‘The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 1’ - TV Review (There Be Krayt Dragons Here…)

Expectations are high for the second season of The Mandalorian, especially in a year that's seen almost every notable feature film release delayed indefinitely. The Disney+ series was fortunate enough to complete the filming of its sophomore season before the global pandemic shut down production across the board in Hollywood, and now it seems it may be 2020's most anticipated release that actually, well, released. Series creator Jon Favreau takes on double duties in this premiere, both writing and directing the first chapter of Season 2, and if the rest of the season is anything like this first episode, it seems like we're all in for an even bigger and badder Outer Rim adventure than our last time out in the Razor Crest.


SPOILERS BELOW

Taking place five years after the fall of the Galactic Empire and the events of Return of the Jedi (and continuing the plot lines of the first season of the series), the opening of the second season sees the Mandalorian known as Din Djarin on a quest to return "The Child" (dubbed "Baby Yoda" by the internet) to its people - a mysterious race of warrior sorcerers known as the Jedi. Believing that he can find more info on these Jedi if he locates other Mandalorians, our hero finds himself chasing rumors of a Mandalorian who's been hanging out on every Star Wars fan's favorite planet to return to: Tatooine. (You know you love it.) One thing leads to another, and before you know it, our Mando is hanging out with fine-as-frak Timothy Olyphant and trying to slay a dragon... a Krayt dragon, in fact.


"The Mando I know of is on Tatooine."

Boba Fett's shadow has loomed over The Mandalorian since before the series’ inception. Given that the legendary and popular bounty hunter was the sole definition of what it meant to be Mandalorian for quite some time, it seems entirely appropriate that the series grapples with the power and symbolism of the character, both on and off screen. No matter if Fett's name is uttered in a galaxy far, far away or our very own, it tends to get a strong reaction, and while some fans will surely roll their eyes, wishing we could leave sleeping womp rats lie, it seems like an intelligent approach to spend a season or more examining who Fett truly is and what his influence meant to the other Mandalorians living in the galaxy. Canon has shifted several times regarding the details of the bounty hunter's past, and while we know that Boba was an unaltered clone of his father, Jango Fett, we don’t know if Jango was a true Mandalorian. Did he take the creed or just the armor? Some of Boba's previous histories suggested that he was not Mandalorian himself, but acquired and wore the super commando armor for its obvious benefits in his chosen career path. How does the Mandalorian culture view Fett and his reputation? Is he a hero to them, a villain the detest, or barely known?

This first episode of Season 2 examines the power of the character, specifically the power of Boba Fett's iconic armor. With the introduction of Olyphant's Cobb Vanth (previously a character who had only appeared in Star Wars novels), we meet a Marshall who has used the power of Fett's salvaged armor to free his town from oppression and protect its residents from harm in the harsh wastelands of the desert planet. Not only is the armor a technical advantage as a weapon, but viewers bear witness to how wearing the armor transforms Vanth, giving him the confidence of a deadly predator and the intimidation factor that comes with wearing the face of one of the most ruthless killers in the galaxy.

Olyphant's performance as Vanth is charismatic and a fun Star Wars play on his "lawman" character type from shows like Deadwood and Justified. The actor's always been fantastic at portraying the justice-seeking types who are willing to do whatever it takes. For Vanth, that means using that power of Fett's armor in another way: as payment to Din Djarin for killing the Krayt dragon threatening the town of Mos Pelgo. According to the code, the armor belongs with the Mandalorian people and the fact that our lead hero leaves Tatooine at the end of the episode with Fett's armor in his possession speaks to a continuing theme of Fett's presence throughout the rest of the upcoming season. And, to be fair, the appearance by actor Temuera Morrison at the end of the episode speaks pretty loudly towards that, as well.

Vanth and Mando say goodbye, hoping their paths cross again. Ditto, gentlemen. Ditto.


"They've studied its digestion cycle for generations. They feed the dragon to make it sleep longer. Watch. The dragon will appear."

While it would be easily forgivable for a viewer to be unaware, Krayt dragons have been with the Star Wars universe since the beginning. Large carnivorous beasts native to Tatooine, the skeleton of a Krayt dragon is seen by C-3P0 as he wanders the desert in 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Furthermore, in the same film, Obi-Wan Kenobi uses a Krayt dragon call to scare away the Tusken Raiders when he rescues young Luke Skywalker in the Jundland wastes. While Krayt dragons have made appearances in RPG manuals, books, video games, and similar fare, this episode excitingly marks the first appearance of a living Krayt dragon in live-action Star Wars, and the design and special effects team have really out done themselves. Not only is the creature both believably massive and incredibly intimidating, but it comes off as a terrifying mix between a rancor and the underground graboids from Tremors, easily rivaling the nastiest beasties in the rest of the Star Wars universe and giving a fitting depiction of a creature so long hinted at in the mythology.


"It started after we got news that the Death Star had blown up. The second one that is. The Empire was pulling out of Tatooine. There was blaster fire over Mos Eisley. The occupation was over. We didn't even have time to celebrate. That very night, the Mining Collective moved in. Power hates a vacuum, and Mos Pelgo became a slave camp over night."

Throughout 2020, the staff and contributors of Fanbase Press have committed themselves to an initiative known as #StoriesMatter which examines the important and powerful role stories play in human culture. When it comes to the premiere episode of The Mandalorian's second season, beyond the high amount of pure entertainment value, there's clearly a continuing story about the theme of family through the lead character and his love of his ward, but something else also seemed to be present in this episode. There was some exploration last season of how little life had changed for the people of the Outer Rim after the fall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic. It’s a concept that seems to sync with the idea present in the sequel films that the revolution at the end of Return of the Jedi was not the "happily ever after" ending it may have appeared to have been at one time. The interesting point to focus on here is how these newer Star Wars stories are building a solid message that revolutions are messy and, despite the best intentions, innocents still suffer in the process of bringing change to leadership, government, and society as whole. While the Empire had to be overthrown due to their oppressive and murderous authoritarian actions, that power shift had consequences, such as allowing the people of the small town of Mos Pelgo to become victimized by a new oppressive power.

Fidel Castro has been quoted as saying that "a revolution is not a bed of roses, a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past." While this writer doesn't particularly make a habit of quoting Castro, the sentiments seem apt given the subject being discussed. The Clone Wars added further nuance to the prequel films regarding the themes of war and political corruption, followed by Rebels and Rogue One adding to the complexity of the formation and nature of the rebellion against the Empire, and now we see the sequel films and The Mandalorian exploring the fallout of the fall of Imperial oppression, including those who suffered still after "the good guys" won. It's not a suggestion that the Empire should have stayed in power or that the heroes of the original trilogy are unheroic, but rather an interesting way to speak to the unavoidable consequences of necessary revolution.


Miscellaneous Notes:


- I might be the only moof milker who's happy to go back to Tattooine and, seriously, I don't care.

- So, here are some random thoughts on Fett's armor. How did the Jawas get it? Did the sarlacc just find it undigestible and spit it back up? And if that was you-know-who at the end of the episode, how did he survive, but get separated from his armor during the past 5 years? Was he living with the Tuskens? How are we supposed to wait until next week?!?

- One more random Fett armor thought: This rocket fires, kiddos! (Watch your eyes!)

- Okay, two more random Fett armor thoughts: Fett's jetpack still has the weak spot Solo used to send him flying into the Pit of Carkoon. Nifty.

- How cool was Cobb's podracer engine speeder bike?

- You might be have thought that was an egg the Tusken Raiders pulled from the carcass of the Krayt dragon at the end of the episode, but it was actually something that's been featured previously in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that is now classified as Star Wars: Legends: a Krayt dragon pearl.

While no longer canon, there was a time when a Krayt dragon pearl was Han Solo's buy-in to the infamous Sabacc game that won him the Millennium Falcon, as well as making an appearance in the fan favorite video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. In previous canon, these pearls were seen as a sign of bravery by the Tusken Raiders and could even power lightsabers!

"Because the pearls were formed from kyber, they could be used in lightsabers. A lightsaber equipped with one of these pearls emitted a very powerful and destructive blade that emitted a howling sound when ignited."

- The series' score by Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, Venom) continues to be one of the most impressive parts of the series. The themes associated with the Tusken Raiders in this episode are particularly noteworthy.

- Boba Fett? BOBA FETT!!! WHERE???


Final Verdict: The Mandalorian is back, and this episode feels like a triumphant, larger-than-life return. The "defending a small town" scenario is a small-scale story that is told in an epic and cinematic fashion while also hinting at huge connections to the greater mythology and many exciting things to come.

Last year, in my review for the series premiere of The Mandalorian, I declared that Star Wars would easily own the next two months. With nothing else in sight that compares to the anticipation the masses have had for the return of this series, I think viewers will once again be ending the year saying emphatically, "This is the way."


Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Jon Favreau



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