The Mandalorian began as a small, tucked-away story in the far reaches of the vast Star Wars universe. Set in a time between the tentpole movies, it was free to explore the galaxy’s uncertain political state and bump into a host of beloved side characters along the way. But it was anchored by something very beautifully simple: the bond between two orphans. It was about found family, about a surrogate father and son, and a team of misfits setting things to right, all couched in weekly adventures that fed lore-driven fans and casual viewers alike.
But in Season 2, the cameos became less random and more pointed. We met bigger and bigger names from other Star Wars TV shows and movies, and throughout it all, Mando’s reaction was the same: I don’t care about you and your lore, I have to protect this child. He would roll up in his jalopy ship with his angry gremlin son like a kind of galactic Forest Gump, accidentally overlapping with some of the universe’s most important storylines. Ultimately, Mando wasn’t even the main character in his own show. Everything he did revolved around The Child, a.k.a. Grogu, and we loved him for it. So with Grogu gone, what happens now?
The Season 2 finale, “The Rescue,” dropped its biggest lore bomb yet. Disney knew, of course, that the only person we could ever allow Grogu to leave Mando for was Luke Friggin’ Skywalker, and so that’s what we got. It had been building to this, in a way. First you get Cobb Vanth, then you get Ahsoka and Bo-Katan, then you get Boba Fett, and next thing you know Luke Friggin’ Skywalker is going to show up.
::Cue extreme fandom reactions::
But where does that leave our dear Mando? Despite having my mind blown by the terror of the Dark Troopers and the advent of Luke Friggin’ Skywalker, what really affected me was Mando’s reaction to giving up his son. He took off his helmet, he let Grogu touch his face, he even teared up as Luke Friggin’ Skywalker carried Grogu down the hall alongside R2-friggin-D2 (Grogu’s new chat buddy). His entire reason for existing, at this point, is gone.
Now, there’s also the whole matter of the Dark Saber, and I absolutely loved that Mando’s reaction to being given this ultimate power that makes him King of Mandalore is “whatever, I don’t want it.” That’s his reaction to everything that is not Grogu-related, and it’s so endearing. Nevertheless, he does have it—but what does that mean for the future of The Mandalorian?
Since Season 1, we’ve all joked that this is really the Baby Yoda Show, but the series’ entire arc so far has been defined by him. With him gone, where does that leave the series? Especially because we now have three spinoffs on the way: Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic, and The Book of Boba Fett, which was revealed in the post-credits scene and was the one surprise we didn’t get from Disney’s investor day bonanza of announcements.
Ostensibly, Mando’s story could be continued in any one of these other series as a “by the way” aside, which is kinda how he has always existed. But that also makes “The Rescue” even more devastating for him. I mean, how can the show move on narratively from the power of Grogu and the bond formed between them, especially given how little we really know about Mando? Will Season 3 come later with a time jump? Do we even want to see a wrinkled old Yoda Grogu? Or is a comment made in elsewhere in-universe about the two of them reuniting enough at this point?
The gamble that it would be enough for Luke Friggin’ Skywalker to appear and promise to protect Grogu was big, but flawed. We know Grogu doesn’t appear in the later trilogy of movies, and neither does Mando, so I guess we can write our own fanfic in the meantime. But the last impression of this season, for me, will not be about the marshalling of good-guy forces and the continued battles of the universe, or seeing all of these Star Wars stars aligning to continue or spinoff their stories. It’s of a tearful and self-sacrificing father allowing his emotional walls to crumble as he watches his beloved adopted his son leave for a galactic boarding school where both of their futures remain unknown. Planets have been destroyed, millions were killed in battle, legends of fallen heroes haunt the survivors. And yet nothing is quite as sad as the quiet moment when Mando told Grogu—and possibly this entire series—goodbye. His mission is complete. This is the way, but man(do) it hurts.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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