The eighth and final chapter of The Mandalorian, “Redemption”, is now available for streaming on DisneyPlus, and it answers a few nagging questions that have cropped up in this short sophomore series of this young series. The episode was written by series’ creator Jon Favreau and was exceptionally well directed by Taika Waititi (who, of course, also plays droid bounty hunter-turned-guardian IG-11).
The story begins with last week’s cliffhanger: Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) has the Client’s former safe house on Navaro surrounded (and the group of fugitives hiding within it) after killing the Client and his loyal stormtroopers. With Mando (Pedro Pascal), Cara (Gina Carano) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) pinned inside, two of Gideon’s speeder bike scouts have captured “The Child” after slaying its guardian, the faithful Ugnaught Kuiil (Nick Nolte).
The two speeder bikes troopers have the Child (aka “Baby Yoda”) and are stationed just outside the city, awaiting the all-clear to safely take the Child to Moff Gideon, who’s slain several of their fellow troops in fits of anger (needless to say, the two troopers are not exactly in a hurry to get back). One of the funniest moments in the story takes place as the two engage in idle, Tarantino-esque conversation, with one of the troopers wanting to get a peek at the Child. When the baby bites on the lead trooper’s finger, he slaps it. After crying out, the Child is slapped yet again.
The abusive behavior is quickly spotted by the approaching droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi), who has left the safety of the Razor Crest following the death of Kuiil. The tactically precise IG-11 calmly informs the two troopers that he is the Child’s ‘nurse’ right before he dispatches the child-beating, cowardly troopers with ease. IG-11 quickly takes the Child back into its protective care, and rides off on one of the two now trooperless speeder bikes…
As Moff Gideon’s patience during the standoff begins to wear thin, he has his troopers put together a large laser cannon which he threatens to use by “nightfall” unless they surrender (the nightfall deadline seemed a bit excessive, considering he has the trio surrounded, but okay...). Gideon tells Greef that he’d like to “negotiate,” but adds that he can’t be trusted to keep his own word, nor should he be expected to do so. With no alternatives, Mando spots a sewer access within the room where he they can find the underground lair of his fellow (hiding) Mandalorians. Cara tries to blast the heavy grate off with her weapon, but is unsuccessful. Gideon smiles at what he believes to be her panic-fire, and tries to get under the trio’s skins by revealing to each other exactly who they really are…
Gideon reveals former Rebel shock trooper Cara to be a native of the late planet Alderaan, the first (and only) planet wholly obliterated by the Empire’s first Death Star in “A New Hope”. He then denigrates Greef as a “failed administrator.” But the biggest surprise he saves for last, by identifying Mando by name as “Din Djarin”, an orphaned child adopted by the Mandalorians following the death of his parents. Greef is confused; he assumed Mando was Mandalorian by birth. Cara correctly points out that the Mandalorians aren’t a race, they’re a creed… a people bound together only by a strict code of ethics. She also doubts that the man outside is truly Moff Gideon, since he was executed for war crimes. But Mando (aka Din) says the man outside is indeed the presumed dead Moff Gideon, because only Gideon could possibly know Mando’s birth name.
In flashback, Mando relates the story of how his parents were murdered by droids while attempting to hide him during an Imperial raid of their planet. An Imperial droid was about to shoot a frightened young Din Djarin when the machine was taken out by a jetpack-wearing Mandalorian who grabbed the orphan and whisked him away to safety. The Mandalorians accepted Din as one of their own, later making him a warrior when he came of age. That Gideon knows Mando’s true identity means that he was present on Din’s home planet during the massacre, and somehow eluded New Republic justice.
IG-11 rides the stolen speeder bike into town, with the Child carefully secured to its torso. Immediately ditching the bike, the highly dextrous droid multitasks blasting Imperials and keeping the Child in an optimally safe spot during each exchange. Utilizing its rapidly swiveling head, joints and extremities, the reformed bounty hunting droid seems perfectly capable of taking out multiple troops at once. Cara begins using her own heavy weapon to take out some troops as well. With IG-11 and Cara providing cover, Mando decides to leap into the fray to seek out Gideon. Despite kicking some serious Imperial ass, Mando is defeated when he is shot by Gideon at a vulnerable point in his beskar armor. Mando then attempts to use the Imperial cannon to atomize Gideon, but the clever Imperial shoots the weapon’s power source…the blasting of which incapacitates Mando. IG-11, still under Kuiil’s mandate to protect the group, gathers the badly wounded Mando inside the remains of the safe house as Gideon orders the place burned to the ground.
Inside the safe house, as flame throwing stormtroopers enter through the shattered back window, the Child summons his Force power and directs the flamethrower energy back at the troopers! That little miracle buys them a few minutes of relative safety, as IG-11 successfully cuts open the heavy grating into the sewer system. Cara and Greef take the baby as IG-11 tends to a distrustful (and badly wounded) Mando’s injuries. The droid tells Mando that it needs to remove Mando’s helmet. He refuses at first, still not trusting the once-killer machine. Mando states that no “living” thing has seen his true face since he joined the Mandalorian Order. IG-11 points out that he has never been alive, so Mando acquiesces…
IG-11 takes off Mando’s helmet, revealing a bloodied and vulnerable Din Djarin underneath. The droid administers healing bacta spray on Din’s head injuries, and it takes effect almost instantly. With Mando’s rapid recovery underway, he puts his helmet back on, as he and the droid exit into the sewers to catch up with the others, and to seek the aid of the underground Mandalorians. In the sewers, Mando and the group make a terrible discovery; a large pile of empty Mandalorian helmets. Mando, of course, assumes that all of his compatriots were all killed. Cara and Greef speculate that perhaps some of them escaped the city, and the grief-stricken but pragmatic Mando concedes the possibility.
Making his way to the Armorer (Emily Swallow), Mando is relieved to see that she has survived, since she and her forging talents are a key component of the Mandalorian tradition and culture. By acting as the faithful guardian to the Child, Mando is carrying on the same responsibility assumed by the Mandalorian who saved him as a boy. With that action, Mando has earned both his signet and new family crest (he and the Child are a family of two). He is also given his own rocket pack…a vital piece of Mandalorian hardware that he has been missing in his arsenal up until now. A grateful Mando thanks the Armorer, and offers to take her with them. She declines, and the group is forced to move on. Later on, the pursuing stormtroopers find their way into the Armorer’s forge where she kills each and every single one of them…even throwing one of them directly into the blue-hot radiance of her kiln. Clearly they are no match for her.
Trying to escape, the group find a thick, heat resistant, gondola-style boat that can take them through the subterranean lava channels and out onto the surface. The boat is manned by a single, bipedal astromech droid which then pilots the vessel through the river of molten lava, towards an exit to the outside. Like a trip through the River Styx of Hades, the boat slowly approaches the exit…which Mando quickly realizes is guarded by waiting Imperial troops outside. With a river of molten lava surrounding them, and the tunnel exit being their only means of escape, IG-11 offers himself as a sacrifice. Over protests, the droid exits the boat, and walks through the flaming lava towards the waiting troops. With its manufacturer hardware preset to self-destruction in the event of imminent capture, IG-11 explodes in a lethal fireball that kills the awaiting troops…leaving the exit now safe for the group’s passage.
Once free outside of the tunnel, the group are strafed by a single Imperial TIE fighter, manned by none other than Moff Gideon himself. Strafing the survivors, Mando finally gets to break in his newly acquired rocket pack, as he takes off and engages the fighter in combat. Gideon repeatedly tries to shake the tenacious Mando, but to no avail.
Mando’s repeated attempts to drop an explosive directly into the cockpit are foiled, but he is finally able to secure the device onto one of the TIE fighter’s twin solar panels. It explodes, plunging the craft to the ground. Mando escapes and flies back to the group, where he takes the Child, says his heartfelt goodbyes to his allies, Greef and Cara, both of whom are staying behind, following the planet Navarro’s liberation from the despotic rule of Imperial rogues. Mando takes off in the Razor Crest with his Child (the adoption being in accordance with the Mandalorian code), and sets off across the stars…
A short distance away, we see Gideon cutting through the cockpit of his crashed TIE fighter. He escapes through the newly created hatchway, carrying a black lightsaber, also known as the famed “Darksaber” a legendary weapon created by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian inducted into the Jedi Order (see: the wildly underrated TV series “Rebels”). The saber was a treasured relic of Mandalorian history, which the evil Gideon has apparently plundered following the Empire’s decimation of the planet Mandalore…
Jon Favreau’s Star Wars Toy Box.
“Redemption” caps off a terrific (albeit short) season of tremendous quality, with Jon Favreau‘s young streaming series looking and sounding on a par with some of the best stuff seen in the Star Wars feature films. While not stuffed with epic space fleet battles or lightsaber duels set across expansive alien vistas, this series offers a lot more of the world-building and internal exploration of the Star Wars universe seen on the planet Tatooine in “A New Hope” (1977) or in the one-off films like “Rogue One” (2016) or “Solo” (2018). While not quite as grandiose a playground as the new Skywalker saga films, The Mandalorian explores those same niches of the imagination where my generation used to play with our Star Wars toys.
When I was a kid, I didn’t always imagine Luke’s X-wing in epic space battles with Vader’s TIE fighter. In fact, I would sometimes just imagine Luke Skywalker flying around, looking for an alien bar-and-grill to grab a bit to eat, or some weird little space garage where Han and Chewie could stop to get the Falcon serviced. Favreau is playing with his Star Wars toys in much the same way, showing the less extravagant corners of the Star Wars universe that are still exotic enough to our human, earthbound eyes. The Mandalorian is the kind of Star Wars TV series I’d always secretly hoped for… a Star Wars TV series that could turn that rich universe of Arthurian-style space adventure into real, everyday places as well.
Possible Homages (?).
One of my favorite moments (of many) in “Redemption” was of the two speeder bike troopers engaging in everyday, almost “Pulp Fiction”-style dialogue. Imagining the everyday residents of the Star Wars universe is something Star Wars fan films have been doing for a long time, with one of standouts in that subgenre being 1997’s “TROOPS”, a spot-on mashup of the old Fox TV series “COPS”, but this time being shot “on location” with the men and women of Imperial law enforcement on Tatooine. If you haven’t seen it already, give it a try:
Seeing the stormtroopers rough up Jawa suspects over stolen droids, or answering a domestic disturbance at the Lars homestead, the two speeder bike troopers of “Redemption” were clearly taking a page out of Kevin Rubio’s brilliant film. Rubio has since established himself as a TV writer with credits on various animated TV shows such as “The Clone Wars” and “Ben 10: Omniverse.”
While the gondola ride through the lava canal was clearly inspired by the mythical River Styx of Hades, the scene of IG-11’s sacrifice in the lava for those he was protecting reminded me very much of a scene from a classic 1960 Soviet sci-fi epic “Planeta Bur” (“Storm Planet”, imported to the US and dubbed into multiple versions by producer Roger Corman). In that film, Soviet cosmonauts stranded on the planet Venus are attempting to traverse a rising flow of lava, when their faithful robot “John” offers them a ride on his hefty shoulders until they are rescued by their comrades in a hover-car (yes, this film had a landspeeder first). The robot John carries them over until the heat causes his legs to melt. As the two cosmonauts are lowered onto their rescuing hover-car, the robot falls into the lava, calling out to its creator as it melts away (in the original Russian version, it began playing a selection of its creator’s favorite big band music).
Both IG-11 and Robot John offered themselves as sacrifices for the good of their comrades, as neither machine saw themselves as truly living beings (though Robot John’s instinct for self-preservation almost caused him to ditch his human baggage). I used to watch this movie on TV as a kid under one of two reedited versions; the first being 1965’s “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet” (a slightly more faithful version to the Russian language original), and the second being 1967’s “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women”, which featured added American-shot scenes with B-movie star Mamie Van Doren as the leader of a group of mermaids who try to stop the cosmonauts from invading their planet and defiling their pterodactyl god. I am not making that up. All versions feature the sacrifice of Robot John in the river of lava. Since Favreau is the same age as myself, I can’t help but wonder if he grew up catching this movie (in any version) on TV as a kid. Judging by the similarity of IG-11 and Robot John’s acts of molten self-sacrifice, I’m going to go out on a limb and say ‘yes.’
My all-time favorite moment of the episode (and yes, it was rich with terrific moments) had to be the removal of Mando/Din’s helmet. Not because I was eager to see him take it off, but because I was glad to see actor Pedro Pascal get his due. Unlike James Earl Jones’ voiceover work as Darth Vader, Pascal does both the voice and the physical performance, much like Anthony Daniels as C3PO. Pascal, with blood spattered across his face and sweating scalp, looked especially vulnerable without his formidable armor mask.
I almost forget how well Pascal incorporates the mask and costume into his overall performance. Just with a slight cocking of his helmet or a change in posture, he communicates the character with as much nuance as if he’d used his eyes and face. Star Wars has a long history of masked people, both heroes and villains, with the latest being Keri Russell (“Felicity”) as “Zorii Bliss” in “The Rise of Skywalker”). Pedro Pascal, like Dave Prowse (“Darth Vader”) and the late Peter Mayhew (“Chewbacca”) before him, will hopefully don the beskar armor for a few more years, at least.