'The Mandalorian' Season 2 Episode 1 Review: A triumphant return to the best of 'Star Wars' storytelling
The first episode of the new season is one of the series' best, doubling down on its Western themes while bringing out a gloriously epic battle scene
Spoilers for 'The Mandalorian' Season 2 Episode 1 'The Marshall'
After a relatively short hiatus, especially with the pandemic taken into account, 'The Mandalorian' returns almost exactly a year after its first debuted, and the 1-hour premiere pulled out all the stops. This episode had it all - an expansion of 'Star Wars' lore featuring characters both well-known and obscure, a soundtrack that is outdoing its stellar first season performance, and an old-timey Western take on Tatooine, jetpacks, Baby Yoda, and, taking the center stage - the Dragon of the Dune Sea.
When 'The Mandalorian' is good, it's great, and this return episode is one of the series' best. The show has mastered the art of the standalone story and starts off with a quick introductory scene that reminds us of everything we love about the show, while providing a solid recap of the show's focus for those who skipped the actual recap at the start of the episode: the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is seeking out other Mandalorians to help him return the Child to his people - and he's more than equipped to take out whatever dangers come his way.
The opening fight is a brilliant one, showing not just badassery but making full use of the unique fighting style of a man covered head to toe in the best armor in the galaxy - one particularly enjoyable moment saw the Mandalorian headbutt an assailant's fist with his helmet. We also got introduced to what appears to be Baby Yoda's new gimmick - adorably popping in and out of safety whenever danger is around. The opening scene also allowed the show to show off a bit - from its elaborate sets, to its play with lighting, to the music that's become both familiar while adding just enough to know that it's being taken to the next level.
From that memorable opening scene, the Mandalorian follows a lead to Tatooine, to meet a character straight from the expanded 'Star Wars' novels - Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), the Marshal of a ghost town. Timothy Olyphant's Cobb Vanth is exactly what you want him to be - a free-spirited Western hero radiating charm, who plays off great with the more stoic, permanently-masked Mandalorian.
While some episodes have focused on a lone samurai style of storying his episode doubles down on the Western genre of 'The Mandalorian', and it's not subtle about it. A lone gunman walks into a mining town that's down on its luck on the edge of the desert, and runs afoul of its sheriff and just when you're fully absorbed in this Western tale, a giant alien sand dragon shows up and devours a bantha whole.
The episode still holds on to its Western roots, however, but blends it with the fantasy, as the townspeople ally with the nearby Sand People savages to take on a greater threat with explosives, blasters, Beskar Steel and, most importantly, jetpacks. It's a glorious battle, and seeing Boba Fett's classic Mandalorian armor at play next to Mando's sleek, shiny new armor feels like a 'Power Rangers' crossover reunion special in the best way - celebrating the franchise's grand history while keeping it relevant for a new age.
'The Mandalorian' Season 2 could not have got off to a stronger start, providing an episode that holds up on its own while also setting the stage for some exciting events ahead. Considering the cast list for the episode ahead, the fact that this is just the start of the new series is the most exciting thing that could be happening for 'Star Wars' fans. Well, that and the jetpack wearing Mandalorians fighting an acid-spewing space dragon on top of a mountain.
The next episode of 'The Mandalorian' airs on November 6, on Disney+.