The Mandalorian concluded its first season last night on what was undeniably its highest note, director Taika Waititi demonstrating competence and experience do make a difference. He both directed the episode and starred in it as the scene stealing IG-11.
Spoilers after the screenshot
The episode is titled “Redemption” and I can only assume this is in reference to the former assassin droid voiced by Taika Waititi, now reprogrammed to be a nanny and general protector. And sure he does his job well as Waititi behind the camera ensures the IG unit pulls an amusing ambush on two chatty scout troopers before having an exciting speed through town, finishing up by executing a noble sacrifice.
I’ve noticed one of the primary themes from George Lucas era Star Wars absent from Disney era is the wariness of technology. We don’t have the evil droid army and Anakin’s transformation from good to evil being symbolised by becoming “more machine now than man.” R2D2's injury in the climax of A New Hope was meant to show that even the friendliest technology can’t be relied on when it matters most and Luke was compelled even to turn off his targetting computer. Now, in Mandalorian and Rise of Skywalker, we have portrayals of droids being self-sacrificing heroes, IG-11 in one and C-3PO in the other. One of the arcs for the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) was even learning to trust and value droids after being terrorised by battle droids in the Clone Wars.
There are two possible reasons I see for this shift: 1. Disney decided droids too much resembled a servant class denoted by race. The droid subplot in Solo would certainly support that. And/or 2. Disney is partly in the business of selling technology in a world in which technology is becoming an increasingly dominant part of our lives. How dare we tell the little girl who spends two thirds of the day texting that technology may not be all it’s cracked up to be? That may be a good and valuable lesson but not a profitable one. It’s possible both motives play a part, that one helps to justify the other. It’s kind of a shame, though, because the warning against becoming too reliant on technology would be a particularly useful message right now.
I’d say it’s even kind of sinister that redemption is portrayed as the product of reprogramming.
My old fogey complaints aside, this was a great episode, mainly for the direction. I loved little bits of character like Greef (Carl Weathers) downing shots of liquor and baby Yoda doing the little hand wave. And we have official mention of the Mandalorian’s name, something I didn’t even know was a spoiler the first time I read about it. The spelling, Din Djarin, seemingly being another reference to the Spaghetti Western hero, Django, like Jango Fett, though the unsatisfying lack of the previously promised moral ambiguity in Djarin makes him very different from the character originated by Franco Nero.
We also see Pedro Pascal’s face which I didn’t really need. If Favreau had asked my advice, I’d have said; never reveal the Mandalorian’s face and never give a reason as to why his face is never revealed. Maybe hint he has some kind of terrible injury but don’t make it part of the Mandalorian creed. That’s how you make a character truly mysterious.
On the subject of creeds, it’s a little odd “Mandalorian” is called a creed here which makes me wonder what you call someone from Mandalore who isn’t part of the creed. But maybe no-one’s from Mandalore anymore.
Apparently the Mandalorians who rescued Djarin are part of Death Watch (something I didn’t spot last night but read about this morning), the group of radical Mandalorians introduced in Clone Wars. Of course, the more obvious reference to that series is the Dark Sabre wielded by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).
I don’t have much to say about this except to hope it’s a harbinger of an eventual live action Ahsoka Tano series. I still think Rosario Dawson would be dynamite casting.