The Mandalorian (Season 2, Disney+)

This post is full of spoilers.  If you have not watched all of season 2 yet, you have been warned!

The arc of Season 2 of The Mandalorian shows the title character slowly changing his ways, acting less like an independent bounty hunter and more like a collaborator and friend.  From here on out, whenever I’m referring to the title character in The Mandalorian and not the show itself, I’ll refer to him as “Mando”.  This seems appropriate since most everyone who talks and writes about this show on the internet refers to him as “Mando”.  Heck, even a character within the show (Greef Karga) calls him by that nickname.  Mando actually has a name, Din Djarin, but calling him “Din” all the time would sound weird.  (Not as weird as calling someone “Greef”, but  weird enough.)  Rest assured, I’m going along with calling Din “Mando” out of expediency.  I still think it sounds too much like Lando, as in Calrissian.  Calling him “Man” would have been ridiculous.  But I digress.

In the first several episodes, Mando tends to fall back on his training and culture, much to his detriment.  In Chapter 9: The Marshal, the dogma he’s been brought up with his entire life tells that whenever he sees Mandalorian armor not being worn by a Mandalorian, he must demand it be given back, or to fight the wearer for it.  Fortunately, Cobb Vanth (the wearer of Boba Fett’s armor) sees the Manda’s philosophical rigidity as an opportunity.  Vanth makes a bargain with Mando: help kill the krayt dragon that has slowly ravaged the town, as well as the Tusken Raiders living nearby.  Mando helps kill the dragon, and learns that to get something, you should give something in return, which is a much better approach to life than fighting for what you want all the time.

In Chapter 10: The Passenger, Mando’s innate distrust of authority for both The Republic and The Empire almost gets him, The Child (a.k.a. Grogu) and their Frog Lady passenger killed by a bunch of space spiders.  This episode reminded me a lot of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where there were spiders, then bigger spiders, and then even bigger spiders.  The Republic manages to locate Mando’s ship and kill all of the spiders, and scold him a bit by saying that all of the trouble he had could have been solved by fixing his transponder.  For Mando’s sake, I hope he learned his lesson!

In Chapter 11: The Heiress, Mando still operates on the simple assumption that throwing money around will always command respect and trust from complete strangers.  He purchases repairs for his ship, which are poorly made, and the captain of a ship he charters attempts to drown him for his armor.  Fortunately for Mando, three Mandalorians (Bo-Katan Kryze and her teammates Koska Reeves and Axe Woves) at the harbor have been keeping an eye on him, and fly in to save him from certain death.  After saving his armor twice, Mando agrees to the trio capture weapons on Imperial cargo ship in exchange for information on the location of a Jedi.

Starting in Chapter 12, Mando begins to leverage the relationships he built in season 1 to mutually beneficial advantage.  He asks Cara Dune for repairs to his ship in exchange for helping to destroy an Imperial base on Nevarro.  In Chapter 13: The Jedi, Mando declines killing the Jedi Ahsoka in exchange for a spear made of Beskar.  Mando is clearly breaking with history here, as the Mandalorians and the Jedi are said to be ancient enemies.  In Chapter 14: The Tragedy, he gives Boba Fett his armor back and gains two allies (Fett and Fennec Shand).  In Chapter 15: The Believer, he asks Cara Dune to let him “borrow” Migs Mayfeld from prison to help locate Moff Gideon’s Imperial Cruiser.  When Mayfeld takes out the entire Imperial base with a single shot, Mando and Dune decide to let him go free.  And in Chapter 16: The Rescue, Mando gets Dune, Fett, Shand, Bo-Katan and Koska Reeves to help him rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon.  Clearly, collaboration has its advantages.  His quest to return Grogu to the Jedi has earned the respect of his friends, and has helped loosen the hold the Mandalorian Way had on Mando’s worldview.

I enjoyed seeing the supporting characters from the first season make return appearances in season 2.  Since the dialog in The Mandalorian is brief and terse, the actors really are the ones responsible for their characters making a lasting impression.  Whether it’s Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) or Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) I look forward to seeing them again, hopefully in season 3.  While I remembered the characters from season 1 well enough, I couldn’t recall much about their backstory.  (The “previously on” segment wasn’t very helpful.)  For example, I didn’t remember much about Migs Mayfeld from season 1, and Mando only describes him as an excellent shot in this season.  As played by Bill Burr, Mayfeld comes off as Joe Pantoliano’s nephew.  Now that he’s a free man, I figure we’ll see him again on the show.

As for the new characters introduced this season, Timothy Olyphant as Cobb Vanth was memorable, essentially playing himself.  Rosario Dawson makes quite an impression as Ahsoka Tano, with makeup that gives her skin an orange tinge and a talon-like prosthesis on her head.  I haven’t watched The Clone Wars series, so her significance to the canon of Star Wars mythology was lost on me.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing her again in another Star Wars series soon.

Having Mando meet up with three of his brethren was an intriguing twist to the season.  I had no idea that the Mandalorians could create such figure flattering armor.  Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) claims to be the rightful heir to the Mandalorian throne, but must have the Darksaber or her claim is invalid.  Unfortunately for her, at the end of the season, Mando is the only one who can legitimately possess the Darksaber, and he has no interest in leading an assault on Mandalore.  Maybe Mando and Bo-Katan will strike up some sort of throne-sharing partnership like Jon Snow and Daenerys (except without the incest)?  How do Mandalorians procreate, anyway?  On Mandalore, do they say “knocking helmets” instead of “knocking boots”?  (Unfortunately, all forms of physical intimacy are forbidden on Disney+, so I’ll never find out the answer to those questions!)

Kidding aside, I can honestly say that I appreciate The Mandalorian for its simplicity.  Instead of getting bogged down in the mythology of the Force and the Jedi and whatnot, The Mandalorian uses the simple plot structure of a quest to bring us the primary elements of the Star Wars universe that we enjoy: blasters, lightsabers, space travel, battles with Imperial cruisers and tie fighters, bad guys dressed in black wearing capes, bizzare creatures from across the galaxy, strange planets and moons with amazing landscapes.  In a way, The Mandalorian is like Game of Thrones, minus all of the political intrigue.  (Sometimes I just want to see dragons fly, dammit!)

The only misstep in season 2 is reintroducing the concept of midi-chlorians.  When Imperial scientist Dr. Pershing mentions Grogu’s high M-count in a recording, and I suspect a huge chunk of the Star Wars fanbase groaned in unison.  Midi-chlorians was George Lucas’ way of explaining why, when it comes to The Force, some folks can wield it, and some folks can’t.  It wasn’t mentioned after The Phantom Menace, so why it was brought back in The Mandalorian is anyone’s guess.

As with season 1, season 2 has a treat for the eyes in every episode.  Whether it’s the desert of Tatooine or the water-logged moon of Trask, the visuals of this series are breathtaking.  Even the Karthon Chop Fields looked incredible, and it was just a huge scrap yard.  When the Razors Crest is blown to bits, the explosion is so brilliant and fiery I thought that “The Tragedy” was a reference to Mando’s ship being destroyed!  My wife and I watched the series on a 65” TV at home, and while the vistas definitely look impressive, I would still be interested in paying to watch The Mandalorian on the big screen at a movie theater.

As I mentioned earlier, I wish the producers of The Mandalorian put more effort into the dialog.  A majority of the time, the lines spoken by the characters are purely functional and to the point.  In a way, it reflects the no-nonsense personality of Mando and his clan.  On the other hand, I would have appreciated more dialog from supporting characters like Cara Dune and Greef Karga, to learn more about who they are as characters, not just what they’ve done.  For example, we’re told that Dune was from Alderaan, and a Rebel shock trooper, but I have no idea what a shock trooper does differently from a regular trooper.  I suspect the dialog is minimalist by design, so that what needs to be translated into thirty languages is easy, but I have no proof of that.

Another complaint I have is why we don’t see Mando’s face from inside his helmet, as was done for Iron Man in the Marvel movies.  This would seem like an obvious thing to do, given that the show runner is Iron Man director Jon Favreau and Mando’s armor could have come from Iron Man’s closet.  Not that Disney would ever take any advice from me, but this approach would also be a way to resolve the reported issues actor Pedro Pascal has had with being required to always have his armor on at all times.  If the scuttlebutt on the internet is to be believed, a middle ground was reached by having Pascal deliver his lines from home, while another actor is on set and takes care of the physical requirements of the character.

Another complaint I have is that unlike the initial season, season 2 mostly relegates Grogu to acting like a child.  Aside from the closing moments of Chapter 14: The Tragedy, he mostly spends his time on screen eating whatever he sees, making baby noises, or both at the same time.  While I enjoy those bits, I miss the element of surprise Grogu brought, when would use the Force to help Mando out of a jam.  In this season, he’s mostly along for the ride, doing cute things until he is captured.

Bringing Luke back was definitely surprise.  I’m a bit disappointed that the show’s producers decided to superimpose Mark Hamill’s face onto another actor.  I wasn’t convinced when this technique was used to bring Leia or Grand Moff Tarkin back to life in Rogue One.  While the effect worked OK in the last episode of season 2, I would have been perfectly fine with seeing an actual actor’s face that kinda-sorta resembled Luke.  I hope that if Disney does eventually make a series with Luke, it isn’t with Luke’s computerized image.  I find it hard to believe that Star Wars fans absolutely must see Mark Hamill’s face to believe they’re watching Luke Skywalker.

After watching all of the Star Wars movies and now two seasons of The Mandalorian, I shouldn’t be surprised at how ineffectual the Stormtroopers are.  There are so many of them, and as much as they blast away at our heroes, they never hit anyone that would be vulnerable to blaster fire.  They do hit Mando several times in Chapter 12, but his armor is impervious to blaster fire.  I feel like being a Stormtrooper is probably the worst job in the future, on par with being a Red Shirt in Star Trek.

I’m completely puzzled over the fan adoration over Boba Fett. Sure, he has cool armor and a ship that sounds like a roadster, but he only had four lines in the middle trilogy. I found it odd how Lucas shoehorned his character into the prequel trilogy, making his father the “father of the clones”. Regardless, Boba Fett’s back and he’s here to stay. As The Mandalorian shows, bringing a character back from the dead is easier than explaining how it happened. How Fett escaped from the Sarlacc pit is not explained. How he was separated from his armor is not explained. How he became a staff-wielding samurai, or a master of bio-mechanics is not explained. Now that he’s ruling the roost on Tatooine, maybe he’ll share some tall tales with us in his own series (coming in December 2021).

Now that Grogu has been turned over to Luke for training, I’m guessing that season three will focus on retaking Mandalore from the Empire.  While not seeing Grogu again will likely disappoint some fans, I’m perfectly fine with it.  Returning Grogu to the Jedi effectively served as the plot device for two seasons.  Having it go on indefinitely would have become tiresome, like the Robinson family forever being Lost in Space.  I’m looking forward to whatever Disney comes up for the furthering adventures of Mando and his band of merry space-people!

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