Warning: This is the Way to our The Mandalorian season 2, episode 8 review which contains major spoilers – turn around to avoid having the new episode ruined!
They went there. I would have bet you, dear reader, my entire savings (granted, not much) that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni would not bring back Luke Skywalker during The Mandalorian. Yet, here we are, with Mark Hamill reprising the role that made him a household name – just with a CGI sheen to make him appear young again.
Before we dive into that instantly iconic comeback, let’s talk about what happens beforehand. There's a lot going on in "The Rescue". First, a quick space chase as Boba Fett tracks down Omid Abtahi’s Dr. Pershing, now confirmed to be a cloning specialist. With Pershing’s schematics of Moff Gideon’s ship in hand, the gang – that’s Din, Boba, Cara, and Fennec – head out to another planet to boost their numbers.
Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan Kryze and Mercedes Varnado’s Koska Reeves are back – and as unlikeable as they were earlier this season. The duo mentions that they have heard Boba’s voice a thousand times (they fought alongside the clones, who all sound the same) and Koska matches Boba in combat; both nice touches. However, Bo-Katan’s entitled attitude is grating, but for good reason. The former head of Mandalore has lost her kingdom and desperately wants it back, and will do anything, including step over Din, to retrieve the Darksaber. And by withholding the specifics from the rest of the team, she ends up fighting her own traditions, whereas Din, who finally removes his helmet, forgets his own.
Let’s not jump too far ahead, though, as wonderful as the ending may be. Bo-Katan takes the lead, as an entitled Heiress would do, and Boba Fett's soon shooting at their stolen Empire-owned ship in order to board Moff’s cruiser. Boba hyper-speeds away to set up a spin-off, and the rest of the gang shoot down some stormtroopers and hunt down Moff. Bo-Katan, Fennec, Cara, and Koska make a badass group, though I worry that seeing good-guys blast their way down corridors is getting a little stale. I’m not sure how many different ways there are to showcase how terrible the Stormtroopers are at actually hitting anyone with their guns (unless the target is wearing Beskar) but alas, it’s still a fun shootout here.
Elsewhere, Din Djarin takes on a Dark Trooper, showcasing the horror of these droids – and Din hates droids. Seeing his helmet being smashed against a wall is genuinely scary, and then, by the time he uses the spear to destroy the Darktrooper, there are a dozen more waiting for him. Well, there would be, if they weren’t all next to an airlock. That’s some very shoddy ship layout.
Next, Din heads to the Child, and Moff has the Darksaber out, ready to slice down on our favourite Star Wars mascot. Having just watched Mando being almost pulverized by a Dark Trooper, Moff poses a real threat, and his double-cross is initially convincing. The backstab confirms our fears: Moff’s a conniving villain who’s more capable with words than a blade. The battle between Beskar spear and Darksaber is thrilling, and the closest thing to an old-school lightsaber battle so far.
With Grogu, a defeated Moff, and a reclaimed Darksaber in hand, Din heads to Bo-Katan, and the tension rises dramatically. Again, the would-be ruler of Mandalore has foiled her own plans and must now face a difficult task. Din cannot simply yield the blade. So what happens next? The Mandalorian season 3 has a new, tense relationship to deal with – and I, for one, hope that Bo-Katan simply believing that she’s the rightful heir to Mandalore doesn’t mean she becomes ruler of the planet.
There's no time to dive too deep into these questions, though, as the Dark Troopers are back. Thank the Whills! It would have been hard to justify introducing these killer machines only to have them beaten by some dodgy planning on the Empire’s shipbuilders’ behalf. Moff becomes all chirpy as the gang, putting aside their Darksaber woes, prepare for battle. Looking like the Lord of the Rings' Fellowship preparing for the Cave Troll to break through the doors in the Mines of Moria, they await their fate. But then, a beacon of hope – an X-Wing arrives. That’s either a wondering New Republic warrior about to enter the fight of their life or a Jedi coming to save the day. Grogu can sense them. But who’s wearing the cloak?
First, there’s the black hand. Then the green blade. And then, finally, entering through the blaster doors in a pose similar to that of Vader at the end of Rogue One, comes Luke Skywalker. The real Luke Skywalker. According to the credits, that’s Mark Hamill, back as the saga’s hero. The CGI looks a bit iffy, but that can be forgiven just by the sheer impact of having Luke Skywalker back. And yes, I will write out his name a few more times because it’s just crazy to think that we currently have a Star Wars show in which both Boba Fett and a young, post-Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker appear in the same episode. And let’s not forget R2-flipping-D2! Goosebumps.
What’s wonderful about Luke's return is that the final scene isn’t just about him. While that certainly has everyone who grew up with the original trilogy losing their collective minds, myself included, Din and Grogu have a beautiful father-son moment. Din finally removes his helmet in front of his child. It’s a huge moment of closure on their story together. This doesn't feel like a season finale, but an entire series finale – even if we know more is to come.
Who would have thought at the beginning of this season that Luke Skywalker – Luke Skywalker! – would be taking Baby Yoda, now called Grogu, away for Jedi training? This year has been terrible for so many reasons, but The Mandalorian season 2 has not been one of them. Bring on Mandalorian season 3/The Book of Boba/Ahsoka Tano/Rangers of the New Republic – I am ready for it all.