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The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 1 (The Marshal) - Review

Mandalorian: Season 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT took only minutes for the second season of The Mandalorian to deliver the type of thrills that had become a mainstay of the show’s impressive debut run.

Written and directed by Jon Favreau, the episode entitled The Marshal re-established its leading man (played by Pedro Pascal) as one of the coolest characters around, while also reaffirming the cuteness of his young charge, The Child (aka Baby Yoda). But while playing to its strengths throughout by virtue of its numerous classic Star Wars nods, the series opener was nimble enough to lay down some pretty impressive markers for its now highly sought after future.

Like we said, things started as they meant to go on: lean, occasionally mean and straight down to business. There was no build-up or scene-setting. Rather, Mando arrived on another planet and positioned himself at an apparently illegal axe-fighting match, with Baby Yoda in tow, determined to find out about the location of possible other Mandalorians in order to help him search for the Jedi he hopes to reunite The Child with.

The man with the information about their whereabouts is the ogre like Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo). But in no time at all, Koresh has double-crossed Mando and held him at gunpoint to request his armour. It’s another classic stand-off… the type of which Mando became an expert at throughout the first season.

Yet on this occasion, his array of moves and weaponry was even more impressive and aggressive. Adversaries were shot and stabbed, often mercilessly. Koresh was left to die, or be eaten, once the required information had been extracted.

And so, within minutes of the re-start, a new set of ‘enemies’ had been despatched and Mando and The Child were headed back to Tatooine, that infamous Star Wars planet.

Once at Tatooine, Mando located another dusty town and its resident head honcho, the Marshal of the episode’s title – a man named Cobb Vanth, decked out in Mandalorian armour: His appearance was thrilling for two reasons. For Star Wars aficionados, the armour he wore belonged to iconic Boba Fett, while the actor playing him was none other than Timothy Olyphant.

The sight of ill-fitting Mandalorian armour on a non-Mandalorian immediately riled Mando, prompting a face-off in classic Western gunslinger style – the type of genre trapping that The Mandalorian has consistently nodded towards.

But it was interrupted by the arrival of the arrival of an all-consuming Krayt dragon – a ferocious, gigantic beast that had been laying waste to the town for ages, as well as Jawas and Tusken raiders. In order to reclaim the armour without the need for a duel, therefore, Mando and Vanth struck a deal to unite and defeat the dragon.

In doing so, another likely alliance was formed and the dragon was eventually defeated via some highly impressive pyrotechnic set pieces. Cue, happy ending – or was it? Just as Mando rode off to resume his search, another shadowy figure appeared on the horizon, in the form of Star Wars veteran Temuera Morrison, aka Boba Fett.

It was a tantalising last act reveal: one that posed innumerable questions for the future direction of this second season, as well as past chapters of Star Wars past. Boba Fett has long been a fan favourite character, since first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. But he met a premature end in the jaws of The Return of the Jedi‘s Sarlaac.

Does his appearance mean that Fett somehow escape his fate? Certainly, research into subsequent unofficial Star Wars novels suggests that, yes, he did. And that both he and Vanth have much bigger roles to play in subsequent events given their off-screen past endeavours in literary form.

Indeed, Fett could well be seeking revenge on Vanth for claiming his armour and may well now be turning his sights on Mando. He is a bounty hunter, after all. And Mando is still wanted by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the big bad of the first season.

With so much already in the melting pot for season two, however, the stage has spectacularly been set for the next set of episodes, with excitement levels for subsequent offerings now at fever pitch.

And it’s hat’s off to Favreau and company for ensuring that The Mandalorian has lost none of its appeal. It remains mega-cool, while simultaneously reverential of its place in the Star Wars universe, yet bold enough to make its own decisions.

Crucially, it knows how to tease and excite fans, while keeping things fresh and unexpected – something that the most recent Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker was sadly unable to do.

At a time when the big screen power of Star Wars appears to be waning and in urgent need of a recharge, The Mandalorian seems to be providing it with a smaller screen impetus all on its own.

But there’s so much more to The Mandalorian than mere Star Wars appeal. Favreau – as he has proven consistently as a director – knows his way around movie genres and tips his hat to everything from Spaghetti Westerns to Moby Dick and Dune.

He also knows how to combine spectacular eye candy with riveting character development, with the mystique surrounding Mando himself continuing to heighten. Supporting characters, too, are allowed to make their mark in big ways. Where season one had the likes of Nick Nolte and Esposito in plumb roles, season two already has Vanth and Fett in its armoury: with Olyphant’s Vanth a particularly pleasing and charismatic new addition.

It’s also not afraid to drop in some social commentary, it seems, with the main message behind The Marshal appropriate for these Covid-ravaged, racially unstable times: community and tolerance were of paramount importance to defeating the beast.

First and foremost, however, The Mandalorian is about offering high quality, popcorn style entertainment that – in times of old – would usually have been the sole reserve of cinemas. It’s a real treat to have something of this quality to be available in new instalments on a weekly basis. The Marhsal was a deeply impressive return for a series that is rapidly becoming iconic.