The Mandalorian: Season 2

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi;
Not rated.
Stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Temuera Morrison, Ming-Na Wen, Katee Sackhoff, Mercedes Varnado, Rosario Dawson, Timothy Olyphant, Bill Burr, Carl Weathers, Horatio Sanz, Giancarlo Esposito.

The eight episodes of the second season of “The Mandalorian” offer the kind of “Star Wars” moments the franchise’s fans have been clamoring to see for decades.

Series creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni are drawing from nearly all aspects of “Star Wars” lore for inspiration — not just the original trilogy, but also the prequels and animated spinoffs as well.

Instead of trying to reinvent the universe the way the sequel trilogy seemed to be trying to do, “The Mandalorian” unmistakably wants to play in George Lucas’ sandbox. The episodes have all the fun and joy of what it’s like to play with “Star Wars” toys as a kid, and imagine all the adventures possible in that galaxy far, far away.

It’s not fan service. It’s fantastic.

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Picking up from last season, bounty hunter Din Djarin, the Mandalorian of the title, embarks on his quest to return to the Jedi the child everyone refers to as “Baby Yoda” (whose name is finally revealed to be Grogu). But doing so will require a great deal of compromise and sacrifice. Along the way he encounters Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), a Mandalorian from the “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” animated shows who desires to reclaim her home planet from the chaos of the Empire’s wrath. She leads Mando to another animated character brought into live-action, the former Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), who needs his help to free a village from a warlord in one of the season’s standout episodes.

Another great episode sees the return of Bill Burr, who has to help Mando on a mission to locate the menacing Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Their infiltration of an Imperial base leads to some of the tensest moments on the show, culminating in the “Star Wars” version of the great basement shootout from Inglourious Basterds.

And if that weren’t enough, we get the return of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), last seen being swallowed by the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. Not only did he survive, but he’s finally living up to the potential for badassery only hinted at in his limited screen time in the movies but which has nonetheless made him a fan favorite since his introduction.

The season also has a few more surprises in store, leading to one of the most emotional and satisfying finales a fan could hope for.

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There have been some grumblings about the wide variance in running times of the episodes — ranging from barely more than a half-hour to more than 50 minutes. But this just demonstrates the creative advantages of posting content to an ad-free streaming service as opposed to needing to fill a set run time to account for a time slot and advertising. The show’s creators are telling the stories they want to tell, and they are using the time they need to tell them. No more, no less. And the results speak for themselves.

 

The Mandalorian: Chapter 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi;
Stars Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi, Taika Waititi, Horatio Sanz, Brian Posehn.

This is a great start for a series that promises to inject some of the old-school excitement back into the “Star Wars” brand that seems to have leaked out a bit from fan reactions to Disney’s movie efforts.

Executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are throwbacks to the pre-Disney days of Lucasfilm, having worked on the “Clone Wars” animated series, and have a solid grasp on “Star Wars” canon. So much so that many fans believe they should have been given the reins to the continuing movie franchise instead of the divisive J.J. Abrams and his penchant for mystery-box storytelling and visual splendor over substance.

The first episode comes rife with references to classic “Star Wars,” including a few nods to the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.

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With its focus on the seedy underbelly of the “Star Wars” universe and the bounty hunters who operate within it, the show feels a bit like a Clint Eastwood Western, centered on the mysterious, masked and unnamed Mandalorian, who is just trying to make ends meet with the meager bounties that come his way. The “space Western” vibe brings to mind Joss Whedon’s “Firefly,” itself heavily influenced by “Star Wars.”

For those who don’t know, the Mandalorians in canon are a proud warrior race whose planet has been hit hard by war over the centuries. Set shortly after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, the show implies that clusters of downtrodden Mandos have spread like refugees across the galaxy seeking to reclaim their heritage where they can.

As such, for his latest job the Mandalorian takes a payment of rare Beskar steel, the powerful alloy used to construct the legendary Mandalorian armor (which fans will recognize as similar to the armor worn by Boba Fett).

The Mandalorian’s mission here, after being hired by a former Imperial functionary (played by Werner Herzog), is to recover someone from a mercenary stronghold. The identity of the target is but one of many surprises this show no doubt has in store for us.

Along the way, he encountered the bounty hunting droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), and the pair join forces for a fantastic fight sequence that most fans will equate to an approximation of a team-up of classic trilogy characters Boba Fett and IG-88). And for longtime fans with any familiarity with the expanded “Star Wars” universe, it’s just great to see the bounty hunters in action.