tv review

The Mandalorian Is Back to Save Us All

Guess who’s back? Back again. Mando’s back. Tell a friend. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Watching the first episode of the second season of The Mandalorian is like experiencing something beamed in from another universe, and that’s not only because it takes place in a galaxy far, far away.

To watch chapter nine, titled “The Marshal,” is to again be reminded of roughly this time last year, when The Mandalorian, as well as its platform, Disney+, premiered and almost instantly became a phenomenon. To be clear: Things were bad and weird back then. The impeachment hearings were getting under way. President Trump was suddenly taken to Walter Reed for reasons that still remain unclear. But they were less bad and weird in a way that provided many people with enough bandwidth to fully obsess over the affectless yet totally compelling voice of Mando, courtesy of Pedro Pascal, and, of course, the endless charms of Baby Yoda. Do you remember the first time you saw Baby Yoda? Do you remember how it felt? Were any of us ever so young?

Things may be badder and weirder now, but The Mandalorian, whose second season begins today, is as impressive and instantly absorbing as it was last year. Disney did not provide screeners in advance, so all there is to go on is that first episode, but it’s a strong first episode, a case study for the things that make The Mandalorian such a consistently entertaining series. Chief among those is its economical approach to storytelling. As epic as The Mandalorian is in terms of scale — it travels to various planets, introduces all manner of creatures great, small, adorable, and odd, and features visual effects worthy of any of the Star Wars motion pictures — it keeps its scenes and story lines simple and focused. Even those who may not be able to recite the history behind certain settings and species off the top of their heads can easily hook in and understand what is happening and what’s at stake for the characters.

This season, the broader goal for Mando — the Mandalorian whose gig as bounty hunter made him the caretaker for the Child, a.k.a. Baby Yoda, the precious green infant who won our hearts and all the Venmo cash we could throw at every piece of Baby Yoda–related merch available — is to reunite the Child with his fellow Jedi. In “The Marshal,” that journey takes him to … places that will look familiar to Star Wars fans.

Look, it’s hard to say much of anything about what happens in the first episode without spoiling what should be fun reveals for those who are familiar with the franchise George Lucas built. Here’s what can be said: The first episode is a Jon Favreau joint, directed and written by the Iron Man filmmaker who created this series. Its runtime is 54 minutes, lengthier than the average season-one episode, which usually clocked in at roughly 40 minutes. But the episode does not feel padded. Unlike some of the recent Star Wars movies, The Mandalorian is expertly paced and never wastes a second. Within the first few minutes, there is a confrontation and a swift fight sequence, and off the episode goes to its next stop in the Outer Rim.

There are many callbacks to places and species from the original movie trilogy and an up close and personal look at one beast that has been referenced in the canon, though never shown quite like this in any of the films. There’s also a heightened Western vibe to certain aspects of this episode, which makes the appearance of a certain actor in a supporting role an absolute delight. That actor’s identity will not be spoiled here, but I will say that his arrival provoked significant vocal reactions from several of us at Vulture. (Read: We all screamed.) Also, for the record, his hair looks amazing in this.

In addition to its propulsive action and the serving of several adorable lewks from Baby Yoda, The Mandalorian continues to slip in the wry bits of humor that always made the best Star Wars movies such a pleasure. One line in particular — “They might be open to some fresh ideas” — easily could have tripped off the tongue of Han Solo.

As hard as it is to fully disengage from the world right now, The Mandalorian, at least in this season premiere, offers more than enough spectacle, forward motion, and Baby Yoda–inspired awwws to make that possible, at least for almost an hour. If you need to forget about the pandemic and the election, albeit briefly, this is the way.

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The Mandalorian Is Back to Save Us All