Although Mando’s quest has only begun, our wait is over and we lay out our reactions here. Beware: This is the way to spoilers!
The first season of Star Wars’ first live action show met critical and fan acclaim and has been lauded for its return to the franchise’s roots even while delivering entirely new experiences. With 15 Emmy nominations and seven wins, the first season left the second a high bar to clear. The second season has finally begun and we will finally see if it can measure up to the first or even exceed it.
Episode 1 Review – Spoilers
The episode opens with the Mudhorn tribe walking towards what turns out to be an underground fight club. There, Mando meets the owner of the club, an Abyssin named Gor Koresh. Gor tells Mando the club is no place for a child, immediately bringing one of the show’s core themes – nature vs nurture – to the fore. Mando waves away the concern and immediately reminds those of us who skipped the season one recap of what his quest is – reuniting Baby Yoda (Favreau, if you don’t want us calling him that, give us a name) with his ‘people’, the Jedi.
Koresh, however, is more interested in Mando’s Beskar armor and attempts to make a bet with him. The bounty hunter turned foster father declines and we’re treated to the first action sequence of the second season where our reluctant hero shows off his skills and arsenal by quickly dispatching Koresh’s thugs. Out in the street, Mando strings him up and extracts the information he wants after promising the Abyssin won’t die by his hand. However, our protagonist leaves him for the waiting predators and illustrates he’s more of an antihero than a straight hero. This is all done in full view of his young charge, which leaves us to wonder just what our Force sensitive tyke is learning from his guardian.
With the show reintroduction out of the way, it’s off to Tatooine (aka: the planet furthest from the bright center of the galaxy where everyone ends up anyway) in search of the rumored individual wearing Mandalorian armor. The delightful Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) makes another appearance, and Mando illustrates his changed attitude towards droids by allowing the pit droids from Episode I (complete with TPM antics) to work on his ship. Peli directs Mando to a supposedly empty spot on Tatooine, which turns out to be the small mining town of Mos Pelgo.
In the town, Mando quickly finds the person he’s looking for and we’re treated to not one, but two big reveals. The first, of course, is the armor in question is that of none other than Boba Fett. The man wearing the armor, however, is not the famed bounty hunter and is instead a man by the name of Cobb Vanth. This is the second big reveal, although it will only be one to the few who read the Aftermath trilogy. The character of Cobb Vanth (played by Timothy Olyphant), who used Boba’s armor to bring law to part of Tatooine, was introduced there. However, the show has chosen to rewrite virtually everything else about the character and it ends up more of an Easter Egg for those who did read the books.
The Mandalorian Creed frowns deeply on non-Mandalorians wearing the armor and our hero is adamant Cobb hand it over. Naturally, this sets up a classic standoff, but before either can draw, a disturbance outside predictably interrupts them. In what undoubtedly was Favroni’s (yes, that’s a portmanteau of Favreau and Filoni) attempt to upstage Dune (which was supposed to be released this December), what looks to be a giant sandworm devours an entire Bantha. Cobb reveals the monster is, in fact, the legendary Krayt Dragon and leverages the armor in return for Mando’s help in killing it. Thus, the episode turns into the classic tale of the wandering knight in shining armor fighting the dragon.
Mando reveals his progressive multicultural outlook by making a deal with the local Tuskens who have also been terrorized by the dragon. For me, this left the burning questions of why Mando learned fluent Tusken and how human physiology can even reproduce their language. Anyway, the town is quickly drafted into killing the beast and the two erstwhile enemies forge a shaky truce. The rest of the episode is devoted to the allies’ efforts to kill the dragon (which breathes acid instead of fire) while Favreau shows off his massively expanded budget for the second season.
In the end, Mando ends up killing the beast in a predictable, but, nevertheless, extraordinarily thrilling manner. Cobb fulfills his part of the bargain and turns over the armor to Mando, who disappears into the twin sunset with Baby Yoda. However, the show has one more surprise up its sleeve and pans to reveal a shadowy figure watching the Mudhorn Clan leaving into the sunset. The figure turns and fans are finally given what they’ve been hoping for since the end of fifth episode of the first season – Temuera Morrison as the very much alive Boba Fett.
Overall, this episode was relatively light on story, but served as an excellent reintroduction to the series. The visuals were cinematic grade and you can definitely see the effects of the show’s vastly greater budget. Illustrating why he’s become one of the two golden boys of Star Wars, Favreau knows exactly what to give his audience while delivering it in the best possible way. Seeing a full blown Krayt Dragon brought to life was a real treat and Temuera’s appearance in the final seconds was the cherry on top.
Acting wise, Pedro Pascal delivered a fine, if unremarkable, performance as Mando. Seeing Sedaris as Peli is always a delight and I was disappointed she only appeared for one scene. On the less positive side, I initially found Olyphant somewhat unconvincing as a miner turned lawman and occasionally found myself taken out of the episode. I think my main problem was his character was played straight as a marshal which clashed with how ridiculous the armor looked on him. This was less of an issue on my second viewing though.
All in all, I found it a well done episode that masterfully retold the classic story of the knight and dragon as a Star Wars story. While the main events of the episode did not move the overall story much, it worked well as a showcase for the series and served as an appetizer for the rest of the season.