The Mandalorian has managed to capture the attention of all manner of Star Wars fans. The Disney+ show is easily the most widely beloved product to come out of the Mouse House’s era with the sci-fi/fantasy franchise, and expectations for the second season have been at an all-time high. With the premiere now behind us, has the wait for this new season been worth it?
So far, absolutely. The Mandalorian is back with more of the same bravado and finesse that we saw in the first season. As far as structure and plotting go, this first episode is not going to be terribly unfamiliar. The series has established its desire and skillful ability to draw upon very simple, nearly self-contained adventures that feel extremely classic. And this second season premiere can’t get any more prototypical. The goal in this episode is to kill a dragon in a cave. Not only is this the most directly mythical riff the show has done, but it hearkens back to previous episodes where the main point of conflict was one large enemy (“The Child”, “Sanctuary”).
In that regard, it is worth criticizing The Mandalorian for doing the same thing once again, but that would be a short-sighted look at how it is managing to tell an all-too-familiar plot in exciting and polished ways. The show benefits from its smaller narrative focus. When the series does not have to concentrate on portentous overarching issues and just tells a straightforward story, it is a real winner. This is all backed up by confident filmmaking that walks a tightrope between functional and flashy. As a friend has said, the show feels alive when so much of the Star Wars universe has been beaten to death.
To that point, there is an element in this premiere that brings in a big component from the previous films. At first, it comes off as a cheeky bit of sacrilege that acts as a good motivation for Din Djarin‘s character. Plus, it is introduced via the fantastic acting charms of Timothy Olyphant. However, the eventual reveal it leads to points in the direction of The Mandalorian heading deeper into well-trodden facets of the Star Wars universe. And for as surprisingly fresh as this show has felt, these ties to more recognizable trinkets and plotlines pull the spotlight away from the singular fun and drama of the show.
And it creates the risk of The Mandalorian becoming swallowed up by the bigger Star Wars concepts that we have all seen played out at this point. We know that this season is going to eventually introduce the Jedi and that is the least interesting future for the show. What works is when the series keeps its target on these lone adventures.
Of course, they aren’t as disposable as they appear and that is their beauty. They are helping to build a world and a canon for its original characters that are far more compelling than the outside elements the production feels compelled to eventually feature. And when they return to these seemingly one-off characters, it is a genuine reward for the viewer putting their faith in the show.
Regardless, there is no doubt that The Mandalorian is perfectly confident in what it wants to do. That goes for its storytelling, characters, and how it wants to reintroduce us to things from the Star Wars universe that we already know. Thanks to this faith in itself, these decisions come across less as fan-service and more like the filmmakers knowing the best way to pursue these creative avenues.
Even though The Mandalorian is going to bring in even more well-worn ideas and characters from the larger Star Wars world, the show has more than proven that it isn’t flying loose with them. There is a sense of assurance moving forward that many television shows forego in order to serve short-term goals like easy cliffhangers. And while this first episode does end on such a note, the script sews the right seeds to earn that moment and makes the viewer feel secure that a narrative plan is in motion.
At the end of it all, The Mandalorian Season Two premiere does what the show does best: deliver a single adventure that has all the fun, scale, and endearing character work that made Star Wars such a hit in the first place. Knowing where the season might head has this reviewer remaining cautious, but if the rest of the season is as distinctly enjoyable as a single offering like this premiere, there is no reason for such unease. The filmmaking is superb, the cast is on point, and the world of Star Wars has not felt this vibrant since The Last Jedi. Bring on the next episode.
And yes, because you were definitely worrying about it, Baby Yoda is still as cute as ever.