The Mandalorian: Season 2 Review

Ye gods, it has been hard for me to avoid spoilers for Mandalorian Season 2. Even though I deliberately avoided every article, every review, still things would slide by on my Twitter feed, and then boom spoiled.

So two of the “biggest” reveals — well, okay, three — were basically spoiled for me before I even started rewatching Season One.

I…well, I hate that, so I’m going to be very careful here. The first part of my review will be completely spoiler-free, promise.

The second part will have spoilers, but I’ll label it in huge header-style letters first, so if you haven’t seen Season Two yet, you can stop before you get there.

Ready?

Let’s go.

Non-Spoiler Review

Season Two is a huge improvement on Season One.

In Season One, the episodes were very much disconnected, both tonally and plot-wise. It felt like the kind of show that a network that 20 years ago would have been shown out of order on a network, because they thought no one would notice.

Season Two finally gets its plot arc together. Each episode flows naturally from the last, and builds on it, till the final episode feels inevitable, instead of weirdly tacked-on.

As a result, every single part of the writing is stronger. The dialog is better, because it has a purpose. The individual plots are better, because they’re not mucking about, they’re building to a conclusion. And we get to see more character moments from Mando, learning more about him, and how he changes over the course of the Season.

Basically, everything that was missing from Season One is finally in place.

And thankfully, they don’t throw out the elements from Season One that mostly worked. They revise them a little, perhaps, but amidst the new cameos and characters, it felt good to see them tying into locations and events from Season One. It made the whole thing seem more grounded, more real.

So what’s not to like?

Well, I’ll save the details for the spoiler section, but basically they still don’t know what to do with Moff Gideon other than have him be SO EVIL, LIKE REALLY EVIL, HE WEARS BLACK AND EVERYTHING CAN’T YOU SEE HE’S EVIL?!!

And they can’t seem to think of a good name for something Imperial other than to call it “Dark,” which makes me think they drank the Dark Kool-Aid in their Dark Treehouse while wearing their Dark Hat (and listening to Dark Music) just a little too much. It’s not scary at this point, it just sounds uncreative (and a little racist, to be honest).

Finally, after all the buildup I heard online about the last episode, it was a complete and total letdown. Plot-wise, character-wise, and ending-wise. Just meh.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

This next part of the review has spoilers! If you don’t want ’em, skip out now. I’m going to give you till the count of 3.

1…

2….

3.

“Dark” Troopers? Seriously? That was the best name they could come up with? The scariest name?

And what’s scary about them? They have better armor than stormtroopers, they’re kind of strong? I mean, really, how are they a frightening force?

They’re obviously there so that the only thing that can rescue our heroes from them is a Jedi. Which is…so frustrating, and feels like a lost of wasted potential.

Ditto Moff Gideon. “I’m done with the Child, you can have him”? And then Mando just believes him? Mando, who a few episode earlier we saw shoot an enemy that claimed to be disarming? Mando, who we’ve seen call in a New Republic hit on an entire base? That Mando?

I don’t buy it, not one bit.

I feel sorry for Moff Gideon. They have him strutting around in that ridiculous armor, which he has no business wearing in the first place, spouting villain dialog which goes nowhere and does nothing.

Dear god, I just remembered: “Dark Saber.” Jesus Wept. What a horrible name for a MacGuffin.

And then Luke shows up, and he doesn’t sit down to chat, doesn’t explain anything, just this dude in black comes up and says “Give me the child,” and Mando just hands him over, no problem.

Hahaha, nope.

They’ve taken the ship. Why not have Luke stay for a bit? Discuss his plans? Get to know the Child?

Oh, it’s because de-aging CGI is expensive? Well, gosh, maybe they should have had some other Jedi come in and take the Child.

Like, oh….How about Qi’Ra? No computer-based aging required. We know she was working with Darth Maul, so her being a trained Sith is possible. And she can pretend to be a good person, at first, who’s willing to take the Child.

But having someone actually evil, actually, interestingly evil, take the Child gives us a plot engine for Season 3, and a cliffhanger for all of us who’ve seen Solo.

Instead, Luke’s flown in, taken the Child, end of story. What’s left to do?

Oh, the whole rule over Mandalore thing? That’s so obviously a fake problem, I don’t…I don’t really care.

I might care, if Mando had to try to protect the Child while getting involved in a plan to retake Mandalore and put what’s-her-name on the throne. That’d be interesting.

But that ship’s sailed, hasn’t it?

So for me, the final episode was just a big letdown. Going out with not a bang, not even a whimper, but more of a sigh.

I think the first five episodes of the Season are fantastic. But things start to wobble in Episode Six (it was good to see Boba Fett kicking ass, sure, but did Mando really need to throw himself at that force field three effing times?), and then completely come apart in the finale.

I don’t know if I’ll watch a Season Three. Having established their show once, and fixed it the second time, then thrown it all away, what’s there to draw me back?

The Mandalorian: Season One Rewatch

In preparation for diving into Season Two, I’ve been rewatching The Mandalorian’s first season. And there’s a lot of things I’m noticing, good and bad, about the series that I didn’t pick up on before.

Warning: Slight spoilers for Season One below.

The Good

I still love the decision they made to set it just after the original films. Both aesthetically, because it lets them recreate the look of those movies (which I’m still a sucker for), and story-wise, because it gives them a lot of room to play, with the Empire crumbling (but not gone) and the New Republic still finding its feet (along with everyone else). Lots of possibilities.

And seeing characters that got short shift in the originals, like the IG unit and the Ugnaught, finally get their due as fully realized people, warms the heart of this old fanboy.

The special effects are simply spectacular. You can tell they poured a lot of money and time into them. And it’s not just The Child, either; the ships, the creatures, everything looks as good as (or better) than anything made for the movies.

Ditto the music. I love the theme: So sparse but memorable, really sets the Western tone for the series. They keep the music low-key or gone for most of the show, which I appreciate. It’s there to heighten some moments, but otherwise they know they don’t need it.

And sometimes — not often enough, but sometimes — the dialog crackles. I think the scene between the two speeder troopers at the open of Episode Eight is one of the funniest, most re-watchable scenes in a modern Star Wars production.

The Bad

Far too often, though, the dialog is clunky. There’s too many times where characters point out something completely obvious, like when they reach the lava river in Episode Eight and someone actually says “That’s a river of lava.”

Or the dialog simply makes no sense at all. Like when The Child approaches Greef, hand out, intending to heal him, and Greef cries out “It’s going to eat me!” Which is laughably bad. Nothing Greef’s seen in his time with The Child could make him think that tiny thing was going to try to eat him. It’s just ridiculous.

Often they recap something that the audience has heard already, sometimes twice. And I don’t mean the whole “I don’t take off my mask thing,” which they obsess over for some reason. I mean actual plot recaps they have two characters give each other after we (the audience) have just seen it happen in that same episode. There’s a scene in Episode Seven where Cara and The Mandalorian recap not just the situation he’s in (which we know because we saw him get it in) but also why he brought her along (which we know because we saw him recruit her).

It’s not just the fact that these recaps don’t make any sense in-story (because they’re often between characters that know the things they’re rehashing). They’re also wasted time, in a show that doesn’t have time to waste (only 8 episodes for season one, each only about 30 minutes long).

Setting aside the dialog, I also wonder if The Mandalorian changes at all over the course of the season? His circumstances change, sure, but he starts out a pragmatically ruthless, honor-among-thieves type, and ends the season as…a pragmatically ruthless, honor-among-thieves type. There’s no grand moment when he realizes something about himself that he wants to change, and makes a conscious decision to change it. The droid IG-11 has more of a character arc then he does!

The Ugly

There’s so many parts of this season that make me cringe.

Basically all of Episode Six (“The Prisoner”). For that episode to work at all, we need the other crew members to look and feel like a tight-knit group, moving and working like a well-oiled machine. That way, when they betray Mando, we’ll actually be worried about him being able to take them down. As it is, he’s the only member of the crew to display any competence at all, so it’s no surprise when he comes out on top.

The less said about Xi’an’s “I’m a bad girl and I’m into you, Mando” shtick, the better.

They really obsess over his helmet wearing. Too much. In a galaxy filled with all kinds of intelligent creatures, from Calamari to Tusken to Jawas, is it really so odd for someone to always wear a helmet? Re-watching it, I was struck by how much I really don’t care what Mando’s face looks like. I care about other things, like “Why did you leave The Child alone in an empty ship in the middle of Mos Eisley?”

And the whole sequence with Moff Gideon…Ooof. Where to begin.

Let’s start with why he doesn’t already know the troopers have The Child? The speeder guards obviously know The Child’s important. They have working comms. Why don’t they just tell Gideon? Because that’d eliminate the need for his “I’ll keep them alive to drag out this episode” speech.

Then he commits the sin of actually saying they know what the e-web thingy is, and then goes on to explain it to them anyway.

Gives them “till nightfall” to talk things over, as if he cares about their lives…When, if he did care about them, he wouldn’t have sprayed blaster shots into the bar in the first place.

It’s all such mustache-twirling villain stuff, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Which is a shame, because the actor, and the character, is fantastic. An Imperial Moff, clinging to some semblance of control in his corner of space, defying the fall of the Empire. Great stuff.

I just wish they gave him something to do other than posture and bluster. Oh, and pilot a Tie-Fighter, something an administrator who came up in the intelligence services has no business doing. It’s kind of like if the Governor of Montana used to be in the CIA in the 1970’s but then decided to hop into an F-22 for funsies. Just…why??

Conclusion

On first watch, I felt The Mandalorian was a solid B-movie in TV show form, a nice little Western story told on the edges of the Star Wars universe.

After re-watching it, I still think that, but I’m more frustrated than before at the mistakes the series makes.

It’s hard not to compare it to Firefly, another Western-in-Space story that had a pulpy feel. The Mandalorian doesn’t come off well in that comparison: It stumbles out of the gate, with clunky dialog and “villains” that don’t act in ways that make sense.

Here’s hoping Season Two is better!