I’ve written about 20,000 words on Star Wars for Midwest Film Journal. That’s about 33 pages single-spaced. It’s the length of a proper treatise. I reviewed The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker positively, skipped writing about Rogue One (although Aly did) and gave Solo a pretty scathing review that I stand by despite since coming around to the movie’s charms. I was disappointed by The Force Awakens. I wrote an essay about why I love The Phantom Menace. I think the sequels are, as a whole, an abject failure on the level of the prequels; I also love them, as I do the prequels. Further stories about that era will eventually redeem the two bad films. Star Wars will never die.
When I set out to write about The Mandalorian, then, I settled on this confessional style. What does it mean to be a Star Wars fan if you aren’t spending heinous amounts of money on merchandise to keep the series at the front of your brain every waking moment of your life? To date I’ve listed $1,665 worth of toys and replicas I would gladly buy if available. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money, but to Star Wars collectors? I’ve known people who spend that in a day.
The most I’ve spent in a day is maybe $500. Not bad.
Aly and I are concluding our Skywalker Saga rewatch with The Rise of Skywalker. I bought her some Star Wars-themed Christmas gifts for next week. Last week, I pre-ordered the newly announced 6″ Bo-Katan figure. Supposedly they’re announcing a Black Series Darksaber next week, which I will salivate over but not purchase. Oh, and our toddler has been saying “Jedi.”
Anyway, let’s talk about that finale to The Mandalorian … and why it was the one that finally went too far to me.
Not Like This
After the events of the last few episodes, Mando and his crew stage a daring raid to rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon’s generic ship, which means a lot more sequences of our characters running down hallways shooting Stormtroopers that can’t land a shot. I’m getting tired of this stuff, but it was nice to see Mando’s support squad being all the cool women he’s met across the season while middle-aged Boba got to hang out safely in Slave 1. The one-on-one battle against the Dark Trooper was cool, and the eventual Beskar Spear-versus-Darksaber duel was kind of nifty, particularly once it was clear the season would end with a “Riddick on the throne” moment for Din Djarin, thrust into a leadership position for a culture he calls his own but has no connection to as a community. That’s a strong pitch for Season 3.
Unfortunately … unfortunately that’s simply not where the episode goes. Instead, it finally does what it was threatening to do all season — upstage our lead character and his relationships with an unnecessary fan-service cameo. One that doesn’t even look very good. I think I’ve written before that my ideal would be a new animated show taking place around this time period with Luke Skywalker because they could never adequately bring those classic characters back in real life. This episode proves my point. What the fuck is that? Leia looked better in The Rise of Skywalker, and at least they had the excuse that Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing necessitated a deep-fake.
Luke was the least interesting possible choice here. The second his X-Wing showed up, whatever drama the episode was developing between Gideon, Bo-Katan and Mando went out the window (and never returned). Watching him cut down the Dark Troopers was … fine. I love that lightsaber and I love Luke, but the theatrics to prevent his face from showing due to the fact that they can’t use Mark Hamill anymore were glaring.
After three years of fans bitching online about Luke being a character rather than a superhero in The Last Jedi, this is the moment for which Lucasfilm settles? A hooded deep-fake cameo in a show where Luke’s presence derails a more interesting plot? Compare Luke in “The Rescue” to Ahsoka in “The Jedi.” Rosario Dawson brought so much humanity and grace to her character. Most importantly, that episode introduced the weird Western / Eastern blend of spirituality that is the Force to The Mandalorian, which it had thus far lacked. The promise of The Mandalorian is a story where those ideas are only on the fringes of our protagonists’ awareness. It’s a big galaxy. He’s just a simple man making his way through it.
Luke’s appearance is completely soulless, accompanied by a really dull bit of action that just doesn’t compare to what Ahsoka did in that earlier episode or anything Luke does in any of the movies. It’s a redux / inversion of the Darth Vader sequence in Rogue One. I get that it’s fan service. I get that The Mandalorian is itself fan service. The basis of this column is that it doesn’t have to be more than that. But … well…
Another comparison to be made, particularly given the promise of the post-credits sequence: Boba Fett returned in Episode Six, and the internet went wild over the fact that Temuera Morrison has the body of a man who is, in fact, almost 60. “Boba Fatt,” we joked — and lovingly because despite the fact that his character doesn’t look perfect, it is nice to have him back with the actor we loved in the prequels. Morrison is a great presence, and I’m excited for his spinoff show, The Book of Boba Fett, coming in December 2021. It’s not a rule that these big character returns have to look pristine. This is a budget production, after all.
That was some good fan service, deserving the benefit of the doubt. Boba’s presence has led to some fun scenes between him and Mando, as well as him and other characters who know his in-universe backstory. (But let’s be real: Fennec Shand is the MVP of Mando’s new friends.)
But back to Luke. The thought of sitting through this version of Luke again is disturbing to me. It’s all wrong. It looks fake as hell and it hasn’t so far been done for any reason that feels like an additive to Mando and Grogu’s story. “Oh boy, it’s Luke!” You already did your Jedi cameo. The finale that goes off the rails as soon as he shows up. Ahsoka was done so much better and having her choose to let Grogu leave was a big plot swerve. Now we’ll need more contrivance to make Grogu leave Luke, a Jedi who, for the next 25 years in canon, has a pretty solid run of things up until Ben Solo’s betrayal.
Why was the Mandalore plot thread completely abandoned? There’s a bit with Gideon shooting Bo-Katan that was completely superfluous because she just … gets up? And the stuff about her having to defeat Mando in combat is pretty interesting, especially when Mando just let Gideon survive and inherited the Darksaber just fine.
Bo-Katan and her friends seem dangerous, and their mission speaks to Mando’s’ interesting religious conflict and … oh, wait, he’s taking his helmet off in front of everyone, including this strange Jedi? Didn’t he just go through a whole ordeal in the previous episode to keep a helmet on, making his heroic choice to briefly remove it a big deal and Mayfield’s promise not to describe him a heartwarming character moment for both of them?
The truth is: I already got Luke Skywalker back, in a story that resolved my need to know more about him. I would still love to see neat stories about him in the interim, but it bothers me to see that story told so cheaply and at the expense of new and more interesting characters. This was the episode that needed to bring everything home around Mando, not drop another show-stopping cameo. I wish they’d had the sense to stick to the story they were telling.
If I want deep-fakes, I have YouTube.
Other Dropped Threads:
So we finally capture a Cloner and Gideon but get no further answers as to the reason they wanted to use Grogu’s blood. Is it part of the Sith Eternal plot to resurrect Palpatine? At least allude to that. Just making another coy reference to Order doesn’t pass muster after the previous episode did such a good job at showing why the everyman became attracted to the First Order down the line.
So the plan is to throw everyone on the ship and have Mando lock the Dark Troopers behind a door, but he spends so long tiptoeing through the corridors that one of them escapes and almost kills him? Fun plan. Well executed.
Grogu got very little to do in this episode, his reunion with Mando upstaged by the cameo. But even in the final sequence, no display of the Force? Nothing?
Gideon shoots Bo-Katan a few times and she just shrugs it off, I guess. Why give him the gun in the first place?
How did Gideon get the Darksaber? No exposition regarding the razing of Mandalore? It’s a pretty important planet in the overall lore, and there are still mysteries involving his acquisition of the Darksaber from Bo Katan that would really help explain the modified rules to leadership on Mandalore given the fact that we’re supposed to believe Bo-Katan will try to kill Din over it. But both she and Gideon, previous wielders of the blade, are just fine. So why can’t Mando hand it over to her? The last few episodes are about finding technicalities for ignoring religious and cultural rituals anyway.
It’s really strange how the obvious cliffhanger for Mando is that he’s going to end up on a throne he doesn’t want. But then they give that whole bit to Boba in a post-credits sequence, simultaneously introducing a surviving legacy character and a new take on Boba’s motivations (becoming a crime lord) that we’ve never seen before.
Why is Din Djarin so consistently stupid and willing to trust fucking everyone? Why would he have turned his back on Gideon to grab Grogu? Come on.
Why not use any of Luke’s classic musical cues?
Compared to the iconic finale by Taika Waititi last year that was filled with action, humor, adventure and tragedy, this one just feels like a real turd in the mouth.
I don’t really want anything new from this episode. Most of the characters I’d like to see were listed in previous episodes, and I already own plenty of Jedi Luke. I guess I could partially melt the face of one of my extras to represent the quality of that deep-fake.
You can take a look at my previous lists in past recaps:
Anyway, looking forward to The Book of Boba Fett!!