As the sophomore season of the Disney+ flagship show lands in a sitting room near you at lightspeed, the weight of high expectations and fan theorizing rests heavily on the shoulders of lead creatives Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, as well as every other creative in front of and behind the camera. If the season two premiere is any indication, it looks like they may have just exceeded each and every one of these expectations in effortless fashion.
In broad strokes, the first few minutes of this episode play out in similar fashion to those of the initial season one premiere. Our protagonist, the titular Mandalorian known as Din Djarin, is on assignment in an alien environment, using nothing but his wits and his personal arsenal of advanced weaponry to survive. The key difference is that whereas before he was operating as a bounty hunter chasing his mark, this time around he has the fan-favourite Child in tow and is seeking information on where he might find other members of his warrior culture. A few world-building moments and fight sequences later, Mando is then on his way back to Tatooine to chase up a lead on a fellow mystery Mandalorian who he hopes can help him repatriate his green and diminutive adopted baby.
While it feels like a logical progression from the season one finale when the Armorer gave him these orders, proceedings are swiftly turned on their head when it transpires that the sighted Mandalorian is hiding out in Mos Pelgo, a township far from the infamous Mos Eisley and absent from any official maps.
Upon arrival he soon encounters the man he seeks, a man acting as the town’s marshal and wearing Mandalorian armour – which franchise fans will immediately recognize as the set previously owned by Boba Fett. Except, Boba Fett is not the person hiding underneath the helmet – it is Cobb Vanth, a character who originally appeared in the Aftermath trilogy of books and is now using the armour as an authoritative uniform. After demanding that he return the armour to a true Mandalorian, but before things can turn hostile, a gigantic Krayt Dragon causes havoc in the township. This encourages both men to put aside their differences and work together for mutual benefit – if Mando saves Mos Pelgo by helping to take out the leviathan along with rival Tusken Raiders then Cobb will voluntarily hand over the armour.
The premise of the episode is daring in scope when ties to previously-established canon are considered, yet simple in nature when the basic idea of ‘monster hunter saves town’ comes to the fore at the end of the first act and then drives the rest of the episode’s narrative.
Sitting comfortably at over fifty minutes in length this is by far the longest episode of the series to date, and this goes a long way to allow certain moments to breathe and run their course naturally rather than having to be rushed along for the sake of plot. In many respects it is comparable to a mini-movie rather than an episode of television, and that is definitely a large feather in the cap of all those involved behind the scenes – particularly those responsible for the jaw-dropping change in aspect ratio during the climactic Krayt Dragon fight.
The very inclusion of the Krayt Dragon is itself a love letter to Star Wars fans, harkening back not only to the infant skeleton of a mysterious creature in the opening act A New Hope, but also a plethora of other references to the species in the franchise’s expanded media.
However, this being the first time it has been seen onscreen, in all of its destructive and dazzling special effects glory, is just the latest in a long line of inclusions in the series which have rewarded long-time fans of the franchise for their diligence. From a model of storage container first seen on Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back being used to transport Beskar steel, to a Lothal cat hissing from underneath a table on the forest planet Sorgan, the writing team behind The Mandalorian have been careful to include just the right amount of minute details and larger subplots that only an überfan will fully appreciate. Thankfully, this process has been practised to a fine art and while not every detail and inclusion is fully appreciated by everybody, the series can still be watched in a vacuum and no enjoyment or context is lost. This is fan service done right.
From a technical standpoint the series is even more impressive now than it was last season, with the set design, character wardrobes, and prosthetics being as impeccable as ever. The world(s) that are inhabited by this cast of characters feels truly lived in, and even on a familiar planet things still feel brand new.
Part of the commendation must deservedly go to the VFX artists working with The Volume, the on-set technology being used to produce digital backgrounds and special effects in realtime rather than using jarring green screen. As with last season, this has allowed them to continue making CGI look more realistic than ever before, with some of the set pieces during the climax of the episode even putting parts of the franchise’s theatrical outings to shame.
The cherry on top of this spectacular episode is the return of Temeura Morrison as Boba Fett himself, seen watching from afar as Mando rides off into the sunset with his armour in tow. What this means for the future of both characters is open to speculation, but in the meantime fans can rejoice in the knowledge that the character behind everyone’s favourite action figure survived his apparent death in 1983.
In conclusion, from script to director’s chair Jon Favreau has delivered an impeccable opening episode to the new season of The Mandalorian. By any metric, be it technical prowess, plot progression, pacing, longtime fan satisfaction, sound design, and anything in-between, this premiere episode was a roaring success. The stage has now well and truly been set for what is surely going to be a rollercoaster of a season, especially with it being all but confirmed that another fan-favourite character, this time of the animated variety, is on her way to making a live-action debut in the coming weeks. If anyone is still undecided on whether or not they should join the masses and follow the adventures of The Mandalorian and The Child, then just know that this is the Star Wars you spent your childhood daydreaming about while playing with action figures.