The Mandalorian Season Two (Disney+)
Written by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Rick Famuwiya
Directed by Jon Favreau, Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez, and Rick Famuwiya
I was not a massive fan of the first season of The Mandalorian. Once I realized it was more a procedural Western than a serialized story from the Star Wars universe, I became a lot less interested. I was curious to uncover the mystery of “Baby Yoda,” and the series didn’t seem in any hurry to explore that in detail. So, if I’m honest, my expectations for season two were pretty low. This is to say I was delightfully surprised at how great these eight episodes were. It felt like a real Star Wars story, epic in scope & exciting. I don’t know if the production budget was higher, but it definitely looked and felt like it was.
Din Djarin, The Mandalorian, has been traveling in search of some way to find help for The Child, the Yoda-like creature he found in the first season. Djarin finds himself first on Tatooine, where he meets a local lawman using the recovered armor of bounty hunter Boba Fett to protect his town. Djarin demands the armor back because it is beskar but reaches a deal to help take out a Krayt dragon that terrorizes the people. This leads to a series of planet-spanning trips that have Djarin reuniting with old friends and meeting characters who have only appeared in books & animated form. By the end of the season, Djarin has his rematch with Moff Gideon, and we will learn the child’s true nature.
I felt the first season had episodes that didn’t have any weight in the overall plot. They didn’t really develop Djarin as a character but instead just had him engaging in cliched Western plots that didn’t’ really add more to the stories other than setting them in space with aliens. This season feels much more like those elements combined with the sweeping space opera we expect from Star Wars media. Djarin is never upstaged in his own story, but these supporting players add quite a bit to the narrative.
I also appreciate how the show builds on storylines from other series like The Clone Wars and Rebels. It makes those shows feel more critical, making the world feel more extensive and more populated. I may not understand all the Bo-Katan details, but I appreciate her arc is crossing over with Djarin’s here. I was never a prequels fan and just couldn’t get into The Clone Wars, but I loved getting to see a significant character from those stories pop up in live-action for the first time. I definitely know my appreciation for that episode pales compared to the hardcore fans, but I love when you get a feel for these larger shared universes. I think it comes from my lifelong love of comic books and how characters weave in and out of each other’s stories.
Of all the episodes this season, I think my favorite was The Believer, which saw the return of Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr), who was one of my least favorite guest-stars from the first season. This episode had the perfect amount of special effects/action set pieces and vibrant character development. There are other characters around, but the narrative focuses on Migs and Djarin with an understanding developing between the two former allies & foes. The episode also contains some wonderful world-building about the Empire in the wake of The Return of the Jedi. They are such a vast network that they would linger for a decade or more to come, with command slowly crumbling away. The episode touches on PTSD and trauma from soldiers participating in atrocities, and I was quite surprised by Burr’s dramatic performance.
The Mandalorian got me back on board for what Disney+ is doing with its Star Wars properties. Based on the recent films’ mixed results, I’d instead give this format a try for a while and gives us more long-form stories and character building. My biggest suggestion would be a critique of the final episode, which definitely rushed through its story, and that guest appearance at the end was another example of why deep fake technology is not entirely where they wish it could be. I honestly would have seen another actor cast and playing that role, a la Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo. But I don’t think that moment is enough to ruin how good the rest of the season looks.