The Mandalorian. Season 2.Review (Full Spoilers.)

With this review, The Mandalorian officially becomes the most reviewed piece of media on this critics blog. Funny for a viewer who’s relationship with Star Wars is at best cynical and who did not grow up with the original trilogy in any way. Season One debuted a strong set of core strengths regardless of its connection to the wider universe Check out the two previously published reviews for season one if you want to read more. Season Two was an exciting prospect. It was the chance for the show to firmly establish itself as one of the best shows currently on streaming after a strong but flawed first season. Did it achieve this?
Sort of. The strengths established in season one are still very much here. Strong visual direction, some of the best action sequences in any current piece of media and a narrative that has a certain level of deep lore fanservice baked in but doesn’t require knowledge of sad characters to be enjoyed on its own merits. The pacing from episode three onwards feels like a more defined season plot then viewers got in the initial outing. That said the first 2 episodes (despite the Timothy Olyphant guest-starring premiere being one of the best episodes of the season and having a central sequence filmed in IMAX) feel like season one leftovers.
From episode three onwards the softmore efforts defining trade comes roaring into view. If the point of season one was for the show to establish itself as space western set within the Star Wars universe season two serves as several different backdoor pilots for things Disney wants to accomplish with the burgeoning live-action TV side of the franchise. This was obvious even before all the recent Disney Investor Day news made it clear to viewers who had not been watching the season as it released. Even with limited knowledge of the characters additions like Katie Sackhoff reprising her animated role of Bo-Katan and Rosario Dawson bringing Ahsoka to live-action work. This is both within the context of the narrative whilst also providing effective fan service for those that care. Ahsoka’s introductory episode is one of the best individual episodes of any show released this year. It’s stunning even if the choice to give Baby Yoda an actual name (particularly one that feels as random sounding as Grogu)feels a little bit redundant when the majority of pop culture is going to refer to the character as Baby Yoda regardless.
Then there’s the finale. From a pure action and spectacle perspective, the season-ender does exactly what it set out to do. The superbly designed and very threatening death\ dark troopers are sure to become a fixture of future Star Wars canon. That said it is in the final moments the episode goes from fanservice to fanfiction. The arrival of Return of The Jedi era Luke Skywalker ( despite his uncanny valley Esque CG face) and his adoption of Baby Yoda to go and train with the Jedi is in one way a nicely effective and emotional plot beat to end the story. On another level, it’s representative of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child adjacent officially endorsed fanfiction. This narrative structure is something the show has done so well to avoid up until this point. ‚ÄúThen Luke Skywalker appeared saved everyone and took Baby Yoda away for training. The End.” That said no viewer can say if future seasons will lean fully into this approach at this point. Viewers can directly criticise this plot beet at the end of the season. That said if this is one of only a handful of times the show overall will endorse this structure it’s not a huge issue.
Then there’s the other major talking point. The post-credits scene setting up a Boba Fet spin-off coming in December 2021. Initially, this writer thought that this would be taking up the slot occupied by future seasons of Mando. Between the drafting and publication of this article, the shows have been confirmed as two separate entities. Given the strengths of Mando as a show, it’s relative to expect the spin-off will be a strong action-focused affair. Regardless of the writing choice to bring her guest character back from the dead it’s also exciting to see Ming-Na-Wen get another big TV role after the conclusion of Agents of Shield. Whether this combined with all the announcements from Disney Investor Day will result in massive oversaturation for live-action Star Wars content remains to be seen.
Season two of The Mandalorian was very solid overall ( despite some missteps) but was a very different beast from the first effort. It still has the core action-focused strengths established in the first place. This time around it trades in a certain amount of its individualist identity to serve as several back door pilots for things Disney wants to do with the live-action TV side of its Star Wars universe. A certain amount of this still works for fans not invested in Star Wars deep lore. Whether some of the choices and spin-off set up in these eight episodes results in massive Star Wars fatigue for general audiences remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this is a solid season of a very strong show that does retain a certain amount of its core principles despite it’s greater function as a narrative springboard.
8/10

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