2020 has been a very tough year in many ways and, at a time when most people need a form of escapist entertainment, most genre film and television have been delay or cancelled. Now, like a new hope, along comes ‘The Mandalorian’ season two premier and slaps us in the face with all it’s Star Wars goodness. After creating, writing, and producing the entire first season, Jon Favreau now finds time to step behind the camera to delivery one of the most Star Wars bits of Star Wars ever produced.
The story picks up right where the first season left off with Din Djarin (the titular Mandalorian played by Pedro Pascal and a number of stunt performers) on a quest to find the remnants of the Mandalorian people so they can help him return the child to the Jedi. After a brief violent interaction with a one-eyed, unrecognisable John Leguizamo the Mando sets of for Tatooine where another member of his creed has been spotted. Upon arriving a Mos Eisley spaceport he meets up again with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), the mechanic introduced in season one’s Tatooine based episode who now has more screen time than some Skywalker saga fan favourites, and she directs him to a lost town called Mos Pelgo.
Favreau would have been ten years old when the original ‘Star Wars’ was released, the perfect age for it to catch your imagination, and his love for the franchise was evident all through the first season. With this second season opener he moves it up a gear, pulling material from all eras and sources. Finally we are seeing Kathleen Kennedy’s promise that everything matters coming to fruition.
When Din arrives at Mos Pelgo he meets a local lawman dressed in Boba Fett’s Mandalorian armour and for the first time in Star Wars history we see a character that originated in the books make a live-action appearance. Cobb Vanth (played by professional TV cowboy Timothy Olyphant), a minor player in Chuck Wendig’s ‘Aftermath’ trilogy, takes centre-stage in the episode. But not only that, he’s riding a speeder bike that appears to be made from one of the engines from Anakin Skywalker’s podracer, and they are hunting a Krayt dragon (a creature that we have only seen as a skeleton before at the start of ‘A New Hope’), and they are aided by Tusken Raiders who ride their banthas in single file to hide their numbers. You can just imagine a young Favreau acting out the basics of this in a sandpit with his Boba Fett and Tusken Raider (or, as it was politically incorrectly called, Sand People) figures.
The whole episode is drenched in Star Wars. We see the original Jawas, R5 is back working for Peli, there is news footage of the second Death Star exploding, Mando watches a fight between two Gamorreans fighting with vibro-axes. Non-believers and anti-Disnyites will call this fan service but none of it is forced and no-one is winking at the camera. If you know it, you know it.
This is the longest episode of the show so far but it doesn’t feel it. Favreau keeps the story rocketing along and the excitement high with the help of some of the best visual effect every seen in a TV show. To top everything off the show finishes on a shot, which a lot of us were expecting but not this early, that is up there with the season one episode one reveal.
Favreau sets a high bar for the rest of the season to follow. Thank the Force, the Mando is back.