TV REVIEW: THE MANDALORIAN - SEASON 2
'The Mandalorian - Season 2' is a fullfilling treat to fans and newcomers of the Star Wars universe.
By Dan Dubon | 1/3/21
Considering that every other major piece of casting leaked online before the season premiered, it's particularly impressive that executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni managed to preserve that particular surprise. The only downside of The Mandalorian being a TV show is that you can imagine how certain moments might've played on a big screen with a packed audience (the rapturous ending of Rogue One springs to mind); but there's also something magical about being able to experience the scope and scale of Star Wars in the comfort of your own home in ways we could never have imagined as kids. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, it's thrilling to see this universe expanding week to week, offering insight into corners of the galaxy that have been mentioned in passing but never explored on-screen with this kind of depth before.There were some narrative detours that may have frustrated viewers looking for a fully serialized format, but even the most self-contained installment (episode 2, "The Passenger") offered some necessary character development for our titular hero, forcing him to confront the idea that looking after a child isn't simply about physical safety, but also what you teach them about personal responsibility and empathy.
Despite juggling a slew of new characters like Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano, who are being primed for their own spinoff shows, Season 2 never lost sight of the relationship at its heart, meticulously developing Mando and Baby Yoda's bond and allowing Pedro Pascal to excavate new layers in Din Djarin's personality. The season did a masterful job of challenging Din's worldview and pushing him out of his comfort zone so that every small step forward he took felt like a monumental leap, culminating in a triumphant and emotionally resonant season finale that was completely earned in terms of his character growth. How our hero will navigate Season 3 in light of everything that happened this season is a lingering question, and it's pretty exciting from a narrative perspective that there's no predictable path for the show to take from here.
The season also doubled down on one of the most impressive aspects of Season 1: the action. In the hands of directors like Robert Rodriguez (who will be helming the Boba Fett spinoff show), Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, Carl Weathers, and Filoni and Favreau themselves, The Mandalorian Season 2 deployed a dizzying array of stunning set-pieces throughout the season, matching the ambition of anything the franchise has done on the big screen, even if there were fewer dogfights and trench runs than we typically see in the movies. It was especially satisfying to get more insight into Mandalorian culture and the different factions and belief systems at play, something that seems set to be further explored in Season 3.
Whatever nitpicks you may have had with the season — and I had plenty, from the clunky dialogue (which, let's face it, has always been a Star Wars staple but feels particularly distracting in The Mandalorian - take a shot every time someone says "womp rat" in the Season 2 premiere, I dare you) and sometimes hammy guest stars to the over-reliance on nostalgia (Tatooine again?) over actual plot — it's undeniable that Favreau and Filoni learned from the mistakes of Season 1 to create something far more focused, with a palpable sense of momentum and escalating danger.
There weren't any splashy cameos from legacy characters like Ahsoka Tano and Boba Fett in Season 1, and it truly did feel, early on, like the show would be exploring - to coin a familiar phrase - Unknown Regions. Our focus was on Mando as a character and the unlikely Lone Wolf and Cub relationship this gruff bounty hunter was forming with his little green child, and while Din was inadvertently getting swept up in a grand galactic conflict he didn't understand, there was still a simplicity to his mission and the broken band of allies he collected along the way.
You can argue that Favreau and Filoni were always building towards the revelations and character cameos we got in Season 2 and that the show's trajectory has always been intended to tie into the wider Star Wars universe, but there is something a little frustrating (if not at all surprising) about Disney attempting to apply the MCU strategy of "it's all connected" to The Mandalorian.
Season 2 of The Mandalorian is a remarkable feat of both art and commerce. It keeps the focus on the characters and relationships that matter most to advance the overarching plot, while also devoting enough narrative real estate to establish other characters and motivations, laying the groundwork for a sprawling interconnected universe that will give us our Star Wars fix for many years to come. It's a tricky needle to thread, but Filoni and Favreau accomplish it with confidence.
Despite my quibbles, after reflecting on Season 2 and the series as a whole for the past week, the dizzying highs of the season far outweigh my frustrations, which are easier to focus on when a show is being assessed on an episode-by-episode basis. Compared to the heavy-handed writing that bogged down episodes 4-6 of Season 1, there's truly not a dud in the bunch in Season 2; each episode helps flesh out the state of the galaxy in the early days of the New Republic, using established characters like Cara Dune and Migs Mayfeld as well as series newcomers to contextualize the many conflicts and political agendas still simmering even after the Empire has fallen. It's that kind of thoughtful world-building that intrigues me most for Season 3, especially since it seems far more likely that the Ahsoka and Boba Fett spinoffs will connect more directly to previous projects, hopefully leaving room for Mando to go back to blazing his own trail. After the plot twists of this season, your mileage may vary on whether this is the version of Star Wars you want to invest any more time in, but there's no denying that Season 2 was a blast to watch - channeling the very best of the franchise in both new and familiar ways.
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