I’ve long said that the possibilities in the Star Wars universe are almost endless. There’s an entire galaxy of stories to be told, and if Disney’s investors call last month is anything to go by, they fully intend to tell those stories.
After the first series showed a lot of promise, and laid the foundation for larger series arcs, in some ways there was a lot of pressure on season 2 to pick up the ball and run with it, after all, in many ways, it is Star Wars‘ tentpole series now, with no movies currently on the horizon, well, at least for the next few years anyway.
I’ve often found television difficult to review – as I’ve stated before – in fact, The Mandalorian was the only TV series I reviewed last year, and I think I’ll probably be sticking to that, as TV is so much more of a time sink than films are. Another part of the reviewing aspect I struggle with for TV is putting it all neatly into one package – but that’s what I’ll be trying to do today, as I did last year. I’ll review the whole series by its own merits, and mention specific episodes or characters as they are needed, okay, let’s give this a go.
After last seasons finale introduced us to this series’ ‘big bad’ Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mando was given his task of returning The Child to his kind, we re-join our hero as he seeks out Jedi to take the young creature to his kind, and follow the inevitable setbacks he will face.
During the second season, we saw the story of Mando and his little green sidekick go from a small side-story to the main saga, to a galaxy-spanning, universe-broadening tale that widens the scope of the extended Star Wars universe. No longer is the entire focus of the series based around one family, the scope of the universe surrounding Star Wars has been widened with this series in what was a highly-necessary extension of the reach of Star Wars. The series encapsulates an entire galaxy, and only now are we really starting to get a feel for the wider reaches of its borders, and that can only be a good thing.
Admittedly, the series did not hit the ground running, although it didn’t flounder either. At the start, it felt very much like a series of video game fetch-quests. Mando would go to a place looking for a Jedi, be pointed towards someone who could tell them something, but only if they help him with the errand they’re currently running.
Sometimes this works, indeed, the first episode which revolves around Mando helping a Tattooine village bring down a ‘krayt dragon’ (basically a big sandworm) with the help of the Marshall, who happens to have Boba Fett’s armour (ooh, foreshadowing). This is a nice stand-alone tale, even though it doesn’t move the series narrative along too much.
The following two episodes also follow this formula, albeit with less success. It introduced us to the Frog Lady, who instantly became a meme, as well as Bo-Katan and her band of Mandalorians, and all it feels like it achieved was introducing the key character of Bo-Katan for later in the series, otherwise, it feels very much like filler, to continue the video game analogy, these are like side quests to your main story, they add extra slices to the ongoing experience, but don’t move the main narrative too much.
Juxtaposing this, however, is the final stretch of the series, which is excellent. I’d go as far as saying that episodes 5 to 8 (or Chapter 13 to 16, if you’re going by the series structure) is some of the best Star Wars we’ve ever seen, in any medium.
Given my love of the series as a whole, I don’t say this lightly, but I genuinely think it’s incredible work from everyone involved, from showrunner Jon Favreau to lead actor Pedro Pascal, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen thus far in the series, all while being so unmistakeably Star Wars.
At the start of the series, I wanted to see what happened next for sure, but after Episode 5 (Chapter 13: The Jedi) I was actively counting down the days to each Friday, willing the days to go by quicker, just so I could see what would happen next, and that’s a rare thing in our current instant-gratification age, it was a bold decision to release an episode a week a-la traditional TV, one that could have quite easily backfired, instead, it made The Mandalorian appointment television, especially towards the business end of the season.
It is a risk in cases of series like this that they can devolve into fan-service. Not that fan-service is always a bad thing, only when it flies in the face of the story, and that’s the key to this series. When the series does utilise fan-service, it is in the interest of the story as a whole. Take the Ahsoka Tano appearance, for example, she’s a fan-favourite character, for sure, but it felt like the series earned her presence. It spent a series and a half building up new characters and worlds, that it felt organic to introduce more established characters to the narrative.
The same can be said of the appearance of that character in the finale (no spoilers here) at the start of the series, I was sort of hoping that we wouldn’t see any character like that making an appearance, instead preferring the series to establish fresh characters, but by the time we got to that episode, I was whooping and cheering like anyone else, it was a truly magical moment.
Across the board, there was outstanding work both in front of and behind the camera. Mando himself feels like a more rounded character, the more we saw of The Child, the more we loved him, he comes to life, even more, this series thanks to the wonderful puppeteering work behind the beloved ‘Baby Yoda’.
Directing-wise, the series continues to draw an impressive stable of filmmakers. Peyton Reed and Jon Favreau make their series debut, joining long-term Star Wars favourite Dave Filoni (who directed Chapter 13: The Jedi) and returning stalwart from season one Bryce Dallas Howard. Robert Rodriguez also directs an excellent episode (Chapter 14: The Tragedy) and another series highlight comes to us from Rick Famuyiwa (who also directed two episodes last season) in Chapter 15: The Believer, which sees the return of Mayfeld from last season.
Overall then, The Mandalorian continues to go from strength-to-strength, its success was not a one-off, and long may it continue, and given how many TV series have been given the green-light in the wake of its success, so it could be responsible for a new Golden Age of Star Wars storytelling; not that its story is over yet, with a third season to be broadcast next year, there’s no sign that it will burn out yet.
A wonderful addition to the series canon. The force is strong with this series.