In my effort to get caught up on The Mandalorian before new content buries me (whatever it is and whenever it arrives; many TV show schedules are still very uncertain with all the COVID-19 shooting delays), I’ve posted reviews for the first four episodes of the first season. These follow the shorter format established in my reviews of much of the second season. The last four reviews of season 1 will be posted at a later date.
Overall, I’m more bullish on season 2 of The Mandalorian (with its forward movement of storylines and tie-ins with the larger Star Wars universe and its bringing together of characters) than on season 1, which was good and entertaining, but with a much looser (and sometimes repetitive) overall narrative structure.
Anyway, here they are. More to come.
Well, that was pretty awesome.
"The Rescue" completes an arc of The Mandalorian so definitively and satisfyingly that it could simultaneously serve as a series finale and a backdoor pilot for multiple spinoff series. It may do the second of those things, but since it won’t be doing the first, that means a third season of this series will have to include a fair amount of reinvention by giving Din Djarin a new purpose.
Season two of The Mandalorian slowly but surely charted the course of this series from a frontier space western to the driving force behind the future of the entire Star Wars franchise. Disney is going all-in on Star Wars streaming shows on Disney+ (with the announcement of nearly a dozen Star Wars streaming projects in the coming years), and The Mandalorian this season has steadily been building a launchpad for several of those projects. (A great post-credits tag at the end of this episode shows Boba Fett and Fennec Shand storming the palace formerly known as Jabba’s, shooting all the guards and its recognizable girth-expanded owner, then Boba sitting in the boss’ chair, with a title card promising us The Book of Boba Fett in December 2021.)
Our new motley crew of heroes (Din Djarin, Cara Dune, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand) travel to a penal colony to recruit Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr) into their adventure in exchange for a temporary release. (He crossed paths with Mando in last season’s "The Prisoner" and got a lengthy prison sentence in the fallout.) They need Mayfeld because he’s a former Imperial soldier who may know how to find Moff Gideon in Mando’s quest to rescue the abducted Grogu.
Mayfeld directs the group to a mining operation on an Imperial-occupied world that exhibits a grittier war-torn impact than most Star Wars settings (the locals have clearly seen better days). If they can get into the base, they can access information on the whereabouts of Gideon’s ship. Mando and Mayfeld pose as stormtroopers and seize control of one of the cargo trucks full of the flammable fuel, which they hope to drive straight into the base. But local marauders complicate the plan when they try to destroy the cargo convoy on its way back.
An old character resurfaces in “The Tragedy,” and I won’t spoil it until you click through to the full review, but that character alone would be worth this episode.
But this episode does many more and exciting things, and cements this series as a thrilling, crowd-pleasing serial, even if the show’s DNA and success has often been in its episodic beats. Here, Mando — having reached the ruins of a Jedi temple on Tython, where Grogu can hopefully call to other surviving Jedi in the galaxy from a mountaintop while protected by a Force-generated forcefield — teams up with an old acquaintance who has tracked him here to confront him, but instead teams up with Mando when things go sideway.
On Corvus, Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) arrives at the gates of an occupied city and demands an audience with the Magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), with whom she has unsettled business. It’s a standoff, with the guards unable to kill or capture Tano but holding her at bay by threatening the city’s innocent hostages.
In between two nights of this standoff, Djarin arrives at the city and is hired by Elsbeth to assassinate Tano. His reward: a staff made of pure beskar. Of course, since Djarin has come here specifically to bring the Child to Tano, Elsbeth has no idea that she has basically set in motion her own defeat.
“The Jedi” is a masterpiece of cinematic style, mood, and photography, executed in the spirit of an Akira Kurosawa samurai epic, with nods in the editing, cinematography, production design, and the amazing atmosphere that suffuses every scene. I’m no expert on East Asian cinema, and I can’t call out individual shots and match them to their source films, but Dave Filoni has taken an episode of pop-culture television and brought an artistry to it that’s cumulatively effective in how it evokes an overall aesthetic, whether it’s with the composition of particular shots (for example, the long-shot side view establishing Tano about to face off with the Elsbeth on the bridge), or the smoke from the charred forest that hangs in the air in every scene.