A New Hope
First off this season gets a 10/10. Most people come for the scoring, so I’ll just flat out give it to you right now because I am going to be digging deep into some of the spoilers of season 2 of The Mandalorian. If you haven’t seen the whole season yet, I would recommend you turn away now, finish up the episodes (especially that epic finale), and come back to get my full thoughts. For everyone else, let’s unpack what is arguably the best Star Wars content we have gotten in the past decade.
Taking place a little after season 1, the sophomore outing’s central story is simple: Mando has to bring Baby Yoda to a Jedi. Along many different side quests and dangers, the season connects us with the prequels, original, and eventual sequel trilogies giving us a well-rounded experience into the Star Wars universe.
The show started off with a powerful opener in its premier episode. Mando teaming up with The Marshall to take down a Krayt Dragon had the right amount of action and world building to reintroduce us to our main characters while setting the stage with what was to come. The entire sequence where they fight the Dragon was fantastic, especially since the sequence was filmed in IMAX giving it an authentic movie feeling. While there wasn’t much plot development in this area, it served its purpose in getting us back into the episodic feeling of the show.
That lack of plot development carried into episode 2 with a thrilling horror outing. Looking back on the overall season, I enjoyed the filler episode as it allows us to see different parts of the Star Wars universe with a variety of environments and creatures to marvel at. Thankfully, the show picked up considerably with episode 3 and began building excellent momentum toward its season finale.
While the show organically weaved in legacy characters, it didn’t lose focus of the central theme of family and fighting for something bigger than yourself. Seeing the bond between Baby Yoda and Mando evolve throughout the season provides a sentimental and exhilarating experience that had laughs, thrills, and tears. Particularly, you see how much Mando has grown to care for The Child and the lengths he will go to in order to protect his surrogate son. Seeing those character development and familial moments brought a new layer to this season of the show that had a considerable payoff by its conclusion.
Seeing those legacy characters was definitely a true treat as the show combined fan service with a natural progression of the plot. While we will talk about the over example of fan service here later, seeing Bo-Katan and Ahsoka Tano in live action definitely added an element of fun and surprise that hasn’t been felt in the Star Wars franchise for years. Ahsoka’s involvement was my favorite, with episode 5 (The Jedi) being an absolute high for me. Rosario Dawson portrayed the character effectively and set up a spin-off show that I am excited to see play out. Her involvement felt natural and the revelations she gave about Baby Yoda (or should I say Grogu), left a lasting impact on the trajectory of the show. I am curious to see in what capacity she will show up next.
The other thing I loved about this season is the treatment of Boba Fett. While we don’t immediately get him other than a small tease in the opening episode, seeing him suited up and taking down Stormtroopers was the moment I knew it was exciting to be a Star Wars fan again. The benefit of these shows is that we get to see beloved characters who didn’t get a chance to shine in the other trilogies finally develop into their own. While yes it was fan servicey, it felt like a natural implementation with this story.
Episode 7 may have slowed down the pace for some, but actually gave me brilliant character insight and motivations that kept the tension and suspense elevated from me. Having Mando remove his helmet in order to save Baby Yoda was a brilliantly acted moment that showcased Pedro Pascal’s acting range while exhibiting the love and care he feels. The growth and development of Mando is one of the season’s greatest strengths and that’s a commendable accomplishment for someone who spends most of their time behind a mask. It also showcased the effects the Empire has had on an ex-Stormtrooper, a plot thread that the sequel trilogy failed to follow up on. Whether we see Bill Burr’s character again or not remains to be seen, but I loved the moment he interacted with his former superior and the tension within that scene felt something out of a spy thriller.
The season finale perfectly concluded the season giving us an epic showdown between Mando and a Dark Trooper, an excellently directed heist, and a tearful goodbye between our two core characters. This episode was everything to me from the innovative action heist scenes of breaking into Moff Gideon’s ship to the surprise cameo of Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker. As soon as I saw that green lightsaber, I audibly screamed out loud “THAT’S F****** LUKE SKYWALKER” and I loved every minute of that sequence. But it was the powerful parting of Grogu and Mando that truly got me in the end and provided an emotional farewell that was earned. Where the season goes after this, I am uncertain but I don’t think that’s the last of Grogu we will see. Nonetheless it did not take away from the impact of this moment.
Yes, I loved the Luke Skywalker scene even though it was over the top fan service. However, I am happy with fan service as long as it is earned, makes sense, and not relied on heavily. The Mandalorian had us already invested after season 1 which didn’t feature any legacy characters and had to stand on its own. That’s the hard part of any T.V. show or movie, getting your audience invested without relying on what came before. Season 1 did the hard work while season 2 could have a little bit of fun. Second, we are told constantly since the opening episode that Mando has to bring Grogu to a Jedi. We meet Ahsoka who says she can’t train him, but the mission remains. It makes sense that Luke was the one to come and get Baby Yoda and from a writing perspective, as I’m not sure if the audience would have been happy with him being handed off to some random Jedi that we aren’t familiar with. Lastly, this is only season 2 of the show so if Luke constantly pops up for the remaining 3 or 4 seasons then I will be upset that the show is relying too much on that nostalgia. For now, he’s only in the show for about 5 minutes in one episode. I loved the show before Luke even showed up and I am excited to see where it goes in season 3.
Speaking of which, I have no idea where the series is going next and that is an exciting prospect for the season finale to leave off on. The best season finales are the ones that send the show in unpredictable directions, so I am curious as to where we go next. There are still loose plot threads with the throne of Mandalore and Boba Fett running a crime syndicate which I imagine will be a central focus of the show going forward while moving away from the mystical Jedi mythology. Hopefully, the show will allow itself to be cemented as something new and unique after this rather than relying on its legacy characters. This season’s fan service enhanced the overall narrative, but if it’s used too much it will quickly become a detriment.
Overall, I loved this season of The Mandalorian. It made it feel truly special to be a Star Wars fan again and reinvigorated my love for the franchise! The action was truly tense and spectacular throughout, the variety of directors allowed unique visions and effects to be showcased, and the central story between father and son provided an entertaining week to week watch that was certainly needed at this time of the year. The show built upon its excellent foundation and became more ambitious all leading to its successful conclusion. Where the show goes next remains to be seen, but for now I am a happy and enthusiastic Star Wars fan again. The Force is truly strong with this season!