Some spoilers ahead
The Mandalorian “Chapter Eight: Redemption” is an episode that really does feel like a Star Wars movie on television. As has been discussed in previous reviews, that statement is nebulous, given that Star Wars movies have been everything from swashbuckling science fantasy adventures and stolid examinations of the socio-political forces behind dictatorships, to chaotic war films and personal journeys of self-discovery, all interspersed with contemplations of the pseudo-religious philosophy and ethos behind laser sword-wielding samurai. And “Chapter Eight: Redemption” is different once again.
The Mandalorian has explored [Mando]’s incremental change throughout the season, but now it takes it to the extreme with reincarnation and reinvention—giving oneself a whole new identity.
The episode feels grand, however, in a way that others have not during the course of Season One, even if those episodes have had larger battles or more directly mirrored the films. That stems from the cogency of the episode’s writing (easily Jon Favreau’s best script so far), which is replete with character moments building off of elements established earlier in the series, and a few well-deployed Chekhov’s guns. And yes, some kinetic fight scenes. Jon Favreau’s dialogue has felt stiff or trite at times (like in “Episode Four: Sanctuary”), but here it is looser and at its most natural, allowing for a few genuinely moving conversations between characters. Curiously, one wonders if Favreau consulted director Taika Waititi when writing, or if Waititi himself re-wrote the script, because some parts perfectly capture his voice and comedic sensibilities.
Take, for instance, the opening sequence featuring the two Scout-Troopers who absconded with the Yodaling after killing Kuiil (R.I.P) at the end of the previous episode. It’s quite reminiscent of a similar moment in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi’s film that marries brutality and his comedy the best. In some ways, the scene is a tonal oddity compared to the remainder of the episode, but it portends the mixture of violence and humour that marks “Chapter Eight: Redemption”.
For example, the audience’s abiding love for the adorable Yodaling is put to good use, because seeing these troopers casually punch the infant is shocking. Thankfully, we’re spared seeing it injured directly, only punched through a sack. Their bickering also reflects the funny muddling literalism of Waititi’s style brought to wider attention in Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi’s works often have a fondness for the lives of oblivious middle-management and frustrated minor authority figures caught in the middle of larger affairs well above their capabilities (such as the policemen in What We Do in the Shadows, who went on to have a spin-off television series of their own), and so spending a few minutes with Imperial mooks is a perfect vector for his human interests, while continuing the Star Wars tradition of confused droids and troopers floundering about while stating amusing asides before inevitably being blown up. This distillation of Waititi’s sensibilities is capped off by IG-11 (voiced by Waititi himself) rescuing the child.
Somewhat unexpectedly, The Mandalorian “Chapter Eight: Redemption” is IG-11’s showcase. The droid gets multiple heroic moments, not only saving the Yodaling, but our favourite Mandalorian (officially named Din Djarin) and company several times. One could easily forgive The Mandalorian for just indulging in using Taika Waititi as much as possible, but there are thematic reasons for the prominence of this assassin-turned-nursing droid. IG-11 embodies a duality of killing and nurturing, which is also true of Din Djarin himself.
There is obvious character growth in Djarin coming to trust IG-11 with his life, moving past his anti-droid prejudices, but it’s now apparent that IG-11 is meant to be a direct parallel. I was befuddled last week by “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning” spending so much time on a montage of IG-11’s reprogramming, but now the logic is clear: both IG-11 and Djarin began their respective transformations in the same place—on that mission to retrieve or kill the Yodaling. They share a history, and it’s no accident that the midpoint of the episode has Djarin reveal his face only to IG-11. Although Djarin would deny it, they are alike, both ruthless killing machines reprogrammed to protect a particular innocent life. So the fact that IG-11 redeems itself as a saviour means that there is hope for Djarin’s future as well, as he attempts to cast off his old life.
And Djarin definitely needs hope, because The Mandalorian “Chapter Eight: Redemption” is bathed in bloodshed and death, from simply mowing down Stormtroopers, to the characters rowing down an underground lava flow, evoking imagery of Charon ferrying souls to Hades along the River Styx. There is the demise of Djarin’s parents, now seen in full, and most of all, the destruction of the Mandalorian people and culture. Ineffectually hinted at during “Chapter Three: The Sin”, the mysterious massacre that took place on Mandalore perpetrated by Imperials (now dubbed “The Night of a Thousand Tears”) is invoked again. This time, the loss has impact, because the episodes juxtaposes a flashback to the Mandalorian group “Death Watch” acting as liberators for the masses, against the pile of pierced Mandalorian helmets from the Navarro coven, evidently murdered by Imperials in the aftermath of “Chapter Three: The Sin”. Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels fans will recognise a distinctive Mandalorian weapon in the possession of the enemy—a weapon last utilised as a talisman that united the various Mandalorian clans. One can only imagine the horrors by which such a relic fell into malevolent hands. It all underscores that Djarin is a very lonely Mandalorian in the galaxy.
The harbinger of death is Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon. If you’re going to kill off Werner Herzog, you need to have a capable actor to replace him, and where Herzog’s deep intonations were foreboding, Esposito’s calm instils a quiet terror. Moff Gideon’s dispassionate explanation of the vaporising E-WEB artillery weapon his storm troopers are constructing—which he later tactically destroys to try and kill Djarin—and the casual manner in which he reveals that he knows everyone’s identities, sends Djarin, Cara Dune, and Greef Karga into “astute panic”, as Gideon phrases it. While certainly elucidating expositional information, it also demonstrates Gideon’s Imperial Security Bureau credentials (effectively the Empire’s Gestapo, to continue the Third Reich analogues present throughout the Imperial structure).
On that note, with his apparent role in the “war crimes” against the Mandalorians, and presumably orchestrating their genocide far beyond historical Imperial attempts to curtail Mandalore, it’s worth considering that he may be a counterpart to Heinrich Himmler. He even has a similar toothbrush moustache and an interest in artefacts. It would be natural for Star Wars to once again draw upon German history (the political arc in the Prequel Trilogy significantly borrowed from the fall of the Weimar Republic), but if Gideon is indeed anything like Himmler, his role in the systematic devastation of the Mandalorians would make him a deeply evil villain, in a way that his placid demeanour has only begun to hint at.
In the face of such wickedness bearing down on him, how might Djarin survive? Well, if The Mandalorian “Chapter Eight: Redemption” has anything to say about it, lasting the ordeal will involve a lot of gunfire, front thrusting kicks, and crushed skulls. Waititi’s combat direction is more straightforward compared to, say, Rick Famuyiwa’s fervid emphasis on the beauty of surroundings or alternating perspectives take (both filmed by Director of Cinematographer Baz Idoine). Much like Famuyiwa, however, Waititi keeps actions and movement centrally-framed. The simple clarity makes every impact satisfying and, frankly, exciting. The Armourer gets a particularly gratifying action sequence cracking a few heads with her hammer and tongs. Tangentially, Waititi also tends to film Djarin from the front as he moves, because perhaps he realised while filming (as I did watching previous episodes) that Mandalorians look significantly less cool and far sillier when their running is viewed from behind. Their suits and capes were made for resolute striding whilst giving off an aura of control and impenetrability.
Actually, that observation is not so irrelevant, because this episode is about Djarin becoming a “Rising Phoenix”, whole and complete (he gets a jetpack and Star Wars extends its ornithological naming conventions into mythical birds). It’s fitting, however, because “Chapter Eight: Redemption” is ultimately about the cycle of death and rebirth, at least metaphorically. The Mandalorian has explored Din Djarin’s incremental change throughout the season, but now it takes it to the extreme with reincarnation and reinvention—giving oneself a whole new identity.
Greef Karga may be a bounty hunter guild-master, but he was once a magistrate; Carasynthia Dune was a Rebel Shocktrooper, now a mercenary. The noble Kuiil was an indentured Imperial slave before becoming a free farmhand. Djarin too was brought into the Mandalorian order rather than be born on Mandalore. All of the major characters have become someone new, and this too is surely the fate of Djarin and the Yodaling as they venture forth into the unknown as the new Mudhorn “clan of two”. These reviews have frequently discussed Djarin’s armour reflecting his mental progression, and it’s no different here. It is only upon accepting his role “as a father” to the little Yodaling that he earns his Mudhorn clan signet and his armour is finished. But it is now that he dispenses with the title of bounty hunter and becomes something yet to be ascertained. From the ashes of the dead rises a renewed and redeemed Mandalorian.
Djarin has new purpose and decisive aims by episode’s end, but his journey will surely be a long odyssey, open to a variety of storytelling. As we head into this next decade, The Mandalorian ends its first season with this particular story concluded, and with a wide scope of possibility. After all, the great thrill of (re)birth and indeed babies—especially little green impish-looking ones—is the potential that new life holds. The Mandalorian “Chapter Eight: Redemption” has gifted its characters new, unfathomable potential to be anything different; it is a decision that will hopefully prevent Star Wars’ creativity from diminishing. Whether The Mandalorian succeeds or not, we’ll find out next year, but if a deadly assassin droid can become a caretaker, then both Din Djarin and The Mandalorian can surely be something else entirely as well.
I swear that IG-11’s animation this episode was an intentional homage to Ray Harryhausen’s techniques.
I rarely seem to have room to discuss Ludwig Göransson’s score, but his work in this series has been quite inventive. The most distinctive track in this episode is the theme when IG-11 charges into the crowd of stormtroopers. Göransson has made electronica mesh with Star Wars, home of operatic themes. It’s fantastic.
Aside from bringing up that “Mandalorians never remove their helmets” idea again (maybe it’s a recent rule to protect hidden covens?), “Chapter Eight: Redemption” painstakingly emphasises that being a Mandalorian is not directly tied to Mandalore or a race of people, but rather that it is a “creed”. That canon realignment potentially lets Jango and Boba Fett be treated as true Mandalorians. If those really were Boba Fett’s spurs clinking out in the Dune Sea desert of Tatooine back in “Chapter Five: The Gunslinger”, then he’ll probably appear at some point. Din Djarin or Boba Fett: who is the fastest sharpshooter in the Outer Rim?
Speaking of sharp shooters, I appreciated that scene of the scout trooper’s guns misaiming despite being directly in front of the target. Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally wrung a lot of good comedy out of their moment.
Death Troopers from Rogue One make an appearance!
I’ve also finally committed to spelling it as Greef Karga! I swear I wasn’t just misspelling on purpose; the credits definitely had Carl Weathers down as Greef Carga initially.
That wraps up coverage of The Mandalorian Season One. Thank you for reading along. Djarin has undergone changes this season, as have I. I joined Goomba Stomp thinking I was going to only write about anime, but within a week I was reviewing Star Wars, culminating in reviewing The Rise of Skywalker, which is not something I could have anticipated. It’s been a blast and hopefully I’ll pick this up in Autumn/Fall 2020 when Season Two airs. Thanks to Ricky, Patrick, and Randy for letting me cover this show, and then also responding to many messages about SEO tips and editing requests from a man who did not always check the difference in time zones. I really appreciate it.