Well, this was....a finale, one that was both satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time.
By the way, do I need to say that SPOILERS ABOUND?? I'm sure most of y'all have heard about the big reveal in this episode. If not, well, get thine eyes off my page right now and don't complain to me, because I AM going to talk about it. (I'm not terribly patient with spoiler whiners anyway. If you can't stand to watch something because you know the Big Thing that happened sooner than you should have, you must not be much of a fan of said thing in the first place. I find it's usually more interesting to analyze what led up to the Big Ass Spoiler, and how it fits into the overall context of the show. But anyway.)
We open on Boba Fett's wacky ship, Slave-1, hunting down the scientist, Dr, Pershing, who first experimented on Baby Grogu. He shoots an "ion cannon" to shut down all their electronics, and Din Djarin and Cara Dune board the ship. One of the troopers aboard holds a gun to the doctor's head and taunts Cara about Alderaan (apparently the teardrop tattoo on her cheek is the symbol of an Alderaan survivor). Bad move, as Cara tells him twice to stand down and then shoots him in the face, cool as a cucumber. (Dr. Pershing survives, but the incident leaves a lasting impression on him, as he henceforth babbles about every little thing he knows.) Boba Fett then takes the group to the planet where Mando first met Bo-Katan Kryze and her sidekick Koska, where Din recruits the two of them by telling Bo-Katan he knows where Moff Gideon is. (After a testy set-to with Boba Fett where Bo-Katan taunts him for being a clone and not a real Mandalorian, and Boba and Koska take turns throwing each other across the floor.) Bo-Katan agrees as long as she can get the Darksaber, and Mando says he doesn't care what she does with Gideon or his ship as long as he gets his kid back.
On the way to Mando's coordinates, Bo-Katan (who seems to naturally assume command of the little group, and no one objects) works out their plan: they will emerge from hyperspace in Dr. Pershing's ship with Boba Fett following behind, firing on them. They'll demand an emergency landing on Gideon's cruiser, then Bo-Katan, Kosak, Cara Dune and Fennec Shand will charge out and lay waste to as many stormtroopers as they can, fighting their way to the bridge where they assume Moff Gideon will be. Amid all the noise and distraction, Mando will sneak out behind them and make his way to the Dark Troopers' compartment, sealing them away before they can become active, and then go down to the brig where Grogu is being held.
This is not a bad plan, and it's tremendous fun to see these four female badasses charging through Moff Gideon's ship, taking out all the hapless Stormtroopers they run across. Of course, the Dark Troopers are a different proposition altogether, as Mando finds out when he gets to their compartment and discovers the doors are opening and they're ready to march. He manages to shut the doors, but one gets out and proceeds to whoop his ass up and down the hallway. In fact, it's only because of Ahsoka Tano's beskar spear (quite useful, that--I hope he gets a chance to thank her someday) that he survives. He then opens the compartment and sends the rest of the platoon tumbling out into space, and afterwards makes his way to the brig.
Where he finds Moff Gideon waiting for him, holding the Darksaber above our poor handcuffed baby's head.
Gideon says that he knows Din is traveling with Bo-Katan, and she's come for the Darksaber. Mando says, again, that he doesn't care about that, and only wants Baby Grogu. Gideon fakes Mando out, saying he's gotten what he wants from Baby Grogu, namely the child's blood (with a creepy proclamation about said blood bringing "order" to the galaxy, again reminding us that the First Order is already starting to rise). Mando starts to pick up the baby, and Gideon attacks him anyway--and again, the beskar spear saves Mando's life (even though it glows red when the darksaber is held against it). The two of them go round in the hallway for a bit, but finally Mando wrenches the saber out of Gideon's hand. He doesn't kill the Moff because Cara Dune asked him not to, saying he holds quite a bit of intelligence that could be useful to the New Republic. So Mando handcuffs Gideon, frees Baby Grogu, picks up the darksaber and makes his way to the bridge.
Where he finds, to his shock, that Bo-Katan cannot take the Darksaber, because, as Moff Gideon taunts, "it must be won in combat." Mando tries a couple of times to give it to her, even saying "I yield" as if she had met him in battle, but Bo-Katan says the Moff is right. But there's no more time to talk about it, because the alarm goes off to signal that the remaining Dark Troopers (who are droids and can withstand the vacuum of space, after all) have made their way back on board and are heading for the bridge. Koska closes the blast doors and everyone stands facing them, weapons drawn. But they all know, as Moff Gideon says (and somebody really should have taped his mouth shut), "After a valiant stand, everyone in this room but me and the Child will be dead."
This sequence, and indeed the remainder of the episode, is very well shot and edited, ruthlessly ratcheting up the tension. The Dark Troopers march to the blast doors and start pounding on them, and it's plain to see they are going to give way. But then another alarm goes off, and a single X-Wing fighter jumps in and lands in the launch tube. Cara scoffs at the idea of a single X-Wing helping them, but the camera focuses on Grogu, and we see his ears perking up. The remainder of the Dark Trooper platoon below also turns to face the intruder, and Moff Gideon suddenly begins to look alarmed. On the fuzzy screen, a single figure in a hood emerges, brandishes a lightsaber, and proceeds to cut every single Dark Trooper into its constituent bits.
(A desperate Moff Gideon tries to take advantage of the distraction by pulling a dropped blaster and firing first at Bo-Katan and then Baby Grogu, but the shot is stopped by Bo-Katan's armor and Din throws himself in front of the baby. Cara Dune then knocks Moff Gideon senseless, as should have been done before this.)
We follow the lone Jedi as he makes his way to the bridge, using both his lightsaber and the Force to eliminate the Dark Troopers. As the shot switches from the black-and-white ship's screens, we see the lightsaber is green and the hand carrying it is gloved. Grogu is fascinated by what's going on, resting his little hand on the screen as he follows the Jedi's progress. The Jedi finally makes it to the bridge, squeezing the last Dark Trooper in a Force-crushing fist, and Din Djarin opens up the blast doors and lets him in.
And y'all know who it is, right? Of course. Luke Skywalker.
A CGI-deaged Luke Skywalker, to be sure, with Mark Hamill's younger face overlaid on top of another actor's. The technology has improved a bit from a cringingly artificial young Carrie Fisher in Rogue One, but it still doesn't have the movements and expressions of real flesh. No matter, because the scene is brief. Luke has come to take Grogu for training; he says the baby is strong in the Force, but strength without training is useless. At first Mando says, "He doesn't want to go with you," but Luke replies: "He wants your permission."
Then we have the scene that I'm sure generated a thousand tears, as Din Djarin says goodbye to Baby Grogu. He lifts the little one up and tells him he needs to go, that it's all right, and they'll meet again. The baby reaches out his hand to touch Mando's helmet, and Mando, knowing what he really wants, takes off his helmet in front of Luke, God and everyone and lets the baby touch his face. Din sets Grogu down and the baby slowly toddles over to Luke, aided by the appearance of R2, who comes in and chirps to the baby, encouraging him the rest of the way. Luke picks Grogu up and he and R2 walk away, and the episode ends with everyone standing on the bridge watching him go.
Now, I am of two decidedly conflicting minds about this. Obviously Grogu needs training, and Din cannot do it. Story-wise, Luke is not only the logical choice but perhaps the only choice: as Ahsoka Tano said, "There are not many Jedi left." Still, it's not a choice made in a vacuum, and even though the characters don't have any knowledge of the dreadful fate of Luke's Jedi academy, we the viewers do. (As a matter of fact, time-wise, Ben Solo may already be born and toddling about. It would be very interesting if, since Ben and Baby Grogu might be roughly the same developmental age and might even be growing up and training together, Grogu would be the first to be tipped off to Ben's Dark Side tendencies.) So despite the fact that the story really couldn't have resorted to the dea ex machina of a hitherto unknown Jedi popping out of nowhere and agreeing to travel with Mando and train Grogu just so the two of them wouldn't be separated, it was still hard. I can only hope that further down the line we will see Baby Grogu again, since to me, his and Din Djarin's relationship has been the heart of this show. Also, it was nice to get a Star Wars story that doesn't revolve around the sometimes suffocating Skywalker family, as after a while they tend to suck all the air out of any room.
Be that as it may, the stakes for next season--Din Djarin's inheriting a Darksaber and a throne he doesn't want, along with a ready-made conflict with Bo-Katan Kryze--have been set. And of course we have the tag scene, wherein Boba Fett and Fennec Shand return to Jabba the Hutt's palace, and Boba shoots Bib Fortuna off the throne and claims it for himself, with Fennec smugly sitting on the throne arm and drinking some bright blue liquor. Followed by a title card proclaiming "The Book of Boba Fett, coming December 2021." I knew next to nothing about Boba Fett before this, but The Mandalorian made him interesting enough for me to watch. There's still some confusion over whether Boba's show will be a separate thing or the actual third season of The Mandalorian, but we shall see.