George Lucas always said he based the Jedi on Japan’s medieval samurai, but the Star Wars creator’s mellow space knights don’t appear at all in The Mandalorian. Instead, Disney has found another classic protagonist to model their latest hero on: the Western gunslinger.
Pedro Pascal’s chilled out bounty hunter served them well in season one, pistol-whipping his way to legions of new fans while still keeping the older ones happy (not an easy feat). He’s back on similar form in season two, which premieres on Disney+ today. He still doesn’t talk very often – apart from to issue threats to strange-looking monsters – and if someone does piss him off, fancy fighting moves and bulletproof armour mean they don’t last long.
‘Chapter 9: The Marshall’ (no series reset here) picks up where we left off in May. Mando has eluded the once-formidable Empire’s grasp, who are desperate to get their leather-gloved hands on The Child (Baby Yoda to everyone except Lucasfilm). Our metalhead isn’t keen on that though – and after safeguarding the good green boy for a whole season he has a new task: return The Child to its people, wherever they may be.
So, after a bit of planet-hopping and some back-alley detective work, Mando hyperspeeds off to Tatooine. Yes, that’s the same Tatooine we first met Luke Skywalker on all the way back in 1977 (funny how, in an infinite universe, much of the franchise’s plot appears to happen in the same place…) This allows for some fan-service throwbacks to previous movies (more of that at the end of this article) and some much-beloved characters to pop up again.
Most notably, Boba Fett enjoys a surprise cameo. The late bounty hunter met his unpleasant end in Return of the Jedi when he tumbled into the Sarlacc Pit, home to the gaping, tentacled maw of a very-hungry beasty. The near-mute baddie is still presumed dead, but his armour is found to be in use by ‘The Marshall’ aka Cobb Vanth (Fargo‘s Timothy Olyphant). The battered outfit has allowed Cobb to protect his village from bandits, but the Mandalorian code of honour forbids anyone but their own from donning a suit. They strike a deal: if Mando helps him out with a little pest control (one ginormous ‘sand dragon’ terrorising the locals), then he can take the armour. With this episode’s setup complete, they get to work on their plan.
If that all sounds fairly familiar, then it’s because it is. ‘Chapter 2: The Child’ followed a similar pattern more than a year ago: Mando heads to a new town, is enlisted to kill scary alien, receives prize. Luckily, the plot is tweaked enough that it doesn’t feel stale, although you’d hope creator Jon Favreau has a few more ideas hidden up his Jedi robe. In a world that’s overloaded with serialised dramas, The Mandalorian‘s self-contained adventure format felt fresh upon its first release. Reuse old ideas too often or fail to come up with fresh ones and fans might grow bored without a strong arc to keep them watching.
Elsewhere, Ludwig Göransson‘s Western-influenced score has had an update. More upbeat than last season, and finished off with occasional trumpet-y fanfares, the Tenet composer’s work remains one of the series’ biggest triumphs. All in all, The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1 represents more of the same from Star Wars’ most popular – and most mainstream – new property. After The Rise Of Skywalker‘s disappointment, this franchise is finally on an exciting new path. This is the way.
- Gamorrean Guards: remember the pig-faced henchman from Jabba’s Palace? Well, they’re back. When Mando drops by a seedy fighting pit in The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1’s opening, he watches two of the troll-like creatures scrap to the death.
- Boba Fett: fairly obvious, but the armour worn by Cobb Vanth once belonged to the late bounty hunter Boba Fett. He was knocked into the monster-infested Sarlacc Pitt during Return of the Jedi (just before The Mandalorian season one) – and Cobb seemingly picked it up from some Jawa merchants.
- Anakin’s podracer: The Phantom Menace wasn’t the best Star Wars movie, but it did have at least one great sequence. Mos Espa’s Boonta Eve Classic Podrace was a hi-tech, high-stakes sprint that replaced cars with floating super vehicles powered by a spectacular beam of energy. In ‘Chapter 9’, Cobb’s speeder comprises one of the engines from Anakin Skywalker’s bashed-up podracer.
- Empty Sarlacc Pit: if you were listening properly, you’d have heard that the ‘sand dragon’ which attacks Cobb’s village ate the Sarlacc Pit’s monster. Presumably, he was pals with Boba Fett and didn’t take too kindly to his being eaten by the tentacled creature in Return of the Jedi.
- Womp rats: surely you didn’t miss this? It seemed like every five seconds someone would mention the nasty rodents, native to Tatooine. We first heard about them from Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two metres,” he boasted to a fellow rebel pilot during the final Death Star attack briefing.
The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1 (‘Chapter 9: The Marshall’) is streaming on Disney+ now