, the troopers begin to investigate the captive Baby Yoda. A few whacks on his soft, puppet head is enough to trigger the return of IG-11, now reprogrammed to protect the child: "I am this child's nurse droid."
If it wasn't enough to direct the episode, Waititi voices IG-11, who quickly establishes himself as the star of the finale. He quickly dispatches the troopers, twisting one of their arms all the way around, grabs Baby Yoda and speeds off into town. "I'm sorry you had to see that," he expresses, just as every good nurse would do. Why does he head straight for the danger, considering his ultimate programming is to protect the Child? Because otherwise we wouldn't have a show, that's why.
Meanwhile, back in the city, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), Cara Dune (Gina Carano), and Greef Carga (Carl Weather) remain surrounded by Moff Gideon, his legion of Stormtroopers, and a squad of death troopers. The Moff tries to encourage them to come out and surrender, while undercutting his deal with the assertion that he can't be trusted and that his deals essentially mean nothing. Meanwhile, his troops set up an E-WEB heavy repeating blaster that will make short work of our heroes. Their choice: come out and do the deal with him, or die. What does Moff Gideon want from them? What are the terms of the deal? They don't ask. Seriously, they don't.
Mando suggests that instead the group escapes through a hidden vent into the Mandalorian covert that previously existed in the sewers. It's unclear why Mando suspects his peers may have hung around, considering they revealed themselves to save him from the Bounty Hunters' Guild, stating that they would have to relocate to stay hidden.
Even more unclear is the reasoning of why the sewers would have an open vent into a popular bar on Nevarro. First we saw a vent from the detention block into the garbage compactor on the Death Star and now this? Why use grates that let through airflow but not, you know, garbage? Do the denizens of the Star Wars universe just enjoy smelling waste? If they're for drainage, why put them on the walls instead of the floor? Wouldn't you want your garbage chute to have a little flap that opens? At least on the Death Star we could blame Galen Erso for introducing another one of his famous design flaws. But there's no excuse here -- yet.
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Either way, Cara Dune pulls a Princess Leia on the vent, with less success than the venerated noble. The vent remains locked shut. This allows the monologuing Moff Gideon to drop a series of reveals as if he were reading them from one of our episode recaps. Thanks for reading, Moff!
Turns out that he knows the history of all our heroes in greater detail than a random passerby should. He reveals that Cara Dune is from the doomed Alderaan (perhaps where both she and Leia learned to shoot vents), that Greef Carga is a disgraced magistrate, and that he knows the Mandalorian's real name.
His name is Din Djarin, the exact same name that actor Pedro Pascal let slip in an interview with ScreenSlam right as the series was getting started. (Only now, thanks to subtitles, we know how to spell it.) The name has no history in the Star Wars universe and provides us nothing more to speculate about. Honestly, it's kind of disappointing and just thrown out there with little fanfare. Moff Gideon directly references the Siege of Mandalore (to be depicted in the upcoming Clone Wars revival on Disney+), and curiously also introduces to the canon the phrase "the night of a thousand tears." How exactly this nocturnal event filled with tragedies or allergies might fit into either the Siege of Mandalore or the Great Purge is a good question for another time.
After Moff Gideon extends his deal until nightfall, we learn a bit more about what our heroes know about him. Turns out that both Mando and Cara have heard of him before, as he was supposedly executed for war crimes and operated as a sort of boogeyman for Mando when he was young. How could Moff Gideon know Mando's real name? This question serves as a decent set up for yet another flashback into Mando's past.
The flashback itself unveils the Snyder Cut of the imagery seen in previous episodes, following young Din Djarin as his parents run from B2 super battle droids attacking his town. Eventually they guide him to an underground locker where they attempt to hide him, electing to not join him for no clear reason. But, their attempts are folly, as they are blown to bits moments later and Din is discovered by a battle droid.
But, immediately thereafter, as signaled by the sickest lead guitar lick in a Star War (also the only one), a squad of teal Mandalorians show up to make short work of the battle droids and save a young Din. In a moving moment, a Mandalorian grabs the kid and rockets off into the sky, Peter Pan-style, as the world shrinks below them. Here we find out that from this point on Din was raised in the fighting corps, sworn to the creed ("This is the way!"), and that the only place that his original name exists is the registers on Mandalore. The only way that Gideon could know it was if he got a hold of those registers while doing all those war crimes on Mandalore during the Great Purge.
Cut to IG-11 who continues to fulfill his mission to "nourish and protect" by clearing out a majority of the stormtroopers in the city. Yes, he's piloting a speederbike with no handlebars, while shooting all manner of stormtroopers. It's madness, but the kind of madness that Jon Favreau's action figure half-hour was made for!
Every time a stormtrooper turns around, inexplicably IG-11 is there with a single blaster bolt to take them down. Even when they do eventually gather the courage and wherewithal to fire back, IG-11 is prepared. He turns his body to protect Baby Yoda and the lasers bounce right off. Is this guy made of Beskar now? Even Greef Carga can't believe what he's seeing, so he grabs a drink of some glowing blue vodka from the bar. Now's not the time, Greef!
IG-11's rampage breaks up the stalemate and plunges the city into chaos. This inspires Mando to charge out into the fray and begin duking it out with the death troopers, with their cries muted by their inexplicably scrambled voice boxes. These guys are like Seal Team 6, if they couldn't actually communicate with each other. "Excuse me, what were you saying?"
What follows is a cavalcade of explosive action with remote detonators, ammo packs, fireworks, and Mando picking up the E-WEB gun and unleashing a volley of blasts that diminish their opposition. We're not quite sure why he had to pick it up, as it was already on a rotation mount, but it sure did look cool.
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When Gideon blows up a nearby ammunition pack, Mando is blasted back toward the bar. Injured and unable to fight back, Mando is dragged by Cara back into temporary safety. They are right back where they started, but this time with Baby Yoda. Gideon decides to encroach further, instructing his flametroopers to "burn them out." Soon the entire bar is up in flames, Mando's head is fatally bleeding, and IG-11 is finishing the destruction of the sewer vent, while probably thinking to himself about how lucky he is to not have nostrils.
When the flametroopers round the corner, directly in eyesight with our broken heroes, Mando orders them to leave him to die a warrior's death. Cara refuses, offering to heal Mando's head if only she can remove his helmet. Mando gives Cara his Mythosaur pendant, instructing her to take Baby Yoda to the Mandalorians, who will be obligated to protect him. But when the flametroopers attack it is Baby Yoda who stands up for his slow-motion hero's moment. Unleashing all of his Force powers and the visual effects department's budget, he deflects the flames to roast the flametrooper -- just like Rey and Palpatine!
Cara follows Mando's orders, inconveniently forgetting that Baby Yoda can heal. Mando is on the edge of death and he orders IG-11 to kill him. "I'd rather you kill me than some imp," he says. But the IG refuses, insisting that he's been reprogrammed as a nurse droid and is willing to save him.
Mando refuses because "no living thing has seen me without my helmet since I swore the creed." But, since IG-11 has seen other Star Wars movies and knows that the best way to get ahead is through linguistic workarounds he suggests, "I am not a living thing." Just like that, Mando's problem is solved, he can remove his helmet and live. It makes one wonder how Mandalorians deal with common problems like nose bleeds and congestion. Are they just bleeding and sneezing into their helmets to uphold a code? Either way, off comes the helmet and we finally get our reveal of the Mandalorian's face. Turns out, he looks exactly like Pedro Pascal, the actor that sometimes plays the character. The rumors/credits were true. What was the point of being so guarded about this?
IG-11 assesses the problem and jokes that Mando has "damage to your central processing unit." He clarifies he was joking and not just saying something stupid. IG-11 sprays Mando's head with bacta, suggesting it will take a few hours to take effect. Seconds later, though, he's already walking and talking. In fact, they even manage to catch up with Cara, Greef, and Baby Yoda who were given a head start.
Soon, the group discovers a pile of Mandalorian armor, spotlit and solemn. Mando is quick to blame Greef and his bounty hunters, sure to remind us that his code is to the Mandalorians first and foremost. But the female Mandalorian Armorer (Emily Swallow) reappears to assures him that it wasn't the bounty hunters' fault. After the Mandalorians revealed themselves, the Imperials arrived and murdered most of the covert. She suspects that some may have escaped offworld but for now it is up to her to salvage the Beskar and make the best of a bad situation.
She asks to see the creature that was the cause of so much destruction and the death of her fellow Mandalorians. This leads to the most awkward moment on the show yet. This is why everybody died? This little green puppet? She seems unconvinced, but Mando ultimately makes a connection with her when he describes the Force in his own limited way. She's heard of the Jedi before, particularly from their time fighting against the Mandalorians, but doesn't hold a grudge. She encourages him to treat the baby as a Foundling, just as we predicted back in our recap of the first episode!
The Mandalorian rules regarding Foundlings are that they are either to train the children as Mandalorians or reunite them with their own kind, in this case that would be the Jedi. So, finally, the Mandalorian has a mission and something to springboard this series into Season 2. Plus, he leveled up and finally earns his signet -- a Mudhorn. All he had to do was get his entire covert killed. Is that how this works?
On top of that, while IG-11 is nursing stormstroopers offscreen with sweet, caressing lasers, Mando's given a weapon upgrade in the form of a jetpack. Yadda yadda Rising Phoenix -- no time to chat, stormtroopers are coming! The Armorer pulls out two large hammers and wrecks several stormtroopers to cover their exit, including tossing one into the smelter alive!
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But he's not the only one getting out of the frying pan and into the fire because our group of heroes next find themselves at a River Styx of lava. They quickly blast free a lava boat, unexpectedly reactivating a buried astromech droid onboard the ship: a Charon-like astromech droid with arms and legs who ferries the ship. Its character is so rad, one could imagine him asking R2-D2, "Do you even lift bro?"
But, because no one in Star Wars can ever have a clean exit or satisfyingly happy ending, it turns out that there is a whole platoon of stormtroopers flanking the exit to the tunnel. Cara Dune tries to get the ripped astromech droid to stop the boat, but grows frustrated and blows its head off. Nice knowing you guy! With no options left, IG-11 decides to sacrifice himself through self-destruction. All he needs to do it is Mando's approval. It's here that we see that the typically droid-hating Mando has grown a bit soft on the IG droid. "I'm not sad," he says unconvincingly. "Yes you are. I'm a nurse droid. I've analyzed your voice," it replies. So Mando has just been using the helmet to hide his feelings all along. We guess this snowflake got melted by all the lava.
Speaking of melted by lava... IG-11 then wades through the lava, detonator exposed, legs melting, and explodes in the middle of the stormtrooper platoon. The threat is eliminated, for now. Between Kuiil, Charon-D2, and IG-11, it looks like The Mandalorian has a real thing for killing off its best characters.
Lest you forget about him, Moff Gideon reappears in his TIE fighter to kill Mando's merry little band. Good thing Mando has that jet pack! He slaps it on and blasts off into the air, narrowly dodging the Moff's ship, and grabs on with a tether. Mando blows off the wing with a couple detonators, sending the ship plummeting to its doom. Good riddance, Moff Gideon.
Victory is sweet and Greef Carga seems ready to party. "Now that the scum and villainy have been washed away" he's ready to invite both Cara and Mando back into the Bounty Hunters' Guild and even raise their service fees. However, Mando knows that fatherhood is more important than any money he might make going after unfulfilling bounties. Then, just like when he was a kid, he blasts off into the air with the Baby Yoda Foundling in tow. (It's like poetry.)
Back at the Razor Crest, Mando constructs a rough grave for Kuiil and reboards his familiar ship. That's when he notices that Cara put the Mandalorian Mythosaur necklace around Baby Yoda's neck, symbolically transitioning him into the role of Mandalorian in training.
The final sequence depicts Moff Gideon cutting his way out of his crashed TIE Fighter -- foreshadowing the advanced safety features that would go on to save Poe and Finn from their crash in The Force Awakens. When Moff Gideon emerges, he's carrying the Darksaber, which fans of The Clone Wars and Rebels know is a Big Deal. The Darksaber is a one-of-a-kind weapon signifying the mantle of Mandalorian leadership, treated as an heirloom for more than a thousand years. The last time we saw the Darksaber was 11 years earlier, in Star Wars: Rebels, when Sabine Wren entrusted the Darksaber to rightful Mandalorian leader Bo-Katan Kryze. And you can bet Bo-Katan didn't just hand it over casually.
Throughout the season references piled up about the Empire's Great Purge of Mandalore: massacring its people, pillaging its heritage, melting sacred Mandalorian armor for the Beskar, and seizing the Register of citizenship. Moff Gideon's possession of the Darksaber reveals his personal culpability for commanding these atrocities, as he has claimed Mandalore's most sacred weapon as his own personal trophy.
There are a few dangling threads, foremost among them being Moff Gideon's intentions with Baby Yoda. Although this episode itself offers no new clues, we can finally talk about the big one inThe Rise of Skywalker. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Last week, we gestured toward our grand unifying theory for the Empire's intentions: "What if they were engineering a powerful new breed of being for some nefarious purpose? And what if Baby Yoda's DNA was intended to be the key Force-sensitive ingredient for that purpose?" Now, we can come right out and say it: The resurrected Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself demands Baby Yoda's genetic material for his secret project to create Snoke.
In The Rise of Skywalker, we see several Snoke bodies suspended in fluid, attended by Sith Eternal scientists. Palpatine not only reveals he created Snoke, but also explains that he had been puppeting Snoke all along as his proxy to lead The First Order. Although Palpatine's minions have grown several copies, Snoke is not a clone of any known person or species -- in fact The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary lists Snoke's species as "Unknown; quite possibly unique." In other words, all clues point to Snoke being a custom-made Strand-Cast, to use the term introduced in last week's episode. Creating a Snoke must entail some pretty demanding specifications -- on one hand it would need to provide an incredibly powerful vessel for the Force, and on the other, its mind would need to develop slowly enough that one could take control of it as a puppet. From what we've seen of Baby Yoda, his genes might just fit the formula.
Is Palpatine ultimately successful in recovering Baby Yoda? We are guessing not -- first of all, of course not, Disney will never let Baby Yoda die! Second of all, we learned last week that unlike Snoke, professionally engineered Strand-Casts are known for their beauty. Does Snoke's deformed appearance indicate that Palpatine had to move ahead without his key ingredient?
A few questions remain for future seasons: Now that we know it wasn't Greef, was that Boba Fett teased in the Tatooine desert? Will Mando be able to find a planet of Jedi -- specifically Luke Skywalker's Jedi academy? Or will Baby Yoda end up adopting the Mandalorian creed like we predicted after the first episode? Where did Baby Yoda come from in the first place? And who is that other party hiring bounty hunters to assassinate Baby Yoda?
Let's just hope these reveals in coming seasons end up playing out in a more interesting way than when Mando's face was finally revealed as -- yep -- the actor who plays him.
Previously on The Mandalorian...
"Chapter 1" Recap / "Chapter 2" Recap / "Chapter 3" Recap / "Chapter 4" Recap / "Chapter 5" Recap / "Chapter 6" Recap / "Chapter 7" Recap
The Mandalorian will return for Season 2 on Disney+ at a later date.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)