Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Mixology: Introducing the "Darth Vader"

Welcome back to the Gaunt let of Balthazar for another foray into dipsomania, and the creation of a brand spanking new beverage, which I'm coining "The Darth Vader". Copyright infringement here we come.

As it turns out the drink is intentionally black or dark-grey / black with tinge of red - obviously to match Darth Vader's shiny black armor and bright red light saber. My daughter and I made it with no condiments or accoutrements, but just to match the theme if I were to picture it, I might want to add a red straw and maraschino cherry.

Anyway, here's what you'll need to make this cloying, yet harsh, concoction:

One-and-a-Half ounces of VSOP Brandy

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Blue Curacao

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Creme de Cacao

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Raspberry Syrup

One to Two Tablespoons of Chocolate Syrup (Toriani, Hershey's, or Fox's - your choice)

Shake with Ice and Serve in a Rock Glass with ice, and as I said, maybe a Red Straw and a maraschino cherry.


I personally think it came out nicely, but there is a caution here that the chocolatey and fruity sweetness might obscure the alcohol content. So plan accordingly if you're going to have more than one. 


Till next time.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Tightening Noose: Technocracy Versus Liberty - China, Davos, the Left, and the Tactics of Fear

Hi all and welcome to, or back to, the curious yet disquisitive Gauntlet of Balthazar for some speculations and observations regarding our fellow citizens - the enablers, the compliers, the globalist utopians, the authoritarians, and the malevolent, around the world.

It seems like just yesterday that the Gauntlet made the happy announcement commemorating this blogs 40,000th page visit - a situation that had been a slow climb since we first went on- line in early October of 2016. In fact, it took just shy of four years to get there, and admittedly, the last push from 25,000 to 40,000 was in no little way aided by the emergence of a sizable block of readers based in Hong Kong, and secondarily from users in mainland China.

This swell seemed to me to just happen to coincide with the emergence of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, which alongside Catalan and Kurdish Independence, the Gauntlet respects, admires, and supports. In fact, as a general rule, and for the most part, any group or movement that supports freedom, liberty, egalitarianism, and endorses national sovereignty and local governance over the globalism of Davos and blocks like the European Union (but not necessarily global- ization), and disdains all forms of Marxism, just tickles me to no end.

But, as you may know, the Chinese Communist Party, in violation of their stated respect for the institutions and traditions of Hong Kong, began to crack down heavily on the leaders of the Pro-Democracy groups, and arrested Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam, Andrew Wan, Sam Cheung, Wong Ji-yuet, publisher Jimmy Lai, and pretty much any notable figures in the movement. By early January 2021, 55 such activists were in police custody.

Not that the Gauntlet's plight is comparable to that of political detainees, but those once respectable page visit numbers very quickly came to a grinding halt around the time of the US Presidential Election, and views plummeted not just from Hong Kong and China, but from all over the world. I'm sure that there are those who would advise the Gauntlet to not look to outside forces, and instead to assume that the content here suddenly got really, really poor and the audience screamed in unison, "Enough of you, dirty Gauntlet!". Yeah. Right. 

As you can see from the analytics graph depicted to the right, this drop off was both sudden and severe, and visually is really striking - with the decline starting in the last couple of weeks in October. Hence why I am divulging such otherwise proprietary information here, so you can see the crystal clear example of suppression as it is.

Regardless, I also find it incredibly coincidental that this new wave of CCP crackdowns in Hong Kong also occurred during the contested period following the most recent US Presidential election. Given, the CCP through their operatives in the Hong Kong police force, did a 15 activist roundup beta-test as far back as April 2020, but this new wave was methodical, unilateral, and was clearly designed in purpose to break the back of the movement.

While we in the US (at least 80% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats) wrestled with the suspected maleficence of the Presidential, and even the Georgia Senatorial races, little did we realize that political leaders on the left were lying like a pack of dedicated predators, biding their time for the right moment to push their advantage with a vindictive glee that can only be described as psychopathic. But, this is what happens when the basic agreement to disagree in a civilized society is abandoned by one side in an argument.

As someone once said, and I've stated here before: "the right plays by the rules the left established, and the left plays by no rules at all". I also like this playful slap against post-modernism I feel originated here: "Republicans long ago ceded the moral high ground to a group of people who argue that there is no such thing as morality".

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.

Just in the last few days US President Donald J. Trump; a friend to the Hong Kong activists, was unilaterally de-platformed by literally every single Silicon Valley Tech company (Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Snap, Shopify, etc.). And it did not end there, a great number of individuals connected to the President (such as lawyer Sidney Powell) were also banned and some were even served with lawsuits listed to be in the multiple billion dollars range.

The Democrats, now boasting a super-majority in the Oval Office, House and Senate, jump-started the wheels of a last minute impeachment (we can only assume in a gambit to ruin Trump's chances of a second-term return in 2024), and some radical operatives in the House even vied for the forced removal of outspoken Conservative / Libertarian Senators like Ted Cruz, who btw, I voted for in the 2015 primary against Trump. Message received loud and clear: it's our way or highway, so never question the state, Winston.

Enter the tech-oligarchs: Dorsey, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Pichai; who mercilessly, and possibly illegally, summarily removed the President of the United states from all of their platforms as swiftly and simply as they did Alex Jones (another beta-test). The reason was for nothing he said (though the excuse was the Capitol Assault), but because he is Trump, and they don't like him, Democracy, Free Speech, or his followers, and he's on his way out, and so they can do it with impunity (or so they believe). 

Personally, as a right-leaning Libertarian / Republican it is hard sometime feeling like you're always working defense against an opponent whose playing by a different set of rules, but the one thing I can say with complete confidence is that the Democrats in government, their Communist street thugs (Antifa & BLM), their allies in Silicon Valley, their mentors in Davos, psy-op legacy media sycophants, and the Chinese Communist Party all share a disdain for liberty, and have fixed their stars on holding and gaining authoritarian power, while feigning actual liberal values with buzzwords like "equality" and "inclusion".

Their means are simple, and are taken right out of Karl Marx: A Planned Global Economy highlighted by Government control of large swathes of the private sector (including health care), Diminished National Sovereignty, Forced "Equality", and Wealth Re-Distribution, all highlighted by Orwellian new-speak PC language policing.

In the west at least, this is all held in place by pitting victim narratives against one another in an endless Race, Class, and Gender War (now known as "Critical Race Theory" or technically, "Intersectionality"). China gets to stay racist, 'cuz, hey, whatever they want, right?

Even if I can wrap my head around the fact that a non-entity such as creepy corporate shill Joe Biden received more of the African-American vote than any Presidential candidate in modern memory, including the first African-American President Barak Obama (really?), and notwithstanding that Trump took more African-American male votes than any Republican in 50 years, one would have thought that with their victory and transfer of power imminent that there would have been a modicum of grace coming from the Democratic side. But alas, They've Won! And now heads must roll.

Sadly, I tried to warn people of this eventuality, here on the Gauntlet, on social media, in my art, and verbally in person, but the control that these forces hold over our shared narrative is holistic, pervasive, and almost insurmountable. They control you completely, and if you don't believe me, ask your tracker (I mean cell phone) why you've been under house arrest for the past year. Yes I know it's a horrible plague, with sniffles and a 0.02% death rate, and California with a hard lock-down is faring worse than Sweden and Florida with none, buy hey, it's "The Science". I personally believe in "Science". I also believe in "Truth" - not "Your Truth" or "My Truth", just Truth, and it's in short supply. But I have news for you - this lock down was put in place so that your perception of reality could work out that Biden, who barely left his basement and never broke 6,000 attendees (even this is contested) at one of his rallies was able to fully trounce Trump, who regularly broke 30,000 screaming devotees all over the country.  

Indoctrinated far-leftist radicals in the US engaged in terroristic activities throughout most of the year and the entire summer, burning several cities to the ground while setting up makeshift anarchist / dictatorial compounds, all egged on by the notion that Blacks are inordinately targeted by Police, when ten times the amount of Whites, and all other races in America meet their deaths at the hands of law enforcement every year. Not a great stat, and unnecessary deaths are always a shame, but hey, I've got a crazy idea - if you don't want to die, don't attack a couple of guys who spend their time looking for trouble, and carry guns and tasers. Just shut your mouth and comply. Yet, after all of their "peaceful protests" i.e. riots, it took the first instance of Republican violence, uh EVER, (the storming of the Capitol) for them to use it as an excuse to crack down.

A friend of mine recently explained the left's psychological tactics in a metaphor that I find so cogent I feel I must share it here.

You're in a room with your wife, kids, and dog. A stranger arrives and murders all of them, except for you. He then leaves and returns to the adjoining room where he tells his friends that in a minute a crazy person (you) will be coming through the door after him. In due course, you enter beside yourself with grief and anger. See, I told you - that's the crazy person. This is a tactic that abusive spouses regular use on their partners, and frankly, Republicans and Democrats need a divorce. The problem is, who gets the country?

In the end I must point out that the left will fail, as is their nature, and hey, friendly warning to you guys - if you couldn't stand Trump because of his demeanor, or he wasn't like the Neo-Cons, Rinos, and Squishy Republicans you got used to pushing around and who never punched back because you and they were too busy being corrupt war-mongers, just imagine what sort of an uncompromising monster you'll get the next time if you continue to refuse to play fair. 

I know we will.

Till next time.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: The Vacuous Morality of Wonder Woman 1984

Welcome back to the inscrutable Gauntlet of Balthazar for yet another foray into the depths of screenplay writing and media review - and a hard look over the perplexing filmic disaster known as Warner Bros. & DC Comics Wonder Woman 1984.

For those of you who may stumbled upon a Gauntlet superhero review before, you may have noticed the repeated disclaimers specifying a general preference for Marvel over DC comics and films, but in this the self-titled Wonder Woman (2017) was head and shoulders above most of the other recent films in the DC universe, and easily stands alongside Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy and The Joker as the top drawer of DC outings. 

If anything the first Wonder Woman presented a morally principled hero who literally felt that she, and everyone else, should endeavor to make the world a better place. While she focused her energies on the wrong target for much of the film, and her dualism was a little too on the nose, the film was in general such a pleasant surprise, and was so incredibly likeable, that its train-wreck of a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, makes the latter all the more disappointing.

So what, pray tell, is just the matter with the damn thing? Well, the list is pretty long, so let's begin. Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Wonder Woman 1984 begins with a flashback sequence depicting a very young Diana competing in a Olympic game of sorts on her home island of Themyscira, with the point of showing her disqualification from the event for taking a shortcut in the race and effectively cheating. The entire point of course is that Diana must learn to play by the rules and accept the consequences of reality. This is the polar opposite message the Star Trek franchise promoted when a young James T. Kirk reprogrammed a computer simulation designed to test student's reaction to a "no-win situation" because he "didn't believe in a no-win situation". Anyway, while the admonition against cheating is morally correct, there's a fine line between acceptance and conformity. Given, we saw in the first film how hard Diana's mother wished to keep her daughter a perpetual child, but ignorance should never be mistaken for a virtue.

Regardless, not counting that the first film was a reminiscence from the perspective of the story now prior to the events de- picted in Batman Versus Superman & Justice League, we quickly move ahead some 65 years to the 1980's. Apparently little has changed, and Diana Prince is still pining for her lost love, Steve Trevor, and we can only assume, she's been celibate for the seven decades since the couple spent one dreamy night working on deflowering her in a dingy room upstairs from a pub in Alsace-Lorraine at the end of World War One. In suiting fashion, Diana now works in antiquity acquisitions at the Smithsonian, where we expect she puts to good use her ability to sight read ancient Hittite and such. Not bad so far, right? Wrong. 

While I can admire the romance of a couple falling deeply in love at first sight, as well as respecting a bereaved widow who mourns eternally, it seems to me that Diana's focus on Steve, her incapacity of moving on - to the point of her choosing to not fight crime, not only undermines her moral agency, but also her agency as a female. While I'm sure director Patty Jenkins would assert that the arc of Diana coming into her own at the end of the film is one of feminist self-empowerment, I would argue that Diana is just one step short of failing the Bechdel test. In fact, if she had a friend to chat with, I'm pretty sure that the dialogue would break the 85% male-centric content ceiling and betray the overall lack of character and story development.

Enter Barbara Ann Minerva, otherwise known as Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis "Cheetah" in the illustrated versions. Babs is played here by mostly comic Kristen Wig; who does a suitable job at playing the newly-hired homely nerd-girl who immediately looks up to, and let's face it, the accomplished and gorgeous Diana - played again by the accomplished and gorgeous Israeli soldier-turned-model-turned-actress, Gal Gadot. 

Soon after her arrival, fast-friends Diana and Barbara become aware that the Smithsonian has come into the possession of a mythic relic referred to as "the Dreamstone" - a crystal that supposedly grants wishes, and was created by the "Duke of Deception", or Dolos, an operative of the God Ares - introduced in the comics in Wonder Woman issue #2 way back in 1942.

Barbara of course wishes to be more like Diana, and thus, unknowingly attains super-powers. Likewise Diana, following her focus, wishes that Steve was still alive, and presto, he returns. While this is all very Aladdin's lamp, Steve's return is the most problematic issue of all. If only Steve had returned in the flesh, this would have not created the moral vacuum that follows. Instead, what we have here is that Steve's soul has come to inhabit the body of some other young man, and only Diana can see him, because, I guess, the power of her love.

Aside from the opportunity to get Chris Pine into this film, and have him humorously gawk at 1980's mall culture through the eyes of someone whose last memories are of the Edwardian Era / Gilded Age, Diana and he never question where the spirit of the man whose body they've stolen is. In fact, all considerations go out the window, because, hey, they're in love. I guess that makes it's okay to use a stranger's body (without his consent) as a conduit to have sex with one another.

I personally believe that this situation qualifies as a rape, but I'm sure Ms. Jenkins would contest that notion, 'cuz hey, he's a dude and he should only be so lucky to have Wonder Woman have sex with him, even if he isn't aware of it. Uh, okay, Cosby. Definitely not egalitarian, but maybe ass-backward third wave feminist thinking. I guess what's good for the goose is what's good for the, uh, goose.

Anyway, Barbara / Cheetah isn't really the villain here, it's Maxwell Lorenzano a.k.a. Max Lord, who is a "fake-it-till-you-make-it" cheese-ball motivational speaker played by Pedro Pascal - the actor who currently plays the lead in Disney+'s The Mandalorian. Jenkins revealed in online interviews that she based Lord's character on President Donald Trump, not because he was in his heyday in the 1980's, but because you know, he's just really, really horrible, and it's a requirement to virtue signal to your peers in Hollywood, and alienate half of your potential audience. Cudos, point made.

The crux of the issue is that Max realizes what the stone is, somehow, and long story short, ends up possessing it, and ultimately, wishes that he "becomes the stone" (actually a good element). He soon after puts the "kevorka" on the unnamed but Reagan-like US President, and gains access to a web of government satellites that are extremely reminiscent of the "Star Wars Defense System". Lord then uses the technology (analogue frequency to beta wave conversion?) to read everyone's mind across the earth, and grants their wishes - but apparently only negative and violent ones, except for Diana and Steve's incarnated love of course. Very convenient.

The motif that is presented here is that for every wish given, something else must be taken, and thus in due course Diana slowly loses her powers, making her increasingly helpless to fight the bad things that Max's wish-giving is creating, including Cheetah who keeps increasing her power. Why hapless Steve just can't wish for Diana to have her powers restored is just beyond the Gauntlet's scope of understanding I guess. 

As a result of her weakened state, Diana then dons the golden (and magical) armor of Asteria - a super-sexy skintight covering that they just so happen to have laying around the office and btw, fits her like a glove. As a side note I should point out that Diana never once uses her sword in any of the battle sequences in this film, even though it was featured almost non-stop in all her other appearances, and the fans loved it. It was clearly intentionally removed, and we can assume it was done so as a method to make Wonder Woman appear "less violent". Sadly, no one in any of the production meetings bothered to point out that this was supposed to be a superhero movie and that there's generally a fair amount of fighting and violence involved. I also think that this might originate in a subconscious, internalized regressive feminist notion that swords are "just too phallic", and thus, not female. Good job robbing more agency from women, as well as negating the iconic image of Amazons going back to ancient times. In fact Patty, you probably should have added a bow, as Amazons were reputed for that. But, I digress.

In the end, Diana uses the lasso of Hestia to make Max see the truth that his son is actually the most important thing in his life, and he renounces his wish of embodying the stone. One would think that this would cascade and cancel everyone else's wishes, but it does not, and Diana has to use the President's satellite system to convince everyone who cast a crappy wish to voluntarily renounce it. Of course, everyone complies with her request quite readily, which is ridiculous fantasy element. But, whatever.

Max, or rather Pedro Pascal, has perhaps the best screen moment of the film as he reunites with his little boy, while on the other side of town Diana bids Steve a bittersweet farewell as his soul vacates the body they have hijacked.

Freed from the shackles of the past, because of learning and stuff, Diana suddenly develops the power of flight, ('cuz she's liberated now), and voila, Wonder Woman is finally ready to get back into the game, in uh, thirty-five more years or so. 

In a cute touch in a mid-credit scene, we learn that the hero Asteria (the one from the armor) has been living in secret among humans and doing good deeds. She is played by 1980's Wonder Woman television series star Lynda Carter, so very nice tip of the hat. The end.

I must say that throughout the film it felt like characters simply surmised situations without much information, which in turn made the script feel much more light-weight than it probably seemed.

Generally, there are only a few ways to effectively relate through coherent writing how dots are meant to connect in a story. The first is that we the audience watch the protagonist piece together a series of clues and methodically arrive at the answer or solution. The answer he or she comes up with can often be wrong, and presents a false conclusion (as in Wonder Woman 2017 or The Usual Suspects), setting up a further reveal. The second mode is that the audience is given the truth up- front, yet takes enjoyment from watching the protagonist discover it after the fact (like in Colombo). Deconstructed works might possess a more fluid structure, but Wonder Woman is no art film. Instead, it makes use of coincidences and happenstances which suggest an overall simplistic and childish feel, which I assure you was not the intention.

In fact I should just take the Gauntlet off and remind everyone that Ms. Jenkins repeatedly went on the record that she wanted the film to stand not as just a superhero movie, but rather as a drama, a comedy, and a life lesson. That is all very good in intention, but the drama is frivolous, the comedy is clumsy and minor, the morality is shakily deviant, and the life lesson (or moral) is as simplistic as the main character's arc. 

Therefore, due to the substantial capabilities of the actors, the likability, the slick eye-candy, and the overall capable technical aspects of the film in contrast to the story and script, the Gauntlet gives Wonder Woman 1984 five raised Gauntlets out ten. If you've seen it and you think this is an under-estimation, I would suggest that the film will not fare better over time. And if you haven't seen it - hey, don't listen to me, check it out yourself. 

Till next time.

Friday, January 1, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: What We Learned From Disney+'s Star Wars: "The Mandalorian" Season Two

Greetings and Happy New Year, and welcome back to the Gauntlet for a new media review, and a continuation of sorts.

Literally twelve months ago, give or take a couple of weeks, Season One of Disney+'s / Lucasfilm's epic space-western, The Mandalorian, was rapidly approaching its climax, and in suiting fashion, the Gauntlet put in its two cents, and added to the general online flurry regarding this wonderful serial as well as to the abundance of articles addressing Star Wars here.

The Gauntlet's review for that season was broken down into several categories, including; "The Creative Team", "The Structure", "The Appeal", "Setting, Era, and Connection to the Rest of the Canon", "The Social Circumstances", "Enter the Moral Dilemma", and lastly, "The Review". Overall, I think it's a pretty fair analysis, has aged very well, and I stick by everything in there. 

Therefore, "why go on?", one might ask. And in that, the answer is very simple. Some very interesting reveals, developments, connections, and relationships, came to light over the second season of The Mandalorian and which addressed a number of long standing questions presented in other parts of the Star Wars franchise - notably the original films (particularly Episodes IV-VI), as well as two of the animated series -The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

So let's head in, shall we?

Episode I: The Return of the Gunslinger

The western motif presented from the start was back with a vengeance from the first episode of the season, "The Marshal", where the Mandalorian arrives at a town on the outskirts of civilization, of course troubled by an looming threat of a creature familiar to Star Wars geeks as a Greater Krayt Dragon. In turn, he offers his aid in freeing the citizens of the municipality from their impending doom. This of course further verifies that Din Djarin; The Mandalorian, is indeed a "good guy". To push it further, in Episode Two, in exchange for information that might be useful in locating a Jedi who will raise his charge, i.e. "Baby Yoda" (revealed to actually be called Grogu) the Mandalorian transports a pregnant woman to be reunited with her husband. While he is still presented as "generally morally ambiguous", his position as an anti-hero is solidified all the more in the second season, but very cleverly, the writers and directors counter this by raising questions about his deeds in the murky past.

One such issue presented to further this angle was seen in Episode Seven, "The Believer", where we find out that for some reason dear Mr. Djarin seems to possess an Imperial profile that grants him security access to their databases, implying service in the Galactic Empire. 

Episode II: The Attack of the Real Mandalorians (This is the Way)

At the very end of the first episode we are shown a brief glimpse of Temuera Morrison viewing from afar the Krayt Dragon incident. For anyone with a memory, Morrison was the actor who played Jango Fett, and all of the Clones, in Star Wars Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. According to Star Wars lore, Republic Clone Troopers, ex- cluding a handful, were annihilated by Emperor Palaptine in the aftermath of their role in slaughtering most of the Jedi. A "no loose ends" principle brought to the umpteenth level. Thus, the appearance of Morrison suggested to fans that either the beloved Captain Rex or perhaps Boba Fett was entering the series, but with the facial scaring, and his presence on Tatooine, it seemed the latter choice was the operative one. And so it was. Star Wars canon had always posited that Jango and Boba Fett wore Mandalorian armor, but were "not Mandalorian" - a situation that served as a prequel for Din Djarin's position as a "foundling" - indoctrinated into a Mandalorian cult. 

Stellar (pun intended) Episode Three, "The Heiress", marked the introduction of disenfranchised Mandalorian royalty in the form of Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, played suitably harsh by the infectious Katee Sackhoff - reprising her Clone Wars animated series voice role. As a result, the Gauntlet and the rest of the audience was treated to upper crust ethnic Mandalorians, a Mandalorian by creed, and a fallen crypto-Mandalorian, all appearing on screen at the same time.

I would suggest that the single best line of script dialogue which appeared in the season, and maybe the series, was uttered by Din Djarin as he snippily deemed Bo-Katan and her entourage: "You're not Mandalorians", because they're ethnic Mandalorians and do not hold to the martial-religious creed in the same way that he does. A case of the convert out-believing the genuine article - absolutely darling!

Episode III: The Phantom Jedi 

One the most beloved Star Wars characters never seen before in live action is Ahsoka Tano (played here by Rosario Dawson). Ahsoka first appeared in the Clone Wars animated series as Anakin Skywalker's cryto-padwan. She serves as not just a protege but also as yet another person close to Anakin who just doesn't see his descent into becoming Darth Vader. We are meant to almost pity Ashoka for her obliviousness, as she is presented as spending even more time with Anakin at the battle front than he does his wife, Princess Amidala, who is pregnant back at home. 

If you recall from the Gauntlet's article addressing the final season of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka was responsible, in league with Bo-Katan, for the invasion of Mandalore in a gambit to retake the planet for its legitimate royal line as well as to capture Darth Maul. The upshot of course, is that Mandalore fell to the Republic cum Empire, and in their resistance, the planet was largely destroyed, the population massacred, and Mandalorians were scattered throughout the Empire. Sort of like ancient Judeans after the Roman-Jewish Wars of the first and second centuries. 

Of course the similarity doesn't end there, since in the first century the culture of the Judean Kingdom was highly militarized and radically violent. Yet, it was also a period that set the stage for the more insular, pacifist, religion focused communities that sprung up as the Jewish diaspora spread. The Mandlorian in effect fits right into this cultural paradigm, regardless of the fantasy element. 'Cuz hey, Mandalorians don't really exist, right?

Episode IV: The Grand Moff Awakens

So after a little Samurai team up, a teaser that Ahsoka is searching for Admiral Thrawn, and ergo the missing Jedi, Ezra Bridger, not to mention the recurring appearances of burly, yet super-sexy, Gina Carano as Rebel Jumper Cara Dune, former Imperial bad ass Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) suddenly returns, and soon after absconds with little Grogu, much to the Mandalorians dismay.

This of course leads to the "heist" phase of the season, where Din gets the band back together. He and Boba Fett, the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming Na-Wen), Cara Dune, and Migs Mayfeld (played convincingly by comic Bill Burr) as well as Bo-Katan and her aides (but curiously no Ahsoka), locate where Moff Gideon is holding Grogu, board his Cruiser, and basically slaughter everyone. But hey, they're storm troopers and stuff, I guess.

In the Season Two finale episode, named "The Rescue", some really interesting elements were introduced, and warning: spoilers ahead, they involve the future of Mandalorian culture.

If you recall at the end of Season One we learned that Moff Gideon somehow possessed the "Darksaber", which was / is a defining qualifier of rule within the traditional martial culture of old Mandalore. In the Clone Wars it was taken from Pre Vizsla, the leader of Death Watch (note: Mandlorian foundlings like Din Djarin are referred to as "Children of the Watch"), by Darth Maul, and Bo-Katan would not accept a non-ethnic Mandalorian as ruler of Mandalore. Hence the beef.

As it turns out, Bo-Katan must have had it at some point, because when Moff Gideon is defeated by Din, it effectively makes Din leader of the Mandalorians - much to Bo-Katan's frustration. Though Din does not want the blade, it can only be won, not given, which sets up a nice conflict for Season Three. 

In the end a CG-morphed Luke Skywalker (and R2D2) circa Return of the Jedi arrive, and after a legitimately tearful farewell with his erstwhile father-figure, Luke takes little Grogu with him - we can expect to the school that Kylo Ren later destroys. Thus ends Season Two, setting the stage not only for The Mandalorian Season Three, but an Ahsoka series, a continuation of Star Wars Rebels, a Cara Dune series, etc., etc.

Episode V: The Rise of Directors and Writers (The Force is With Them)

This season of the Mandalorian was marked not only by the appearance of notable guest stars like Timothy Olyphant, John Leguizamo, Titus Welliver, Horatio Sanz, and Michael Biehn but some really great writing and directing by series co-creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. Likewise, a crop of talented guest directors such as Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Robert Rodriguez, Rick Famuyiwa returned or arrived to lend a hand and joined the ranks of Taika Waititi and Deborah Chow as talents behind the camera. 

I have suspicions that the lead actor in this series, Pedro Pascal, might be prone to overdo it at times, but fortunately he is often cast as taciturn or introverted characters. In this case he's still for the most part obscured by helmet, but in the three times or so we've seen him on screen this season, he is awesome. In fact, to Pedro's credit he probably can boast the best on-screen moment in Wonder Woman '84 - though the Gauntlet will dissect that train wreck in the next From the Writer's Studio review.  

All in all, it was a great, great season for the Mandalorian. The Gauntlet gives it 4.9 Gauntleted lightsabers out of 5.0! (the .01 is for the metachlorians, of course).

Till next time.