October has officially come and gone. While most were probably excited for the fall festivities, celebrating Halloween and now looking forward to Thanksgiving in a few more weeks, I know I was excited for one thing and one thing only this month: The return of “The Mandalorian” on Disney+.
Ever since season one of “The Mandalorian” finished in December of last year, fans of the show, myself included, were itching to have our questions answered. Season one introduced so many huge components of pop culture that have become commonly known throughout society such as the Mandalorian mantra, “this is the way,” the incredibly calm and cool performance as Din Djarin by series lead, Pedro Pascal or the undeniable cuteness of The Child, commonly known as Baby Yoda. The main thing to take away from “The Mandalorian”’s popularity is that it has brought Star Wars, as a brand, back into the forefront of people’s minds in a way it hasn’t been since 2015 when “The Force Awakens” premiered.
I, however, wasn’t the biggest fan of “The Mandalorian” when it first came out. Of course I really liked it, but I wasn’t head over heels in love with it or hailing it as “the best Star Wars thing.” What I did admire about season one was how truly episodic and character-focused it was. Main storylines and main characters seemingly disappear from episode to episode in favor of smaller scale incursions, with the title character and The Child. The two main secondary characters of season one, Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano), are only in the first season for three to four episodes, respectively. The primary focus never waivers from Din and The Child, which can also contribute to the season’s greatest weakness: the pacing. Most episodes feel very unnecessary and out of place, namely “Chapter 5,” which is by far my least favorite in the show and the only episode I would call bad. Most of these episodes I chalked up to growing pains and the show finding its footing, as the last two episodes of season one are awesome in all senses of the word.
So, with “The Mandalorian” releasing new episodes weekly on Disney+ from now until the end of December, how much did I enjoy “Chapter 9: The Marshal?” The answer would be a lot, actually. The season premiere of season two is probably among my three favorite episodes thus far. In true Mandalorian fashion, the major conflicts and main characters of the ending of season one are cast aside for a new mission with just Din and The Child, and the episode is all the better for it. It feels like the perfect reintroduction into this world and lays the groundwork for what this season may be.
With how much I dislike the episode-to-episode pacing of season one, what I might dislike even more about season one is how long it takes to define itself. We get a very good idea of who the characters are and how they act very early on, but we don’t get a lot in terms of larger storylines until “Chapter 7.” Until then, the show nonchalantly places characters in certain situations to get them to that finale. There wasn’t a main reason that kept me watching besides that it’s Star Wars. Season two already doesn’t feel like that. The episode feels like classic “Mandalorian,” a clean, one-episode arc that plays well as a one hour long movie, but also introduces lasting implications and cameos that make me really intrigued about where this season is going.
The episode is also just great in its own right. Timothy Olyphant, who plays the title character, Marshal, is excellent and plays very well in this world with co-star Pedro Pascal. The episode radiates the energy and style of a western, as well as introducing a classic storyline reminiscent of mid-20th century western films. It never lost my attention for a second, despite knowing early in the episode where a story like this would go. The show is obviously gorgeous, with many excellent action set-pieces. It’s an amazing piece of large scale television that I’ve only seen recently from “Game of Thrones.”
If you asked me, “Should I watch ‘The Mandalorian’ season one?” about a month ago, I would have probably said yes, whether you were a “Star Wars” fan or not. With season two off to a strong start, especially with a last-minute cameo with incredible potential, this second season is definitely going to be for the devoted “Star Wars” fans. I definitely recommend you catch up on your “Star Wars” movies and shows because Mando season two looks like it’s going to be an absolute blast.
“Chapter 9: The Marshal” Grade: A