This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 1, “Chapter 9: The Marshal.”
It’s hard to imagine it’s been a full year since we last caught up with our favorite Mandalorian bounty hunter and adoptive child, but it feels like too long. If I could describe the first season in one word, it would be “different.” After many fans, myself included, felt dejected and let down after the underwhelming and damage-control filled exploits of The Rise of Skywalker, it inadvertently made my opinion for The Mandalorian’s first season increase. The show took risks and wasn’t afraid to rock the boat, though it wasn’t always successful in doing so. Still, ambition is better than complacency, and the second season is off to a great start with “The Marshal.”
If you were expecting to see some payoff to the revelation that Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad) wields the Darksaber, you’re going to be disappointed. The only bit of continuation from last season’s finale is that Mando (Pedro Pascal of Narcos) is now set on trying to find any members of the species that the Child belongs to and return him to them. In order to do so, he needs to find other Mandalorians who may know their location, which brings him to a mining village on Tatooine called Mos Pelgo on rumors that there’s a Mandalorian hiding out there away from prying eyes.
Of course, eyes might light up at the idea of “Mandalorian on Tatooine,” since that could imply the return of Boba Fett. The possibility of seeing Fett back on the big screen has been something that fans have tantalized over since this series was announced, but it seems that too might be put on pause (more on that in a bit). Yes, we do see the glorious sight of Boba Fett’s armor, but the man under the armor is not everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, but instead the marshal of the village, Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant of Justified).
The basic premise of “The Marshal” is not a confrontation between the two men over Fett’s armor, but rather a team-up to achieve what many say is impossible: kill a krayt dragon. The dragon has been terrorizing Mos Pelgo with Vanth willing to give his armor to Mando in exchange for helping him kill the dragon. In order to do so, it’ll require not only the help of everyone in the village, but the assistance of a group of Tusken Raiders in one of the few instances I can think of them assisting any protagonist in a Star Wars series in any meaningful way.
It’s a bold move for the series to just ignore the cliffhanger left off from last season, but thankfully The Mandalorian went all in on featuring as much spectacle as humanly possible. Between gorgeous widescreen shots of Mando biking across the desert to a chaotic battle against the dragon, showrunner and episode director Jon Favreau clearly wanted to start the events on a high note.
Sure, the bar room confrontation between Vanth and Mando was smooth on many levels and continues to evoke more Western tropes in The Mandalorian’s repertoire, but the fight against the dragon felt not dissimilar to a kaiju battle that would be commonplace in a Godzilla movie. Vanth remarks how the creature is far bigger than he ever expected it to be, and the scale, while obviously not quite the size of Toho’s king of monsters, still dominates the screen whenever it appears. It helps that the special effects and stunts were on point as always. Say what you will about the overall plot, but there’s a reason this show won numerous Emmys for its special effects, fight scenes, and cinematography. It’s just a wonderful sight to see.
But what stood out more than the action, more than the cinematography, was the Mandalorian himself. Looking back at how he was a year ago, Mando was stoic and rarely spoke. If he did, it was only to declare his intentions, get answers, or threaten his prey. He wasn’t exactly that developed, but as the show progressed and his fatherly instincts appeared more and more, an actual character emerged from the Beskar armor he inhabits. The Mandalorian from the first episode would not have allowed Vanth to offer a deal for Fett’s armor; he would have killed him effortlessly and moved on. But now, after becoming a surrogate father, Mando displays signs of generosity and even regards others with respect and camaraderie.
With that being said, Pascal’s delivery still seems rather one-note. His actions display a character that has gone through tremendous growth, even tolerating droids working on his ship when he visits the returning Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris of Bojack Horseman), but his performance still shows a character who feels like he hasn’t grown.
It isn’t helped much that Mando serves as an interpreter for most of “The Marshal” between the people of Mos Pelgo and the Tusken Raiders. This is probably the most conversational we’ve ever seen the Mandalorian, but it’s dialogue out of necessity instead of out of character progression. Mando can talk more — in fact, I want him to — but he needs to display that earnest humanity he strived to earn last season as he does so.
But like with most of the exploits of Mando and Child, the day is saved by the end of the episode: Mos Pelgo is saved from the krayt dragon, Mando gets the armor, and he’s off once again to find more Mandalorians… but he may have passed by one at the very end of the episode. In a shot that I’m sure is going to throw the fanbase into a tizzy for the next week, we see a person watching Mando as he races across the deserts of Tatooine, with this person being revealed as none other than… Temuera Morrison!
Morrison played Jango Fett in the prequel trilogy as well as every clone trooper. Speculation has everyone assuming that Morrison has returned to play an older Boba Fett, one who escaped from the Sarlacc, but I’m not too certain about that. Sure, it’s entirely possible that this could be Boba Fett miraculously surviving his encounter all those years ago, but I feel that would be a bit too obvious. For a series that subverted expectations immediately after the premiere by introducing the Child as its secondary main character, a returning Boba Fett would be a bit too predictable. Jango’s dead, so the only other two options besides a returning Boba that Morrison could play are a returning Cody or Rex, both of whom are well known clone captains.
Speculation like that can wait until later. For the moment, “The Marshal” was a wonderful premiere that should remind audiences that Star Wars can still be fresh and exciting. With the Skywalker Saga over, we’re now in a new kind of uncharted territory, one that The Mandalorian will explore for the next eight episodes. If “The Marshal” is an indicator, then it may be a more cohesive and thrilling ride than the first season could ever deliver.