This review contains spoilers.
From “Firefly” to “Westworld,” the sci-fi western has established itself as a genre-bending staple in recent years. Disney’s newest hit show, “The Mandalorian,” is no different, melding the "Star Wars" universe with western tropes in a way that appeals to multiple generations of fans. The first episode of the second season is a worthy premiere that will whet your appetite for the many adventures that are sure to ensue this season.
The season two premiere, “The Marshal,” launched on the streaming platform Disney+ on Oct. 30, about a year after the release of the first season in 2019. The 54-minute runtime marks a departure from the shorter episodes of the first season (excluding the finale), but a compelling story and incredible graphics maintains a good pacing.
What’s remarkable about this episode is that the narrative structure is nothing new, playing on the western archetype of a hero forced to partner with Indigenous populations to defeat a common enemy. Substitute Din Djarin, or Mando (played by Pedro Pascal) as the hero, the Sand People as the Indigenous populations and a hungry behemoth of a Krayt dragon as their enemy, and you have the episode.
This is where writer and director Jon Favreau succeeds best. He takes this archetype, translates it into the language of the "Star Wars" universe and creates a nuanced episode that functions as a commentary on settler colonial relationships. The episode is also chock full of references to the original trilogy, the prequels and other "Star Wars" canon.
Favreau’s attention to detail is what truly makes the episode stand out. For example, Mando now tolerates droids — presumably because of IG-11’s noble sacrifice at the end of the last season — the marshal from the episode’s namesake Cobb Vanth (played by newcomer Timothy Olyphant) rides what appears to be a speeder cobbled out of parts from Anakin’s podracer from “The Phantom Menace” and Vanth even has a jetpack malfunction reminiscent of Boba Fett’s in “Return of the Jedi” that sent the bounty hunter into the mouth of the Sarlacc.
The easter eggs make the episode fun to comb through, but what I appreciated most was the storyline of the Tusken Raiders. They had a brief appearance in the first season, but the premiere focuses on the nuanced aspects of their culture, both humanizing them and making them an integral aspect of Mando’s mission. Previously, they’ve been relegated to amorphous villains, known only for their unique vocalizing and tortuous ways that killed Anakin’s mother Shmi in “Attack of the Clones,” so the diversity in presentation here is appreciated.
I would be remiss to not mention the fact that the production team behind “The Mandalorian” hired deaf actor Troy Kotsur to help craft the Tusken sign language that’s used extensively throughout the episode. This gives me hope that big budget productions will continue to give creative control to people with disabilities, as well as other minority populations.
Similar to the first season, the flashier aspects of this episode don’t disappoint. I was absolutely floored to finally see a fully CGI-rendered Krayt dragon leap out from the trembling sands of the Dune Sea. While the story itself is well written, the graphics for the dragon and its explosive demise set the premiere aside as something special.
The icing on the cake is watching Mando and Vanth jet pack into the air and fire on the dragon in what can only be described as a faceoff of epic proportions. Olyphant’s brilliant grin and devilish charm make his performance a welcome addition to the ever-expanding cast list, and this will hopefully not be his last appearance as the marshal of Mos Pelgo.
For those of you who, like myself, were excited to watch the ever intimidating Moff Gideon (played by Giancarlo Esposito) pick that dark saber back up, you may be slightly disappointed that he isn’t in the premiere. However, the last minute of the episode more than makes up for this omission.
“The Mandalorian” team truly delivered with the final reveal of a very much alive Boba Fett (played by Jango Fett actor Temuera Morrison). Sure, it was cool to see his armor used as a plot device throughout the episode, but nothing can compare to seeing the return of the legendary bounty hunter himself. I, for one, can’t wait to see how his story intertwines with Mando’s this season.
Overall, the episode had everything a Star Wars fan could dream of: an expansion of lore, epic western-inspired showdowns, multiple shots of The Child (affectionately called “Baby Yoda”) just being cute, a sweeping score and a beautifully composed final shot of the twin suns setting on Tatooine.
Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance photographer and reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99