The Mandalorian S2E1: The Marshal
Well, I’m home.
Coming back to the Star Wars universe, no matter what form it arrives in, feels like walking through the front door of a house I’ve been away from for far too long. That’s the reason that I wanted to recap The Mandalorian’s second season; I’ve finally recovered from the Star Wars overdose of last year, and I want to thrust myself face-first into a big, fluffy Bantha cuddle puddle and forget the rest of the world(s) exist for a while.
I covered the first season of the show, which I binged at the start of last month, a few weeks ago, and, since then, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (plus nerdy video chatting with my fellow Star Wars geek, Robin, hey, buddy!) about what I actually want from a second season of this show. And honestly, I’m still really not sure; I think there’s room for improvement from the first season, and there’s a clear throughline of a plot with the quest of delivering Baby Yoda to his people, but filling the rest of the eight-episode run is going to require some serious expansion of the universe if we’re going to keep things from getting too blandalorian.
Which is why I was a little dissapointed to see the show going back to Tatooine for the first episode of this second season – well, okay, it means we get some Amy Sedaris, which is always good news, but I’m always hopeful that this show will push beyond the lines laid out by the existing cinematic universe. I get it, I do – Tatooine has often been a place where stories start, so it makes sense for the show to come back here to kick off a much-anticipated second season – but there’s so much more of this world to explore, heading back here always feels a little bit like a let-down.
That all said, I do think that this first episode, The Marshal, makes a pretty good case to return to the sandalorian settings of days past. For one, this show is, unarguably, a space Western, and tapping in to the tropes of the genre is easier when you’ve got a backdrop that, Banthas aside, could probably pass for an old-school Western serial setting. Tatooine is basically fanservice-planet, and I usually have mixed feelings about that, but the details added this time around – like Boba Fett’s armour and an old podracing engine MacGivered into a speeder bike – feel authentic and fun rather than laboured.
It helps, too, that our main supporting character this week is played by none other than Timothy Olyphant. Casting Olyphant as a small-town sheriff would be downright lazy if he wasn’t so bloody good at it; the supporting cast have been hit or miss for me so far, but the show comes out swinging with a straightforward character trope embodied by the man who practically defined it. Olyphant looks as though he’s about to wet himself with excitement at being in the Star Wars universe at any given moment, and it lends the episode a sense of grounding to have a performer like Olyphant front and centre.
Anyway, Mando makes a deal with Olyphant’s marshal to help defeat a sand worm in return for Olyphant taking his clothes off (or just getting the Mandalorian armour back, I’m hazy on the details). This is clearly the season’s big banner moment, the announcement that it’s back and bigger than ever; the action’s well-done, the monster is convincing, and we unlocked the jetpack DLC at the end of last season and get to enjoy some cool action scenes involving those, which is neat.
Actually, speaking of DLC – this episode has the feeling of a video-game side quest. A good one, for sure, one that looks great and invokes some very cool history within the universe, but something that is inherently meant to distract from the throughline that Mando is meant to be pursuing. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a theme this season, to be honest; if Mando was just able to plop Baby Yoda back on Dagobah or wherever and be done with it, we wouldn’t have much of a season here, so there are going to be plenty of diversions along the way. How well the show is going to be able to balance that inevitable side-questery without making it feel too strained is yet to be seen, but this week, at least, they manage to make it work.
The Marshal is a solid episode, and one that feels about as reflective of the core values of The Mandalorian as it’s possible to be: casting one of the most iconic Western actors of this generation, set in a sandy small town, where the hero gives his one-episode pal a robust handshake after bringing justice to his people. It’s simple space Western serial done well, a smart place to kick off this second season – a reminder of what we’re here for, and what’s yet to come. I’m hoping they’re going to go bigger and bolder in these next eight episodes – but this is a good place to start.
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(header image via BestCelNews)