Watercooler Reviews | The Mandalorian S2

At this point, I think it’s safe to say most people have watched at least a few episodes of The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars tv show. The flagship show of Disney+ when it launched back in late 2019, the show has taken the world by storm. Fans of the franchise who felt like Disney’s spate of live-action movies haven’t delivered welcomed the changes and quality of The Mandalorian S1. The world has fallen in love with Baby Yoda, a juggernaut of sheer cuteness who’s merchandising potential exceeds anything ol’ Yogurt could imagine. It’s such a success that Lucasfilm has been shifting their priorities going forward, looking more towards live-action tv shows than the ongoing saga.

Safe to say, season 2 has a lot to live up to. Everything that’s been coming out about the new season suggests that Disney is tying season 2 to the greater canon and making it a keystone for future content. This isn’t all that surprising, based on the success of season 1, but it leaves me wondering. To me at least, part of what made season 1 good was that it was a breath of fresh air. It’s a Star Wars story unencumbered by galaxy-wide conflicts between families of space wizards and their armies of good and evil. Burdening the show with the weight of a whole franchise moving forward could easily take away part of what made season 1 great. But at this point, who knows. This is just me being a bit nervous. Hell, season 2 could blow season 1 out of the water.

Speaking of, what am I hoping to see in season 2? Honestly, more of the same. Just Mando and the Child wandering through the galaxy, taking on various jobs in new and interesting locales. In terms of corrections from season 1, I’m hoping there’s a better balance between job of the week episodes and story arc episodes. While I’m not opposed to either, I think season 1 tried to have it both ways and came off weaker. If each episode had been a mission of the week like Chapter 4 through Chapter 6, or if those three episodes told an ongoing story arc like the other episodes, the season would be near perfect for me. Here’s hoping Jon Favreau and his crew realized this and made the adjustment.

If you’d like to read along as I cover each episode of The Mandalorian S2 as they come out, the first episode premiered on Friday 10/30/20, and new episodes will premier each Friday on Disney+.

Episode 2.1: The Marshal

Surprise surprise, after watching the season 2 premiere The Marshal, one of my predictions came true. Namely, shit is getting more spectacular in the strictest sense. The episode is near an hour-long, almost double the length of the episodes in season 1. The battle between the Tusken raiders and the miners of Mos Pelgo against the mighty krayt dragon easily dwarfs anything we saw last season.

Side note. Watching the krayt dragon swim through the sand made me think of Dune, mostly for how much I’m sad the movie had been delayed till October 2021. That and how funny it would be if one of the raiders eaten by the dragon merged with the dragon to create a hybrid that’s worshipped as a god-emperor.

What’s more, those greater canon callbacks and connections are in full force. When Mando and Baby Yoda travel to Tattoine to find a fellow Mandalorian, the trail takes them to Mos Pelgo. There they find Boba Fett, the infamous bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Or at least, someone who had acquired his armor, which makes you wonder just how the armor (and the man wearing it) got out of that Sarlacc pit.

All that said, some of my worries were unfounded. While this is a spectacle heavy episode, it’s a very down to Earth story with heavy western roots. Even though we’re back on Tattoine, it’s a new town and a new situation. The appearance of Boba Fett – he’s (most likely) the hunter watching the Mandalorian leave Mos Pelgo from the dunes – is minor and incidental. Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth is the Raylan Givens-esque marshal any Star Wars-flavored western needed. Most of all though, while it’s early to say this either way, I think The Marshal shows that season 2 will be striking that better balance between multi-episode arcs and job of the week episodes. While I’m doubtful we’ll get something so big here, the spectacle of The Marshal is a great intro to The Mandalorian S2.

My Recommendation: Recommend

Episode 2.2: The Passenger

I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t quite feeling this week’s episode, The Passenger. From a story point, it isn’t bad or ineffectual. It’s just that it’s clearly a filler episode in a season that’s too short for this kind of filler.

What do I mean by filler? Like how Mando and Baby Yoda are ferrying the Frog Lay and her eggs across the stars, The Passenger is just ferrying us to the next episode. During this trip, not much happens. The Mandalorian futilely tries to keep Baby Yoda from treating the Frog Lady’s container of eggs (apparently the last clutch she’ll ever lay) like his own personal lunchbox. The trio finds themselves stuck on a frozen planet after a New Republic dogfight, so they’re stuck fighting the encroaching cold and a native spider swarm. When they eventually limp away from the planet, the episode ends before they arrive at their destination. During that time, there’s little in the way of character development or story development. It’s just decent filler with a few good action sequences that could be 10 minutes shorter.

Honestly, I just don’t have a lot to say about The Passenger. As such, I don’t anticipate re-watching The Passenger on its own.

My Recommendation: Recommend With Caveats

Episode 2.3: The Heiress

Now, this is more like it! After the disappointing last episode, The Heiress kicks the story up a notch, connecting The Mandalorian more firmly to the greater Star Wars narrative than ever before. All it took was the appearance of Bo-Katan Kryze (played by Katee Sackhoff) and some of her fellow Mandalorians (played by Mercedes Varnado and Simon Kassianides).

For those who haven’t watched the fantastic Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Bo-Katan is the sister of Duchess Satine Kryze, then the leader of Mandalore and the love interest of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Bo-Katan was a member of the Mandalorian terrorist organization Death Watch, but left once Darth Maul co-ops Death Watch – if Mando is part of the “Children of the Watch”, then his sect of Mandalorians fought for Maul, which adds some interesting and complicated history – and uses it to usurp control over Mandalore (I know, that’s a lot to take in). After a brutal civil war, Bo-Katan comes out on top, taking on the mantle of leader of Mandalore, complete with the Darksaber. I haven’t watched Star Wars: Rebels, but I’m betting Bo-Katan’s story is picked up in some fashion.

Here’s the thing though. Even if you’re ignorant of that ongoing storyline, this was the strongest episode of the season. The story of Moff Gideon and the Darksaber from Redemption is carried forward. Mando is challenged on a personal level when he’s confronted by fellow Mandalorians who not only show him up in terms of battle prowess but in terms of what it means to be a Mandalorian. Speaking of battle prowess, the action we get is some of the best of the series. The highlight, the assault on the imperial cargo ship, puts the action of all the live-action Disney fare to shame.

So yeah, The Heiress is one hell of an episode of The Mandalorian, packed with stuff to love for both Star Wars novices and devotees. Plus, with the promise of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s former Jedi apprentice, this narrative momentum is likely going to be carried forward.

My Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Episode 2.4: The Siege

By this point, I think The Mandalorian S2 is settling into a narrative groove. The odd-numbered episodes (both in production order and chapter number) are the meatier narrative episodes, propelling the story on with new developments related to the greater canon. The even-numbered episodes on the other hand (or at least, so far) are more akin to side quests, stories to tide us over until we reach the next destination. With The Passenger, this resulted in a pretty throwaway episode whose only major consequence so far is the wrecking of the Razor Crest. With today’s episode The Siege, this at least gives a followup to the cast of season 1 while setting up a deeper, more sinister agenda held by Moff Gideon.

Desperately in need of repairs – Mando has Baby Yoda try to wire the interior of the ship without success – the duo decides to get repairs done on Navarro. Once there, they find that Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) have transformed the previous criminal outpost into an up and coming frontier community, complete with a school for the children. The tour of the settlement and the locals we’ve visited in the first season is a good barometer for how much things have changed for the better since Mando came through town. It’s kinda heartwarming in its own way.

The real action though is the mission of the episode. The only hold out to planetary harmony is an imperial outpost. So, rather unsurprisingly, the group’s mission is to destroy the imperial base. While they’re there they get into more well shot and fun hallway gunfights, plus there’s a dog fight at the end complete with Han Solo-style aerial save.

The highlight though is when the group stumbles upon the cloning room. There we get a clue to Gideon’s plans for the Child; as a potent midichlorian donor, they want to harvest his genetic material to create midichlorian saturated soldiers (the purpose and scope of these are currently unknown). Plus, we find out the imperials are still hunting Baby Yoda since the lab report is from only three days ago. It’s one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a Star Wars property and is a brutal reminder that Gideon is still fixated on Baby Yoda. Plus, Gideon is now on the trail of the duo once they leave Navarro, since they covertly planted a tracking device on the Razor Crest, so this plot point isn’t being abandoned anytime soon. Which, you know, is building up my interest. It turns the quest to find Ahsoka Tano into a race against time.

So, while The Siege isn’t the deepest or meatiest episode, it’s a solid side quest full of well-directed action and hints at a sinister path ahead for Mando and Baby Yoda. Unlike The Passenger, this is an episode I can see myself rewatching in the future.

My Recommendation: Recommend

Episode 2.5: The Jedi

Well, we finally got here. Like just about every other onscreen Star Wars property out there (at least, that I know about), we have a full-fledged force user at the center of the story. As promised by Bo-Katan back in The Heiress, we get fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson in her live-action debut no less.

Like Bo-Katan before, you might not know who Ahsoka is if your only Star Wars knowledge comes from the movies. In a nutshell, she was the former Padawan apprentice of Anakin Skywalker during the clone wars (which she alludes to here when the question of training comes up). Like her master before her, she was a rising star in the order. Then, everything came crashing down. Near the end of the war, she was framed for the terrorist bombing of the Jedi Temple and quickly expelled from the order. Anakin manages to prove her innocence and the order offered her full knighthood, but the damage was done. Instead of taking the offer, she walked away from everything. That’s her story, at least from The Clone Wars (barring the latest season on Disney+). I haven’t seen Rebels, but I do know she joins the crew of the Ghost in season 2. There her story revolves around helping the force sensitives, Kanan Jarus and Ezra Bridger, while coming to terms with the new and painful knowledge that Darth Vader is none other than Anakin Skywalker.

Here, in the world of The Mandalorian, she’s embroiled in a chambara movie. She’s fighting the corrupt magistrate of Calodan, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), both to free the townsfolk and to gain information about her master. When Mando arrives, Elsbeth hires him to take down Ahsoka, offering a spear made from pure beskar as payment. After finding Tano in the woods, Mando quickly aligns with her instead, hoping to get answers regarding the nature of Baby Yoda.

Alright, so at this point, I haven’t even addressed whether this episode is good or not. To put it simply, yes, it’s good. Not as good as The Heiress in my mind, but another sterling highlight of the season. Ahsoka is a great addition, further hinting at the greater history and lore of the franchise. The action was reminiscent of chambara and wuxia. We get some surprising revelations about Baby Yoda’s backstory (I’ll take about that momentarily).

Most of all though, we get further development of the relationship between Mando and Baby Yoda. Sensing the boy’s fear of losing his new father figure, Ahsoka refuses to train the Child, remembering how her master (she didn’t say that part, but it’s implied) started on a similar path. It shows us just how far these two have come.

That said, I can see The Jedi ruffling some feathers. For one, Ahsoka gives us Baby Yoda’s name; Grogu. Turns out Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple and trained in the ways of the Force but managed to escape the purge and lived in hiding. It’s an interesting backstory, but if my sister’s reactions were anything to go by, the name Grogu just doesn’t sit right with a lot of people. Me, I’m largely ambivalent beyond making Yogurt jokes. That said I can see how Grogu throws people off.

The other thing The Jedi does that has me feeling off is the reveal of Elsbeth’s master; Grand Admiral Thrawn. It’s not that the development itself is a negative, but that The Mandalorian is getting too wrapped up in the greater canon for its own good. A big reason why I liked season 1 was that it was so distant from the main saga that it could be its own thing. Season 2, first with Bo-Katan’s mission and now with Ahsoka’s, is becoming too wrapped up in other Star Wars stories. Like if neither of these plots is ever brought up in The Mandalorian again, I can see full spin-offs taking shape. So while I’m not overly concerned about these as long as the focus is on Mando and Grogu, I can see more casual Star Wars fans getting turned off due to continuity lockout.

So yeah, The Jedi is another highlight of season 2, and a potential demonstration of things to come, both good and bad.

My Recommendation: Recommend

Episode 2.6: The Tragedy

Let’s be honest, when you have an episode dubbed The Tragedy, you’re setting one hell of a mood. And yeah, this episode can be considered tragic. Mando and Baby Yoda – it’s taking me a bit to think of him as Grogu just like how I still think of Mando as Mando instead of Din Djarin – make it to the Jedi temple on Tython without trouble. By the end of the episode, Moff Gideon’s men have taken Baby Yoda and the Razor Crest is a smoking crater. It’s a tough watch when Baby Yoda, reeling from reaching out through the Force, is taken by the Dark Troopers while a jetpack-less Mando can only watch.

In between though is one hell of a thrilling episode. Going into the season, I knew Robert Rodriguez was going to direct an episode. After watching it and seeing the credits roll, it was pretty obvious in hindsight. This whole episode was a stand-off that turned into a prolonged action scene. In this action scene is some of the best action of the season. And yes, I remember I said the exact same thing about The Heiress.

The key here is the appearance of Fennec Shand, the sniper from the season 1 episode The Gunslinger, and none other than Boba Fett. Turns out that was Boba Fett, free from the Sarlacc but without his armor, watching Mando from the dunes in The Marshal and, surprise surprise, he wants his armor back and he’s willing to trade for it. Trade what you might ask? Why protection for lil’ Grogu. Once the stormtroopers start landing, Fennec and Fett start making short work of the troopers. And once he gets his armor back, they can flee in terror from the man once deemed the galaxy’s most fearsome bounty hunter. Makes you wonder just what happened to make him look so dumb as a combatant in Return of the Jedi, cause here he becomes a brutal force of nature. It’s a wonder to watch.

So with Grogu gone and Fett and Fennec part of the crew (since they agreed to protect Baby Yoda in return for the armor, they’re keeping their end of the bargain until Grogu is away from Gideon’s clutches), The Tragedy sets the stage for one hell of a season endgame. In the process, it gives us the most concise yet exhilarating episode of the season.

My Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Episode 2.7: The Believer

You know what, who needs momentum when you’re one episode away from the season finale. Who says that? No one you say? Well in that case I’d say you’re right. After the one-two punch of The Jedi and The TragedyThe Believer feels more akin to The Passenger. 

Sure, stuff goes on here. Mando and his new crew spring Bill Burr from prison due to his imperial pat. Once they have the space-Bostonian in tow they find a remote planet used by the Imperial remnant so that Burr can get the necessary info about Moff Gideon’s cruiser. In the process, Burr and Mando fight off a band of pirates, infiltrate a base then blow it up. During that, we get some humanity from Burr’s character about his distaste for the Empire’s opinions about sacrificing their own troops and more confirmation that Mando is indeed dedicated to winning the Best Father award by chasing Gideon to the ends of space to save lil’ Grogu. Plus, we get another look at maskless-Mando, so there’s that.

I just can’t help but feel The Believer is like The Passenger because both feel like their whole existence is to just ferry us to the next episode. This is the kind of episode I wouldn’t elect to rewatch on its own. Sure, it’s got some action and humanity that saves it from the lows of The Passenger, but I can’t help more could have been done, especially now that they have such a badass crew.

My Recommendation: Recommend with Caveats

Episode 2.8: The Rescue

I think it goes without saying season 2 of The Mandalorian has been building up to this. Before I go further, I want to note that this season has largely fixed my biggest structural issue with season 1. Sure, there was a filler episode here and there to pad out the time between Mando’s stops to find the Jedi for Baby Yoda, but on the whole, this season was a step up from season 1 in terms of consistent storytelling. If there’s any fault, it’s that after the Disney Investors Meeting announcements on 12/10 it’s pretty clear The Mandalorian is indeed the keystone for a metric ton of Star Wars shows. Hell, there are already 2 announced spinoffs that originate from right here in season 2. That said, it’s only a problem if setting up future shows becomes the focus of The Mandalorian, which at least isn’t the case as of now.

Also, just a heads up, I’m talking some mad spoilers here, so be warned.

Alright, so let’s actually talk about The Rescue. Let’s just say that this is an episode filled with high-octane action and raw emotion. You know, the ingredients for an effective season finale of an action-filled space western. Unsurprisingly, the highlights of the episode happen once Mando’s crew, along with Bo-Katan and Koska Reeves, infiltrate the ship and just tear through the crew. Not everything goes according to plan though. Mando ends up fighting Moff Gideon in the brig, and after beating him ends up the rightful owner of the Darksaber, setting up a future conflict with Bo-Katan based on Mandalorian tradition. Once the nigh-indestructible dark troopers, some of the most imposing droids ever seen in Star Wars media, are released, everything looks hopeless. It reminded me of the season 1 finale and how the gang back then were trapped in the Nevarro bar by Gideon’s men.

Then, out of nowhere, a lone X-Wing appears, and the next rescue begins. None other than Luke Skywalker, drawn by Grogu’s call through the force, makes his way through the ship, tearing through the dark troopers like they were paper. It was reminiscent of Vader’s rampage through the Rebel ship near the end of Rogue One, and easily one of the best lightsaber action scenes in Disney-era Star Wars. I bet many of the fans disappointed Luke didn’t do more in The Last Jedi while be more than satisfied by his appearance here. On a related note, if there was a low point it was the CGI they used to make Mark Hamill look young. To say it looked wonky would be an understatement. Luckily it was brief, so it wasn’t something that dragged the episode down.

As for the emotion, Luke’s appearance marks the end of Mando’s quest to bring Baby Yoda to the Jedi, and with it comes the farewell between the two. It’s heartrending in a way; these two are a true father-son pair and after a season of Big Dad energy, to say goodbye is a tough pill to swallow. This is made even more so when Mando takes off his helmet so Grogu can see his face at least once. Granted, this split won’t be forever; Disney would be insane to keep these two separate because Baby Yoda is too cute to stay away for too long. Plus, with what we know about what’s to come if Grogu doesn’t leave at some point he’ll likely be killed off when Kylo Ren destroys Luke’s fledgling Jedi Order. That said, it doesn’t change the fact this is one of, if not the most emotional moment of the entire show.

So with the excellent The Rescue behind us, that’s a wrap on The Mandalorian S2. I hope you all had as much fun watching this season as I did, and I’ll be back next December to review both season 3 and the new Boba Fett show set up in the post-credit scene

My Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Joseph MacMaster

Writer extraordinaire in progress who hangs out with the Chicago Film Scene crew. I screenwrite for my fellow CFS filmmakers. I also write TV and movie reviews, and am a co-host/main writer of the Chicago Film Scene: Live! podcast.

Joseph MacMaster

Writer extraordinaire in progress who hangs out with the Chicago Film Scene crew. I screenwrite for my fellow CFS filmmakers. I also write TV and movie reviews, and am a co-host/main writer of the Chicago Film Scene: Live! podcast.

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *