The Mandalorian: Season 2 (Disney+ 2020)
Showrunner: Jon Favreau
Directors: Favreau, Filoni, Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Robert Rodriguez, Rick Famuyiwa
A passive fan of the Star Wars universe, I’ve enjoyed the films more as good sci-fi thank anything else, taking very little interest in the wider mythology and almost none in the animated series’ or things like that. Yet, with the first season of ‘The Mandalorian’, I watched the episodes as they were released as a weekly shared experience with a friend, but on the 13-inch screen of my tablet as we were away from home. It was not the best environment or viewing experience by which to enjoy the show, but it was the best we had in the circumstances and we enjoyed the blend of sci-fi and western served up in each episode.
This season has been a different experience altogether. I waited until it was nearly over so I could watch more binge-style, weeks behind all my friends who lamented that they couldn’t discuss it with me. On top of that, I’ve been on my own at home (aren’t we all) with my home cinema, and have watched this in full quality on a big screen with immersive surround sound. This has improved the experience hugely, though I don’t think it’s entirely why I’ve enjoyed this season so much more.
Hitting its stride this season, there’s a clear change from the first. Brought about by a nice selection of directors, the nice pacing of many episodes is paired with a clearer goal and motivation for our lead and his cute green companion. While it retains the ponderous western style at times, the show felt better able to switch to the exciting sci-fi action when needed. Highlighting this most impressively, the first episode of the season, directed by Jon Favreau, makes use of changing the aspect ratio to maximise the size of the dragon.
There are a lot of returning characters from the first season, a couple from the films, and a handful of characters who are new to the live-action world but are familiar to fans from the novels or animated shows, introduced so they’re ready to hit their own spin-off series’ at full speed.
Moff Gideon played by Giancarlo Esposito made his appearance near the end of the last season, and he’s no in every episode of this season but he’s a constant threat, alluded to throughout. Again, the bulk of his performance is kept for the final episode of the season, but it’s great, we see him being villainous in both threat and fight.
Anakin’s Paduan Ahsoka Tano appears in one episode, pleasing fans whose dream casting came true with Rosario Dawson taking on the role. Her upcoming series might be really interesting, though again tied closely to the Skywalkers, and I’d think very likely to include some appearance from Hayden Christiansen now that he’s been officially confirmed as returning to the franchise.
Bo-Katan, a Mandalorian with contrasting ways to the hero we’ve been following, is also introduced along with her own well-defined quest. It looks like we’ll see more of her in the future, maybe she’ll be a regular ally, her dynamic and beliefs are very different to Din Djarin’s and that’s something I’d enjoy seeing explored more.
WARNING: SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW AFTER THIS NON-SPOILER IMAGE
Now, what everyone who’s seen it has been talking about, that final episode. It’d been teased that a Jedi might be coming to find Grogu, we’d been awaiting their arrival. So, when the X-Wing arrived, for big fans of the franchise they jumped straight to the conclusion of who was in it, though I didn’t, I was still wondering who it’d be. That is maybe in part due to me not really getting the clearest grasp on where in the timeline this show fits, and as I don’t watch the animated shows, the characters from that meant little to me and don’t help to clarify the era. Their lightsabre then essentially gave it away, as this at-first unrevealed Jedi fought their way through the ship, using the force and impressive skills to destroy the dark troopers in style.
Then, when their hood is pulled back, standing before the besieged troupe of heroes and the audience, is none other than Luke Skywalker.
Putting aside for just a moment that the CG face was, as always, not good enough to even fleetingly convince anyone that it was Mark Hamill, it’s frustrating to see the franchise making everything about the Skywalkers again. Luke is now a big part of Grogu’s story, tying these freely roaming characters and open story back to the whole Skywalker Saga, making this original and diverting piece of the Universe a whole lot closer to the rest of the franchise, with canonical events looming large in their future. It’s all getting a bit too samey again, they might as well have popped a Deathstar in there.
Luke’s entrance is at first, in all fairness, a fantastic fight sequence, slicing and crushing the Dark Troopers who’ve been set up to be almost unstoppable like they’re nothing at all. However, once that hood is pulled back to reveal a flat, unexpressive, mask of Hamill of yesteryear, while it may be a big kick for fans, it immediately stops being so visually impressive. There are so many people online, such as Corridor Digital, doing deepfake videos where they prove that their method done properly can produce better results than a pure CGI face, but what we get, from Lucasfilm no less, looks more akin to Deadpool stapling a print of Hugh Jackman’s face on his own.
Maybe it’s too much to ask that they’d actually get Sebastian Stan to take on the role. Really though, for a moment, consider how easy would that have been for Disney? He was already on a set for another of their shows, would it be that hard to get the crew to film what was, in the end, a simple standing static shot. It’s been done for other things recently. Or if keeping some version of Hamill in the role is so important, they could’ve kept the face to a minimum, showing him from behind or in shadow, so it wasn’t so frustrating, especially in this show where hiding a lead character’s face is a key point.
The post-credits scene shows Boba Fett taking Jabba’s Palace and getting revenge on his successor Bib Fortuna, presumably claiming control of the criminal underworld. The reveal that ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ is coming in December 2021 was a bit of a nice surprise, but raised questions about whether as Boba Fett is (technically maybe arguably) a Mandalorian, could this ‘Book of Boba Fett’ be a subtitle for the next season, as the show would still be about a Mandalorian, just the one the title is focused on would have changed? Especially as at the Disney Investor meeting a few weeks ago, Kathleen Kennedy said that the next season of ‘The Mandalorian’ was coming December 2021, exactly when ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ is confirmed for release.
This would have made a lot of sense, especially now that there are so many interconnected Disney+ series on the way. If there was ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Book of Boba Fett’ both set to be released around the same time, as well as ‘Ahsoka’ and ‘Rangers of the New Republic’, not to mention all the other recent animated series that interweave with these characters, it’ll be a lot to keep track of without watching in a very specific order. However, it’s been confirmed that this is another series. So next year there will be four interconnected Star Wars series set in the same time period. There will likely be frequent crossovers and appearances by characters this season has set up, such as Bo-Katan.
In the same presentation, Kathleen Kennedy also clearly stated that these series are building toward ‘a climactic story event’. That doesn’t state it’s a crossover series, like Marvel’s Defenders was on Netflix, and it wouldn’t be anything special when this series has spawned those other shows already and is likely to have many crossovers. I wonder if it could be a crossover film? Probably it would be going straight to Disney+ rather than being made for cinematic release, but a feature-length ‘event’ would make a lot of sense, it could be linked to the goal of taking back Mandalore, or facing off against some Imperial and Sith threats.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes next. There are some loose ends left to tie up, so that gives the next season (in whatever form it takes) a clear goal, which seems to have helped this season work so well, and the idea of having “Mandalorians Assemble” gets even this casual fan quite exited indeed!