The Mandalorian Season 2 Review: The series every Star Wars fan deserved (and got)
If you want to understand how to do fan service, The Mandalorian Season 2 finale is a great example
It is easy to ascend the throne, but extremely difficult to keep it. Ask JJ Abrams. He brought back all the nostalgia with The Force Awakens, the first of the sequel trilogy in Star Wars. The film was a massive success, it brought in new fans and satisifed the old ones. Fast forward four years, his The Rise of Skywalker tanked as it tried to balance the old and the new. Where JJ fails, Jon Favreau succeeds. And how!
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito
Created by: Jon Favreau
Season 2 of The Mandalorian picks off from the incredible finale of the previous season with Mando aka Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) continuing his quest to deliver The Child, a force-sensitive being of the same species as Yoda, to his own kind. Lest you forget what made this show so wonderful the first season around, Jon Favreau (now taking up his first directorial gig in the Star Wars universe) sets it all up immediately. There is a piece of information with a Mandalorian, who has taken up residence in a particular desert planet, that will open up the path for Mando to proceed further in his quest. However, the person with the information will trade it if our hero finishes a quest for him.
If all this sounds like it's straight out of a video-game, you wouldn't be wrong. If all this sounds like it's out of a western, you would again not be wrong. That is the beauty of a story like The Mandalorian. One overarching arc that is connected by each of the smaller arcs in each episode and the thread that connects them all is the father-child bond of two orphans.
One of the biggest reasons why the sequel trilogy failed was the lack of an emotional core that made the prequel and original trilogies so powerful. What George Lucas' best friend started with Jaws (the birth of the summer blockbuster), he cemented with Star Wars. And the reason was because families that frequented in large masses identified that Star Wars, at its core, is a story of a family gone astray. Jon Favreau, alongside his executive producer and the biggest Star Wars fanboy today, Dave Filoni, have used a similar story structure here. Be it Mando playing with The Child, protecting it, chiding it, everything is so beautifully setup for the emotional payoff in the finale.
And what a finale it is too. If you want to understand how to do fan service, The Mandalorian Season 2 finale is a great example. The Star Wars fanbase, with its multitude of theories, was wondering how The Mandalorian, which is set five years after The Return of the Jedi, would connect the original and sequel trilogies and even the wildest of those theories didn't guess at how this finale would make us all shed tears of joy. However, it is a disservice to dismiss it as just that. The finale added on to the deeply rich Star Wars lore by introducing us to new antagonists, the Dark Troopers, who put the dread in not only the protagonist but also us, the viewers. It continued to tell the story of the Darksaber, a particularly distinct lightsaber, which has a violent history associated with the planet Mandalore. It showed us, through its post-credit episode, what the future holds for the super important Star Wars underworld.
What it also did for the lore, is show us the women of Star Wars. With Katee Sackhoff, Gina Carano and Ming-Na Wen's Bo Katan (the proud Mandalorian heiress who wants her throne back), Cara Dune (the former Rebel who is now a Marshal in her own right), Fennec Shand (a mercenary with ethics), the show showed that girls do get the job done. Unlike the Avengers' lipservice with that phenomenally bad all-girls showdown, this show built an arc for each of its female characters — one that wasn't just to serve the male protagonist's heroism. Disney's fabled princess merchandise needs new additions for this bunch of badass women. And it doesn't get more badass than Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka Tano, who in the standalone episode The Jedi, lays out a path for this series as well as her own spinoff. Talk about twin sabers cutting two different paths.
The Mandalorian is also notable for its ability to surprise us with the treatment in each episode. You have filler-esque episodes like Chapter 10 that reminds us of Hogwarts or Chapter 12 that reminds you of Indiana Jones. But they co-exist with something as incredibly artistic as Chapter 9 The Marshal or Chapter 13 The Jedi. The latter is an overt tribute to Akira Kurosawa's samurai films (which influenced westerns and Star Wars, a space western). Be it the unique tic of the protagonist and the antagonist, the presence of movement in every frame, the composition — everything about Chapter 13 deserves a viewing on the big screen. What is unique about The Mandalorian is that these aren't green screens at play but the incredible technology that is The Volume that uses the Unreal Engine video game technology.
There are a lot of small moments littered through this season that consistently made me wonder if Disney made this for the bigger screen. Like seeing how a TIE fighter is launched for the first time ever in the history of Star Wars. Or the aforementioned Dark Troopers introduction. The incredibly talented Ludwig Gorannson's theme for this particular scene is a sound you have never heard in the franchise before and yet it sounds so at home and fits in so perfectly. To go from that particular techno-metal soundtrack to the tenderness that is the last scene of Din Djarin, and then to wrap it all up with an all-string orchestra playing out The Mandalorian finale, it felt like this is the Star Wars we deserved in theatres — visually poetic, aurally haunting. And leaving us wondering what next, if there is indeed a next. At this point, all a Star Wars fan can give is gratitude and heartfelt thanks to Jon Favreau. For showing us that the Force is with us. Always.