TV Review: Mandalorian, Season 2

Can you get too much of a good thing? Yes. Yes, you can. While I proudly say that I’m fond of the Star Wars universe, I can also say that there are elements of it that drive me batty. We might get into some of those.

Exactly a year ago I posted my review of the first season of the Mandalorian. Should you need a brief tutorial of the general idea of the series or who the Mandalorian is, go check it out here.

For the rest of you, let’s dive right into season two and all its hits and misses.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

The Story

Mando’s goal remains the same: protect the child (We finally learn his name! It’s Grogu.) and deliver him safely to the Jedi who are hiding somewhere in the universe after their near extermination. This is harder than it sounds as now members of the Imperial Fleet, namely Moff Gideon, wants to harvest his blood to create magical super soldiers. I wish I was making this up. (It really doesn’t help that Moff Gideon is played by the same guys who plays Gus Fring on Breaking Bad – owner of Pollos Hermanos and cold methodical drug lord). Chicken anyone?

This goal is challenged by literally everything. Mando struggles to find the hidden Jedi and is forced to perform task after task to get tiny clues that bring him closer to his goal. This turns the beginning of the season into a monster of the week montage where the point of each episode is to defeat a literal monster. We’ve got a massive sand worm ala Dune, some freaky spiders ala Harry Potter, and a sea monster that kind of eats Grogu’s baby pod at one point. When Mando finally thinks he’s reached his goal, Moff Gideon’s robot warriors steal the child away.

Bad news for Mando. Great news for watchers. Ooooh, the tension! We finally get to the climactic action scenes between Mando and his motley crew of fighters and Moff Gideon’s super army and, well, a BIG THING happens.

I’m told if I give away this big thing a nice man will come and break my thumbs – and I need those for typing.

Meet Bo Katan, another Mandalorian who follows a different set of rules.

My Review

I struggled with season two. All of the cool stuff to set up the story already happened in the first season which left season two adrift in what we writer’s call the “murky middle.” This is where the characters know what they need to do but are missing a critical element and have to wade through plot bunnies to find it. When it’s handled well, the murky middle is a great time for character development, increasing the stakes, and deepening relationships – or challenging them depending on the story.

Mando spends a lot of time and effort trying to find where the Jedi are, the critical piece to the story. During that time there isn’t a significant amount of deepening the characters or raising the stakes in a way that felt meaningful. We do get reunited with old Boba Fett, which is nice. One of the criticisms of season one is they held back on using characters from the already established universe. Season two does make up for that.

When it comes to quality, I’ll say it again – the cinematography is stunning, and the artistry is amazing. These worlds feel real and the characters fit in without feeling puppet-like. On the other hand, the dialogue on season two felt way more clunky than the first season and many of the action scenes felt forced into something that seemed way over the top.

That said, should there be another season – although I can’t imagine how considering how this season ended – I’d probably watch it.

Moff Gideon, the complex but underexplored villain. And, yes, he rocks a dramatic cape.

Recommendations

Mandalorian season two is entertaining with some little depth, but not so much that it would push away those who are just here for the action. It’s got a fair amount of shooting and killing, which for me felt way more than needed, but not any significant blood or gore. I’d consider it fairly family friendly to the same extent that Return of the Jedi is family friendly.

Would I love it to be a little more meaningful? Of course. There are a few tender moments, but in all nothing that resonated as deeply as it could have.

All in all, it’s entertaining and that’s what we came for.

I give Mandalorian, Season 2 3/5 stars for leaning too heavily on the shooty bits and missing a few critical chances to give needed depth.


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TV Review: The Mandalorian, Season 1

I was told (begged, pleaded) to watch the Mandalorian before watching Witcher, so being the rebellions little snark angel I am, I watched them both and alternated the episodes.

Yeah … on second thought that wasn’t the greatest idea. Give me some credit though, I was working with a complicated situation. I could only watch Mandalorian when the kiddos were around because, silly me, they wanted to watch it as well (two words: Baby Yoda). And because some of us struggle with sharing spoilers, we had to watch it all as a family. Fair enough.

The Witcher had to wait for when the kiddos were in bed and well and truly asleep, for … reasons.

Fans of Witcher know the reasons.

This review is totally about The Mandolorian, and not the Witcher, which I’ll tackle next week. Priorities, they get me every time.

The story

Let’s start with explaining the basic idea of the Mandalorian. Oh, and let’s avoid sharing any major spoilers as well (conscience, calm down, it wasn’t your fault). And let’s do all of this while remembering that there are uber fans of Star Wars out there that are so ready to debate over all the micro details of the history and culture. No pressure at all.

<cracks knuckles>

Mandalorians are people associated with the planet Mandalore and are typified by their armor and “supercommando” reputation. One of the big “no-no’s”, at least in this series, is for a Mandolorian to allow anyone to see them without their helmet. Remember Boba Fett? Yep, he was one of them.

In The Mandolorian, our noble main character, who they largely refer to as “Mando” is a bounty hunter and part of the bounty hunter’s guild, which (surprise, surprise) has it’s own set of codes and creeds that it’s members must follow.

Mando gets a job where he’s supposed to recover “the child” which all viewers refer to as baby Yoda. (Note, it’s not actually baby Yoda. But it is the same species.) Mando is to then turn “the child” over to Imperials. Because the Imperials are E.V.I.L., Mando can’t allow the adorable baby Yoda to fall victim to what might be something nefarious and terrible. He rescues “the child” and proceeds to protect him through all manner of trials for the remainder of the series.

OhMyGosh OhMyGosh OhMyGosh ….Squuuuueeeeeeee! I want one.

My review

I’ll give Disney+ credit, the production details and artistry in all the different settings, costuming, and musical scores were absolutely amazing. They stayed faithful to the locations we’d come to know and love over the course of the films and gave viewers an expanded look at the Star Wars universe. Win.

Possibly the best part of the entire watching experience was baby Yoda himself. While it is totally a marketing grab and the licensed products of just him are going to be LITERALLY EVERYWHERE, (you’ve been warned) he creates a perfect balance against Mando himself. His cuteness offsets Mando’s cold beskar exterior, his darling baby noises make up for Mando’s limited and to-the-point dialogue.

[I want one. Send me a Funko pop or make me an amigurumi one and I’ll be very pleased (thanks in advance).]

Compared to baby Yoda, Mando, with all his broodiness and macho armor and diligence to his creed, is kinda forgettable. He also bugged me, like a lot. Here’s this guy who’s supposed to be a super soldier and amazing at being a bounty hunter and the best of the best. What does he do? He gets thrashed in nearly every scenario. Thank heavens he’s got Beskar armor or he’d be toast.

Is it a solid story? Yes. It’s textbook hero’s journey for those following along. There are trials and failures and successes and cute baby yoda. All the elements are there and done well. But … it didn’t touch me. I couldn’t relate to Mando or the conflict he was working to solve. It might have had something to do with the helmet. Seeing a face is really important to be able to connect.

Recommendations

Star Wars fans – yes, you – if you generally like most of the Star Wars movies, then you will probably like this one. The acting is good, the dialogue isn’t cringey, and the story is solid. There’s more than plenty of action and fighting for those who like that, and enough human connection and emotional content for those looking for something more than just an action flick. Is it better than the prequel movies, absolutely. I’d place it as equal to The Last Jedi, with more hand-to-hand fighty shooty bits.

If you struggled with any of the latest generation of Star Wars movies, then you might struggle with this one. There are none of the characters that you’ve grown to love to anchor the story. For the characters in the Mandalorian, the viewer never is given the clues to how and where they connect to the rest of the universe. If you were looking for something super emotionally fulfilling, you might find this falling short.

I give The Mandalorian 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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