The first season of The Mandalorian was a genuine surprise; a live action Star Wars show that made great use of the universe’s settings and lore which didn’t lean on […]
The first season of The Mandalorian was a genuine surprise; a live action Star Wars show that made great use of the universe’s settings and lore which didn’t lean on fan service cameos or overt nods to the main saga. Set just a few years after the destruction of the second Death Star and the fall of the Empire as seen in Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian follows the eponymous bounty hunter as he tries to protect a bounty he’s initially hired to capture. It’s no spoiler at this point, surely, to reveal that the bounty is a child; a 50-year old baby who appears to be the same species as Jedi Master Yoda – and with the same affinity for using the Force. Along the way, we get to learn a lot more of Mandalorian culture – as well as discover who The Mandalorian himself is, as well as why it’s so important to him to protect the child.
The series was remarkable for its high production values too, seeming to be shot on vast, incredible sets and diverse locations. Subsequent to the show’s release, however, an episode of the companion series that delves into the creation of The Mandalorian revealed that much of the show was shot using virtual sets that gave the illusion of amazing vistas and enormous buildings. Using virtual reality and Unreal Engine tech, it is fascinating to see how it was put together – and it was utterly seamless in the final product.
It’s likely a good reason why a show of such scale has been able to turn around a second season so quickly too; without having to scout for locations, fly cast and crew all over the world or build huge, physical sets, it’s clear that the pace of shooting is a lot faster. The concern, then, is that the quality would drop – but, going on the strength of second season opener The Marshal alone, it appears that fear is unfounded.
The Mandalorian is searching for clues as to how to return the Child to the Jedi, who now – at this point in the Star Wars timeline – are essentially extinct, as far as the wider universe is concerned. His hunt for leads takes him to an underground fighting arena, where he’s told that another Mandalorian can be found on Tatooine. With Star Wars fans knowing all too well which Mandalorian was based on Tatooine during Return of the Jedi – though presumed eaten and very dead – could it mean the return of a favourite character, not seen as an adult in live action since 1983?
Not quite. The very familiar armour previously owned by that Mandalorian on Tatooine is actually in the possession of the Marshal of a small town in a corner of the desert planet that we haven’t seen before (thankfully – because heaven knows we’ve seen enough Tatooine in the Star Wars saga to date). Weirdly, I recognised the actor in the armour immediately, just from his stance – the spoiler averse should probably not read much further, but it isn’t Boba Fett at all – it’s the greatest TV marshal in history himself, Timothy Olyphant. Turns out the Olyphant’s character inherited the armour from some Jawas – and needs it to protect the town from an enormous Krayt Dragon. Unwilling to give up the armour because of this threat, The Mandalorian agrees to a deal: he’ll help the Marshal with his Krayt Dragon problem in return for the famous outfit. Easier said than done…
There was a lot to like in this episode – it had a real frontier western feel, helped by Olyphant’s presence but also there in the dusty old West style town and the cowboys-working-with-natives premise, that sees the townsfolk reluctantly teaming up with Tusken Raiders to take down the Dragon that threatens both communities. The Mandalorian struggling to keep the peace between the two sides of reluctant allies was a highlight and Olyphant is a superb addition to the supporting cast of characters (and I very much doubt we’ve seen the last of him).
There were some stunningly shot scenes of action – the Krayt Dragon was huge and very, very impressive – but a few of the effects, notably one or two of the speeder bike shots, felt a little rough, which perhaps is the only clue so far of the quick turnaround time for the series.
Another concern I have is that of the potential returning character that’s built up, faked out and then possibly revealed after all; Star Wars originally felt like a huge universe, but over the years with the prequels, sequel trilogy and other fiction it’s gradually felt like everything is interconnected in a way that makes things feel a lot smaller. The first season of The Mandalorian did a good job of staying away from that feel, doing its own thing while still feeling like classic Star Wars. Yet with this particular character – as well as others that are rumoured to appear over the course of the season – there’s the danger that it’ll slip into unnecessary fan service that it so ably restrained from doing in season one. Time will tell.
Nevertheless, The Marshal was a welcome return for our bounty hunter and the child, who remains as adorable as ever. With episodes being released weekly, it won’t be long before we see more of The Mandalorian’s story playing out – hopefully in a way that doesn’t undo the great work done in the first season to build up the story and the brilliantly eclectic cast of ne’er-do-wells.
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