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‘The Mandalorian’ Chapter 16 Starts as Rescue and Ends as Betrayal

The final chapter of the second season delivers on past episodes’ promise while also leaving us uncertain about the future of ‘Star Wars.’
The Mandalorian Chapter
By  · Published on December 18th, 2020

The Mandalorian Explained is our ongoing series that keeps an eye on Lucasfilm’s saga about the Galaxy’s most dangerous single dad. In this entry, we look at what went down in The Mandalorian Chapter 16 — the eighth episode of Season 2 (the season finale)— and consider the grim future ahead. Yes, there be spoilers here.

One cannot write about the final episode of the second season of The Mandalorian without jumping immediately to the end. Chapter 16, entitled “The Rescue,” played very much like we expected. Mando Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) expanded on his Dirty Half-Dozen with the addition of Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks). Together, they kidnap the clone engineer Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and storm Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito)’s cruiser.

The battle to retrieve Grogu does not come without complications. While his fighters dominate the bridge crew, Mando must suffer a false bargain from Gideon before the Imperial wretch turns his Darksaber upon him. Mando puts his Beskar spear to good use and makes quick work of Gideon. Rather than ram the tip through the villain’s skull, Mando hauls Gideon’s defeated meat-sack to the feet of Bo-Katan.

The one-time ruler of Mandalore is not too happy to see her enemy captive. Gideon giggles. He knows Bo-Katan’s code demands her to square off against Mando for the Darksaber’s claim and the Mandalorian throne that comes with it. This awkwardness goes unresolved as a platoon of Dark Troopers starts smashing their fists against the bridge door.

Mando tangled with one earlier on in the episode and barely escaped with his head on his shoulders. These droid brutes could seemingly transform the fleshy beings on the bridge into drippy chunks of pulp. However, before Gideon can fall deliriously into evil laughter, an X-wing breaches the perimeter, and the audience starts doing the Skywalker math.

X-wing + Dark Cloak = Luke? X-wing + dark cloak + green lightsaber = Luke? X-wing + dark cloak + green lightsaber + black glove = Luke?

Director Peyton Reed stretches the reveal for as long as he can. The glimpses are quick and exciting. It’s hard not to fall completely into squee-mode, but then the Jedi cuts through the Dark Troopers and into the bridge. The hood comes off, and there stands a digitally de-aged Mark Hamill wearing stunt double Max Lloyd Jones‘ body. Yup, definitely not Sebastian Stan, folks.

The Jedi is here for the kid. Mando’s mission stands accomplished. He did his job. He delivered the cuddly, green blob of Force to a teacher with experience.

So, why does this feel like a failure?

After two seasons of The Mandalorian, Chapter 16 goes against the bond formed between these two foundlings. Grogu started as a bounty, but at the end of the very first episode, Mando acted on instinct and saved the kid from the clutches of IG-11. From then on, our hero bounty hunter has done everything to protect the child and has fallen in love in the process.

To freely hand Grogu over to Luke Skywalker is a betrayal. Especially when we know what a horrible teacher Luke turns out to be. He did not learn the lessons of the Jedi who came before him. His over-confidence results in another catastrophic Sith ascension.

The role Grogu plays in the formation of Luke’s Jedi temple is unclear. Does Skywalker already have students? Is Grogu his first? Does Luke’s success with Grogu lead to his overreach with Ben Solo?

After last week’s complicated dealings with the ISB, Mando reveals his face to his friend with ease. The Children of the Watch no longer matter. Their code crumbles under love. Who cares if Moff Gideon gets a peek? What does it matter if Mando can never proudly stand in front of the Armorer (Emily Swallow)? What’s important is that his adopted son sees his eyes.

The child puts his green claw to Mando’s cheek, and the two share one last embrace before Luke hauls Grogu off to parts unknown. Watching the doors close on the Imperial elevator, possibly forever dividing these two from each other, is a crushing blow to an audience tricked into loving these outcasts as a pair.

Gideon already got what he wanted: Grogu’s blood. His cruiser’s basement is probably littered with Snokes percolating in tubes. He may be in chains, and his life may be forfeit in Bo-Katan’s hands, but he gets the satisfaction of knowing the First Order’s plans remain intact. Plus, his future looks bright with the inevitable conflict between Mando and Bo-Katan over the Darksaber.

Ah, but here’s the rub. Will the next season of The Mandalorian care at all about the plights of Din Djarin, or did we just get our last Pedro Pascal peekaboo?

The Mandalorian Chapter 16 concludes after the credits, Marvel style. We’re back on Tatooine — of course, we are! Inside Jabba’s palace now sits Bib Fortuna (Matthew Wood), apparently sticking to the Hutt’s gluttonous dietary regime. He’s happy for all of about thirty seconds before Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) descends into the parlor.

Bib’s guards get whacked, and Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) joins Shand below. The gangster exclaims surprise before getting a blaster round to his chest. Fett walks over to the throne, pushes the corpse off his seat, and takes his place as the new mafia overlord. A title card appears: “The Book of Boba Fett…Coming December 2021.”

Hmmm. More questions. We all just OD’d on Disney’s massive investor announcement. A cornucopia of new Star Wars shows is ready to explode on Disney+. Let’s count ’em down: Andor, The Acolyte, Ahsoka, The Bad Batch, Obi-Wan, Lando, Rangers of the New Republic, and Visions.

Is The Book of Boba Fett another spinoff announcement? Or is it the title of the next phase of The Mandalorian?

If the second is true, the implication is that Din Djarin’s saga is taking a backseat. This would go along with rumors that Pedro Pascal wants off the series. It would also seemingly contradict what The Mandalorian has been from the very beginning.

While it’s exciting to see the appearances of Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, and Bo-Katan, The Mandalorian started as a saga of two lost children coming together and finding purpose in each other. The moment it stops being that is when it stops being The Mandalorian.

We know Grogu’s story cannot end in the hands of Luke Skywalker. His good intentions are a road to hell. If Mando saw what we saw in The Last Jedi, he would never have let that stoic-faced caped crusader take flight with his kid. Mando doesn’t trust himself to be a father, but he can’t do any worse than a Skywalker.

The Mandalorian Chapter 16 leaves us as any season finale should. We’re burning with uncertainty and doubt. The future is a shadow and filled with fear. The Dark Side is everywhere. The hope is that the keepers of Star Wars understand from the infinite well of Baby Yoda memes that Grogu is the heart of their success.

The kid must stay in the picture. Without him, there is no picture. Chapter 17 should begin with the same title card as this episode, “The Rescue.” A Jedi jailbreak is required.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)