"Redemption" opens with an amusing teaser where two stormtroopers who have kidnapped the Kid (including one recognizably voiced by Jason Sudekis) trade idle smalltalk like low-level employees on break, incompetently take practice shots at debris, and out of pure annoyance punch Baby Yoda, who is imprisoned in a bag. A moment later, these stormtroopers are thoroughly pwned by IG-11.
IG-11 is the unexpected hero of "Redemption" — so much so that it got me thinking the episode's title really refers to him. Not only does he rescue Baby Yoda, he also goes flying through the city on his acquired speeder bike and takes out a good deal of the stormtroopers, while Mando and the team are pinned down by Moff Gideon inside the dead Client's compound. IG-11 also breaks through the grate that allows our team to escape into the city's underground tunnels, then treats Mando's head injuries (as a droid, he's the only one who can remove Mando's helmet and see his face, exploiting a loophole in Mando's code).
When things again look hopeless toward the end, IG-11 uses basic logic and self-destructs to defeat the remaining stormtroopers. By this point, the Mandalorian, who had been ever-skeptical of IG-11, has come around and, facing the fact of IG-11's inevitable sacrifice, has a line that might as well be, "I'm not crying, you're crying."
IG-11 is the through-line upon which "Redemption" advances. The episode deftly executes the tried-and-true Star Wars storytelling structure of episodic beats that make up the overall larger adventure. There's the action in the pinned-down compound, where Gideon provides a pointless deadline (which serves only to allow everyone to make plans of action) and knows who everyone is (including the Mandalorian, whose name, Din Djarin, he finally reveals for us, and everyone else.) Mando's backstory, shown in a stylized hazy-memory flashback, is further fleshed out: Din Djarin's parents were killed when he was a child, and he was subsequently raised by the Mandalorians who saved him as one of their own.
We then go underground, where we again meet the female Mandalorian who forged Djarin's armor. She's a wily survivor salvaging what remains of a bunch of helmets from the Mandalorians who had been hunted down after emerging from Nevarro's bowels. She gives Mando his new mission (return the Kid to his Jedi people), his signet (representing a clan of two — him and the Kid), some new munitions, and a much coveted and useful Mandalorian jetpack. (This plays a bit like power-ups acquired for clearing a level in a video game.) Seeing Mando's parents' deaths in the flashbacks and his rescue by Mandalorians helps sell why it's so personally important for Mando to take to heart his new mission to serve as a father figure to the Kid while taking on this new mission.
Then we get the journey down the lava river in a boat to escape the tunnels before the stormtroopers close in. (The weathered R2-like droid that boots up to pilot the boat is one of those nicely rendered details that really makes this world feel lived in.) Then there's IG-11's big sacrifice, which seems like the victorious, literal light at the end of the tunnel ... before we then get Gideon making an attack in his TIE fighter. (A desperate Greef, seemingly out of options: "Come on, baby! Do the magic hand thing!") Fortunately, Mando's newly acquired jetpack is just what's needed to mount a desperately crazy defense of Gideon's aerial assault. Gideon survives the crash of his TIE fighter (a good thing, as it would have otherwise been a huge waste of Giancarlo Esposito), and his surprise wielding of the Darksaber promises more explicit ties and deeper dives into the expanded universe's lore.
There's not much that's new or innovative about anything we get in "Redemption," or really in much of this season overall. But this is exceptionally well-executed, with fun, excitement, humor, and crisp editing. The Mandalorian's first season is one that succeeds in part because of its modest ambitions and scope, and an understanding that less can be more. It doesn't suffer from a minute of pretension or runtime bloat — nor does it especially benefit from the long-form storytelling advantages of television. It's just a really good vehicle for spending time in the Star Wars universe. This is a season much more about the journey than any destination.
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.