The premiere episode of the second season of Disney's first "Star Wars" live-action spin-off, "The Mandalorian," has aired and it does not disappoint.
One of the hurdles this Disney Plus show had to overcome was establishing its identity. No one was quite sure exactly what to expect when the first season aired back in November 2019 and a little adjustment was needed between our expectations and what we received. That's not to say what we got wasn't excellent, but once it was clear "The Mandalorian" was a deep dive into spaghetti sci-fi, we could sit back, relax and enjoy it. And the first few episodes of Season 1 were among the best.
The original "Star Wars" saga was heavily influenced by the Western genre, and George Lucas had ideas for his movies that were way ahead of their time. All you have to do is look at how much he tinkered with "A New Hope" after CGI technology became available. "The Mandalorian" feels like this is what Lucas wanted and together, writer Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni, have created a show that is a love letter to a more interesting side of the "Star Wars" universe. This side isn't aimed solely at kids and doesn't require a Skywalker family member to be present.
Once again, "The Mandalorian" feels right. Some things feel familiar and some things feel completely new, but it all still feels like "Star Wars."
There's a useful recap at the beginning of this episode as there are a few particular events you'll need to remind yourself of. The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) has The Child a.k.a. Baby Yoda in tow. Following the massacre on Nevarro of almost every Mandalorian there by Imperial troops, he is looking for any survivors or others of his kind who might be spread out across the galaxy, while simultaneously trying to reunite The Child with its own kind. This was his task as given by the Armorer (Emily Swallow) in last season's finale.
Entitled "Chapter 9: The Marshal," we open straight away with a great set piece. Djarin seeks a gangster named Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo) in a seedy, alien UFC arena. Apparently, this cycloptic crook has knowledge of the whereabouts of another Mandalorian. Two Gamorreans (remember these guys, from "Return of the Jedi") are in the ring fighting, one assumes, to the death. Koresh wants Djarin's beskar armor in exchange for the information, but obviously that's not going to happen. And in a sequence that we saw in the trailer, Djarin dispenses with Koresh's goon using his "whistling birds" arm-mounted miniature missile pod. However, what we didn’t see in the trailer was the fight that follows from that … and it's great.
As everyone flees from the arena, Koresh makes his escape and the Mandalorian ends up in a fistfight with at least half a dozen goons — they're not wearing beskar armor though. It's well choreographed and really fun to watch. He finally catches up with Koresh and strings him upside down, hanging from a lamppost. After the Mandalorian gets the information he needs, he leaves him strung up … and shoots out the streetlight. And the wild dogs that have up until now been lurking in the shadows slowly approach this free gift of fresh meat … as Koresh screams.
We learn that apparently there's another Mandalorian on Tatooine, so it looks like we're headed to the Outer Rim Territories. Again. Remember when Luke describes Tatooine, "If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that's farthest from it," well, Tatooine certainly seems to be the center of the "Star Wars" universe.
Instantly, this sets in motion a multitude of different thoughts. First, there's a wave of disappointment that we're going back to that planet, yet again, but that's quickly swept aside by the intrigue of which Mandalorian he might find there. Could it be … Boba Fett? We've heard the rumors of his potential return…
On Tatooine, the Mandalorian's ship Razor Crest streaks over the sandy landscape and once again sets down in hangar bay 35, where we see the first character from Season 1 to return — Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) — and her army of DUM-series pit droids. We were first introduced to her in "Chapter 5 "The Gunslinger," and that episode was overflowing with references to the "Star Wars" universe, arguably too many in fact. Thankfully though it's dialed down a bit here, but among the first Easter eggs is the droid R5-D4, with damage from his "bad motivator" still visible. You may remember this R2 unit. It's the one that blows when Owen Lars buys him and C-3PO from the Jawas outside the family's homestead in "A New Hope."
This seemingly insignificant droid has an amazing backstory in the "Star Wars" expanded universe and is, in some small way, is partly responsible for the success of R2-D2's mission to bring the plans of the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance. After R2-D2 was picked up by the Jawas from the Tatooine desert in "A New Hope," the two droids started chatting, as they do, and R2 explained the importance of his mission.
When R5-D4 — and not R2-D2 — was purchased by Lars, the red astromech droid deliberately caused the malfunction creating a situation where Lars would purchase C-3PO's companion and they could continue their important journey to reach Obi Wan Kenobi. And as Wookieepedia explains, "Only powering his auditory receptors, R5 heard R2's farewell, thanking him for his sacrifice and that he would never forget him."
Motto lends Djarin her last remaining Zephyr-G swoop speeder bike, just like the one Anakin Skywalker rode in "Attack of the Clones," and he rides off to find a backwater town that doesn't even show up on the maps anymore called Mos Pelgo.
The journey across the desert is beautifully photographed and even looks like the Tunisian landscape, which is where Tatooine scenes have always been traditionally filmed. It's honestly hard to know if this is actually filmed on location or if it's CGI. More than likely the latter, since Industrial Light and Magic, the company behind the special effects on "The Mandalorian" is legendary in pioneering breakthrough technology in this field.
After having traveled a day and a night, Djarin eventually reaches this tiny settlement in the middle of nowhere and gently rides in just like a lone gunslinger slowly sauntering into a strange town on horseback. His speeder bike even idles like a Harley-Davidson as it creeps forward until finally coming to a halt. We honestly wouldn't have been surprised if he tied it up to a hitching post.
Djarin enters the saloon and asks about the alleged Mandalorian. It turns out to be the marshal of the town, a man named Cobb Vanth, played by the ruggedly handsome Timothy Olyphant — and he's wearing Boba Fett's beskar armor. A popular theory before the second season began was that Olyphant was portraying Vanth, although Disney didn't officially confirm it then. This character first appeared in 2015, in the Aftermarth trilogy by Chuck Winding and in those novels it was heavily implied that Vanth had Fett's armor.
However, Djarin wants the beskar back and a showdown seems inevitable. So far this episode has been well-written and well executed, with great dialogue and fan service kept to a minimum. And it continues to be, with Baby Yoda providing tiny and well-placed moments to make you laugh just like this scene, as it climbs into a spit bucket to take cover, which is both gross and hilarious at the same time.
Without warning, an alarm sounds outside and a massive "Dune"-like Shai-Hulud sandworm approaches underground. It breaks the surface of the sand to swallow a bantha, whole, and then disappears again. It's actually a Krayt dragon, a species indigenous to Tatooine that have popped up a few times in the "Star Wars" universe, most notably in "A New Hope" where C-3PO walks past the skeleton of one while he's wandering the Tatooine desert and Obi Wan Kenobi imitates the cry of a Krayt dragon to scare away the Tusken Raiders that are picking apart Luke's X-34 landspeeder.
It's clear that a new plan is required. So Djarin orchestrates a coalition of forces between the Tusken raiders and the residents of Mos Pelgo. They overcome their differences, accept a truce and formulate a plan. They bury explosives near the mouth of the cave and set up huge, wooden harpoons.
What follows is a dramatic, thrilling set piece as they struggle with the enormous dragon, which just to add to their problems, spits out deadly acid that dissolves people on contact.
Vanth and Djarin fight together and actually make a pretty good team. The first attempt to blow it up fails and the situation looks bleak. Townsfolk and Tuskens are getting melted, buried, swallowed and squashed. Djarin comes up with a last ditch plan: he takes the last bantha that has explosives still strapped to it and manages to lure the dragon to swallow him and it. Everyone looks on, wondering if the next time they'll see the Mandalorian will be in a pile of dragon poop.
Suddenly, our helmeted hero flies out of the dragon's mouth as it roars and from the air, detonates the explosives remotely. Everyone rejoices as dragon bits rain down on them. As the Tuskens carve up the huge quantities of Kryat meat — and one even finds the coveted dragon pearl — Vanth and Djarin bid each other farewell. He's been a brilliant character and so much fun to watch. "I hope our paths cross again," he says to the Mandalorian. And so do we.
Just seconds before we fade to black and the credits, we see a mysterious figure standing on a hillside as the Tatooine suns set, watching Djarin speed off into the distance. He turns and … well, we don't know who it is yet, but it's clearly the actor Temuera Morrison and since he played Jango Fett in the prequels and in fact has been slated to play Boba Fett, we can only assume that's who it is.
According to Wookieepedia, "Fett survived his fall into the Pit of Carkoon, and escaped the Sarlacc. Some time before 9 ABY [After Battle of Yavin], he was separated from his Mandalorian armor, which eventually ended up in the possession of roving Jawas. The armor was sold to Cobb Vanth in exchange for a camtono of silicax crystals, who later gave it to the Mandalorian Din Djarin in exchange for his help killing a massive Krayt dragon. Boba was on Tatooine at this time, and watched as Djarin headed towards Mos Eisley from a high vantage point."
Disney has more live-action "Star Wars" spin-off TV shows still to come. One will be based on Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) from "Rogue One" and another is centered around Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Season 2 of "The Mandalorian" premieres on Disney Plus on Oct.30.
The first season of "The Mandalorian" is on Disney Plus, which is available for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year in the US and in the U.K., it's £6 a month, or £60 a year. It's also available in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, India, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, France and Japan.
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