This is the way: Parting is more sorrow than sweet on ‘The Mandalorian’ season 2 finale

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Quote of the Week: “I’ll see you again. I promise.”

Though the second season of “The Mandalorian” began airing all the way back in October, the finale still snuck up on us. Recalling the season’s “sauntering” start, it’s all the more surprising that the final few episodes were able to deliver such excitement and emotional heft.

“Chapter 16: The Rescue” opens with a bang, and the energy never wavers. Mando (Pedro Pascal) and company are on a mission to rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), a quest that Mando has made clear will not be impeded by anyone.

After some crafty shenanigans, they make it on board Moff’s light cruiser and split up. While the crew holds off the Stormtroopers and heads toward Moff on the bridge, Mando has to rush to the brig to rescue Grogu before the Dark Troopers power up and block his approach.

He almost makes it, but he ends up having to fight off one Dark Trooper, who gives Mando quite a beat down before he is able to dispatch it with his Beskar spear (handy, no?). When he arrives at the brig, though, Moff is standing above Grogu, waving the Darksaber menacingly above his head.

Moff explains to Mando that whoever wields the blade commands the throne of Mandalore, which is why Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) wants it so badly. Mando doesn’t care about any of this — he just wants the kid. Moff agrees to release him if Mando leaves in peace. The exchange seems too good to be true, and it is; as soon as Mando turns his back, Moff unleashes the Darksaber on him.

It’s another tough fight, and again, the indestructible, lightsaber-proof Beskar spear proves itself an essential asset. Mando takes the saber, captures Moff and brings him to the bridge. But once they arrive, it becomes clear that by winning the weapon from Moff, Mando has become its rightful owner, unwittingly earning him the Mandalore throne. Bo-Katan is displeased, to say the least.

Before they can hash it out, though, the Dark Troopers return from their celestial sojourn and begin busting down the doors to the bridge. It seems to be curtains for our heroes, until a lone blip appears on the radar.

“One X-wing? We’re saved,” Cara Dune (Gina Carano) scoffs as the ship approaches. But one X-wing is all it takes when Luke Skywalker (a CGI de-aged Mark Hamill) is the pilot. Wielding his green lightsaber, he cuts through the Dark Troopers with ease and makes his way to the bridge.

It’s at this moment that Ludwig Göransson’s score reaches its apotheosis. At once blending his own signature Western-meets-techno style with John Williams’ majestic themes, Göransson weaves together a sonic tapestry that transforms Luke’s entry from a fun cameo into a soaring display of Jedi deus ex machina.

But we only get a moment to bask in the green glow before Luke reveals his obvious but devastating mission. He extends his hand to Grogu and tells him that it’s time to leave — they must go to complete his training.

The pain is clearly audible in Mando’s voice as he encourages Grogu to fulfill his destiny, but any doubt of his sadness vanishes when he removes his helmet, showing his face to Grogu for the first time. Luke leaves with the child as the music swells, and with tears in his unobstructed eyes, Mando waves goodbye. Cut to black.

Pure, unadulterated heartbreak. Mando promises they’ll be reunited one day, but how can he be so sure? The Jedi aren’t exactly famous for providing younglings with vacation time so they can visit friends and family. Mando, ruler of Mandalore, is on his own journey now, as well. He might have been saved by the bell, but Bo-Katan isn’t about to forget what he’s taken from her.

“The Mandalorian” was always headed to this moment, no matter how many detours it took along the way. And as miserable as it is to watch Mando and Grogu part, the show has developed a knack for finding new, fascinating areas of the “Star Wars” universe to explore. Hopefully, it can continue to do this even while our heroes are separated. Have faith in Jon Favreau — this is the way.

Matthew DuMont is a deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].