‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 Premiere Review: Go West, Young Mando
As a wise Mandalorian once said, “If it is not broken, do not attempt a repair.” The Mandalorian worked extremely well in its debut season on Disney+ and it’s clear its creative team made a concerted effort to continue along the same path in Season 2. The premiere is called “Chapter 9 - The Marshal,” and it does feel like the next segment of the same larger story they’ve been telling from the beginning.
When I reviewed the series premiere of The Mandalorian last fall, I wrote that while “the Star Wars movies drew their main inspiration from classic science-fiction and adventure serials ... The Mandalorian owes its greatest creative debts to old TV Westerns, where lawmen roamed the frontier, dispensing justice and steely one-liners.” By “Chapter 4,” the show started aping the structure of anthology TV dramas like The Incredible Hulk or The Fugitive, where a vigilante do-gooder (or, in this case, a vigilante do-gooder and his adorable baby buddy) wander around righting whatever wrongs they encounter as they try to stay ahead of whatever nefarious forces are perpetually nipping at their heels.
That all feels true of “The Marshal” — even the name evokes the Old West — where Mando (Pedro Pascal) and the Child (Baby Yoda) arrive on Tatooine searching for another Mandalorian who’s supposedly been seen in the outpost of Mos Pelgo. Instead, they find the town protected by a marshal named Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) who’s wearing a very familiar suit of Mandalorian armor. Together, they wind up taking on an enormous monster called a krayt dragon.
There must have been some temptation after Baby Yoda became the breakout star of The Mandalorian Season 1 to tailor the show a little more to an audience that finds that widdle creature absolutely irresistible. (If nothing else, it would have helped sell even more Baby Yoda merchandise.) Instead, the Child remains in the background, and if “The Marshal” is any indication, Season 2 is going to be much darker and more intense than its predecessor. The krayt dragon devours numerous Tatooine residents (Tatooinees?) and is generally a terrifying creation, somewhere between a sandworm from Dune and Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. This has to be the only television show on Disney+ where living beings are murdered by geysers of alien acid reflux. It’s fun for the whole family!
One of the big advantages of an anthology show is it allows for very talented actors with busy schedules to stop by for a brief guest spot, which is precisely what happens here with Olyphant as Cobb Vanth. Olpyhant, a veteran of Westerns like Deadwood, is perfect for The Mandalorian, (Also, if I can speak candidly for a moment, his hair is objectively magnificent.) Guest stars also add additional stakes to Mando’s adventures, because while the lead actors in television series almost never die, guest stars often do. That lends a lot of tension to that final showdown with that krayt dragon.
A character introduced in Season One appears briefly as Mando hunts for Tattooine’s mysterious Mandalorian, and while it’s nice to see this person return, the scene is arguably less about their cameo than reinforcing the fact that The Mandalorian is little by little building this enormous galaxy of planets and relationships, all of which are important, and none of which are forgotten just because they may not appear in every single episode. When those characters return, it makes The Mandalorian feel like it takes in a world that extends beyond the boundaries of the frame. This isn’t just a backlot populated by whatever extras were available that week. It’s a living place, one that creator Jon Favreau — who also wrote and directed “The Marshal” — and the rest of the Mandalorian creative team — plan very carefully.
They also do a very impressive job bringing it to life. Effects on action and sci-fi television series have traditionally lagged behind action and sci-fi movies. Even the shows with good special effects rarely look as convincing as their big-screen, big-budget counterparts. That cannot be said of The Mandalorian, whose creatures and speeder bikes and space ships all look as good or better than the stuff seen in theaters. Rather than relying on the fact that most people will watch this series on a small device, Favreau and company made something that looks better than it needs to.
“The Marshal” is only one episode, but it shows The Mandalorian remains exactly the series we all enjoyed last fall. Given the events in this chapter, I doubt that Season 2 will end with Mando making much progress in his quest to reunite Baby Yoda with his fellow, uh, yodas. That’s fine with me. He can take his time. I’m enjoying the rough and tumble tour through Star Wars’ frontier.
Gallery — More Images From The Mandalorian Season 2: