Spoilers ahead. So many spoilers ahead.
Even the episode title spoils a little bit: “The Rescue.”
Mandalorian Chapter 16 picks up where 15 left off: Moff Gideon has captured Grogu and is whisking him away in shackles to some unknown destination. Mando has Gideon’s coordinates and has joined forces with Cara Dune, Boba Fett (!), and Fennec Shand. He still needs to add some firepower before taking on Gideon and his Dark Troopers. There’s a Mandalorian by the name of Bo-Katan available, and she has her own grudge against Gideon, so it stands to reason Mando will reach out to her.
He does. There’s just something about seeing Mando and Boba Fett stride in, armored up, and seeking out their allies in a darkened cantina that’s chill-inducing. This is the Star Wars we’ve waited for since Rogue One, at least. It’s a Western. It’s a war picture. It’s a buddy picture. It’s a chase. It’s a heist. It’s a plan unfolding across a chaotic galaxy full of technological and mystical magic. And it just looks cool.
This was far from the last or greatest such moment in what may well be the best Star Wars anything ever produced.
The Star Wars avenger team hatches a plan, and it’s clear as their plan unfolds on-screen that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have had a plan to get the story to this point and this time with this objective since before they aired a single episode. The Mandalorian was planned from the beginning, meticulously, with the fans, the story, and the legacy in mind. This alone sets it apart from the sequel trilogy, which had no plan, no heart for the fans, and no clear purpose in mind.
They capture an Imperial shuttle and Dr. Pershing. They use it to clog up the launch tube and invade Gideon’s cruiser. They fight stormtroopers while the clock ticks toward the release of the unholy and nearly-invincible Dark Troopers. Every character has a part in the plan and takes meaningful action. Their strategies make real-world sense and come with surprises. Every frame of the episode up to the climax is beyond satisfying.
And then, when things get to the seemingly hopeless point they tend to do in Star Wars, it escalates a notch. A lone X-Wing fighter glides silently into the landing deck as Mando and crew prepare to battle nearly a whole squadron of Dark Troopers.
Recall that in Chapter 14, Grogu called out to any remaining Jedi from the Seeing Stone on Tython. That call went unanswered through Chapter 15. This lone fighter craft is the answer, but who is it? Most of the Jedi were hunted down and killed when Palpatine launched Order 66.
A hooded figure emerges from the X-Wing and ignites a lightsaber. Seen from the ship’s security cameras, the color of that lightsaber is unclear. It might be Ahsoka Tano, whose lightsabers are white. Or it might be someone else. The blade appears white, but the feed is black and white.
We cannot tell who the Jedi is, but it’s clear they are very powerful. The lone figure slices through the Dark Troopers, tossing them about, destroying them, calmly and methodically. Just one of these machines had pounded Mando’s head into a wall and nearly killed him. To this veteran, they are slight nuisances, reminiscent of Vader in full force tossing rebels about at the end of Rogue One.
The view switches and we see the figure on-screen. The lightsaber is green…
Luke Skywalker has answered young Grogu’s call. This is the young Luke Skywalker who defeated the Empire and is helping lead the New Republic and rebuild the Jedi Order.
Luke’s reveal is handled brilliantly, as is the entire episode. His emergence binds the entire Star Wars universe together, as the dominant character from the original trilogy meets characters from the animated series and this series.
Chapter 16 packs so many other great moments to chew on. There’s the conversation/brawl in the cantina between Boba Fett and Koska Reeves, both using their Mandalorian armor and wiles as they duel to a draw. There’s the conversation about the destruction of Alderaan on the one hand, and the destruction of the first Death Star on the other, between Dune and the Imperial shuttle pilot. That conversation nods to an online debate that has raged for years over whether Luke and the rebels were morally justified in destroying those space weapons as they were full of people who were just doing their jobs. There’s the battle first between Mando and a lone Dark Trooper, and then his duel with Moff Gideon — Gideon wielding the Dark Saber, Mando countering with the beskar spear. So many great moments, one jaw-drop after another, after another. The episode’s lone weakness is the CGI used to create young Luke. It doesn’t quite cross the “uncanny valley,” but it does look better than the CGI used to recreate Leia in Rogue One.
Chapter 16 leaves some storylines to clean up, and one great reveal after the credits too — the latter, involving Boba Fett and Fennec Shand in pure Marvel Cinematic Universe style. The moment of goodbye between Djarin and the Child, who has become his child, is one of Star Wars’ best and most heartbreaking.
How will Bo-Katan retake possession of the Dark Saber now that Din Djarin has earned it in combat, giving him not just the right to wield a weapon she believes is hers, but the right to rule Mandalore itself? What will Boba Fett do with his new throne? How will Luke train Grogu and what happens to him ahead of the rise of the First Order? Where is Ahsoka and what part will she play?
“The Rescue” is surely the best of an incredibly strong run of two seasons. It’s so superior in every way to the sequel trilogy films that they’re barely in the same conversation. It’s tighter than A New Hope, better than Return of the Jedi, even better (slightly) than the spectacular Rogue One, leaving only Empire Strikes Back to challenge.
And it may be better even than Empire. Fans are losing their minds over it. It packs story twists and turns, emotional moments, strategy, doubt, defeat, and triumph into an episode that just isn’t long enough. It also makes internal sense and sticks to the galaxy’s rules and forces without ruining other Star Wars storylines.
Whether “The Rescue” eclipses Empire is a debate I look forward to having as we watch this episode again and again. It’s so much more interesting than debating the weirdness of midichlorians, how Jar Jar should die, why this or that character even exists, which of the sequel trilogy is the worst (answer: all of them), and all of that. We get to debate which Star Wars production is the greatest again.
Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni created The Mandalorian with a clear plan and they have pulled it off to this point better than anyone had any right to expect. They have nailed it from the first frame to the end of Season 2. Give them the entire Star Wars franchise. They have earned it and they know where it should go next.
The Mandalorian is the future of Star Wars. This is the way.