The Mandalorian Season 2 Premiere, ‘Chapter 9 – The Marshal’ had a lot riding on it.
On the surface that might sound like the silliest statement this side of the galaxy. However, The Mandalorian has become such an omnipresent piece of pop culture. You can’t walk into a store without seeing Baby Yoda emblazoned on another piece of merchandise. You can’t reference this show or sometimes anything without someone saying “This is the Way.” This show is literally everywhere you look and Disney is not shy about promoting it, especially since it was such an important show in launching and making Disney+ a hugely successful streaming service. So when a show is this big and this popular the bar for the premiere episode to deliver not only on everything that made it popular but also advance everything about the show is super high.
The worry about this premiere comes from another piece of ubiquitous pop culture — Game of Thrones. Just like Mando, how many catchphrases from that show found their way into everyday life? How many different ridiculous GOT-themed things existed in the marketplace? How many people referred to themselves as “third of his name” or “mother of dragons?” At the height of its popularity, Game of Thrones was everywhere and yet it produced some of its most inconsistent and often times worst episodes.
So when The Mandalorian Season 2 Premiere rolled onto Disney+ there was definitely some trepidation when pushing play. While the show obviously would push the envelope in regards to effects and action would it do so elsewhere? Would the premiere recycle storylines and motifs that made the first season so memorable? Would the show rely too heavily on just how cute “Baby Yoda” is? Would they start crowbarring Star Wars mythology into the series in order to align it further with the greater Star Wars universe?
And the answer is, yes. The Mandalorian Season 2 Premiere does lean into all of these things that would raise concern. However (and thankfully) it does so in a convincing, organic way that feels natural to the series. “Baby Yoda” gets plenty of moments to be cute, but none are so cartoony and so blatant that you feel like these scenes were done just for the GIFs and the “awwws.” The plot is very familiar — Mando must make an uneasy alliance on Tatooine (this time with The Marshal played by Timothy Olyphant) in order to figure out how to complete his mission. Yet, never once does it feel like the previous Tatooine episode “Chapter 5 – The Gunslinger” which was easily one of the worst episodes of Season One. As for the Star Wars mythology, the story here is logically spun off from the end of Return of the Jedi. Also, there’s the end shot which, well, we’re not not going to spoil that part for you, just stick around till the end, it’s well worth it.
Yet, the reason this premiere works so well is the chemistry between Pedro Pascal’s Mando and Olyphant’s Marshal – a man who dons (we’re assuming) Boba Fett’s armor which he bought off some Jawas post-Jedi. Olyphant’s natural laidback demeanor combined with a steely glint in his eye gives us vibes of an intergalactic version of his character from FX’s Justified — but it never feels like a carbon copy. The Marshal is a Han Solo-esque character minus the constant sarcasm that is a welcome addition to the great Star Wars Universe. He’s more likable and charismatic than the majority of Mando’s “partners” from Season One and he brings more out of Pascal’s vocal and physical performances than we’ve seen previously. Let’s hope this is not a one-time appearance for this character as he’s too good to leave in one episode.
Story-wise, while this episode might not have advanced the overarching plot of the season — returning The Child to his kind — it clues us in on how Mando has evolved emotionally yet still holds onto his ruthlessness when he needs it. We’re seeing his ability to unite groups of living beings (in this episode humans and Sand People) through honor, understanding and sacrifice as opposed to a gun to the head and punch to the mouth. It’s the right move for the character to evolve him in a more honorable and emotional way as opposed to keeping him stoic and all business.
The Mandalorian Season 2 Premiere, ‘Chapter 9 – The Marshal’ is an absolutely epic, action-packed episode that is part Western, part dragon hunting fantasy that not only lays seeds for the second season, but provides natural and real growth for our two heroes. In short, it’s everything this episode needed to be without pandering to the audience or taking shortcuts in its storytelling.