This Star Wars: The Mandalorian review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Mandalorian Episode 8
“Redemption” is both the finale of The Mandalorian and the best episode of the season. Taika Waititi’s self-assured, clear-eyed direction benefits from what came before, certainly: he’s wrapping up the story of Mando and Baby Yoda’s pursuit by the formidable Moff Gideon. Waititi brings his hallmark humor as well as an excellent sense of space. Even the bar and the Mandalorian enclave we’ve seen before gain new dimensions and depth. The dialogue is charming, and fans will find Star Wars Expanded Universe references aplenty in this very entertaining episode.
When last we saw our heroes, they were besieged in the bounty hunters’ bar, pinned down by Moff Gideon and his stormtroopers. The episode lets them stew in there for a little while with an opening scene perfectly suited to Waititi. (Note that this episode, like most of them, was written by Jon Favreau.) The dialogue is funny and casual, with stormtroopers bantering about Baby Yoda and failing miserably to hit a target when doing some target practice out of boredom. Just when it begins to feel like everyone will speak in banter that feels a little too much like contemporary Star Wars memes, Moff Gideon shows up with elevated, careful rhetoric. Impressively, each character in the episode speaks distinctly.
Lending the episode a lot of humor on screen is Waititi himself, whom we already know makes a great IG-11, and he continues to do so directing himself here. The droid’s two sets of programming — bounty hunter and nurse — complement one another and emerge in surprising and touching ways. He does enough here to make his death one of the more emotional moments of the episode.
From the first scene on, Waititi’s direction gives everything heft: armor rattles, troopers snap open the latches on a box, armor shatters under the force of a punch. It’s a crumbly, crunchy episode flavored with the action nonsense of a D&D game. Especially toward the end, you can practically hear the players wondering which characters’ last-ditch plan will get them out of their predicament. Fights have distinct segments, each an entertaining tiny scene in its own right.
The Mandalorian’s theme music is expertly laid out in “Redemption,” and not just as a theme for Mando himself. Ludwig Göransson’s score captures the energy of the entire show. In particular, driving percussion at the beginning of the episode emphasizes Baby Yoda’s peril, and a new rhythm heralds the arrival of the Mandalorians in a flashback.
Part of the strength of the script comes from the way it fills in characters’ backstories and connects to other parts of Star Wars without feeling like a neon sign pointing toward another product. (Even if it is also that.) One of the more mild revelations, that Cara Dune is from Alderaan, is mentioned quickly but immediately adds context. Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star, so it’s a quick jump to go from her heritage to the reason she joined the Rebellion against the Empire.
Fans of The Clone Wars will find more references to a familiar Mandalore here. Truthfully, after the last few episodes and the referential The Rise of Skywalker, I wasn’t expecting The Mandalorian to explain its connections to other parts of the saga. These Mandalorians hiding under Nevarro are not the same as the ones on Mandalore itself, the same way the Sith dagger in The Rise of Skywalker is not the Dagger of Mortis it so closely resembles. Sometimes all that matters is how easy the scene is to read, regardless of how it connects to other canon. Not having direct connections is a smart decision from a storyteller’s perspective.
But on the other hand, Star Wars is a huge and long-storied galaxy. The Disney canon declares that different stories do take place in the same realm as one another, so why not make them dovetail? And “Redemption” does, bringing us back to The Clone Wars’ Mandalorians. And it’s a delightful scene. Other revelations are not connected to the saga at all and instead dig into character: here is the Mando’s name (Din Djarin) and exactly how far he’ll go to protect the creed. Here is more of his history, in a heroic flashback that feels just like kids playing with action figures — in a good way.
Perhaps the only emotional weakness in the episode is Baby Yoda, whose role is predictable and not different enough from scenes we’ve seen before. Putting his hero moment later in the episode might have made it feel more triumphant. The episode has other flaws, too. The return to the Mandalorian enclave drags a bit: why don’t the stormtroopers follow them inside more quickly? These scenes also feature an oddly placed but utterly wonderful fight starring the Armorer. I’ve liked her from the beginning of the show, and seeing her mauling stormtroopers with the tools of her trade was a fist-pumping moment of victory.
Now that the season is at an end, we know Mando well. It’s still remarkable and entertaining how he can be so stubborn and impulsive without ever coming off as abrasive or hyper-aggressive. Pedro Pascal’s vulnerable acting and the Mando’s orphan backstory soften him to a middle ground that never feels diluted either. He continues to be excellent at showing emotion when a lot is going on in his character’s helmeted head, as well as the exact opposite. There’s a great moment in this episode where Mando clearly switches into “just do it without thinking” mode and achieves his goal in a way that is both undeniably cool and humorously slapdash.
The end of the episode brings with it a tumble of emotions: sadness and joy, humor and a sudden, grim sense of everything being even worse than it seemed at first. But the promise of a second season and the search for Baby Yoda’s home brings hope. The cliffhanger ending — Moff Gideon rising from his TIE fighter with the Darksaber in hand (another big The Clone Wars/Rebels connection) — should keep fans talking until then.
I’ve thought of The Mandalorian as a 3/5 show: most episodes are technically impressive but don’t dig beyond the surface into their subjects. Neither does this one, really. Sometimes the references to other parts of Star Wars stories fill in where deeper characterization might have gone, as in the case of Cara’s Alderaanian heritage. But the show, and episode eight in particular, remains a good Star Wars story that isn’t interested in subverting or digging into anything bigger but delivers an adventure that fascinates and delights nonetheless.