After a mediocre season spent mostly spinning its wheels, The Mandalorian finally got there. It jumped the shark. This was probably my favorite episode of this lackluster second batch solely because it finally reached the point of being laughably bad. Congratulations to director Peyton Reed in outdoing Bryce Dallas Howard’s dismal second outing. With its plodding action, self-defeating editing, woeful acting, rotten dialogue, and completely distracting CGI, this is a Star Wars episode that has less in common with Rogue One than Rogue Megan Fox.
“The Rescue” opens on Mando, Boba Fett, Ming-Na Wen, and Gina Carano overtaking that Empire ship that’s like a Mercedes symbol. They get on board, take out the crew, and take prisoner that scientist with the Janis Joplin glasses. Then they head over to this bar where they somehow know Katee Sakhoff and her friend with the crossed braids for bangs are hanging out. Mando and Fett go in there, and that’s the first hint at the larger problem to come. All of them clad in Mandalorian armor, Fett and Braids get in a fight and end up in a stalemate of mirrored moves. Turns out, they’re more or less the same character! And when Sackhoff and Braids get recruited and end up joining the larger crew, it doesn’t take long to realize that basically everyone else is too.
We’ve got a six-person ensemble here and they’re all just some variation of “stoic badass.” It is the least interesting adventuring party imaginable. Honestly shocking they didn’t bring back Ahsoka Tano for one more Star Wars cardboard standee with no discernible personality outside of acting sort of tough.
So now that the Mystery Machine is packed full of Freds, they come up with their plan. Boba Fett will stage an attack against the stolen ship and the rest of them will get emergency clearance to land on Moff Gideon’s vessel. Mando insists he will then go alone, even though almost every episode is him making friends to get help from and this is the culmination of that. Ming-Na, Carano, Sakhoff, and Braids will serve as a “distraction,” which actually means going ahead and murdering everyone aboard. Fett will apparently just go home? It’s not really addressed. He does his part, and he’s off to try and catch the end of Wheel.
Before getting on with it, Sackhoff warns everyone, “Mof Gideon is mine, got it?” If you hadn’t already thought it, this is the point where you think, “Wow, Katee Sackhoff is very bad at acting.” Paired with her shitty wig and drawn-on eyebrows, you’d swear she was doing the Mandalorian porn parody. The… Mandildorian? We’ll workshop it later.
The scientist guy explains how Gideon’s ship is protected by these dumb robot Bionicles, and it’s like, yeah, we know. He adds that they’re too much of a power draw to keep charged, so the infiltration team will have a few minutes before the droids are operational. And then it’s like, look, basically everything in our modern world has to be charged at this point, and that is not how it works. It would almost certainly make more sense to just keep a trickle charge going all the time than to abruptly charge their batteries in a few minutes, but alright. It’s not like anything else here makes sense either, so you can have that one.
But then this so-called scientist strains his credibility even further, saying how making the troopers droids, removing the men inside, was “the final weakness to be solved,” and it’s like, what are you on about now, dude? Did you not see The Phantom Menace?
Anyway, they start doing their plan, but Giancarlo Esposito is too clever for them. Perhaps recognizing that the ship’s all-male crew now, radioing in the emergency, sounds like a woman doing community theater portraying a woman doing community theater, he does not authorize their landing. They land anyway, though, and we will not see Boba Fett again until a ridiculous postscript.
As the team infiltrates the ship, this is where the dialogue really goes Rogue. It sounds like some paintballers doing in-character improv. It’s all just a bunch of generic action scene lines like “cover me” and “got your back,” peppered with interactions like this:
“A little too clear”
This culminates in Carano’s panicked “My gun’s jammed!” Oh, shit, a blaster beam is stuck in the barrel! Get it out! And cover me!
Throughout the entirety of the episode, Ming-Na only gets these lines and her biggest moment is when a Stormtrooper shoots at her and, a full second later, she dodges it. These blaster shots are like a bicycle coming at you. You could get hit and get seriously hurt, but you would more likely just quickly step back and shout, “Watch it, will ya!?”
Meanwhile, Mando is off looking for Grogu, but, unfortunately, the Bionicles are now charged. The doors to their charging bay slide open, and Mando has the funniest fucking response to this. He will simply shut the doors! This kicks off a growing narrative conflict of the episode—man against man, man against nature, man against self, and man against society discarded for the newly-invented robots against doors.
So Mando plugs in the dongle he has that activates the “shut doors” button, but before it can complete its function, one of the robots fights the doors. He manages to pry them open enough to get out, and he and Mando battle. Mando’s blaster is ineffective against the droid’s armor, and though I am not a scientist like the guy at the beginning of the episode, I would like to propose the hypothesis that perhaps this is the final weakness the troopers overcame. In this paper, I will argue that Stormtrooper ineffectiveness had less to do with the humans inside and more with how their armor did absolutely nothing but make them clumsier…
Mando gets his head punched a lot, but he manages to take out the droid with his fire and spear. If the Ewoks have taught us anything, it’s that the Empire is susceptible to some truly primitive shit.
While the other droid troopers are trying to get through the sliding doors by repeatedly punching them, Mando exploits their telling weakness to doors by opening some more, and they’re all sucked out into the vastness of space.
After taking out a couple Stormtroopers with his spear—reminding us again that maybe, maybe the weapon could be used in a more important battle soon to come—finally Mando reaches Grogu’s cell. Gideon stands beside him, Darksaber drawn, where he’s been posed for god knows how long. His wrist is probably pretty sore, but you have to give him credit: it’s an effectively dramatic pose.
Grogu is manacled in these tiny handcuffs, and since they glow, we’re probably meant to infer that they block his Force powers or something. The story of these is the spinoff I want to see. Contractors bidding to develop and manufacture a single pair of miniature, LED, anti-Force handcuffs. After R&D, these probably ended up costing more than the second Death Star.
Confronted, Gideon goes straight into classic supervillain exposition mode, and Esposito chews it up. There comes a point where it’s too much, though. Like, he starts with all the Bond villain “I already have what I want, he is no use to me anymore” stuff, but then 20 minutes later, he’s still prattling on with, “So, let me lay out the rules of Darksaber succession.” Give the guy a break here. Giancarlo Esposito deserves better than being made to give a summary of some cartoon I was supposed to watch before this.
As we’ve known was coming ever since seeing that a Beskar weapon can inexplicably block a lightsaber, we finally get the Darksaber vs. spear battle. I will not be eating space crow.
Just as predictably, the fight is not really all that cool. It’s a 62-year-old man in armor we know to be useless against a 45-year-old trained assassin covered in impenetrable metal. It’s not really much of a fight and it’s not really much of a surprise when Mando wins.
Dragging Moff Gideon with him, Mando heads to the bridge, where the rest of his team has been standing around shrugging at each other about why Gideon wasn’t already there. This is the point where Esposito has reached his bullshit about how the Darksaber can only be passed on by being bested in combat.
Sackhoff, who we know was just here for her ebon beamsword to begin with, agrees.
“Come on; just take it,” Mando reiterates, echoing the audience sentiment. This lady scoffs at Mando’s helmet obedience, but now she’s incredibly orthodox about how she accepts a sword in front of three bystanders. It’s so annoying.
The issue is never resolved, making clear that it’s going to be dragged into season three for reasons I can’t even imagine. How is this an issue!? Like, if Mando’s defeating Gideon in combat counted enough for transfer of the Darksaber, then it’s not like anyone has to die for this, right? Have a friendly scuffle, Mando loses, and he hands it over. Or if you do have to kill the opponent, then it’s not even Mando’s to begin with. I know there’s some incredibly convoluted backstory to this garbage, but as presented here, it doesn’t track.
The reason the issue isn’t resolved is because of an interruption. As Braids explains in her standout line, “They’re here!” Those Dark Troopers that got sucked out the doors earlier have apparently zipped back over, and they’re marching toward the bridge. The solution, as always, is additional doors.
They shut the doors to the bridge, and once again the droids army is left hilariously punching at them. But might their punches eventually get through!? It doesn’t matter, because here’s CGI Luke Skywalker.
An X-wing docks, and it’s like, god, did Dave Filoni write himself into this again as a savior pilot? But he didn’t. It’s Luke, looking like a printout of his Return of the Jedi face with a slit cut for the mouth. Like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and however many others, he now gets his needless overhaul where we see how he’s FUCKING AWESOME at fighting too—be damned what the trilogy this is all based on depicted.
Also, at some point Gideon tries to Manchester by the Sea himself with a stolen gun, but it doesn’t work out, so who cares.
Mando lets Luke onto the bridge, and we have to watch this Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II cutscene where a digital Skywalker takes Grogu to be trained and, perhaps, later killed in Kylo Ren’s arson. Mando is so emotional about losing his adopted son that he breaks his code and removes his helmet to reveal his teary face. It’s a prolonged moment that keeps verging on being affecting but instead fumbles at every chance.
Firstly, Mando is not looking great. Bleary-eyed, weary, puffy, mussed, and unshaven, he looks like he’s coming off a bender. But that’s also a level of humanizing realism, so it’s easy enough to get back into the scene. It would be a sad farewell, were it not also a hello, R2-D2!
For no fucking reason, R2-D2 strolls his squat ass in to deflate the whole thing. The poignant separation is interrupted by this little robot moron making friends with Baby Yoda, as if that’s something anyone was clamoring for. Great, instead of having a father figure, now he has this small man in a trash can and a constant cacophony of whirrs and beeps.
Luke picks up Grogu, and as they depart, the tragic beat is almost salvaged. Luke’s awful CGI face now away from view, Grogu’s looks back to Mando. Mando looks back at him. It’s emotional. But GINA CARANO IS ALSO SLIGHTLY EMOTIONAL. Here’s a shot of her to break that up! “The Rescue” is an exercise in active self-sabotage for both the episode and the crumbling themes of The Mandalorian as a whole; remember when the show dealt with new, less fantastical characters in new, scrappier corners of the galaxy far, far away that hadn’t been tainted by the catastrophically self-interested Skywalker clan and its space magician horseshit? Me neither.
The credits roll, and we’re left to dread whether the ever-derivative J.J. Abrams, his Empire stripped of him by Rian Johnson, will use this opportunity to make Episode X about Rey being trained in a swamp by this new goblin Jedi. But it turns out this episode is teasing something even dumber.
An after-the-credits sequence takes us back to Jabba’s Palace, Tattoine. Jabba crony Bib Fortuna is now sitting fat and happy on his former master’s throne, and this is the best part of the entire second season. Just looks like an absolute dipshit.
Ming-Na Wen enters, blasting Bib Fatuna’s scant henchmen and freeing his lone slave dancer. Boba Fett soon follows, killing the tentacle-headed idiot himself. In a very over-the-top, deliberate tableau, Ming-Na swigs from a bottle, resting on the arm of the throne of Tattoine’s latest chubby crime lord: Boba Fett. Now he runs this completely empty, divey party house in the middle of the desert, and that’s supposed to be a promising tease for YET ANOTHER Star Wars series: The Book of Boba Fett. Or, as it should be known, the needless show that finally killed off Boba Fett for good.