by Hunter Johnson
[Editor’s Note: This episode contains minor spoilers for “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Episode 1]
“The Mandalorian” is back for its season two premiere, and it doesn’t go quite where fans may have been expecting.
Series showrunner Jon Favreau directed this episode. Similar to some of the middle episodes of season one, it takes its time enjoying a fun detour from the main story of the show. Some may even view this as a filler episode as the show simply bides its time until the main story picks up again. Regardless, this episode paves the way tonally for what looks to be a momentous season.
“The Marshal” is a simple story: Din Djarin (otherwise known as Mando) and a new ally team up to defeat a monstrous creature that has been wreaking havoc upon a local Tatooine village. Fortunately, that simplicity gives Favreau the room to incorporate an element that was mostly lacking in the previous season: large-scale Hollywood spectacle.
As far as going big or going home, this episode goes bigger than ever before. It features one of the biggest creatures ever seen in all of “Star Wars,” the Krayt Dragon. This giant reptile was previously featured in “A New Hope” as an ancient skeleton laying across the Dune Sea of Tatooine but now has made its first living appearance in a live-action property. The effects for these sequences match (and, in some ways, even surpass) many modern blockbusters, which is a mind-boggling achievement considering the comparatively smaller budget of a limited series made for streaming.
Beyond the action, this episode also seemingly answers a question that has been asked for nearly forty years: did Boba Fett survive the Sarlacc Pit? This question, of course, calls back to the scene in “Return of the Jedi” when Boba Fett falls into the Sarlacc’s mouth, presumably to his death. The show addresses this question with the inclusion of Cobb Vanth, a character originally introduced in the Star Wars book series, the “Aftermath” trilogy.
Vanth, a former slave and now a local Tatooine marshal, has been donning Boba Fett’s old armor for quite some time. Favreau is in no rush to provide fans with all the answers they’re looking for. Instead, he drops hints here and there, providing fans with the puzzle pieces to put together what happened to Boba Fett.
Playing Cobb Vanth is Timothy Olyphant, giving an endlessly charming performance as a Western-esque marshal. Olyphant is no stranger to the genre. He starred in the TV shows “Deadwood” and “Justified” as a sheriff and a marshal, respectively. He even made an appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as real-life Western actor James Stacy.
This team-up between Djarin and Vanth is the most captivating aspect of the episode. It’s essentially a juxtaposition of two different versions of the classic Western leading man. Pedro Pascal’s portrayal of Djarin emulates the quiet and gritty characters of Clint Eastwood’s films, while Olyphant’s Vanth echoes the more candid, morally upstanding lead of the Western network shows from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Seeing these two characters learn to work together is a highly satisfying experience, making both Western aficionados and “Star Wars” fans giddy with excitement.
Other characters in this episode include the Child, delivering a perfect amount of cuteness without distracting from the plot, and the Tusken Raiders, making their biggest appearance in the “Star Wars” universe yet.
The Tusken Raiders (also known as the Sand People) have appeared in numerous films throughout the Skywalker Saga, but they have only ever been shown as primitive aliens whose primary purpose is to hunt and kill. However, between both these seasons, they have been presented in a whole new light.
Djarin has a fascinating bond with their people; he speaks their language, negotiates with them, and eats with them. Somehow, after appearing as monstrous enemies for forty years, this show brings a certain humanity to these creatures who are simply trying to survive the harsh conditions of the Tatooine desert.
On the negative side, Amy Sedaris reprises her season one role of Peli Motto. This plucky spaceport hangar manager continues to feel ham-handed and overly goofy, and while Sedaris tries her best in the role, her unique talent for playing over-the-top characters doesn’t quite mesh with the austere tone of the show.
Another aspect that has never quite clicked is the show’s casting of background actors. Season one had this issue with the local villagers in the episode “Sanctuary,” and this episode has the same problem. They’re not convincing as “Star Wars” characters, and in many ways, they’re just plain bad at acting. At some point, this show needs to improve its casting process, because audiences can only tolerate mediocre extras for so long.
“The Marshal” ends up being a mixed bag. On one hand, the story isn’t very original, the supporting cast is only so-so, and the episode on its own doesn’t contribute much at all to the main story of Djarin’s search for the Child’s people. On the other hand, it understands the world and creatures of “Star Wars” perfectly, its visual effects are wildly impressive, and the team-up between Djarin and Vanth is one that audiences will be dying to see again.
As the start of a new season, Favreau ends up handling this episode beautifully. He does an excellent job getting audiences excited for what comes next, and he sets the stage for a season that promises loads of action as well as a newfound connectivity with the rest of the “Star Wars” universe.
Hunter Johnson is a senior Theatre Performance Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He spends his time gobbling up all the Star Wars that Disney pumps out, followed by daydreaming about his future dog Jojo, all while giving endless attention to his beautiful fiance.