Spoilers below for The Mandalorian's Season 2 finale, so you know what to do!
With its eye-popping finale, The Mandalorian brought out the big guns (or the big lightsabers, as it were) for Season 2's most game-changing reveal yet, with Baby Yoda being retrieved from Mando's care by none other than Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. Everyone's mileage will vary on how cool (and awkward) that sequence was, but it can at least be considered a positive moment within the narrative itself. On the flip side, however, is the finale's biggest disappointment: Moff Gideon's Dark Troopers.
On the outset, the humanity-free army of Dark Troopers truly looked like they could become the most dangerous threat in the galaxy, especially with Giancarlo Esposito's clever and dominating Moff Gideon being responsible for deploying them. Yet, in the end, the Dark Trooper army did essentially nothing to stop Mando's and the others from achieving #SquadGoals aplenty. At first, I felt only remorse thinking about how much more impactful the Dark Troopers could have been, but then I realized their whole existence is basically just riffing on a classic Star Wars trope. Let's discuss.
The Set-Up: Stormtroopers Are Ineffective Villains
Every Star Wars fan knows the deal when it comes to Stormtroopers. They look awesome, but their blaster accuracy has always been abysmal, making them as useful in battle as a jar of jelly that you just cannot get the lid off of, even if jelly was actually a hot-fire weapon. Stormtroopers are only reasonably considered a threat at all because there are so goddamned many of them, and they all appear comfortable being vacuum-sealed together to fit into vehicles.
The Mandalorian is completely aware of the helmeted soldiers' shortcomings, too, and has poked fun at Stormtroopers in some of the most amusing moments from the first two seasons. So it's not out of the question that Jon Favreau & Co. would have wanted to address that long-standing criticism in an interesting way with their TV series. Which brings us to...
The Rising Action: Moff Gideon Put Together A Badass Dark Trooper Army
As it goes with the Galactic Empire, rather than trashing the Stormtrooper blueprint and starting over, Moff Gideon set up an even-better-than-other-better-versions type of trooper that would seemingly have none of the fallbacks of their human counterparts, cloned or otherwise. Droids are able to compute, assess, and react in ways people cannot, after all, and their accuracy is ideally second to none in most situations. So these sleek mofos should have been a lethal wrecking crew to everything that faced them.
With the Dark Troopers, The Mandalorian's creative team were building upon prior lore, sure, but they were also reconfiguring the Empire's "if at first you don't succeed" decision to make Death Star 2.0, just on a minor scale. Remember the thing that the badass looking villain made that should have been way harder to take down than it actually was? Here's another version of that, but guess what? Now everything will definitely go according to pla... Oh, wait, that's not what happened.
The Punchline: Dark Troopers Are Ineffective Villains
To be fair, Moff Gideon's army did what it was supposed to do in the sense of being incredibly strong and agile and capable of surviving within the vacuum of space. And it was pretty awesome to watch that one Dark Trooper smash Mando's head deeper into that wall. But because Mando was the only non-Jedi character that faced one of the mega-droids in combat, The Mandalorian once again upended an extremely deadly threat via Mando's stronger-than-shit beskar armor. It's that age-old situation where an unstoppable force meets an im-Mando-able object.
Then, just when it looked like the Dark Troopers might seriously do some damage to those whose faces and organs weren't protected by beskar, in came Luke Skywalker to point out the Empire's lack of foresight in not making the droids Jedi-proof. Once again, a seemingly all-powerful enemy army was quickly reduced to rubble without having made all that much of an impact. I mean, at least the Death Star blew some shit up before succumbing to its own explosions.
Though I may be disappointed that a bunch of Dark Troopers never went ultra-ham on someone, I can appreciate how both the Dark Troopers and Moff Gideon himself are really just The Mandalorian's takes on a well-known Star Wars formula. Which isn't to say I think it's recycling or copying those tropes in a lazy way. Rather, I think Jon Favreau & Co. successfully introduced Giancarlo Esposito as an intelligent and intimidating villain, making him appear capable of producing an opposing faction that could actually take down the good guys. And then delivered an end result that proved Gideon's ego overshadowed his abilities – which almost has to be Requirement #1 in the Empire's hiring process – and that Mandalorians and Jedi ain't nothing to fuck with. Who am I to argue against such notions?
Plus, Moff Gideon and the Dark Troopers were both successful during the most vital part of the mission. They kidnapped Baby Yoda from and Gideon gained access to the creature's Midi-chlorian-enriched blood, so even if he gets killed off and the Dark Troopers are no more, their efforts were not in vain, but were rather "in vain." (That pun might now be the most disappointing thing about the episode to me.) We'll have to wait until Season 3 to see what becomes of Gideon's cloning plans, however, so let the speculation continue!
The Mandalorian is now finished with Season 2, though we know there are tons of other Star Wars TV series on the way to Disney+ for many years coming, and the finale's post-credits sequence even set up a new Boba Fett spinoff. But while waiting for some Season 3 news, head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring 2021 TV lineup to see all the new and returning shows to dive into until more Star Wars content gets here.