In my review of Chapter 7 of The Mandalorian, I left off praising the powerful narrative decision to kill Kuiil (Nick Nolte). With the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) surrounded and Baby Yoda captured, Chapter 8 begins with the situation at its direst.
The episode opens by depicting the two Scout Troopers: having retrieved the child, they park their speeders and await further instruction from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). I appreciated the showrunners’ decision to open in with this lighter tone, and the troopers’ dialogue brings with it some funny moments. I found it hard to enjoy the comedy, however, when one of the troopers ruthlessly punches Baby Yoda to quiet him down. Viewers adore the alien child, and we can only watch in horror as the trooper beats the baby into submission.
Disney prides itself on specializing in family-friendly content, so I found it shocking that they failed to consider how the infliction of violence on a toddler may put off viewers. I am no stranger to violence in media, but I viewed this scene as an example of severe mismanagement in tone. Perhaps they could have utilized the violence to characterize the troopers as evil, or they could have omitted the violence to focus on the scene’s comic relief. Instead, they include both to the viewer’s detriment — the violence prevents us from enjoying the humor, and the humor makes us question their judgment for including the violence.
Fortunately, we return to the city, and the Moff presents an ultimatum after spilling secrets regarding the trio’s identities. Esposito’s performance plays like a natural extension of his role as Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad — like Gus, Moff Gideon meticulously researches his opponents before making a move. It turns out that he and Din Djarin (the Mandalorian’s true name) go way back: Gideon was a key Imperial figure who helped oversee the Great Purge of Mandalore. The show was missing a proper villain; now it finally has one.
As I watched IG-11 take out the Scout Troopers, retrieve Baby Yoda, and create a diversion that allows the Mandalorian and co. to fight back, I hoped Gideon to be willing to dirty his own hands. He did not disappoint. Rather than retreating to the safety of his TIE Fighter, he shoots back and crucially injures the Mandalorian by blowing up a power generator.
Gravely wounded, The Mandalorian prepares for his death and entrusts the child to Karga and Dune. When IG-11 stays behind to treat Djarin, he still believes the droid intends to kill him. Instead, the droid saves him. Ironically, the fact that droids are not “living beings” provides a loophole to the Way of the Mandalore: Djarin removes his helmet and allows IG-11 to spray his injury with a healing agent. The Mandalorian now owes his life to one of the droids that he so despised.
The group reunites in the tunnels, and they discover a mound of armor that implies that the Mandalorians have been all but wiped out. Only the Armorer remains. When she notices Baby Yoda, she makes the series’ first reference to the Jedi knights, whom legend states used to fight against the Mandalorians. Both orders consist of fearsome fighters that follow a strict code and system of beliefs, so their antagonism makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how much time they have to casually converse when there is supposed to be an entire battalion of Storm Troopers chasing them.
I also found it a bit hard to believe that, between the three of these characters, not a single one had heard of the Force or the Jedi. Everybody knows of the Empire, and everybody knows that the Rebels brought down the Empire. Do they not know of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, or Emperor Palpatine’s command of the Force?
On the other hand, we do learn more concrete details about the Way of the Mandalore, namely that Djarin has become responsible for bringing Baby Yoda back to his home/family, and until then, he effectively serves as its parent. He earns a mudhorn sigil for his protection of the child, and to the hype of viewers everywhere, he finally receives a jetpack.
The Armorer chooses to stay behind, and the group tries to escape via a lava river. When the Mandalorian detects an ambush, IG-11 decides to activate its self-destruction protocol, which the Mandalorian initially rejects. Citing its base function as the protection of the child, IG-11 sacrifices itself, and we can only wonder whether Djarin will finally start to trust droids now that he owes his life to one, twice.
Of course, the action doesn’t end there. Moff Gideon appears in his TIE Fighter, and we get a preview of Season 2 action when Djarin takes to the skies. He makes quick work of Gideon and sends his ship crashing down in the distance. The heroes have made it out, and it is time for them to part ways. Karga will rebuild the guild with Dune as his enforcer; Djarin will reunite Baby Yoda with his family. Given this scene’s importance, I would have liked a beat between Gideon’s defeat and their separation — after all, this interaction is the last major moment of the season. Overall, the uneven allocation of time and detail to the wrong scenes serves as one of the show’s biggest shortcomings.
In a nice finishing touch, the Mandalorian buries Kuiil under a calm of rocks before taking off with Baby Yoda. Elsewhere, amidst the scavenging Jawas, Gideon cuts his way out of the broken TIE Fighter with a darksaber. No Star Wars story is complete without a laser sword, and I can’t think of a better villain since Darth Vader to wield it than Giancarlo Esposito’s tenacious, meticulous character. For that alone, I’ll look forward to Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Disney Plus, don’t let me down.