Sunday, August 1, 2021

Review: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 Remains a Gift to the ‘Star Wars’ Universe

When the very first live-action Star Wars series premiered on Disney+ in 2019, The Mandalorian was met with critical acclaim as fans marveled over the success of Jon Favreau’s creation. After season 1’s eight-episode run, fans were left to wonder — would the series continue this impressive momentum into its second season? Over the course of the past eight weeks, that question has been answered tenfold with a resounding yes.

Warning: Spoilers for season 2 of The Mandalorian below.

Season 2 of The Mandalorian hit the ground running, and it just didn’t stop. From the opening episode, “The Marshal,” audiences were left on the edge of their seats as they continued to follow the adventures of the bounty hunter and the Child. The overall plot to deliver the Child to the Jedi carried over from season 1, but Din and Grogu’s journey to get to that point packed a new punch at every turn. The creative team behind the show took the formula that made this television endeavor so successful in the first place and multiplied it exponentially, daring to surpass the bar that season 1 set.

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm/Disney.

Throughout season 2, The Mandalorian continued to carry audiences across the galaxy, moving at a pace that demands appreciation for the details rather than the simple passing nod that the breakneck pace of movies can only spare to afford. For those that are in it for the cinematic, blockbuster experience, maybe this isn’t your cup of tea (seriously, come on, there’s action and explosions galore though!) But for the Star Wars fans that have been eager to delve deeper into the fascinating side stories that are so often overlooked, The Mandalorian continues to cater with enthusiasm. There’s an entire galaxy out there, and we’ve spent enough time worrying about the fate of it. Rather than taking a direct flight to a giant showdown a la the Star Wars cinematic experience, The Mandalorian feels like we’ve ditched the cab to the airport altogether and decided to go it alone on foot. And in doing so, we’re afforded the luxury of seeing the finer details that we’ve been missing all along — the unsung heroes and their untold stories.

Din Djarin and Grogu are — without a single doubt — compelling and adorable enough, respectively, to drive the series as its two lead characters. Yet, it’s important to acknowledge that much of this season’s strength was found in the exciting assortment of side characters that appeared alongside them. One of the best additions, hands down, was the fearsome bounty hunter Boba Fett. A long-time fan favorite from the days of the original trilogy, Fett has always deserved to get his due with more screen time in the spotlight. To not only retcon his untimely death with Temuera Morrison under the helmet, but to also add in years of character growth, was incredibly satisfying. And the return of Fennec Shand, working alongside Fett nonetheless, was an excellent choice. Making their live-action debut this season were two characters who first found their claim to fame in the Star Wars animated universe — Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze, both of which translated beautifully on-screen as the strong and extraordinary figures that they have always been known to be.

Courtesy of Lucasfilm/Disney.

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Circling back to our main character, Din Djarin remains the heart and soul of the show throughout this season. And the actor underneath the beskar helmet, Pedro Pascal, once again captivated audiences with the way in which he brought him to life (alongside the help of his stunt doubles Lateef Crowder and Brendan Wayne). There’s something to be said about the talent that it takes to convey so many emotions without showing one’s face — Pascal has really nailed this. As a character, Din was seriously put through the wringer this season, and we were able to crack down deeper into new layers of his personality through his bond with the Child. Though seeing Pascal’s face on the show from time to time is undeniably a treat, the real thing to focus on is the profound storytelling behind the removal of his helmet. These moments are equal parts intense and heartbreaking, and a reminder of what a deeply intriguing lead character Din is. With a new path now placed in front of him — littered with the pain of loss and the responsibility to Mandalore through wielding the Darksaber — we’re more ready than ever to see exactly who Din Djarin is.

The Mandalorian frames its storytelling in a brilliant and intuitive way, as it doesn’t make audiences wait until the end of the season to dish out events to be excited over (though there was certainly a bombshell in “The Rescue”). Instead, as Din and Grogu’s journey takes them across various planets to convene with a variety of characters, each individual plot that unfolds carries a unique weight of its own. Sure, it may have taken Din and Grogu way more planetary pit stops than initially planned in order to complete the bounty hunter’s original mission. But those layovers were threaded with epic moments, like seeing the mesmerizing grace with which Ahsoka Tano wields her lightsabers, experiencing Din’s surprising rescue by Bo-Katan Kryze and the Nite Owls,  and watching Boba Fett prove that he has become no less dangerous, only wiser, with age as he slipped back on his Mandalorian armor.

Courtesy of Lucasfilm/Disney.

We would be remiss not to mention what is most certainly The Mandalorian‘s best kept secret, second only to that of the beloved Grogu himself. In the final act of the season finale, Star Wars fans collectively gasped, eyes tearing up in both shock and elation as a lone X-wing appeared, and then a Jedi wielding a green lightsaber made his way down the halls of Moff Gideon’s light cruiser. The appearance of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker was far from fan service, but rather a genius plot point and massively rewarding treat for viewers. In the words of R2-D2, [happy beeps].

With the myriad of recent spin-off announcements, the Star Wars universe continues to grow richer, and The Mandalorian is to ultimately thank for that. With two remarkable seasons on the books now, The Mandalorian has proven that there’s long since been a great deal of untapped potential in this live-action television format. To be fair, the perfect storm of technology that’s at work behind-the-scenes of this show (like the StageCraft setup) is a new innovation, so the ultimate feats that the series has pulled off may not have been as attainable previously. But now, the sky’s the limit as Lucasfilm continues to work with Disney to continue producing more Star Wars material for an audience that’s eager to devour it.

Fans will still happily anticipate the films that are to come, but with the book of the Skywalker Saga now closed, Star Wars television series like The Mandalorian are at the forefront of the continued success and livelihood of this galaxy far, far away.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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