Saturday, 19 December 2020

REVIEW: The Mandalorian Season 2 Finale - Episode 16 - The Rescue - "McStar Wars"

My favourite McDonald's burger is the McChicken. It has been for as long as I can remember. Even today, the combination of the sesame seed bun, the chopped lettuce, the burger itself, the special sauce, and the smell satisfy me and take me away to a simpler time. Now and then as an adult, it hits the spot and still tastes damn good, all the while stimulating feelings of nostalgia.

Luke appearing in the season 2 finale felt like eating a McChicken burger. It was familiar. It satisfied me. And it gave me something that I started enjoying in childhood. I mean, let's look at these ingredients.

X-Wing? Oh yeah.

Green lightsaber? Oh hell yeah.

Black glove? Hoo-baby.

Force powers and Jedi philosophy? All day, please.

In short, I friggin' love me some Luke Skywalker, and I friggin' love me a McChicken burger.

...until I have to digest it.

When I was a kid, this wasn't a problem. My digestive system could handle almost anything, and while it's still pretty good now, McChicken burgers, and fast food in general, satisfies for a time, but ends up making me feel bloated and...unwell. It stimulates my taste and smell receptors when I'm chewing it, but it just sort of sits there and leaves me uncomfortable in the aftermath--or worse.

I won't draw out this analogy for too much longer, as you can probably see where I'm going.

Let me preface the next part of this article by saying that, in general, I have really enjoyed The Mandalorian, and that I still enjoy it. Season one felt fresh, unique, and like something that could stand on its own. It's why my wife even watched part of the first episode with me and "Aww'ed" at the reveal of then-Baby Yoda. The quest was clear: Keep the child safe and away from the bad guys while at the same time exploring the backstory and character makeup of Mando himself. I never thought it was a "great" show, but being a sucker for space fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics, and for Star Wars stuff in general, I always thought it was solid and worth the time investment. 

(If I'm to be honest with myself, the concept art and end credits theme are regularly my favourite parts of the show)

With season 2, the world expanded, and started bringing in familiar characters from the Star Wars canon. We got characters from Star Wars books, like Cob Vanth, Star Wars animated shows, like Bo-Katan and Ahsoka, and Star Wars movies, like Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker. As these familiar faces started appearing, I got that same hit of dopamine that I get with a McChicken burger. 

But now that I've finished the last bite, I'm left wondering if it was worth it, and I'm asking myself some difficult questions...

-Was Boba Fett necessary to the plot outside of being Mando's pilot?

-Did it have to be Ahsoka who told Mando about the seeing stone?

-Did Luke showing up out of nowhere serve the story that had been told until that moment?

-Would the characters on the bridge really just stand there and ask Luke NO questions about who he is and where he's taking Grogu?

In my heart, I know the answers to all of these questions: No. It is now clear that Ahsoka and Boba Fett were there to set up their own spin-off shows (Why mention Grand Admiral Thrawn if they're not going to chase him in The Mandalorian?) , and Luke was there to give fans another "I KNOW THIS" moment.

And these things are fine. 

To give credit where it's due, the entire buildup to Luke was incredible. The music was appropriately foreboding and darkly heroic. The slow reveal, including the X-Wing, the green lightsaber, the force powers, and the gloved hand were all done incredibly well. I got chills, in fact. 

But it was just for a moment. 

I got much more satisfaction from Mando removing his helmet in front of everyone on the bridge and in front of Grogu. When that little puppet stroked his face, I felt it like I feel the love of my own children. I was so damn happy they got to have that moment after their journey together. Because it had to leave there. Arguably, they could have gotten there in another way and have had the scene hit even harder (as hard as that might be to believe), but we still got it, so points to the writers on that one at least.

The thing is, Luke coming in and saving the day still took the spotlight off the show's protagonist, which is something you really don't want to do at the very end of a story. It would be like Bilbo suddenly showing up in the heart of the volcano when Sam, Frodo, and Gollum are fighting over the ring in Lord of the Rings, but Bilbo ends up being the one to cast it into the fire. "Oh shit! Remember The Hobbit?!" And that's really my main issue with what we got here.

Will Luke factor into future episodes of The Mandalorian? That's still up in the air. For now, he's a Cameo Ex Machina swooping in and saving the day, stealing some of Mando's thunder in the process. 

Let me be clear: I enjoyed this finale. The music was tremendous, the fight between Mando and the Dark Trooper had real tension, and that final scene with Mando and Grogu really got me. But it still left me feeling conflicted.

If I can expand the food analogy a bit, watching The Mandalorian before season two was like eating a plate of sushi at a sushi restaurant. Not the highest end sushi restaurant, but still the kind you'd recommend to your friends. Imagine the first season as half of a sushi meal. Now imagine the waiter bringing you some McDonald's fries. And then some dipping sauce. And finally, a McChiken burger in the very middle of your sushi plate. 

Are you gonna eat that McChicken along with the sushi? Hell yeah. You friggin' LOVE McChickens AND you like sushi. So you eat all of it. And you like it... 

...Until you get out of the restaurant and start questioning why a sushi restaurant would feel the need to serve you McDonald's from across the street. Almost as if they were not quite confident that their sushi would be enough to satisfy you, or maybe they simply didn't have enough sushi. The waiter even says, "I'm not sure we even have enough sushi to complete the order. Here. Have a McChicken!"

Finally, the other thing about eating McChicken burgers as an adult is that I really don't want to have more than one. Otherwise, I get queasy and end up running to the bathroom a lot quicker. In Star Wars, I don't want to have cameos for the sake of cameos, or people showing up and telling you to come on over to the McDonald's across the street.

In the end, fast food gives you a quick rush, but it rarely satisfies over the long haul. You end up wanting something healthier and better for you in the end.

This is my fear with Star Wars moving forward, and The Mandalorian season 2 finale could just be the tipping point. Or maybe I'm totally wrong here, and we're about to enter an age of Star Wars joy the likes of which we've never experienced. 

I just hope the chefs in the kitchen take their time and serve up something lasting and memorable.

Author's note: If you've made it this far, thank you! Let me know what you thought of my lazy pseudo-analytical indulgence project. My opinion here is not solidified and as you can probably tell, I'm conflicted on where Star Wars could be going, and how this finale ended up going. That said, I'm also incredibly excited about the potential for amazing new stories, especially when it comes to titles like Acolyte and Rogue Squadron. I'm not leaving Star Wars. Like I said, I friggin' love it, and just because one show might be serving up fast food doesn't mean another one won't serve up gourmet. The law of averages says I'm bound to love some shows and episodes, and feel more lukewarm towards others. As long as there is earnest creative energy being put into these projects, I'll watch them.

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REVIEW: The Mandalorian Season 2 Finale - Episode 16 - The Rescue - "McStar Wars"

My favourite McDonald's burger is the McChicken. It has been for as long as I can remember. Even today, the combination of the sesame se...