In Season 2, ‘The Mandalorian’ Embarks on New Adventures to Find Baby Yoda’s Home
Maybe television truly is the best next destination for “Star Wars.” The format is proving more than adequate to expand and explore our beloved galaxy far, far away. The season two premiere of Disney’s “The Mandalorian” continues the space Western saga established in the acclaimed Emmy-winning first season, opening this new season with an episode that on its own works as a grand cinema. Still writing and directing is Jon Favreau, who has a keen understanding of how “Star Wars” is not mere science fiction, it is pure mythology.
“Chapter 9” begins season two with the wandering Mandalorian, aka “Mando,” aka Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), still trying to find the people of the Child (also known as Baby Yoda in pop speak). Yes, as you “Star Wars” disciples well know, this means Mando needs to find the Jedi. His best bet is to find any surviving fellow Mandalorians who can use their underground connections to help. After crashing a pit match and shaking down a gangster, Mando is directed towards the desert planet Tatooine, where supposedly there might be a Mandalorian armor. Mando makes his way to the familiar arid locale and is further directed towards a distant town, Mos Pelgo. When Mando arrives there with the Child, he discovers the armor is now being used by the spot’s marshal, Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant). Vanth bought the armor from Jawas following the chaos of the Empire’s fall. But Mando has arrived just as this town is being terrorized by a rampaging snake-like sand creature called a Krayt Dragon. Vanth makes an offer to Mando: He can get the Mandalorian armor if he helps Vanth slay the beast. Mando agrees and soon seeks help from local Tusken Raiders who are also being terrorized by the monster.
Set a bit after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” the sheer fun of “The Mandalorian” is in its continuation of the whole “Star Wars” mythos while borrowing from other classic genres. George Lucas’s creation has always been called space opera but “Chapter 9” is more of a space western meets space fantasy. The opening scenes in neon-lit streets where Mando gets information out of a cyclops are pure noir. Once Favreau cuts to Tatooine he borrows from everywhere. The plot references “The Magnificent Seven,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Jaws” and Akira Kurosawa. Even Timothy Olyphant’s marshal feels like a wink at his greatest role as a sheriff in HBO’s “Deadwood.” Those eagerly awaiting new developments in Mando’s quest will only get a brief glimpse at what’s to come. This episode is more of an adventurous detour. Like a knight lending his services, Mando agrees to help Vanth and off the two go, Baby Yoda as well, to vanquish a dragon.
Quality-wise nothing has diminished. With its endless resources, Disney again helps Favreau transcend the limits of what you typically expect in a “TV show.” “Chapter 9” is almost a “Star Wars” short film, with its use again of anamorphic widescreen shots and visual effects that are better than even the last movie in the series, “The Rise of Skywalker.” Just look at how meticulous the expressions on Baby Yoda’s face are pulled off, whether expressing worry or glee. And more in the tradition of Lucas there’s real world building going on. Plenty of action colors the episode, but we also get inventive moments with small details like Vanth being offered a smelly Tusken Raider drink or his back story about how armed mining interests took over Tatooine’s towns following the Empire’s fall. “Star Wars” always has this vivid sense of a much wider canvas.
As an action piece “Chapter 9” is “Jaws” in space. Mando, Vanth and the Tusken Raiders come up with a big trap for the krayt dragon, which inevitably nearly falls apart when the beast turns out to be quite gargantuan and capable of spitting gobs of acidic fluid. Of course fans of “The Mandalorian” are wondering where the overall plot goes. Most of the episode is devoted to Mando and Vanth killing the dragon. But once Vanth hands over the armor and Mando rides off with the Child aka Baby Yoda, the camera pans back and none other than Temuera Morrison appears, scared and holding some kind of staff, staring into the desert horizon as Mando disappears. Loyal scholars of the Force know Morrison played bounty hunter Boba Fett’s father in “Attack of the Clones.” Is this Boba himself? And that will be the question dominating chatter until the season reveals all of its twists.
For the “Star Wars” obsessive or general viewer “The Mandalorian” returns as one of streaming’s great entertainments. Even fans of Clint Eastwood movies can dip into the rugged charm of this show. Beneath the shiny helmets and laser blasts it taps into something classic.
“The Mandalorian” season two begins streaming Oct. 30 with new episodes premiering Fridays on Disney+.