Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
The Mandalorian Season Two trailer hinted at…a lot. Jedi. Buddy picture. The New Republic. Old imperials. And lots of action.
The Mandalorian Season Two got off to a strong if slightly odd start. In its inaugural episode, Mando helped a local marshal kill a giant desert space worm in exchange for Boba Fett’s old armor. He also spoke Tusken Raider, which no one saw coming.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the episode with its nods to Tremors, and especially Timothy Olyphant’s turn as the marshal. But other than the reveal of Boba Fett in a cameo at the end of the episode it was Side Quest TV.
Boba Fett’s return is, indeed, something though. We’ve waited how long for this?
Side Quest TV continued in the second episode, when Mando played space Uber driver to a frog lady carrying the last eggs in her family’s line to the one place they might hatch or whatever they do. Baby Yoda ate a few, earning him the usual balanced and level-headed reactions on Twitter (Genocide! The Child is a monster!). Newsflash: Every child is a potential monster until you, the parent, correct them. This child’s parent is a violent bounty hunter who himself grew up without parents because they were killed by violent battle droids. He was raised, it turns out, by a sort of armored combat cult. They’re doing their best, making their way through the lawless galaxy in their spaceship as mysterious forces hunt them down. Give Mando a break. And in any case, eating a few eggs from one family’s line — not an entire species — really doesn’t rise to the level of full-blown, Stalin-in-Ukraine, genocide. Our educational system really is failing to teach history and basic logic.
If the first episode played notes from Tremors, the second certainly gave us a Star Wars take on Aliens, with its ravenous cave spiders and big, nasty Momma Spider. It also gave us a hint that the Child really is a trouble-making toddler, who is also very powerful in the Force.
The Child is about 50 years old, by the way, meaning his “terrible twos” will last decades. And he can wield the Force.
So give Mando a break.
The Child’s mischievous ways could make for hijinks down the line. Probably will. He does use the Force to steal a kid’s blue cookies in Episode 4.
Both of the first two episodes were good. Solid. They hinted at things to come but packed less of a punch than the last couple of episodes in the first season, which were brilliant.
But things picked up sharply in the third and fourth episode.
Episode 3 brought a very important Mandalorian into our Mando’s path, Bo-Katan Kryze. If you’re up on your Clone Wars and Rebels animated series, you know who she is. Bo-Katan Kryze has a long and serious storyline in those series that ends with her ruling Mandalore and holding the darksaber. That was the last we saw of her.
But at the end of Mando’s first season, we saw series villain Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wielding that very darksaber. He used it to cut himself out of his crashed TIE fighter. Gideon did not appear in either of the animated series or any of the films. How did he obtain the darksaber, and what does his possession of it mean? It’s a sacred weapon on Mandalore; the one who wields it is the true and worthy ruler of the planet. Gideon is, as far as The Mandalorian audience knows, an imperial warlord of some sort but nothing more than that. But in Season 2 Episode 3, Bo-Katan tells another imperial officer (played to perfection by Titus Welliver) that she knows Gideon has that saber and that it belongs to her. Therefore they have a history. And The Mandalorian seems to be the show that will tie that history together, across two animated series and this live-action one.
The fact that Katee Sackoff played Bo-Katan in both the animated and now live-action series further ties things together, and is also several levels of fanservice awesome. So say we all and this is the way.
Mando also learns that he’s not the only Mandalorian in town, and some Mandalorians were actually born on the planet (he wasn’t), and that it’s inhabitable, and that Bo-Katan wants to take it back. That’s a lot to learn while you’re fighting off sea monsters and imperial goons.
He also learns that some Mandalorians take off their helmets. Expect that to come up again in a future episode.
Episode 4 escalated things quickly. What begins as another apparent Side Quest TV episode turns into a firefight in what our heroes believe is an old and largely undefended imperial forward operating base in the badlands on Nevarro. They just want to blow it up to drive the Empire’s remnants off the planet.
Moff Gideon isn’t present, but several squads of imperial stormtroopers are, as are speeder bikes and TIE fighters. So there’s more going on here than expected.
Mando, reunited with former rebel commando Cara Dune (now a marshal, played by Gina Carano) and Greef Karga (now a Nevarro planetary administrator a la Lando at Cloud City, played by Carl Weathers, who also directed this episode), makes pretty quick work of the troopers. That would be more impressive if any of them could hit anything they shoot at, and if their armor had any use whatsoever. The battle gives us glimpses of Mando’s incredible capabilities as a one-man commando unit, both on the ground and in aerial assault with his jetpack. He’s just fun to watch in a Saturday morning cartoons, over-the-top war movie kind of way. Dune commandeers an imperial armored assault vehicle and goes in for some thrilling heroics. Weathers’ eye for directorial detail is a match for the story too. This episode and the previous one, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, both offer some of the series’ best action sequences.
Mando and company discover that the base isn’t a base at all, it’s a lab and someone is up to serious and strange experiments there. Ghoulish bodies float suspended in some oozy liquid in large jars. The team hacks into a computer that spits out a hologram of Doctor Pershing, who hasn’t been seen since the first season. Pershing was the lead scientist working on whatever experiments the imperials wanted done with Baby Yoda, aka the Child, experiments which are the reason they find him so valuable and will not relent in their hunt for him.
In the hologram, Pershing gives Mando et al a crash course in what he’s been up to. He extracted a small amount of blood from the Child, the most he could obtain without killing him. That blood has a “high M-count” according to Pershing, which is a callback to midichlorians — one of the most controversial storylines in The Phantom Menace. Midichlorians are tiny little things that swim around in the blood and make creatures strong (or not, if there aren’t enough of them) in the Force. Midichlorians were largely hated when TPM introduced them, and they didn’t factor in the original trilogy or the final trilogy either. They just…didn’t come up.
But here they are again, in The Mandalorian, the best Star Wars production since Empire Strikes Back.
Also present in the lab: those misshapen figures floating in jars. What in the world are those hideous things?
Doctor Pershing hints that they’re failed experiments. He tried transfusing the Child’s blood into them to make them Force-sensitive, but it didn’t take and they died horribly. What’s he up to?
His message was intended for Moff Gideon, whom Mando thought was dead but now learns is still alive.
After a fantastic running ground and air battle sequence, the episode finishes on an imperial cruiser. There’s Moff Gideon in a suit that looks eerily like the one Darth Vader wore in the original trilogy. He’s in a room full of sleek black exoskeleton suits that look like dark troopers. But they may not be. Whatever they are, the final scene reveals that Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest, is being tracked and that Moff Gideon and his imperials will be “ready” to deal with him. He seems to stake a lot in the abilities of those black suits of armor, or those who’ll wear them. Mando has amassed quite the body count in 12 episodes.
Speculation has run wild ever since the episode debuted on Friday. What’s the experiment that was going on at the lab on Nevarro? Who or what’s in those black stormtrooper suits on Gideon’s ship? Are they the dark troopers, which first appeared way back in the Dark Forces video game? When do we get to see Bo-Katan and Moff Gideon square off over the darksaber? And how amazing is that going to be?
With all of that going on, which is a lot, The Mandalorian looks like it’s taking on some very large and extremely difficult tasks. After more than 40 years, nine films, two major animated series, a googolplex of comics and novels and video games, the SW universe is a bit unwieldy. Can any show tie it all together?
By reintroducing midichlorians, The Mandalorian is taking up the task of tying the shaky prequel trilogy, the mostly good animated series, and its awesome self, together.
That’s no mean feat. But wait, there’s more.
If those misshapen lab experiments turn out to be either precursors of the resurrected Emperor Sheev Palpatine, which they could be, or experiments leading to the creation of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke, which they also could be, and who we know thanks to the awful sequel trilogy was basically a meat puppet on Palpatine’s shriveled hand, Mando’s mission really is to tie all these strung out bits and pieces, many of which are disliked and even reviled, together. It might even make the sequel trilogy make a bit of sense.
That’s a huge mission. I’ve retconned the sequel trilogy entirely out the canon, I dislike it so much.
I don’t really trust Disney or the Force, but I do trust Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. If anyone can make the Star Wars universe whole again, it’s them.
I have spoken.