***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Season 2, Episode 16 of The Mandalorian!***
Ok, so let's talk about the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian: “Chapter 16: The Rescue.” The title is pretty self-explanatory: teaming up with his allies, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) mounts a daring mission to rescue Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) from the clutches of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). We were all expecting the finale to lead here, but no one could have expected the sheer amount of surprises and fan service we'd get in the final minutes.
I mean, this episode (written by showrunner Jon Favreau and directed by Ant-Man director Peyton Reed) achieves Avengers: Endgame levels of awesomeness in a way that only comes from decades of world-building and goodwill. “Chapter 16” is very much the culmination of 43 years' worth of Star Wars storytelling that very few franchises would be able to pull off properly.
After tracking Gideon's location in last's week adventure, Mando, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) capture clone technician Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who has crucial information about the amount of firepower on Gideon's vessel, his intel is important. Still, the opening moments are really devoted to Pershing's escort, who taunts Dune about the destruction of Alderaan. “I was on the Death Star,” he says. “Which one?” Cara quips back before shooting him.
While their knowledge of Gideon's ship is complete, the crew still needs back-up, prompting Din Djarin to seek out Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks). There's a little skirmish between Boba Fett and Reeves, but Bo-Katan ends up defusing the situation. However, she clearly has no love for Boba, whose voice she recognizes as the voice of the Imperial Clone Army that helped lay waste to Mandalore.
Nevertheless, Bo-Katan and Reeves agree to help with the rescue mission in exchange for Gideon. And so, they sneak onto the Moff's ship with Bo-Katan, Reeves, Fennec, and Dune, creating a distraction as Din Djarin seeks out Baby Yoda. On his way to the holding cell, Mando squares off with a Dark Trooper, which is basically Star Wars‘ answer to the Terminator‘s T-1000. It's ruthless and nigh-invincible, but Mando can dispatch one and blast the rest of the platoon into space.
He makes his way to Baby Yoda's cell, but too late: Gideon's already there, wielding the Darksaber above Grogu's head. Gideon claims that he has all he needs from the kid, his blood, which will help restore order to the galaxy (yet another nod to the First Order). He says he'll let Mando walk away with The Child if Mando lets him walk away with the Darksaber. Way too trusting, Mando agrees, allowing Gideon to try and get the drop on him with the Darksaber, which, fortunately, can't cut through pure Beskar.
The two adversaries begin to fight in a duel that recalls the lightsaber quarrels of old, with Mando coming out on top. He reclaims the Darksaber for Bo-Katan, who needs it to reclaim the throne of Mandalore, but there's a catch. You see, holding the Darksaber isn't enough; you need to have won it in combat to exploit both its literal and metaphorical powers.
Mando tries to yield it over to Bo-Katan, but the game doesn't work that way, and before they can figure out a solution, the Dark Troopers expectedly return to the ship after being sucked out into the vacuum of space. Our heroes close the blast doors on the bridge, but they seem no match for the purely mechanical Troopers' powerful punching power. And then, when all hope seems lost, a lone X-Wing boards the Imperial ship. Fans already know where this is going long before a cloaked figure wielding a green lightsaber begins taking out the Dark Troopers.
I literally couldn't believe my eyes: LUKE FRIGGIN' SKYWALKER shows up to take Grogu away and start training him. Turns out Baby Yoda's time on the Seeing Stone in “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” was not spent in vain; contact was made.
Reed was perhaps the best choice to direct this because the same de-aging technology he used on the Ant-Man films was also applied here to create an '80s-era Mark Hamill in both look and sound. Sure, it's still a bit uncanny (similar VFX was also used in Rogue One for Tarkin and Leia), but you can overlook that when you're staring at LUKE FRIGGIN' SKYWALKER. And if that wasn't enough, R2-D2 suddenly rolls onto the bridge; I nearly soiled myself with excitement!
Grogu and Mando's farewell is heartbreaking, especially when the latter removes his helmet for the third time. The once-emotionless bounty hunter is now a big ball of mush with greater concerns than the strict Mandalorian creed. Even Luke gets a profound emotional beat when he picks up The Child and subtly registers that Grogu resembles his late master, Yoda. With that, Luke and R2 depart, just peripheral players in this side story.
Like I said earlier, very few IPs can pull off something like this. Star Wars has that pedigree and brand recognition to indulge in fan service like this because it's earned the right to do so over four decades. The Season 2 conclusion is, without a doubt, the best piece of television this year.
However, it makes you wonder what happened to Grogu after Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side and slaughtered all of Luke's Jedi students. Was Grogu present for the massacre, or will his path intersect with Djarin sometime down the road? Plus, Gideon is still alive, which means he'll probably get away and continue on his path to bring order to the galaxy (will he use Grogu's blood to create Snoke? Is Gideon operating on the orders of the cloned Palpatine?)
The episode could've ended there, and fans would have been more than satisfied, but Favreau & Co. go the extra mile in a post-credits sequence that takes us back to Jabba's palace on Tatooine (a locale we haven't visited in live-action since Return of the Jedi).
With the Hutt dead, a morbidly obese Bib Fortuna (now resembling his old master) has assumed the throne, but his reign comes to an end when Fennec Shand and Boba Fett take out him and his entire consort. The bounty hunter assumes the throne as a title card announces a brand-new series coming next December: The Book of Boba Fett. Yep, the back of The Mandalorian‘s second season also served as a backdoor pilot for a Boba Fett spinoff!
As for where Season 3 might go, Din Djarin needs a new objective after reuniting Grogu with the Jedi. I expect he'll join forces with Bo-Katan to reclaim Mandalore. Since he's now the rightful owner of the Darksaber (unless Bo-Katan defeats him in combat, of course), he may end up becoming the eventual ruler of the planet, even though he's not a native Mandalorian.
For our complete coverage of Season 2 thus far, click the links below: