Season 2 of The Mandalorian starts today with our titular hero (played by Pedro Pascal) and his companion, the wildly popular Baby Yoda, in a familiar scenario. The pair have arrived at a destination seeking information on the location of a lost member of Mando’s clan.
Our hero navigates this dark corner of the galaxy, an underground fighting ring, with Baby Yoda never out of reach. The leader of the fighting ring proves to be untrustworthy (surprise) and turns on Mando. Not panicked, the Mandalorian makes his own intentions clear, that he will get the information he came for one way or another. Baby Yoda, now adept at these types of volatile situations hunkers down in his floating crib anticipating the ensuing fight.
The Mandalorian is back and so is everything that made the show great.
In a year in which a global pandemic has halted production on films and TV, and release dates have been pushed back or scrapped altogether, The Mandalorian has been able to be delivered on time and into many open arms. The big media events that most people have been accustomed to as springboards to a larger cultural conversation have not been a thing in 2020. The big-budget movie franchises everyone is now used to having in our lives have been absent this year mostly due to Covid-19. Marvel has not released a movie in 2020.
Tenet, the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan action movie released this summer was almost immediately forgotten due in part to theaters not being a place the majority of people want to be in a pandemic.
The Mandalorian is now the big event that will engage and fill that void. Streaming movies and shows have been one thing that has made the pandemic bearable for many. The appeal of The Mandalorian makes it appointment viewing for kids and adults.
The Mandalorian is Star Wars, so it was always going to be popular, but not all Star Wars is as highly regarded as The Mandalorian. Outside the original trilogy, most entries in the series were generally mixed in reception. The Mandalorian works because it mixes the classic feel of Star wars while telling a more grounded story (grounded for a space opera), allowing the audience to feel connected to the journey taking place.
Most shows these days flow from one episode to the next all in service of the eventual conclusion that pulls everything together. Like a puzzle, every episode is a piece. Series creator Jon Favreau has established a different approach that is more old school in application. It uses week-by-week storytelling (for example any Star Trek, or Law and Order) making every episode a unique viewing experience. Mando arrives at a new location and the episode is a self-contained story that also contributes to the larger narrative of the season.
This approach and the heavy western aesthetic of the show make every episode special in its own way. The western, “a man walks into a town” nature of the storytelling makes jumping in and re-watching a random episode rewarding. Not having to weave together a giant web of storytelling makes the series accessible to children and engaging to adults who don’t want to have to put together another piece of the puzzle every week.
The Mandalorian appeals to casual fans as well as the hardcore Star Wars super fans. Baby Yoda has become famous, infiltrating popular culture and converting Star Wars non-believers into Mandalorian fans. For the bona fide Star Wars fans, Easter eggs and bread crumbs abound, taping into the series’ vast mythos.
In the first season surprising cameos from a wide range of well- regarded actors (and sometimes comedians) bolstered an already superb side cast including the great Carl Weathers (Rocky series, Predator), Gina Carano (Deadpool), and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, The Boys). We expect that to continue in the second.
The second season is poised to continue what made the show great, but also expand on its world and narrative. Juggling keeping what made a show great and trying to expand and keep its audience satisfied is walking a tight rope, but all indications are that the series will continue to surprise and entertain for the coming weeks. The Mandalorian is the television event of the season and a much-needed one at that.
The Mandalorian can be seen on Disney+.