Updated: Dec 19, 2020
This article contains spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian on Disney+.
Well, that was amazing. The Mandalorian managed to wow everyone with a second season finale that blew every single expectation out of the water. Before I get into that, however, how did we get here?
After a pretty hit-and-miss season of fetch-quests and episodic content, I was fairly sure that the Season 2 finale of Mando would go out with a whimper. The start of the season moved very slowly and I still can't believe that the Frog Lady plot wound up meaning nothing... yet. The positioning of this season was difficult because this was meant to be released amidst an array of scripted Disney+ Originals; I don't think anybody expected the long-term success of Disney+ to rest on The Mandalorian's shoulders for another year. This had a couple of effects on the overall impression that this season left.
Because production was completed early this year, before the world went tits-up, the first-half of the season felt slower and probably not as cathartic as early episodes of Season 1 were. The other effect was that it felt like they were resting on their laurels to some degree.
With all of that said, those criticisms are directed mainly towards Episodes 2 through 4. From Episode 5, The Jedi, the rest of the season moved at a breakneck pace. From the moment Dave Filoni took charge, this didn't feel like some corporate product but a true expression of passion and excitement from two people who get to do the job of a lifetime. The way that Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka translates to live-action so seamlessly is a wonderful example of how getting the right actor for the job can enhance the narrative.
Dawson's Ahsoka is also appearing in her own live-action, eponymous spin-off from The Mandalorian which, in combination with Rangers of the New Republic, will see the three shows coalesce in one climactic cross-over event on Disney+. This move is indicative of the direction that Disney wants to take the franchise; it wants to go from being a saga about one family to a comprehensive, fully-realised universe of canonic content delivered over multiple television episodes because of one thing: tone.
The Star Wars franchise's most difficult hurdle to overcome has been establishing a tone. There isn't a specific visual flair that distinguishes one Star Wars property from another because the franchise thus far has been focused too heavily on the Skywalker Saga. Now, however, the worlds of Star Wars can diverge down different avenues, something we got a glimpse of with Robert Rodriguez's The Tragedy this season.
By fully committing down this television route, I can be a bit more forgiving about my earlier criticisms because that's part and parcel for television: its very nature is episodic, so I shouldn't be surprised that there's some episodic content. As long as it is experimental in other ways, I can allow it.
Getting onto the actual substance of the season, I think it's always tricky to return to something that people have built up in their minds over literal decades. I am, of course, talking about Boba Fett. For some reason, this peripheral character has endeared generations of Star Wars fans and the pressure that Favreau and Filoni must have felt to do it right would have been a pretty unsurmountable task for anybody else. With that said, Temuera Morrison's Boba Fett is an anti-hero in every sense of the word. It's very rare to see a one-dimensional character get fleshed out into a sympathetic character who transcends the meme, but he did an excellent job of doing just that.
The back half of this season felt as much of Din Djarin's show as it did Fett's, which is great news considering the post-credits scene after the Season 2 finale of Mando, which confirmed a Boba Fett spin-off show is coming in 2021! This show is called The Book of Boba Fett and will (presumably) star Morrison as Fett and Ming-Na Wen as Shand.
[Updated Note]: The jury is still out on whether or not The Book will be a spin-off show or the next part of the primary show "The Mandalorian"
A note on Shand, what a wonderful addition Ming-Na is to the Star Wars franchise. Though she was somewhat shafted in last season's The Gunslinger, I've got all the time in the world for Ming-Na and I'm glad her character is getting her own chance in both live-action and animation through The Book and The Bad Batch respectively.
Alright, I've teased you enough...
It's Grogu time! Yes, we've finally got a name for the Internet's favourite little 50-year-old. The name was revealed to us by Ahsoka, who communicated with Grogu through The Force and subsequently told us a lot of his backstory. She also told Din that Grogu should go to the planet Tython and basically send out a Force SOS in order to find a Jedi to help train him. He does this, but who answers the call?
This turns out to be a not-so-good plan anyway because, while on Tython, Grogu is kidnapped by Moff Gideon's Darktroopers, an army of mercenary robots who don't seem to have any other function other than to kill/do evil shit. In the finale, when Din goes to rescue Grogu, they lock themselves away in the control room of an Imperial Cruiser whilst a battalion of Darktroopers try to bash their way into the room. Until...
Luke Skywalker makes his appearance and was the Jedi that Grogu communicated with. Forget the crummy CGI of young Mark Hamill's face and let's talk for a moment about fan service. Fan service is used rather pejoratively to describe a creator putting plot-points in a show or movie to please the fans. It doesn't have to be bad, and when done well it both pleases fans and moves the story forward. Having Luke Skywalker appear in The Mandalorian does both of these extremely well. The show is self-aware because there are only so many adventures that these two (Din and Grogu) could go on before it became time to get him back to his home world, and it chose instead to push pause on their story to make way for a new one. Having Grogu leave with Luke is the perfect end for his story as an infant and leaves room for him to return in the future, as a Jedi Master.
As to where I think the series goes from here, it's very clear that Din will work with the remaining Mandalorians to take back Mandalore. Given the series' crossover with Ahsoka, which consequently takes place within the timeline of Mando, the best way forward for the show is through enhancing the other aspects of the Star Wars franchise and re-canonising things in the Legends stories.
What did you think of the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian? Did you like it? Did you hate it? Reach out to me on Twitter (@StreamingBuffer) or through the site.
Until then, happy streaming!