A triumphant return to form for a waning franchise, this is thunderous entertainment for Star Wars fans young and old. Find that mutual friend with a Disney+ account and enjoy the unifying experience of a fan-base healing.
Disney released a new Star Wars film every year from 2015 to 2019. It shows how untactful they have been with the franchise when the strongest year for new and exciting Star Wars content has been 2020, the year without a film. It started with the outstanding final season of The Clone Wars back in February – seriously, check the IMDb episode ratings for it – and it has continued with the second season of the Baby Yoda show, or The Mandalorian if we are going for formality (not to be confused with the Back to the Future car). In fact, if you weren’t a naughty pirate, 2020 would have given the UK both seasons of the acclaimed show.
It is a well-known fact that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni must regularly seek a chiropractor due to carrying the weight of an entire franchise on their backs with their roles in the TV show. Favreau, the creative mastermind of the first season, gets an opportunity to direct this time round, joined by fellow filmmakers Bryce Dallas Howard (making better Star Wars content than her pops Ron Howard did), Peyton Reed, and Carl Weathers (in his debut) among others. Pedro Pascal is back as Din Djarin (‘Mando’), the Clint Eastwood-esque bounty hunter who is less The Man With No Name and more The Man With No Face. In his protection is The Child, a mysterious Force-sensitive Yoda-look-alike whose secrets are unearthed over the batch of eight chapters. They make for a delightful screen duo, tapping into the same humour as Marvel did with Baby Groot.
But truth be told, the standout characters are the supporting ones who pop in and out of the show. At times feeling like Skyrim, with a main questline being shelved for the sake of a side-mission, the episodic structure gradually starts to come together for the second half of the season, which launches the show into deeply unpredictable territory. Many of these one-episode characters are returning fan favourites from the first season, but some are the live-action debuts of some of the most loved – no, worshipped- characters from The Clones Wars and Rebels shows. The casting director, costume designers and make-up artists did a phenomenal job in birthing these once rendered characters into a tangible universe.
Whilst commendable that the show is trying to unite the entire fandom by honouring every era of Star Wars except the sequel trilogy, there is a problem that The Mandalorian is better enjoyed knowing all the pre-existing lore and animated show crossovers. And whilst YouTube might supply the clickbait information videos to fill in the gaps, a show should stand on its own merit. The total originality of the first season has been depleted as Favreau restores X-wings, stormtroopers (still chocolate teapots), Tatooine, and the aforementioned fan favourites to the screen. It is fan service treated with care, but it would be great to veer away into more of the new content that defined the first season.
Saying that, the episodes are consistently varied in content and length: some are creature features, some are men on a mission and one of them is essentially a shootout in true Western fashion. This debt to the Western genre is demonstrated through the immense volume of nods to it: Tombstone, The Magnificent Seven, Dances With Wolves, the films of Sergio Leone, and even a whiff of Stagecoach or Mad Max: Fury Road during an exciting chase. However, it is the fifth episode that stands out. Directed by Dave Filoni, the episode does something truly special: in synthesising the imagery and style of the legendary Akira Kurosawa samurai films with those of the Western genre and the strong theme of family that defines the entire franchise, Filoni has come the closest in achieving George Lucas’ original vision since the 1977 original film.
Fatherhood has always been an essential theme to the saga, but The Mandalorian’s focus on an infant rather than an adult makes it stand out from the rest. The paternal relationship between the Child and Mando is simply beautiful to watch as the once-hardened bounty hunter lowers his barriers and becomes increasingly protective of his charge, something that is poignantly concluded in a spine-tingling finale (one definitely worthy of recognition in the Jedi archives).
With a host of new series and spin-offs announced, The Mandalorian’s future is ambiguous. But, with Disney finally showing that they care about the franchise and allowing the right filmmakers to make outstanding content, one thing is for sure: this is where the fun begins.
Both seasons of The Mandalorian are available to stream now on Disney+. You can watch the season 2 trailer below.