The Mandalorian has become something of a sensation since it launched in the US in late 2019 and the UK in March of this year, so much so that the internet has seen enough Baby Yoda soup memes to last a lifetime. The reaction to this latest dive into the Star Wars universe created by George Lucas has won over a legion of fans and critics alike, something that the latter entries in the Sequel Trilogy struggled to achieve. The series largely succeeds by standing apart from its film predecessors with a grittier, Western-inspired take on the universe, returning to the aesthetic and lived in feel of the Original Trilogy.
Series Two of the series launched on Disney+ in October and has continued to go from strength to strength, full of callbacks and Easter-Eggs to previous films and shows but clearly forging its own path forwards. We pick up immediately in the aftermath of the previous series, as our titular hero of few words whisks The Child (colloquially known as ‘Baby Yoda’) across the galaxy in search of other Mandalorians or Jedi to help train the Force-sensitive youngling.
In the series premiere, we encounter Timophy Olyphant’s Marshal, Cobb Vanth, as we return to Tatooine, a location that served as home for both Luke and Anakin Skywalker in Episodes I – VI. Olyphant is by this point no stranger to Western media, having starred in the Western series’ Deadwood and Justified. Olyphant is terrific in his appearance, with some fine chemistry with lead Pedro Pascal. Hopefully his role will be expanded in further episodes of The Mandalorian. This episode is reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune, that was ironically a large influence on George Lucas’ original Star Wars. The Marshal enlists the help of the Mandalorian to save his community from a Krayt Dragon, whilst we also see a different side of the Tuskan Raiders, who have predominantly served as antagonists in the film series.
“Series two of The Mandalorian builds on many of the positive strides made in its first series, to make it an exciting corner of this ever-expanding, iconic franchise.”
“The Passenger” is arguably the weakest of this series to date, with the Mandalorian tasked with delivering a Frog-like passenger and her eggs in return for information on the whereabouts of other Mandalorians. It’s a story where the show is at it’s most episodic, a trait for which it has both won praise and drawn criticism. The loose narrative structure, with its series arc not featuring in each episode, resembles something we don’t see as much in mainstream TV now, and is reminiscent of classic Doctor Who and Star Trek. We get some fun creature moments, but this episode does precious little to drive the narrative forward and is easily one of its most disposable episodes to date, a shame as this series in particular has felt like some of the most urgent Star Wars content produced by Disney yet.
On the other hand, “The Heiress” won high praise, with Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff featuring as Bo Katan, a character who was prominent in the animated Clone Wars and Rebels series and voiced by Sackhoff herself. She brings a refreshing rebellious nature, and highlights a different side of Mandalore lore than we’ve seen previously in The Mandalorian. This episode helps set up several narrative threads likely to have some pay-off at some stage in this series, or the recently announced third series, which is currently in pre-production. This episode is a clear indicator that while The Mandalorian has kept itself distanced from its precursors to date, it is not afraid to draw on the wider lore of Lucas’s universe; the way threads from the animated series are introduced in this series is done almost seamlessly, and in a way that should not confuse those who are not familiar with the prior shows. Director Bryce Dallas Howard, who also directed in the first series, garnered rave reviews for her work in this episode, hopefully meaning we’ll see more stories helmed by her in future series.
The midway point of the second series is marked by “The Siege”, which plays almost as a direct follow-up to the events of series one, as we are reunited with Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and Greef Carga (Carl Weathers, who also directed this instalment), who are now protecting the former Imperial stronghold of Nevarro. This episode is particularly action packed and gives us an insight into antagonist Moff Gideon’s plans for The Child and hints at storylines set to unravel in future. Not content to only portraying one of the series’ most fun characters, Rocky legend Weathers’ other stint as director this episode is to be admired.
Series two of The Mandalorian builds on many of the positive strides made in its first series, to make it an exciting corner of this ever-expanding, iconic franchise. With more series in development, and an endless number of film and television spin-offs planned, here’s hoping the spirit and quality brought to the small screen by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and co. in The Mandalorian can be matched.
New episodes of The Mandalorian are available every Friday on Disney+.
Words by Chris Connor