The first episode of The Mandalorian‘s second season set the bar quite high. It featured many surprises, both big and small, and many threads connecting it to the rest of the Star Wars universe.
This is a non-spoiler-free review including closer looks at the Marshal’s backstory, certain Tatooinian legends, lost armour and their place in the universe. If you haven’t watched the episode and prefer not to be spoiled, don’t read further.
The Search Continues
The first episode set up the tone for the following season. Picking up where the last season ended, it seems clear that we are going to follow The Mando wandering about the Galaxy looking for the Baby’s “tribe”, the Jedi. To begin the search, he is first trying to reach other Mandalorians. A rumour sends him to Tatooine, where he discovers not a Mandalorian, but a local law-keeper in a beskar armour. In exchange for the armour, Din Djarin promises to help his village against a dangerous Krayt dragon.
Atmosphere Is Everything
The episode plunged straight into action, showing the pair scouring the underworld in a dilapidated city for information. Very well-built scene here: we are informed how the matters stand, what Din is up to, that the Baby is always with him these days, all that against a refreshingly new background.
I would like to pause to appraise this detail. The glimpses of the Galactic underworld of this brutality are rare in SW media, and here we have it. The setting feels organic and believable. I consider the graffiti on the walls the most amazing small touch. It reminds us that we are in the post-Empire Galaxy, crossed stormtrooper heads tell us about the general sentiment and atmosphere more than five minutes of historical recap.
Return to Tatooine
Even though Tatooine has been somewhat overused as a setting, largely with the purpose to appease nostalgic old fans, I believe it was a good decision to set the episode there. Narrative reasons aside, we revisited a setting not only known from the films but with the character of Peli Motto being present, creating a link to the previous season.
It may also be preferable to have actual Tatooine as a “sand setting” instead of technically-Tatooine-but-not-actually-Tatooine settings like Jakku or Arvala-7 in Season 1. Oftentimes, such attempts may feel just like a lazy halfway-attempt, at least if there are not enough unique distinguishing features of the “new” planet.
Lore Strikes Back
“The Marshal”, however, does have reasons to be set on Tatooine. The chief one being Boba Fett’s armour, currently in the possession of Cobb Vanth. SW novel readers would know this character. He appeared in the 2015 novel “Aftermath” and its two sequels in a minor character of several “interlude” chapters that illustrated the state of the Galaxy post-Endor.
The novels said little besides what the episode itself recaps. Hardcore Cobb Vanth fans may perhaps enjoy reading the chapters just for his sake, however, I am not sure whether that is enough as the sole reason to read the novel(s).
Sheriffs And Dragons
Cobb Vanth himself is a good complementary protagonist to Din Djarin throughout the episode. Their first encounter succeeded in providing a nice, obviously intended, “Wild West” vibe (and arguably intended “this-could-be-interpreted-as-gay-if-you-want-to-but-does-not-have-to-look-like-it-if-you-don’t” vibe). Overall, Vanth is the “good Sheriff” archetype, slightly reluctant to work with the natives, but reasonable when he needs to stand for his people. I suspect that if he does not reappear in the series naturally, the fans’ interest may prompt the show’s writers to bring him back in, say, Season 3 for another cameo.
For any fans of the old Knights of the Old Republic game, the Krayt Dragon hunt was probably the most interesting surprise of the episode. It was nearly literally a remake of one of the major quests in the game. Krayt Dragon itself has been a part of the SW universe from times immemorial. This is the first time it appears “live” (you can see the skeleton of one in A New Hope).
Just The Right Amount Of Everything
I consider the use of Krayt Dragon as perfect example of all that is right with The Mandalorian. The organic connection to the rest of the universe, down to small elements such as Krayt Dragon pearl. The pearl is a matter of lore (in abovementioned game, it can be used as part of a lightsaber). “The Marshal” showed how you can include references that please some fans without making them distracting to the unknowing audience (if you blink, you miss the pearl scene) or in-your-face.
The same thing can be said about the podracer piece Cobb Vanth is riding. It seems like the makers of The Mandalorian have learned the value of moderation. This applies also to “George Lucas silly humour”, in this episode represented by a small accident of the Pit Droids. This is a textbook example how you can evoke familiar atmosphere without being obnoxious and having CGI animals fart in your face.
Worth Nearly 10/10
Overall verdict? Like I said, the bar is high. The only downside of the episode I perceive in the role of the Baby. It has very much been reduced into a cute requisite (and the main device of the overall plot). I hope this will change and we are going to see some evolution in the Baby. Otherwise, it may become only an item you are supposed to transport from place A to place B, that occasionally provides a moment of cuteness to lighten up the atmosphere. That might get repetitive.
But this aside, “The Marshal” still deserves 9,9 out of 10 points. Detailed atmospheric worldbuilding. Easter eggs and referrences for fans and humour in moderation. Using other SW works to make the stories feel interconnected, not hanging in the air without context. “Old SW feel” in general without feeling like recycling. Decent story and characters and some mystery in the end.
What Happened To Boba Fett?
I will end on the mystery note. It has always been suspected (in the old canon even confirmed) that Boba Fett had survived the Sarlacc encounter. (Din Djarin reemerging alive from the Krayt’s belly was, I suspect, meant to be an extra “hint” or “scientific proof” that such things can happen.) Now we know for sure.
What we still do not know is why Boba’s armour ended up elsewhere than himself and what is he going to do about it. It could have been something as simple as that he was unconscious after climbing out of the Sarlacc and the Jawas stripped him of anything useful. Or it could be that he had a change of heart, for whatever reason, and now became a recluse in the desert. Is Boba now a – to use the proper expression – dar’manda (a Mandalorian who abandoned the Way)? I guess we shall see if he makes a comeback. I very much hope he does – and by he, I mean still played by Temuera Morrison himself.