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The Mandalorian is back! In a year that feels like a decade, the return of the first Star Wars live-action television series is a welcome sight that reminds me of how it felt to get the sequel trilogy 10 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. What The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1 makes clear from the get-go is we’ve reached another level. If this is episode is indicative of the level of quality we’re getting all season, we’re in for one heck of a ride.
SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1, The Marshal. If you have not seen the episode and want to remain spoiler-free, do not continue reading.
Raylan Givens comes to Star Wars
After a great cold opening, much of which was seen in the trailers for Season 2, Din Djarin returns to Tatooine in search of a Mandalorian rumored to be in Mos Pelgo. As it turns out, there is no Mandalorian there, just someone dressed like one. And he’s wearing a very, very familiar set of armor. That man is Cobb Vanth, last “seen” in the Aftermath trilogy of novels by Chuck Wendig. Vanth is played by Timothy Olyphant, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Marshal Raylan Givens on the FX series Justified.
Vanth feels like the plucked Raylan Givens right out of Kentucky and dropped him on Tatooine, and it is fantastic. Justified is one of my all-time favorite shows, largely because of Olyphant’s portrayal of Givens. The idea of Star Wars having an idealistic lawman that’s capable of navigating the grey areas of the universe is just wonderful and I hope we see more of him. Quite frankly, I’d love to see a spin-off show just about Cobb Vanth. Maybe that’s just me.
The bigger deal with Vanth is he has a set of Mandalorian armor, and Din wants it. That armor just happens to be Boba Fett’s former armor. Sure, the paint is all but worn off, but the coloring and the markings make it clear. The armor was salvage from a sarlacc pit by Jawas, and purchased by Vanth, who then used it to free his Mos Pelgo from a mining company that took over in the vacuum left by the Empire. But where is the armor’s previous owner? Patience.
Monster Hunter: Tatooine
Vanth agrees to give the armor up if Djarin helps him kill the krayt dragon that is terrorizing the town. Not a simple task, but Din seems confident enough or at least doesn’t show any sort of fear. On their journey to the dragon’s lair, Din and Vanth are met by a band of Tusken Raiders. Thankfully Djarin has an established relationship with the Tuskens, and he negotiates getting their help with the hunt.
The scenes with the Tuskens bring back the sign language used in Season 1 and add a new wrinkle by showing Tuskens speaking in their native language. Din also speaks Tusken, showing just how versatile he can be. I really enjoyed the negotiation scene at the campfire both for that reason and for how it showed Din’s ability to play peacemaker. Vanth and the Tuskens have good reason to dislike each other, but his ability to appeal to the common good and convince everyone to join the cause is a great message, not just in today’s political landscape but overall. We see this again when Vanth needs to convince the rest of Mos Pelgo to join the fight too. While Din will be much older by the time the First Order takes power, you can see that Djarin would make a great leader in the fight for freedom.
A Monster Mash
The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1 is largely a mashup of two Season 1 episodes, The Child and Sanctuary, but manages to improve on both. As much as I enjoy Cara Dune, Vanth is a much more engaging character and is given a lot more to do. We also get a lot more backstory off the bat, instead of waiting for several episodes to find out his secret motivation. While that could be because the character was previously established in novels, I think it’s because one of Season 1’s biggest weaknesses was how little info viewers were given. It’s easier to care about Vanth and the town because we get to see what they’ve been through instead of guessing at little hints.
The monster fight is also far more involved. The mudhorn may have been more thematically significant, but its placement in the second episode of the series completely removed any real stakes. While the stakes for Djarin are basically zero against the krayt dragon as well, everyone else involved is in serious danger. It makes for a much more compelling battle. You’re invested in Cobb Vanth and the rest of the town’s fate, as well as the Tuskens. The way the Tuskens are fleshed out in The Mandalorian, in general, makes me hope Lucasfilm expands on their stories more.
By mashing the two episodes together and giving us more empathetic characters, The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1 gives a telling start to the new season. We’ll still be getting more of what we loved, but with upgrades. Last season, the opening episode made it clear we were in for something special and this season premiere does that as well. Season 2 is off to a great start, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.
The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 19
The Marshal mashes up previous episodes and churns out something greater than the sum of its parts. Invested characters and great action make this season premiere a joy to watch. We couldn’t have asked for a much better first episode.