We waited nearly a year for Mando to rock up on our screens again. He picked up just where he left off, running the most hazardous daycare centre in the galaxy, with action and Easter eggs on the side.
The Mandalorian Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) was back with a bang as the first episode dropped on Disney Plus. At the end of last season he and his pals managed to triumph over Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and his loyalist Empire forces. Now Mando and the team are looking to return Baby Yoda (Ok, the Child) back to his people – the Jedi.
This is the Way
The Episode starts slow, with tension building from the opening credits in a manner we have grown to expect in The Mandalorian. Trying to find the Jedi’s whereabouts, Mando is on the hunt for information about other Mandalorians who may be able to lead him to the Jedi. In truth, it’s a slightly confusing approach. Given the Mandalorians were enemies of the Jedi for the longest time, it’s never really explained quite why they would be aware of any remaining Jedi’s whereabouts. A few lines about “showing the path” are chucked about, but it’s thin at best. It’s the foil for Season 2 and probably the weakest part in a strong episode. It does what’s intended though, and drives Mando from one episode to the next. Otherwise best not to put too much thought into it.
His search starts off in the rough parts of a city, deserted, with creatures lurking in the darkness. The vandalism and graffiti is a great touch, and exactly the kind of detail making the quality of Jon Favreau’s production stand out. The derelict scene manages to add weight to the feeling that the galaxy didn’t magically get better after the Death Star blew up, a prominent theme in season 1. With the Child in tow, he meets a local criminal Gor Koresh (a cameo appearance from John Leguizamo) in an underground fighting arena. Koresh has been tipped to know the location of another Mandalorian.
It’s nice to see Gammorrean’s again, this time fighting in the arena. You may recognise this race as Jaba the Hutt’s bodyguards in Return of the Jedi. Although they aren’t quite the massive shuffling bodysuits they were in the 80’s, there is still a charm in the animatronic costumes on real life actors that you don’t get with CGI. It’s something that continues throughout the episode to great effect, and though it never looks “realistic” the aesthetic is undoubtedly authentic Star Wars and so the immersion remains.
As per usual it’s a trap for Mando, who dispatches the boss’s goons with relative ease through an assortment of gadgets and hand to hand fighting. The combat is nothing special, but it doesn’t really need to be. It’s fun, there is a bit of comedy and the interrogation following it gives Mando the information he wanted. A nice quick payoff for the creatures in the dark, who finish off the crime boss as Mando shoots out the light.
Tatooine: The Galaxy’s Busiest Desert
I had a little chuckle when the next location was revealed to be Tatooine. It is quite frankly incredible how much happens on this hot, inhospitable rock in the outer rim that ends up deciding the fate of the galaxy in one way or another. It all become clear though, after a quick pit stop to meet last season’s Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), Mando heads over to a conveniently uncharted mining colony.
The Mandalorian has often been compared to an old style Western… IN SPACE. In this episode they doubled down on that premise, delivering a Star Wars experience so Western it includes single shot rifles, spurs sound effects and even a Marshal with a southern accent. This Marshal is however wearing Bobba Fett’s Mandalorian armour.
It’s long been debated whether Bobba is alive in cannon after several comic and book appearances. It looks like the Mandalorian will address that once and for all. The Marshal is not Bobba, but a man named Cobb Vance (Timothy Olyphant) who bought the armour from Jawas to save the town from Bandits. Western… IN SPACE remember. It’s fun how the show adds gravitas to the armour here, although it’s not really earned. In the flashback (which are uncommon in Star Wars), Vance seems to be doing pretty well on his own, with only one shot ricocheting off the armour. Not sure where he gets ammo for the rocket pack either.
After a Krayt Dragon attacks the settlement, Vance offers Mando a deal; help him kill the dragon and he will hand over the armour. So Mando and Vance team up, setting out for the dragon’s lair. ANOTHER neat Easter egg is Vance’s speeder, which would appear to be made from Anakin’s Podracer boosters in a Phantom Menace.
En route the team meet encounter Tusken Raiders, who have a long standing feud with Vance’s people. After some back and forth and diplomacy from Mando, he has Vance’s settlement and the Raiders working together to take on the Dragon. The little touches here make the episode; such as Vance rejecting the Raider’s water at first, only to drink some casually later on. In more Western… IN SPACE action, the cowboys and the native Americans are teaming up to beat the baddy. Around this point you start to realise there is a lot going on in a relatively short 55 minute run time.
How to Slay your Dragon
The battle itself is quite frankly; amazing. Whilst practical effects work well on smaller scale, a creature the size of the Krayt Dragon was going to have to be computer generated, and boy was it. The quality of CGI is great, and despite the scene being shot in broad daylight, at no point was the quality jarring. The team behind the show do a great job of combining the creature with its sandy environment, letting the scenery do some of the work. There is also real weight to the Dragon created by great sound and camera effects, giving a sense of scale as it thunders through sand and rock.
The initial plan didn’t quite work out, and as the dragon spews acid on raiders and settlers, Mando and Vance lure it away. The fight goes to the top of a mountain and down into the valley, a great use of the landscape if not entirely making sense from a practical perspective. The Krayt Dragon is a borer, displacing sand to cause tremors earlier in the episode but gaining the ability to move stealthily in the battle. A small nit pick, because there isn’t much else to critique here.
They end up killing the dragon using the most classic of methods, getting the big monster to eat Mando whilst he holds a Bantha strapped with detonators. We can thank Hellboy 2004 for that one?
The fight choreography is great for the main players, though there is a lot of people running back and forth from the supporting cast. Regardless, we get some well placed detonators, a diverse mix of weapons and Mandalorian jetpack fighting, which was a treat in itself. This includes yet another Easter egg, when Mando smacks Vance’s jetpack causing him to jet away; just as it happened with Bobba in the Return of the Jedi.
The End, or so we thought…
The episode wraps up with Vance handing over the armour, reassured that he and his people can live together in peace with the Tuskens. Speaking of which, are very happy with their haul of meat, and a Krayt Pearl as a trophy of their victory. Vance could very well end up being another of Mando’s ensemble at a push, and I liked Olyphant as the character. Even if there wasn’t much range on display, Vance is charming and likeable, adding a bit of charisma where Mando cannot. Glad they got him out of the armour too; he is about a foot too tall for it and it looked a little silly on him.
As Mando and the Child speed off back to their ship, the final surprise of the episode appears and its a doozy. Watching the two as they go, a cloaked man turns to face the camera, revealing the actor Temuera Morrison, scarred and brooding.
The reason I say the actors name as opposed to the character is because uniquely, Morrison has played many characters in the Star Wars universe. He is Jango Fett, Bobba Fett (Jango’s son/clone) and of course, every clone in the prequel trilogy and in theory the animated shows. The assumption is that this is Bobba Fett, given his proximity to this story, but for now the character has not been named (other than on IMDB though this may be guesswork).
It’s a fantastic ending to an episode which had everything. New interesting locations, massive battles, callbacks, Easter eggs a plenty and some exciting twists and turns that are already making me impatient for the next instalment. To say Favreau nailed is an understatement, and somehow managed to top any of the action from season 1 in the first episode, whilst retaining the tight knit story telling that makes the show so damn good.
What did you think of Chapter 9 of the Mandalorian? Any cool Easter eggs I missed? Let me know in the comments below!