Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) is a Mandalorian warrior who has sworn an oath to reunite his young ward, The Child, a mysterious, Force-sensitive being, with his own kind. His solution: asking his fellow Mandalorians for the way. However, finding the most secretive warrior clan in the galaxy is going to be hard. Which is how The Mandalorian finds himself on a desert planet, entering into an uneasy alliance with the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) of a small town…
The way, this is.
Relatively hot on the heels of the success of the first season, which debuted late over here on Disney+, along comes a second slab of The Mandalorian, aka The Further Adventures Of Mando (because, let’s face it, nobody but nobody is calling him Din Djarin) And Baby Yoda (are you going to call him The Child, no matter how much Disney’s marketing arm wills it to be so? Thought not).
The first season was, arguably, the biggest success of the post-Lucas Star Wars era, with co-creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni bringing us a twist on the Westerns that inspired the whole shebang in the first place that was grungy and gritty, but still felt fresh. And, perhaps more importantly, was recognisably Star Wars whilst moving away from many of the tropes of that saga. It wasn’t until the final shot of the first season that a lightsaber even bothered to show up, albeit with a twist. And even if you didn’t like every single one of its eight instalments, even if you felt that from time to time it flirted with cliché or felt like it was treading on quicksand, you had Pedro Pascal’s stoic man of honour to hang your helmet on, like Jack Reacher In Space. And if that didn’t lure you in, none could escape the cheeky charms of the ever-cooing Baby Yoda; more powerful than any tractor beam.
The first season was absolutely focused on this unlikely father-son relationship, rarely breaking away from Mando to give us another POV. And the first episode of the second season — written, as so many of the previous episodes have been, by Favreau, but also directed by him for the first time on the show — feels like a statement of intent by doing exactly the same and anchoring us firmly to our lone wolf and his cub. Don’t expect any cutaways to the likes of Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga, Gina Carano’s Cara Dune, or the guy we think might be the season’s Big Bad, Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon. Don’t expect any references, other than the most fleeting, to a wider narrative. That may change over the coming weeks and episodes, but for now, this is a one-Mando show.
None can escape the cheeky charms of the ever-cooing Baby Yoda; more powerful than any tractor beam.
Which brings with it all the strengths and weaknesses of The Mandalorian to date. Thankfully, the former outweigh the latter, as Mando finds himself on a familiar desert planet and forced to team up with unlikely allies in order to take down a larger foe. So far, so s01 e02. In fact, so far, so s01 e04. And, while we’re at it, so far, so s01 e08. If there’s a Mandalorian formula, it’s very much in evidence here. But, crucially, when Monster-Of-The-Week is done this well, it’s hard to quibble. And there’s much fun to be had from watching Favreau lean ever more heavily into the show’s Western influences. This is an episode in which our hero moseys into town (albeit on the slowest-moving speeder bike you’ll ever see), while disquieted homesteaders regard him with suspicion. There’s a stand-off in a saloon. And, as the episode’s title, ‘The Marshal’, might suggest, a marshal with whom to contend, played winningly by Timothy Olyphant, who has form in the lawman department. Throwing Mando in with someone as laconic and charming as Olyphant even brings something out of the taciturn hero. At one point he comes dangerously close to making what could be considered to be, after much scrutiny, a joke. We’re sure he’ll get over it.
It’s a season opener that essentially seeks to reassure us that, despite the increased scrutiny of the show and its enhanced reputation (evident in the calibre of Special Guest Stars in this episode), things aren’t going to change very much around these parts. Favreau even resists the understandable urge to put the little green bairn front and centre in this one (although he does get the first close-up of the season), with Pascal and his team of armour-plated assistants handling the brunt of the action.
Which, when it comes, is harder-edged, and more melt-y, than you might expect from a Star War. Thankfully it’s also a ton of fun, although those itching to get on with the larger story and resolve the mysteries in play here (who is Baby Yoda? Are there Jedi, other than Luke Skywalker, knocking around in this time period?) might feel that this is one of those quicksand-y episodes, that there’s not a lot here that we haven’t seen before, that this is a placeholder until the real story gets underway. Well, there are more than enough hints in this 54-minute opener to suggest that they’ll soon get their wish. For now, it’s just good to have the small screen’s most unlikely pairing this side of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville back in action.
Second verse, same as the first, as Jon Favreau eases us back into Mando’s world with a familiar tale. If, like us, you loved the rhythms and the hues of the first season of the first live-action Star Wars TV show, you’ll be in Porg heaven.