The Mandalorian is back for its sophomore season and already things feel simultaneously bigger and smaller. Disney+’s earnings must have been good over the past year, as the live-action Star Wars show certainly feels wider in scope, and boasts a much lengthier runtime than any episode in season one. What’s more, is that creator Jon Favreau wrote the script and makes his Mando directorial debut with this episode. Yet the narrative keeps things locked in on a standalone tale that feels like it was ripped straight from an old Wild West serial. Is it the debut fans were expecting?
Right off the bat, let me get into the big part of the episode. Timothy Olyphant is Cobb Vanth, a character pulled from the interludes in the Aftermath book trilogy. I initially thought Pedro Pascal’s Mando was going to be playing this character before the show even debuted any footage, but that was proven wrong (obviously). But Vanth was still meant for this show. Making use of his Western swagger from the likes of Deadwood and Justified, Olyphant shines in this episode as the Marshall of a small mining town who are viciously and constantly attacked by raiders and a Krayt Dragon. But Vanth isn’t just any old Marshall-he’s the current custodian of Boba Fett’s own Mandalorian armour. I like that the armour doesn’t quite fit Cobb properly, it feels very hodgepodge and put together, looking even awkward on him at times. But considering the armour wasn’t made for him, I appreciated that attention to detail.
So what brings Mando to this mining town? Well, in order to help find others like The Child, Din (that’s Mando’s name don’t forget) begins a hunt for other Mandalorians like himself. After a brief intro at a fighting pit, he learns of another Mandalorian operating out of Tatooine. But Vanth isn’t Mandalorian and Din takes great offence that he’s been using the armour. The two strike a bargain: the dragon slain for the armour so it can be returned to the creed. So begins the rest of the episode, with Mando and Vanth teaming up with the town and some Tusken raiders to take on the gigantic leviathan that is the Krayt Dragon.
Do I wish Olyphant was going to be a regular on the show? Oh my goodness, yes. He was gold and I hope he returns, either in this series or in another form of media. But I’m surprised the show opened up away from the events of the season one finale. Moff Gideon is, once again, absent from the narrative, and we’re left wondering what’s going on with that aspect of the story again. Unlike the movies, The Mandalorian doesn’t veer away from its protagonist to show us what’s going on elsewhere, much like the films do when we get scenes with the villains. This can create some instances where the greater narrative is further pushed aside, as we don’t get to learn the villain’s motives. I’m sure we will get some of that info this season, but opening away from the greater narrative is a bit odd. Likewise, the extended scenes of Tusken sign language and grunts were a bit tiresome, especially when Mando decides to speak what he’s miming towards the end of one scene. That said, this episode is much stronger than the Tatooine one from season one, and learning more about the Tusken Raiders and how they’ve been marginalized in society is a great twist on a once common enemy in the franchise.
The showdown with the Krayt showcased that this season will likely feel much grander in scope. It looked very impressive and the audio design was top notch. I hope that further episodes are at least 45mins in length as well, as that was a common criticism of the first season. The final moments were also a promise of things to come, as we see that Boba Fett himself, the OG, survived the Sarlacc Pit. Despite the brief shot, we get to see his mangled face. Din is looking for other Mandos and while Boba is a clone of Jango (who was never Mandalorian), perhaps he’s searching to join the creed himself and discover what it means to be Mandalorian.
The Marshal was a fun episode and will certainly please Western fans. Mando pulling into town on the speeder bike, looking at the downtrodden miners reminded me of Red Dead Redemption or Godless, for instance, and Timothy Olyphant was gold as Cobb Vanth. I am surprised this was the premiere, as it felt more like a standalone episode, rather than a core one, but there was plenty of fun to be had and a promise of more intriguing things down the line.
While Mando is in search of others like him, that is leading many to wonder if Sasha Banks is playing Sabine Wren from Rebels. I’ll admit those odds have increased, but I’m still holding out for a more nefarious character.