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TV Review: The Mandalorian - Season 2

29 December 20 words: Adam Ridgley

Mando and the Child strike back with new planets, new faces and returning fan favourites from across the saga in a hit or miss second season…

Creator: Jon Favreau
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito

It may feel like a long time ago, but for us in the UK, The Mandalorian only arrived on our screens for the first time in March, becoming an instantly iconic flagship series for Disney Plus. Now sixteen chapters in, the story of Din Djarin and the Child has become as integral to the wider Star Wars universe as any across the saga. Whilst recent movies have been some of the most polarising in cinematic history, the first season of The Mandalorian brought balance to the fandom. Whilst every chapter was a mini-cinematic blast, many felt that the show was full of filler. Season 2 is admittedly a tale of two halves: initially feeling formulaic, with some clunky fan service thrown in the middle, until the latter half of the season blasts your expectations away in what is truly some of the best content the galaxy far, far, away has to offer.

The season immediately kicks into gear with Jon Favreau's blockbuster opener, as our titular hero and his little green merch machine of a sidekick endeavour on their quest to reunite the Child with the remaining Jedi. We return to Tatooine as Mando happens upon Timothy Olyphant's Cobb Vanth, an interesting character who of course has a problem that needs solving with a CGI spectacle battle, before he will do anything for our hero. This is followed up by Chapter 10's "Frog Lady," where of course Mando must help a rather irritating amphibian, before she will give him a titbit of information to help him on his journey and wouldn’t you know it, CGI shenanigans ensue again. 

That’s not to discredit the action on display; the cinematography of the Disney Plus original has set new standards for television and composer Ludwig Göransson beautiful score is as every bit as incredible as the work John Williams has done on the franchise.

Thankfully, the formula is quickly given a bit more substance as a standout instalment from fan favourite director Bryce Dallas Howard, saw the return of Clone Wars veteran Katee Sackhoff making her live-action debut as Bo-Katan Kryze. The episode provides some key world building for fans who both have and haven’t watched the animated outings, seamlessly integrating The Mandalorian into the wider Star Wars universe, whilst giving new fans a more expansive understanding of the Mandalorian people.

Greef Carga actor Carl Weathers take over directing duties next episode, which sees the welcome return of Gina Carano’s no-nonsense Cara Dune. Whilst the episode is a return to the video game-style side questing, the episode drops some huge information about Giancarlo Esposito, Moff Gideon's plans and provides plenty of action to keep you engaged.

The finale can only be described as pure, classic Star Wars from start to finish

Chapter 13 is perhaps the most divisive episode of the season. Star Wars guru Dave Filoni appropriately steps back behind the camera to bring Ahsoka Tano to life in a live action setting alongside actress Rosario Dawson. The two deliver a pitch-perfect take on The Clone Wars character and Filoni masterfully leans into the samurai movies that inspired George Lucas a long time ago. However, there is an inescapable feeling that the episode only serves as a vehicle to introduce casual audiences to the character before she jumps ship to her own Disney plus original, as the character is not seen again in the season and much of her backstory is only hinted at in fleeting moments. Those without prior knowledge of Anakin Skywalker's apprentice may find her motivations confusing. Other than some key reveals surrounding the backstory of Grogu, the alien formally known as Baby Yoda, much of the episode is forgotten in the grand scheme of the season.

Thankfully, from this point on the pace never slows down in the second half of the season, and the stakes from this point on are through the roof. Robert Rodriguez surprises us all with an action orientated episode that sees the definitive return of Boba Fett. Temuera Morrison makes you glad he crawled out of that sarlac pit as he puts in an incredible performance as the older, weathered version of the bounty hunter. Unlike Ashoka, the character is perfectly integrated into the story whilst simultaneously setting up a now much awaited spin off. 

The next extremely exciting episode from Rick Famuyiwa is a thriller from start to finish. Bill Burr is a welcome return as Biggs Bayfield as Mando and his elite squadron of babysitters infiltrate an Imperial remnant facility. Here Pedro Pascal puts in another phenomenal performance that perfectly conveys the characters emotional anguish. The writing here is top notch and Pascal shows why he is a contender for being known as the best leading man in Star Wars.

The finale can only be described as pure, classic Star Wars from start to finish. If I can guarantee you anything it’s that this one will leave you in tears. Long-time fans of the serious receive a huge payoff here, as you are simultaneously overcome with joy and heartache. The stakes in this episode are through the roof and the tension never eases up. Everyone gets their moment to shine here, Giancarlo Esposito once again cements himself as one as perhaps the greatest TV villain actors of our time. The Mandalorian gives us some legitimately great female characters who also get to tear it up and they all put a phenomenal shift in. But ultimately the true standout here -and of the series as a whole - is the relationship between Din Djarin and Grogu, with a truly bittersweet moment that you will never forget. The less said about the finale the better; it's something anyone with a passing interest in Star Wars should experience for themselves, a true masterpiece.

Season 2 of The Mandalorian as a whole is a mixed bag, whilst the early season may begin to feel stale, each episode is a more than serviceable spectacle that will keep you engaged. The story of Din Djarin and Grogu has been compelling from day one and will keep bringing you back regardless, and that investment is paid off big time as everything comes together in an all-time great TV finale that is arguably the best Star Wars has ever got. 

Did you know? The season was filmed from October 2019 to March 2020, and wrapped days before the Covid-19 pandemic forced productions to shut down. Post-production was completed remotely, including the recording of the score.

Both seasons of The Mandalorian are available on Disney+

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