***This review contains spoilers***
After what might have felt like one of the longest years in recent memory, our favourite Mandalorian and his adorable little companion are back to transport us to a galaxy far, far away.
With heads held high from the first season’s fresh, somewhat grittier space-spaghetti-western, season two eagerly widens its scope with a handful of thrilling adventures and new, yet familiar faces, rewarding more devoted fans of the universe. The creators of the show – Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, & company – delicately interweave moments of nostalgia throughout, evoking a simpler grace and refinement of George Lucas’ original franchise, which frankly, Disney’s sequel trilogy lacked. Instead of being jumbled and torn between various opposing visions, season two demonstrates a clear creative direction, with a fitting progression of events from season one and plans for the future seemingly already laid out.
In addition, Ludwig Göransson’s unique and robust score continues to thrive in this second instalment. Despite returning to the series’ signature retro-futuristic textures that are unashamedly influenced by the great spaghetti-westerns and samurai films of old, this season further elevates its 21st-century attitude with a even greater influx of thumping electronics and cements itself to stand out from John Williams’ traditionally expansive orchestral swarms. The jarring and brash hip-hop/dubstep-like motif surrounding the Dark Troopers are certainly proof of this. Yet, at its most vulnerable, the atmospheres created by the revolving bass recorder, polyrhythmic percussion, lusciously sweeping synths, and the organically shifting buzz of electric guitars exemplifies the score’s capability to balance itself between genres and still establish an unmistakably recognisable sound to the series.
While season two of The Mandalorian is without a doubt subject to an extremely formulaic and rather basic episodic structure, mainly composed of minor side-quests in the grand scheme of Mando’s main mission, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing; the show knows what it is. In other words, it lends itself to embrace the unadulterated, elemental fun of Star Wars without being childish. It understands that viewers aren’t looking for ostentatious arthouse, but rather an exciting, gripping intergalactic adventure between comrades with hints of lighthearted humour, and the development of a touching father-son duo. The evolving dynamic between Din Djarin and Grogu has really blossomed to buttress the show’s humanity and sweeter, more affectionate side, continuing the pair’s binding warmth established in the first season.
However, the more profound theme of religion/tradition and its significance is also further explored over the series. Although Mando has, previously, always been more than firm on refusing to show his face to any living being, this season sees him violate this ideology twice, after learning that he was essentially raised by a fringe group of Mandalorian idealists. Still, his monk-like commitment to scripture and samurai-like faithfulness in completing his quest perseveres. The two occasions where Din Djarin revealed his face were all for the sake of rescuing Grogu; while the first was necessary for surviving a high-stakes act of espionage, the second was a genuine emotional impulse to the inevitably heart-retching goodbye to his Child, making their separation in the season finale all the more bittersweet.
Another testament to the show’s capacity to skillfully handle characters with meaningful purpose is the reveal of Luke Skywalker. While at first glance, his entrance may seem to solely exist for the sake of pleasing nostalgic audiences, the Jedi’s inclusion is inherently logical to the founded narrative direction; it only makes sense that one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy would hear Grogu’s call and come to his aid. Yet, it is absolutely undeniable that the visuals of Luke Skywalker at his prime slaughtering Dark Troopers down a corridor with such ease wasn’t also fan-service in its purest form.
On a final note, the show is beginning to develop into a sort of interconnected stepping stone for branching off storylines of its other characters. This is exemplified with the introduction of the first live-action adaptation of both Bo Katan and Ahsoka Tano, as well as finally serving long overdue on-screen justice for Boba Fett – with the latter two already having individual projects officially in the works. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to Thrawn, a rare character who only briefly appeared in a few spin-offs and novels, might also quietly foreshadow his more important role, and perhaps be the all-encompassing narrative endgame for the near future.
Overall, The Mandalorian continues to flourish on its lighthearted and fun space-western nature with authentic emotional bonds in a growing ensemble of remarkable characters. Despite some occasionally predictable filler episodes, the captivating fast-paced adventures rarely bore to produce something that is just so quintessentially Star Wars.
– Brian Darrer