[Ed note: This post contains spoilers for Season 2 of The Mandalorian, including MASSIVE SPOILERS for today’s finale— "Chapter 16: The Rescue"—do not read any further unless you want it all ruined for you! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.]
A legendary Star Wars character once said, “Never tell me the odds.” It’s advice I should have taken into consideration ahead of The Mandalorian’s first season. The Disney+ streaming show seemed to be carrying a tremendous burden with its debut. It had to launch a brand new platform for the House of Mouse and chart a new story outside the Skywalker films. The first season succeeded by focusing on an inherently paternal relationship between The Child aka Baby Yoda aka Grogu, and the show’s titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), set against Western-style tropes. The show’s small-scale focus — it’s not about saving the galaxy, it’s about saving a child—allowed Star Wars to feel big again.
As information about the show’s sophomore season started to trickle out, there was a concern about The Mandalorian trying to do too much. The introduction of beloved Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated characters like Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), not to mention the re-introduction of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), seemed poised to tip the scales of the show’s established formula. Would The Mandalorian be able to sustain its "adventure of the week"-style episodes if Mando himself had to play second fiddle to Boba Fett or a Jedi? It turns out the series is more than capable of balancing these tales while also functioning as a bridge between the past, present, and future of Star Wars storytelling.
The Mandalorian has allowed showrunner Jon Favreau and co-executive producer Dave Filoni to pull together so many disparate threads in a coherent, meaningful, and surprising way. How do you incorporate Bo-Katan? Well, as the once ruler of Mandalore and a former member of Death Watch (Mando’s radical clan), she and Mando have a shared history, albeit from widely different points of view. How does Ahsoka make a live-action debut? You have her be the one to introduce the ideas of the Jedi to Mando as he seeks to reunite Grogu with his kind. How do we justify Boba’s return? Finally show audiences why he’s such a badass bounty hunter and then put him in a position to help Mando. How do we appease fans of discarded canon? Bring, where it makes sense, elements like the Dark Troopers back into the fold to terrorize Grogu in a meaningful way. Hell, The Mandalorian even provides answers to questions we didn’t know we’d ever get the resolution to, like how did Palpatine come back to life in The Rise of Skywalker? Turns out Grogu is rich enough in the Force that the pre-First Order could harvest his blood to serve as the foundation for the Emperor’s return. Each of these decisions works because The Mandalorian still focuses on the core Grogu and Mando relationship. Cameos don’t overwhelm character.
Yet, the conclusion of Chapter 16, “The Rescue," threatens to disturb the show’s established balance. Just as it looks like Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) may have the upper hand against Mando and his assembled team of Bo-Katan, Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado aka Sasha Banks), Cara Dune (Gina Carano), and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), none other than Luke Skywalker shows up to save the day. Another series might have drawn out Mando and Grogu’s inevitable reunion with a Jedi to continue to capitalize on a good thing. The Mandalorian realizes that the emotional pay-off of breaking up that relationship—for now at least—just makes for deeply compelling storytelling.
Luke Skywalker’s role in fracturing this connection is already dividing fans. I fully realize a large part of The Mandalorian’s appeal lies within how divorced it was from the Skywalkers. But even as you go through the list of other Jedi who could have appeared, it now makes sense for it to have only ever been Luke. Star Wars Rebel Jedi Ezra Bridger’s journey will happen in its own spin-off, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s Cal Kestis will (for now at least) only exist in videogame form. More than this, however, those names don’t have the same impact as Luke. By including the character, Favreau and director Peyton Reed are leveraging fan service, sure, but doing so in a more meaningful way. Luke’s inclusion is inherently playing with the audience’s familiarity to sell a more emotionally resonant ending. If you’re going to rip out your audience’s heart by separating Grogu and Mando, Luke has to be the one. Furthermore, it allows Luke’s post-Return of the Jedi legend to grow.
The choice to conclude this particular part of The Mandalorian’s story once again means the show can be whatever it wants. While the Marvel-esque post-credits sequence made me excitedly believe the show was turning into an anthology, Variety confirmed the Book of Boba show would be another spin-off series. Favreau, Filoni, and LucasFilm know they have too much of a good thing with Grogu and Mando to keep the two apart for long. How and when it happens is up to them. But if this season of The Mandalorian proved anything, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate its power and potential, as its future remains as bright, bold, and exciting as ever.