Chapter 16: The Rescue felt like the culmination of everything this season of The Mandalorian had been building towards, as Mando / Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and team attempted to rescue Grogu from the Empire’s malevolent clutches. There’s some spectacular action, an emotional farewell and a surprise cameo – all of which should result in the show’s best episode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. The Rescue starts off strongly, but just when it needs to wrap things up, it simply trails off…ending The Mandalorian Season 2 on something of a disappointing note.
I’ve been very critical about Season 2’s scattershot approach, jumping from storyline to storyline each week, almost at random, without developing a lot of these threads to a more satisfying extent. I had started to wonder whether or not Chapter 16: The Rescue could justify this approach, and as it turns out, it mostly doesn’t. Everything culminates here, but a lot of the season’s narrative threads still feel underdeveloped, demonstrating perhaps that a more focused story arc (perhaps with “adventure-of-the-week” instalments littered throughout) could have been a better solution. This is very much true with the return of Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado), who at first feel important to the narrative, but don’t really get much to do in the grand scheme of things. Bo-Katan wants to reclaim Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) Darksaber to take back Mandalore, but has to “win” it in combat, which makes things tricky when Din bests Gideon in a fight, automatically earning his own right to rule Mandalore. There’s a hint that this will lead to some kind of tension between Din and Bo-Katan, but it’s quickly dropped and left completely unresolved. How does Bo-Katan feel about this? What will she do now? I guess we’ll just have to wait until the next season airs to find out, because the episode itself gives us no clues. It would be a shame if this character’s storyline ended on such a strange anti-climax.
There’s some nice friction early on between Koska and Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), as Boba isn’t technically a Mandalorian – simply a clone of a Mandalorian – but this is quickly dismissed. Boba himself doesn’t really contribute anything to the narrative, apart from a post-credits sting which sets up his spin-off series: The Book of Boba Fett, arriving next December. It’s not an entirely surprising move, but as someone who was never a fan of Boba Fett, I can’t say I’m particularly excited for it; especially as his role in The Mandalorian just seems to have been set-up for another show altogether (similar to Ahsoka, based on the recent announcement of her spin-off series). Poor Ming-Na Wen gets nothing to do here as Fennec Shand (at least she seems to have a main role in The Book of Boba Fett), while Cara Dune (Gina Carano) gets a brief moment of tension in the pre-credits scene and that’s about it.
Where the episode really suffers character-wise though is with the villains. Dr Pershing (Omid Abtahi) betrays the Empire quite easily, and his experiments with Grogu remain fairly ambiguous, but Moff Gideon – the show’s “big bad” – gets one cool stand-off, one cool fight sequence and then just says the occasional evil line until he’s knocked unconscious. The character feels a bit wasted here, especially after making such an impression at the end of Season 1. There almost seems to be too many characters in this chapter of The Mandalorian, made worse by the fact that the day is saved by a Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cameo of all things. Luke destroys the Darktroopers, Mando defeats Gideon, and the rest of the protagonists do…absolutely nothing. I think it might have been a little better to see both Luke and Grogu fight the Darktroopers (especially given that the child doesn’t have much else to do here), but the story still feels unnecessarily overcrowded.
Including Luke is an…interesting idea. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Grogu’s messaged answered by a Jedi from the films and not a guest appearance from one of the animated shows, and it’s satisfying on a purely fan service level to see Luke back, but the character just felt off from the start. Here, Luke is a colder, detached character – not the same character as he was at the end of Return of the Jedi. He appears in his black costume (a visual representation of his leaning towards the Dark Side in Jedi), he rather violently destroys all of the Darktroopers (in a very Darth Vader-y fashion) and then coldly tells Grogu it’s time to go. This is the same Luke who decided not to be these things in Return of the Jedi, who set out to forge his own path founded on love and kindness and restoring peace to the galaxy, who will go on to teach a new generation of Jedi – not the emotionless, violent, dark-clad figure we see in The Rescue. Luke looks just like he’s stepped out of Return of the Jedi, but he should be a changed man, and we should see that (assuming this is meant to be five years later). Had he appeared in a new costume, despatched the Darktroopers in a much less violent fashion and been more empathetic with Din and Grogu, I really think this could have been a nice inclusion, but as it is, it just doesn’t sit right with me.
But alas, we reach the emotional climax of the episode, as Grogu says goodbye to Din. It’s genuinely quite sad to see the little green puppet leave our screens – even if he is going off to become a Jedi (let’s hope none of Luke’s other students turn to the Dark Side…), and him seeing Din’s face for the first time is a lovely way to end their relationship. Poor Pedro Pascal looks absolutely heartbroken – and who can blame him? He’s only just rescued Grogu before having to say goodbye to him for a long time. I’m sure that Grogu will return to The Mandalorian at some point, but I am left wondering where the show goes from here. Gideon wasn’t murdered, so presumably he’ll be menacing our heroes next season, and as Din has removed his helmet, he surely won’t be returning to his former life – at least, not as the same person. Grogu’s farewell is an emotional conclusion to the season, but Chapter 16: The Rescue doesn’t really end the story, instead leaving us in a confusing state of: “what now?” It’s not a bad episode by any stretch, and I really liked the first half, but the ending just feels so confused and vague, without any attempt to conclude the various narrative threads. Chapter 16 is filled with great moments, but all-in-all it feels like a slightly strange end to The Mandalorian‘s second season.