The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Two – “Chapter Two: The Child”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
The reveal in the final scene of episode one changed my perceptions of what this would be a show about. Now in this episode, we get a better sense that this is a Star Wars on the Japanese classic Lone Wolf and Cub. Dyn Jarren is facing a moral dilemma about the bounty he acquired, questioning what the deposed Imperials plan to do with this very vulnerable person. He quickly gets sidetracked when he comes upon a group of Jawas stripping his ship. This leads to Jarren seeking aid from Kuiil, the Ughnaught from the last episode, and Jarren learning a powerful secret about his bounty.
After this second episode, I am entirely sold on The Mandalorian and am in for the whole ride. My worries coming into the series were informed by my intense dislike of Rogue One and Solo. Both films failed to sell the idea of spin-off standalone Star Wars stories. Rogue One was a completely humorless, bland, and exhausting exercise in special effects. Solo could have been great had the original directors remained on the project but was turned into a generic and boring affair by the inclusion of Ron Howard. I also never was hooked into the animated Star Wars shows, so I wasn’t sold on a smaller format story in this universe. The Mandalorian has changed my mind because it has two things: first, a main character who is profoundly fallible and needs others to succeed & second, a story that feels important to developing the universe, not some pointless tertiary side plot.
The show continues to surprise me, and that is wonderful. Jarren being sidetracked into dealing with Jawas was an unusual twist, and we got to see more of these pesky scavengers. I realized this is the most screentime the species have had since A New Hope, and it is very welcome. They are portrayed as fierce fighters, something they’ve had to cultivate to protect their haul but also offer some fun moments. Jarren attempting to scale the Crawler while being assailed by a coordinated attack of scrap from above was a great sequence. I also loved how, when Kuiil sat down to barter, the Jawas became excited and awed. This whole process is central to their culture, the working of a deal over the scrap they have salvaged.
The foundation of The Mandalorian as a science fantasy Western is solidified here with Jarren being portrayed as a lone gunslinger. It’s also essential that we see him getting beaten down and repairing his armor. The life Jarren leads is a lonely, broken one, and he doesn’t have people to confide in during the dark times. Near the end, he offers a place on board his ship to Kuiil, who kindly rebuffs. The Ughnaught explains he’s fought a long time to be free and not be forced to serve others. Kuiil reaffirms his commitment to moisture farm and living in peace. For Jarren, that is a tough blow, leaving him almost alone.
The Child is absolutely fascinating, hearkening back to the Rick Baker designed Gizmo and, of course, the Henson fashioned Yoda puppet. This character raises tons of questions about the nature of the Star Wars universe, not upending established continuity but possibly recontextualizes somethings, adding to the lore. I absolutely love the decision to make the Child a physical puppet rather than rely on slick CG. You can tell that the character is in the scene, and it has a weight and presence to it. What’s funny, when you think about it, is the two protagonists of our show are a human whose face is always covered and obscures his emotions & a puppet who is deeply expressive and feels completely real from the first scene.
I am very on board with The Mandalorian and interested to see what other surprises it holds. I am hoping we’ll get a more in-depth exploration of how the Empire declined in the wake of the Rebellion’s victory. There are many episodes to go, and I get the feeling the show has a lot more to reveal and introduce.