The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1 review: A smorgasbord of action and Easter Eggs
The smash-hit Star Wars spin-off returns - but can it keep the magic alive? **Contains spoilers for season two episode one**
As it turns out, a Mandalorian's greatest weapon isn't a blaster, flamethrower or Beskar steel dart - it's the presence of a tiny green sidekick whose force sensitivity is only outstripped by his ability to completely dominate the pop culture conversation.
Yes, it's fair to say Baby Yoda (aka The Child) was the breakout hit from the first season of Star Wars' first live-action TV series - and given that his role was only revealed at the end of The Mandalorian's first episode back in 2019, I was fairly curious to see what similar huge secrets could be waiting in season two. And more generally, could Jon Favreau's corner of a galaxy far, far away keep up the impressive quality for a second run?
Well, based on the first feature-length episode (released without previews on Friday 30th October), the answer is yes – with Baby Yoda's debut just the start of the big reveals.
In season two The Mandalorian seems more assured of itself and what kind of show it actually is, kicking off with great new settings and action scenes along with enough Easter Eggs and callbacks to classic Star Wars to make the most assiduous Wookiepedia editor weep with joy.
If you want to refresh yourself with our The Mandalorian season one recap before we kick off, now's the time.
In season two, the premise is simple: Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) – aka the titular "Mando" – must track down the society of his young charge (Baby Yoda) and return him to them. To do that, though, he first must track down some more of his own people, who were mostly wiped out during the last season.
In this episode that search takes him to Tattooine – following a fun battle scene on another distant world, where he battles Return of the Jedi's piglike Gamorrean guards, a Darth Maul-like Dathomirian and plenty of other foes – where he's heard rumours of another Mandalorian working as the town Marshal.
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However, all is not as it seems - because while the Mandalorian armour protecting the town might be legitimate, the man inside isn't actually one of Djarin's people. Instead, it's inhabited by Justified's Timothy Olyphant, aka Cobb Vanth, who merely bought the armour from some Jawas and now uses it to protect the town.
For casual viewers this story tracks, but for hardcore fans there's a lot more to unpack here. Immediately, most would recognise Vanth's armour as that of Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch in the original Star Wars movies), an iconic character whose striking look and armour basically inspired the entire fictional Mandalorian culture, along with this Disney+ series.
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For years, fans have pondered what happened to Fett after he plunged into the deadly Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi, with many suggesting that he may have survived - and then official tie-in novels added fuel to this fire. You see, Olyphant's Vanth isn't actually a new addition to the Star Wars universe, with the Mando-wannabe popping up in Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath series in his role as Marshal, where he acquired Fett's curiously discarded armour (as seen in flashbacks in this episode).
In The Mandalorian we pick up this story as our own helmeted hero demands the return of the armour (essentially insulted that Vanth has co-opted his religion) - but before they get into a scrap, Vanth instead recruits Mando to help him kill a Krayt Dragon that's been terrorising his village.
What follows is a fun smorgasbord of action, Western tropes and Easter Eggs. Watch closely and you'll note that Vanth's speeder bike is clearly taken from one of Episode I's podracers - and if the Krayt Dragon itself seems familiar, it's because the creatures have turned up before in Star Wars' animated series, as well as in 1977's original Star Wars movie (where its long skeleton formed part of the introduction to Tattooine).
We also return to the Sand People/Tusken Raiders whose society got a bit of a PR revamp in the last season (turns out they're not quite as savage as we thought when Hayden Christensen went on a rampage in the prequels) and who team up with Vanth, Djarin and the villagers to take on their common enemy.
The plan to take down the Krayt Dragon itself is fairly simple – blow it up – but when the plan goes wrong all hell breaks loose, with the Raiders, the two suited warriors and the villagers scattering and fighting back against it (and making judicious use of the Very Cool Jetpacks on their armour) for some well-realised and engaging battle scenes.
By the end, the deal is completed. Djarin has the armour back, Vanth's people are safe (for now) and the Sand People probably added a few points to their TripAdvisor rating. But as Djarin and The Child speed off to look for Mandalorians elsewhere, another figure looks on. A figure that fans will recognise as... wait, Jango Fett?
Yes, the episode's big twist - slightly spoiled by plenty of leaks about his return - is this cameo from Temeura Morrison, who played the bounty hunting Fett senior in the prequels before meeting a sticky end. We may presume here that the older Morrison is now playing Jango's clone/son Boba, who we never saw unmasked but who we may presume looked rather like his dad. (He was a clone, just to be clear.)
How Boba survived the Sarlacc Pit is a mystery, as is his ongoing role this series. Was he heading to Mos Espa to track down his armour? If so, why did he lose it after Episode VI anyway? What's he been doing in the meantime, and will he be friend or foe to Din Djarin? Presumably, over the coming episodes we'll find out.
Notably, Morrison is the first main series Star Wars actor to appear in The Mandalorian to date - though possibly not the last, cough cough Ahsoka Tano cough cough - and could signal a rise in crossovers for the previously somewhat independent series.
Despite my love of all the fun Easter Eggs, we should hope that The Mandalorian doesn't get too overwhelmed by bringing in wider Star Wars lore and forget what makes it work so well - the simple story of a gruff mercenary and a super-powered alien muppet (OK, maybe that's not that simple).
Still, based on this latest chapter I'm confident that The Mandalorian can keep carefully balancing the fan service and wider arcs with fun, engaging episodic storytelling. This is the way.
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