by Hunter Johnson
[Editor’s Note: The following actually doesn’t contain any spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 8. Enjoy.]
Team Mando just keeps getting bigger. In the previous two episodes of “The Mandalorian,” Din Djarin has assembled quite the team. Mercenaries Boba Fett and Fennec Shand are under oath to help Djarin save Grogu, and long-term ally Cara Dune—now a New Republic marshal—has joined his ranks as well.
But that’s not quite enough for our desperate hero. To successfully rescue his little green friend, Djarin knows that he’ll need more allies, so he goes to the people that hate Moff Gideon more than anyone else: fellow Mandalorians Bo-Katan Kryze and Koska Reeves.
“The Mandalorian” does not commonly have such a massive ensemble of characters in any one episode. In some ways, it’s a breath of fresh air to see all these characters teaming up for a common cause, but in other ways, it can be a bit overwhelming.
“The Rescue” is a busy episode. It has so much going on, and it aims so high that it nearly loses control of itself. It’s a bit odd for showrunner Jon Favreau to jam so much story into one episode, considering how slow he has taken it with the rest of the series, but in the end, this is probably a better option than stretching the finale into two parts. Many fans have wanted Favreau to pick up the pace in the show, and that’s exactly what he does here.
This season has been so much bigger in its scope than the first season. It has introduced characters popular from the movies, brought Jedi into the mix, and even introduced fan favorites from several animated series. Ultimately, it’s all a bit dizzying, and while it’s awesome for fans to see so much fan service, these many additions do end up detracting from the central storyline of Djarin and Grogu.
This is no longer Mando and Baby Yoda’s show. It has become the “what popular character will Mando meet next” show, which can be slightly disheartening to think about, especially considering all the future “Star Wars” series that Disney has recently announced. “The Book of Boba Fett,” “The Rangers of the New Republic” and “Ahsoka” are now all in the works, and they’re all going to overlap with this show. This is exciting news, but it leaves us with one big question.
Why force all these characters into Djarin’s story when they’re going to be receiving new stories of their own? Hopefully, the answer is that these characters will no longer be regulars on “The Mandalorian.” While it’ll be fun to see the crossovers that Favreau concocts down the line, it would also be hugely satisfying for this show to get more time to focus on its own original characters. Until then, though, what we do have is an epic conclusion to an epic season.
The shining star of this episode is Giancarlo Esposito, playing Moff Gideon in his biggest appearance yet. Esposito has exuded potential throughout the show, but in “The Rescue,” we get to see a certain ferocity from Gideon that we’ve never seen before. With every subsequent appearance, Esposito continues to impress, and his character gets more and more fleshed out.
Katee Sackhoff’s portrayal of Bo-Katan is another welcome return to the show. In just two appearances, Sackhoff has taken an animated character she’s been voicing for the last nine years and effectively turned her into a fleshed-out, live-action heroine. Her journey to retake Mandalore is a compelling one that fans will undoubtedly be excited to see come to fruition in the future.
The rest of the ensemble—Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett, Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand, Gina Carano as Cara Dune—all play off each other splendidly. It never gets old seeing these characters work together to blast stormtroopers to bits, although it would be nice to see “The Mandalorian” allow more of its leading characters to be non-humans in the future. It’s beginning to feel a bit like a Marvel show that also happens to be set in space.
Outside of the cast, this episode is fueled by Ludwig Goransson’s always captivating musical score. He’s created a new theme in this episode for Moff Gideon’s Dark Troopers that’s completely different from past themes he’s written. Goransson has truly become a successor to John Williams in the innovative way he uses motifs and themes to tell a story. Hopefully, we’ll see him writing the musical scores for the other new “Star Wars” shows as well.
Unfortunately, the biggest weakness of this episode is director Peyton Reed (“Ant-Man,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp”). He succeeds in creating an episode that superficially looks like a blockbuster but, in the grand scheme of things, ends up feeling by-the-numbers and artificial. The heart that directors Rick Famuyiwa (“The Believer”) and Bryce Dallas Howard (“The Heiress”) brought to their episodes is notably absent here, and this lack of heart ultimately leads to a lack of tension.
The reason “The Mandalorian” works as a show is because of the small character moments. The big action has only ever been the icing on the cake, but in this episode, the action takes precedence and distracts from what makes the show so compelling. It by no means ruins the episode or its finer moments, but it is a worrisome turn for this show to take. Hopefully, “The Mandalorian” will not lose sight of what makes it so special in Season Three.
The end result is a finale filled to the brim with fan-service, fun action, and a reveal that will blow the minds of many fans. And it leaves Pedro Pascal’s leading role of Din Djarin in a place where anything can happen next. Season Three, here we come.
Hunter Johnson is a Senior Theatre Performance Major and an A&E writer Cedars. He spends his time acting on stage, directing off stage, and critiquing the endless amounts of content that Disney pumps out.