Mando (Pedro Pascal), Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) are trapped by the Imperial forces of Moff Gideon. The Child is captured by Scout Troopers. All hope seems lost on the planet of Nevarro, but for the arrival of a certain IG droid…
Chapter 8: Redemption is the most ambitious episode of The Mandalorian to date – a statement I seem to keep repeating this season, but the show continues to impress me with its spectacular production values – boasting several big action set-pieces, some quieter character moments, and intriguing hints towards the show’s future. It’s a real blockbuster of an episode from Thor: Ragnarnok and Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi, and I can imagine that showrunner Jon Favreau had a lot of fun writing this script. I had entered the episode with the arguably unrealistic expectation that it would resolve the whole series in a satisfying way, but I actually found the open-ending to work much better, given how many elements would have otherwise needed to be resolved in a fairly short space of time. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) seems to be there to establish himself as the “big bad” for Season 2, offering little more than hints and teases about how formidable he is. His main tie to Mando himself feels a little tacked-on, but I’m anticipating that this will be explored in more interesting ways next season.
Most of Chapter 8‘s action is focused on our protagonists trying to escape the huge army of Stormtroopers on their doorstep, and while it perhaps feels a little repetitive at points (the characters escape the building, have a fight, and then go back inside again), it does flow quite well as a narrative. None of it feels rushed, the action is very well shot and choreographed, and we get more character moments than usual. There’s plenty of IG-11 action, which shouldn’t be too surprising as Taika Waititi is both the voice artist and director, but its great to see this character in both full nurse and action-mode. He’s got some cool action moments, funny quips, and even develops a bond with Mando in a nice character beat where we finally see the face underneath the Beskar Steel. It’s a moment that could have easily ruined the mystery of the show’s central character, but seeing a bloody Pedro Pascal helps to sell not only the stakes, but also the character’s emotions that would otherwise be obscured by his helmet. The scene shows the character’s vulnerability, and adds a new layer to Mando.
We also finally get to see the full back-story sequence teased in Chapter 1: The Mandalorian, following a young Mando (Aidan Bertola) pursued by Super Battle Droids, only to be rescued by the Mandalorians. It’s a really well-constructed sequence from Waititi, and helps to reveal more about Mando as a character; we even get to learn his name: Din Djarin. This all helps to make Mando more complex and interesting as a character; he’s not just a Mandalorian, but he’s been raised as one and trained with one goal in mind. He’s not just some cool, stoic badass like Boba Fett, but has a more sensitive and vulnerable side, which makes him more compelling as a lead character.
Also Baby Yoda defends everyone from a flamethrower Trooper, and looks inexplicably both cool and adorable at the same time. Even the Armorer (Emily Swallow), says that Mando’s basically his dad now – although they’ve got to go off in search of the last of the Jedi, to take Baby Yoda home. Quite which Jedi we’ll end up seeing I don’t know, but there have been rumours and suggestions, and it’d be nice to see some familiar faces. It’s an interesting premise for Season 2, but it is a shame that Mando and the Child won’t be joined by IG-11, who’s sacrifice is played surprisingly well in the lava pits sequence. It’s not drawn-out too long, but plays as both a key character moment but also the start of the show’s climactic fight, building to Mando taking down Gideon’s TIE Fighter.
There is a sense that The Mandalorian‘s first season is ending similarly to most of its episodes though: the conflict is resolved, and Mando and Baby Yoda leave in the Razor Crest for another adventure. But there does seem to be an objective this time: to find the last of the Jedi and take Baby Yoda home to his true family, which adds a new layer. Mando himself feels more developed and compelling, and we have a new recurring villain in Gideon – who owns a “Darksaber”, just to build up the stakes for next season. Cara Dune’s decision to stay on Nevarro feels a little strange, although I hope to see her return in the next season (along with Ming Na Wen‘s baddie from Chapter 5: The Gunslinger). For now though, I have to say that Chapter 8: Redemption was a very satisfying end to The Mandalorian‘s first season, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the show journeys next.