The Mandalorian: The Book of Din Djarin

The Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, “The Rescue,” once again reminds me of how I felt watching the original movies

Since it was such an annoyance with this episode in particular: spoiler warning for the season two finale of The Mandalorian.

I can’t accurately describe to anyone what it felt like seeing The Empire Strikes Back for the first time back in 1980. For me, it involved my parents driving us to the only mall theater in the state that was showing the movie on its premier night, then waiting in line for two hours. That was back when two hours felt like an eternity. Everyone in the theater was just losing their minds cheering and gasping and booing at every moment from the opening crawl, in response to every character appearance and dramatic reveal. By the end of the movie, I could already tell as a nine-year-old that it had been a transformative experience.

But the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian was kind of almost similar to that. Partly in the hype building up to it, partly in the feeling that everybody in the country was experiencing a Huge Cultural Event at the same time, but mostly in that feeling of simultaneous satisfaction and uncertainty. It was an excellent conclusion to the season, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next.

Or if anything is going to happen next. I still can’t tell whether that was the end of the series.

For all I know, it was already announced in an interview, or a press event, or an investor call, or even an errant Tweet. But there’s something weirdly nostalgic and completely anti-2020 to just sit here not knowing. This series has played directly into my nostalgia from the start, and now it feels like meta-nostalgia. Having to wait a week to watch a new episode. Being completely surprised by what happens. Not knowing at all what’s going to happen next, or even whether the story’s going to continue. Seeing jarringly unconvincing CGI. It all feels like throwbacks to a simpler time.

Okay, so I wasn’t “completely surprised” by what happened. For one thing, both my fiancé and I had figured out who the mysterious Jedi was going to be, after seeing a tweet from Mark Hamill earlier in the day trying to be coy.1It was funny seeing a tweet from Mr Hamill today saying how proud he was that they’d kept his involvement a secret and managed to avoid spoilers for so long. I was like, Bitch, you’re the one who spoiled it! But honestly, that wasn’t that much of a surprise, since there were so few possibilities.

Really, everything that happened in the episode had a sense of inevitability to it. We’d seen Mando getting choked up at the thought of taking the child to contact the Jedi, in a scene that felt like dropping him off for his first day of school. He was trying to convince himself it was a good idea and that he’d be okay with separating. We’d seen him gradually get more comfortable with people seeing him without his helmet. We’d seen the crew infiltrate one Imperial base after another with little resistance, so it set us up for a climax that would be based more on character than on action.

That’s worth calling out: this was a pull-out-all-the-stops, got-to-get-the-team-back-together finale with a ton of great action moments, but the tension was always kept to fairly low stakes. Potential allies hated each other. The child was being threatened. Bo Katan had an unexpected reaction to Mando winning his fight. They even managed to make the big fight scene a one-on-one between Mando and a Dark Trooper, that was brilliant on multiple levels: direct, immediately readable tension during the fight itself, getting them out of the way while other concerns took precedence, then giving Luke Skywalker an opportunity to show off in combat.2That was a nice change, since Luke’s most significant fight scenes have pivoted around his decision not to fight. It feels like the makers of The Mandalorian are really invested in making Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett look like bad-asses again.

At this point, the series has kind of done everything it needed to do. Its main character has had a complete arc. The quest introduced in the first episode has been accomplished. It’s spun off at least three other series. There are some loose ends about the dark saber and the fate of Mandalore, but for anyone other than dedicated Clone Wars and Rebels nerds, that doesn’t seem as intriguing or compelling as a quest to get a force-sensitive child back to his people.

So the question is what is “The Book of Boba Fett,” promised in the post-credits sequence? Apart from a lead-in to an impossibly bad-ass image that, yet again, seemed to be made specifically to please the version of me from 1983? Boba Fett as anti-hero-with-honor crime boss could absolutely make for a good series. I’d especially like it if they made it like The Sopranos, with Ming-Na taking the Dr Melfi role. But is this another spin-off series? Or is it the next part of The Mandalorian, with the first two seasons being retro-actively titled “The Book of Din Djarin”? And presumably, a future season run being titled “The Book of Bo Katan.”

The more I think of it, the more that’s my favorite possibility, rather than Disney trying to run a Boba Fett and a Mandalorian series simultaneously. Give the existing characters a rest for a little bit, and let the series go off in a new direction. The Mandalorian has been near-flawless television as far as I’m concerned, but another season of the same format — a series of one-episode quests that culminate in gathering all the characters together for a final mission — would wear thin very quickly.

If you’d told me last Thursday that the season two finale of The Mandalorian could possibly be the series finale, I would’ve said that’s ridiculous, then thrown a tantrum, and then gone into a minor depressive episode. But after seeing it, I think I’d actually be fine if this were the end of this story. Especially since it seems all but inevitable for these characters to pop up in the various other Star Wars series.

Some other random observations:

  • It’s a sign how impactful Return of the Jedi was on me that I actually yelled “No don’t stand there!” at the screen the second that Boba Fett stepped on the trap door in front of Jabba’s throne. That somehow made me as nervous as anything else in the entire episode.
  • My first thought while watching the emotional conclusion was (like a lot of others, I’m sure) “Bye, Grogu, time to go get killed by Kylo Ren!” I saw a little bit of a recap on the great YouTube channel Star Wars Explained, in which hosts Alex and Mollie Damon remind us that that’s not due to happen for at least 20 years still, so it’s likely Grogu will be gone by then.
  • Since “The Book of Boba Fett” is presumably based on Tattooine, they’ve responded to the complaint that Star Wars goes back to Tattooine too often, by making at least two series based on Tattooine. (The other is Obi-Wan Kenobi, unless the premise of that series has changed since I last heard). That’s a drag, but that last shot in Jabba’s palace, and the opportunity of more Cobb Vanth, make it more tolerable.
  • I was relieved but also a little disappointed that Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shan chose not to end the scene by throwing her head back and laughing like Salacious Crumb.
  • The more I think back on The Mandalorian, the more I like the idea of breaking the series into “books,” because the series has been strongest when it’s experimented with new settings and slight changes in the format.

The thing that’s made this series work so well is the storytelling and, in my opinion, the fact that it’s being made by people who love Star Wars and are tapping directly into their nostalgia and teenage fantasies. That can still work — and frankly, has a better chance at longevity — than relying on Baby Yoda.

6 thoughts on “The Mandalorian: The Book of Din Djarin”

      1. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t…

        At the beginning of S2 of TGP, I felt totally disoriented. It wasn’t just the turn at the end of S1, but “what does this mean?” Was more “what is this entire show *about*??”

        I felt a similar disorientation here. Is this show going to continue? What does the future of The Mandalorian look like, since most of what I assumed the show was about is now over. Is the Book of Boba Fett S3??

        The only thing I hope is that this doesn’t become Din v. Bo-Katan for the future of Mandalore, since that’s a whole set of things I don’t know much or care about, and Bo-Katan so far has been either uninteresting or unlikeable, and I’m not sure which.

        But I like not knowing what’s next, and being really excited about the possibilities. I hoped the show would stay away from main-line characters, but, well, that finale was amazing.

        1. Agreed on everything, in particular that I was 100% against tying this series into the Skywalkers in any way, but was still fine with the finale.

          I feel like if the series is “about” anything, it’s about giving some fans of the original trilogy the same feeling we had when playing with our Star Wars toys. But plot-wise, they’ve been repeating this idea of “what does it mean to be Mandalorian.” They’re set up to build on that idea, by having a foundling in possession of the sword that marks the ruler of Mandalore, but as we both said, I don’t think that as a concept gets anybody really super-excited except maybe Dave Filoni.

          Since the Boba Fett series is going to be a separate thing, they’ve confirmed, I’m back to being a little bit worried that we’re going to get over-saturated with mediocre Star Wars content again. I thought they’d learned their lesson from trying to have a movie out every year that got diminishing returns each time. For now I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, since they seem to be leaning towards the Marvel model (give show runners flexibility to make their take unique) instead of the previous model (hire a variety of directors and then fire them when they try to make their take unique).

          1. Yeah – I liked the idea that maybe “The Book of Boba Fett” was the followup to “The Book of Din Djarin” and that maybe the next one would be “The Book of Bo-Katan” then “The Book of Grogru” or something. I definitely think the Star Wars TV Universe could support 10 shows as long as they were all kind of individual visions in the same world tied together by a Feige-esque Filoni/Favreau overseer. The universe is definitely rich enough for a huge variety of stories. But I do get shades of Activision with the sheer content of stuff they’ve announced.

            I know opinions vary wildly on this, but the thing I was most disappointed about was the lack of any followup on Rian Johnson’s supposed trilogy-in-the-works, and I wasn’t sure whether that was “cinematic news really isn’t a 2020 thing” because of COVID, or whether the sequel trilogy backlash really sunk in, or what.

            I loved what Johnson did with the universe, in terms of blowing it open for non-Skywalker Force stories. Where The Mandalorian (mostly) is about the scum & villany on the outskirts of the universe (except all the times they go to all the same places the main trilogy went), rather than the core story being about the Force, it’d be interesting to see more cinematic stuff about post-Empire rando Force stuff, but I expect that Johnson isn’t gonna get that shot. Which is a shame, to me. I really like his deconstructionist tendencies, and I think it’d be a great counterpoint to someone like Filoni, who has this very tight, constructed version of what the universe is. But obviously, just bouncing those two forces around willy-nilly gets us the sequel trilogy, which was totally incoherent and meaningless when all put together.

            Man, Abrams really fucked up the sequels with RoS. It’s really bad. It didn’t really sink in *how* bad until a little distance had gone by, because there were some charming and surprising bits in the movie that I liked (I thought Adam Driver remained stellar, and potentially having Rey kill Chewbacca was *shocking* at the time until it was all made irrelevant and meaningless with bullshit sleight-of-hand). But boy, in retrospect, it really completely fucked the sequel trilogy and rendered it totally irrelevant. 🙁

            Anyhow. Rambling. 😛

            IIRC, you weren’t a fan of Lord/Miller, but I was also really disappointed when they were fired, as I think an unfettered Lord/Miller Solo story would have been super exciting. So I would really look forward to a SW universe where those oddball voices find some footing, and they get to tell stories that aren’t all in the same general tenor.

  1. The only reason I wasn’t rambling more in comments was because I want to make a whole separate post about what the show is “about!”

    To be clear, I’m a fan of Lord & Miller — I think Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best animated movies and one of the best comic book movies ever made, period — and I’m even a fan of what they COULD have done with Solo, i.e. made a light and funny adventure story that didn’t take itself too seriously. But I don’t believe for a second the simplistic internet take on what went down, which is that Kathleen Kennedy and/or Disney were too draconian and controlling to understand individual creators’ unique vision.

    What I think is a lot more likely is that the people who became well-known for making Lego Movies, 21 Jump Street, and Into the Spider-Verse, approached Solo as another opportunity to make more meta-commentary on another beloved franchise. Even if it’s done sincerely and genuinely, it’s still not a good tonal fit for what they wanted from the “side story” movies. I can imagine it being tonally closer to the Lego Star Wars animation, which is done out of love, and is perfectly entertaining, but just doesn’t fit. I don’t see why more people would rather ignore that in favor of thinking that Kennedy and Disney are evil or old-fashioned or tone-deaf. Especially since Taika Waititi is still being treated as a golden boy — he still insists on bringing his own voice to the franchise and making it wacky, but also acknowledges how and were he needs to make it fit.

    Which I think is all relevant to JJ Abrams, since I think TONALLY he’s a perfect fit for the sequels, and The Force Awakens is still near-flawless in my estimation, but the story in Rise of Skywalker was just unacceptable. I actually enjoyed Rise of Skywalker the second time I watched it, because I knew what to expect and could just ignore the story and instead focus on how the (bad) story was being told. If I were going to blame anyone, I’d blame Colin Trevorrow for whiffing it so bad that Abrams had to be brought back in to do a relative rush job on the conclusion of a 9-part, 45-year-long series. That “leaked original draft” of the screenplay SUCKS, imo, and is one of the only things worse than the actual screenplay that we got.

    I’m not sure what to think about Rian Johnson’s seeming absence from Star Wars news. I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to stay involved since Star Wars fans collectively suck, and it’s a thankless job. And it seems like he’s brought what he wanted to bring to the franchise? I kind of would rather him continue to make Knives Out movies! Or maybe Star Wars murder mysteries? There are some elements of The Last Jedi that are some of the best in the entire series (the throne room battle in particular), but it’s also ultimately not a great tonal fit. I still say it’s a Battlestar Galactica story, not a Star Wars story.

Comments are closed.