Friday, May 24, 2024

The Mandalorian Did That, But Let’s Talk About Grogu and Mando Instead

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Hopefully, by the time this little review publishes, the internet will have moved on a bit from Luke Skywalker’s surprise cameo on The Mandalorian. Probably not, though, and I cannot blame everyone for focusing on him. The reappearance of a prime Luke Skywalker is a big deal. You have probably read a hundred theories and articles and analyses about Luke by now.

But this show is not called The Jedi, it’s called The Mandalorian! So, let’s talk about Mando, Grogu, and the resolution of this season’s terrific arc developing their relationship. “The Rescue” had its share of problems, but I cannot bring myself to care too much when these two had THAT scene at the end. The Mandalorian did so many things right this season, improved remarkably on the first, and breathed life into Star Wars at a time when the franchise desperately needed it. Mando and Grogu are THE reason all of this happened.

“The Rescue” was relatively Grogu-less considering his importance to the episode. Most of it focused on the efforts to reach him, with Mando gathering Bo-Katan and Koska to join himself, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and Cara Dune in the Save Baby Yoda Squad. They blast through the ship, Mando gets cool fight scenes with a dark trooper and Moff Gideon, and the action never really stops to breathe until some spaced dark troopers fly back on the ship.

It is a Star Wars finale; you know there will be a high level of action.

After Luke’s amazing entrance and rescue, the time comes to finally see Grogu off for Force training with a real Jedi. This was THE moment of the episode. Not Luke, not Boba, not Bo-Katan, not any of these characters who joined along for the ride and were the subject of so much talk after their appearances. As always, The Mandalorian came back to Mando and Grogu.

And as always, the scene absolutely delivered. They got every little touch right. The removal of the helmet, Grogu’s caress of Mando’s cheek, the hug on his leg, the tears in Mando’s eyes, the scene hit every single emotional note it needed to. It was somehow easy to forget that Luke Skywalker was standing 5 feet away from them.

I thought that after removing his helmet in last week’s episode, any scene doing so again would not carry the same impact, but then they did even better this time. I think this scene succeeded so well yet again for one large reason; this was Din Djarin removing all barriers between himself and Grogu. It may even have been Din Djarin removing barriers between himself and the world in general. For so long he protected Grogu because it was a “mission” to carry out. Even so recently as 3 episodes ago, he was reluctantly handing the boy over to Ahsoka and pretending it was just a job.

“The Believer” was a turning point in that Mando finally and fully accepted Grogu as someone he cared about and wanted to protect for personal reasons. It was an acknowledgement of the self, of Din Djarin, that he ignored up to that point.

Seeing Mando easily take off his helmet and nearly cry in front of others was such a huge step. Mainly because he clearly did not care who saw. No one else mattered. His goodbye to Grogu was only about them. The only reason he held back tears was because he did not want to give Grogu reason to pause or be less brave about leaving. Seeing Mando act so selfishly was somewhat shocking, and something I was happy to finally see.

This scene was really the perfect emotional climax for the season.

As well-received and hyped up as The Mandalorian has been this season, I have seen my fair share of complaints about the expanded universe that has occurred throughout season 2. Multiple episodes this season felt like soft pilots for future shows based on their guests, and now we have at least three live-action Star Wars shows planned for those guests. Clearly this season had designs beyond telling the story of Din Djarin and Grogu.

Where I do disagree is with the idea that they were backseated in favor of these two and their story. Think about everyone who helped Mando rescue his son in this finale. Think of all the potential plotlines that could have been prioritized over Mando’s rescue efforts. Bo-Katan fighting Gideon for the Darksaber, Cara Dune getting revenge on Imperials, Boba and Luke, they all could have received priority.

You could argue the episode was worse for not focusing on any of this. Much like last week, the fighting involved in this week’s objective arguably dominated too much screentime and rushed through the larger story that could have been told.

But, again, this is not Star Wars Sometimes Featuring the Mandalorian. It is The Mandalorian, and everyone takes a backseat to Din and Grogu.

There are so many questions about the direction this show will take from here. Mando has the Darksaber and a claim to the throne of Mandalore. Bo-Katan will want to take it from him, and probably won’t mind killing him. Obviously the taking of Mandalore has been heavily suggested, whether Mando and Bo-Katan are allies or enemies. We don’t know how long Grogu will train with Luke or how that will turn out (hopefully he is gone before Kylo Ren’s turn). There is also the question about whether the Boba Fett series teased in the post-credits is actually season 3 of The Mandalorian.

I doubt we will leave Mando and Grogu behind for long, whatever the case. You can also be sure that when they come back, their stories will inevitably tie back to each other.

I went into season 2 not feeling too hyped about The Mandalorian. Season 1 was alright, but nothing I needed to watch. There were elements of a better show that I hoped would come together. Baby Yoda was surprisingly one of my bigger indifferences. He was such obvious marketing bait rather than a real character for me to attach to. I could obviously see that his bond with Mando would serve as the core of the show, but it never quite got there.

Season 2 is not only a drastic improvement on season 1, but one of my favorite Star Wars stories ever, because it improved on this core dynamic and ended up telling a really compelling father-son story. Baby Yoda got a name and a history. He began getting genuinely dramatic scenes about his fears and traumas. We saw him undergo serious mental and physical peril. Mando developed more individual personality. He had his worldview rocked multiple times and had to adjust throughout the season. He went from mostly being the cool guy in the armor to a more rounded character.

Most of all, The Mandalorian captured the feeling of caring. They completely sold me on the connection between Mando and his charge.

I have mentioned before how remarkable it is for this show to manage such believable emotion with one main character wearing a helmet at almost all times and another that is a puppet. Maybe it is because they are so limited, and the emotion so rare, that it is so effective when a scene focuses on either character expression emotion. You pay more attention to those rare occasions where Mando is not stoic and Grogu is something besides cute. The moments hit harder.

And wow did they choose those moments well.

Star Wars has always been a bit of a goofy space fantasy story that depends heavily on characters rather than narrative. The plot details are always off but they also do not matter nearly as much as your investment in the characters involved. The Mandalorian very much follows this pattern. The finale, and all of season 2, are full of silly moments and inconsistencies. Some people will care about this more than others. I will not pretend those flaws are absent or not flaws.

I can also imagine many people being disappointed that all these interesting new characters did not quite get resolution this season, or did not get the attention someone wishes, or even that some characters got more attention than others. I could write for hours about this, because just about everyone is worth talking about. I probably will talk more about this in the future.

For now, I just want to talk about Din Djarin and Grogu, because this is their show.

Images Courtesy of Disney

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