Spoilers for the Season 2 Finale of The Mandalorian follow!
With the second season of landmark television show The Mandalorian coming to a close, creator and writer Jon Favreau faces the unenviable decision of just how to do so. From the final moments of its very first episode, it became clear why we all wanted to keep watching… Baby Yoda.
Little Grogu, with his big ears sticking out as he waddles away from danger, immediately captured the heart of just about the entire world. Even those who have never seen The Mandalorian will likely gush about his cuteness, save for maybe those contrarians too cool for baby space puppets. Though honestly, who can blame those few? On paper, Grogu reads as pure fan service and corporate cynicism – designed to push toys and drive internet conversation. And while it absolutely does those things (and were no doubt part of the conversation), Grogu’s lasting appeal beyond memes and plush dolls lies in the very heart of the show.
In a grimy, hardened galaxy full of unspeakable violence, cruelty, and selfishness, Grogu represents innocence and even moreso than that, hope. As a child, jaded by that very cruel galaxy, Grogu signals an opportunity to change that story for someone else. Star Wars has always been about the classic between good and evil, with morality rarely made too grey. The Mandalorian means to say that the clearest distinction between the two is the action of selflessness in a selfish world.
This message is brought to the forefront of a surprisingly challenging season 2 finale, in which we’re put into the driver’s seat and forced to make some hard choices of our own. With Moff Gideon tracked down and Mando’s team assembled, they set off to perform the rescue we’ve all been waiting for. Finally, we all think, the reunion of father and son. Only… not quite. In an episode filled with suspense and great, teeth-chattering action, things still seem to be going off without a hitch. The good guys successfully infiltrate the Imperial cruiser and little Grogu ends up safe at last, in the arms of Mando.
This reunion is interrupted by the evil and much hyped up Dark Troopers, but this is Star Wars. The characters we care about are making it out of this. We know that already. So kill the Dark Troopers, make your quips, and let’s wrap up because I’ve got work in the morning. Then something strange happens. An X-Wing pulls past the Imperial ship and ah okay, so Luke Skywalker. A deus ex machina to be sure, but whatever, part of the deal with The Mandalorian is learning to accept its more baby-brained choices.
For some, the mere presence of Luke Skywalker in a show that is otherwise supposed to be self-contained is frustrating and this is a fair gripe. But at this point The Mandalorian has made its intentions quite clear and I’ve learned to accept this because the show has never betrayed its own thematic core and heart. That battle of good and evil and Grogu’s light shining in a cold, dark galaxy. On a first watch, it would seem that The Mandalorian has finally broken its one and only rule though.
Upon Luke Skywalker’s arrival, we realize that Grogu’s call to the Jedi has been answered and that it may finally be time for him to leave. The series up to this point has been nearly endless instances of Mando trying to find someone to train Grogu, only for that person to point him in a different direction. I’ve long thought that the intention behind this was to highlight the bond between Mando and Grogu and its unbreakability, but I now find myself somewhat at a loss for words as they have finally found the person to separate them. Luke Skywalker will now take Grogu to the Jedi Temple to complete his training. It’s a revelation that is immediately hard to grapple with.
Unlike any Star Wars characters before, we have had a great deal of time dedicated to falling in love with Mando and Grogu as they also grow to love one another. To see him leave, no matter the reason, is hard and a challenging thing for any viewer. How does one weigh the necessity and practicality of something versus one’s own personal feelings? In this season closer, we learn that the two are not always inextricably tied and the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do. As Luke Skywalker walks away, Grogu in his arms, we see Mando, helmet removed, cry as his son leaves his life. They are destined to meet again, as Mando says himself, but going into season 3, he faces the heartbreaking task of being his own light.
Peyton Reed’s finale for the second season of The Mandalorian is messy and emotionally frustrating, but this writer wonders if there was any other way to close out Grogu’s story? As fun as it may have been, seeing the two goof off around the galaxy, the little green fella was always going to end up somewhere. The choice of Luke Skywalker is a silly, cheap one (executed with Lucasfilm’s trademark embarrassing de-aging tech), but maybe that’s what it takes for some fans to accept the departure of a character like Baby Yoda. It’s an honestly embarrassing choice that cheapens a thematically complicated episode and will rule the narrative around Grogu and season 2 as a whole, which might be the greatest tragedy of it all.
Though Baby Yoda was always going to have to leave, one can’t help but wonder if this was the way?