After a successful first season on Disney+, The Mandalorian takes us back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. With the Empire’s pursuit of the Child (AKA internet sensation Baby Yoda) seemingly thwarted, Din Djarin / The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) has been tasked with taking the Child home to the last remnants of the Jedi order. Upon realising that he needs the help of other Mandalorians, Mando travels to Tatooine, where he becomes embroiled in the affairs of a small town.
I was initially apprehensive about the show returning to Tatooine so soon after the last season (Chapter 5: The Gunslinger is my least favourite episode of the show so far), but my concerns were soon dismissed when it became clear that we’d be travelling to a different part of the planet: a much smaller town, far awar from Mos Eisely. The Mandalorian has mostly been able to strike a balance between old-school Star Wars nostalgia and fresh new ideas so far, and I can’t help but worry that the show will lean-in too much on the former to appease fans (we’ve already had four nostalgia-driven Star Wars films in the last five years, with The Last Jedi being the only real exception). Thankfully, Chapter 9: The Marshal proved that the show has some interesting ideas up its sleeve – notably the Boba Fett reveal fake-out, which was absolute genius.
Showrunner/writer/director/executive producer (is there anything he doesn’t do?) Jon Favreau lays some intriguing seeds as to Boba Fett’s involvement in the series, with hints about the Jawas discovering his armour, the Krayt Dragon finding its way into the Sarlacc pit, and a very exciting cameo from Temuera Morrison at the end. These, however, are not the episode’s primary focus, with a fun “monster-of-the-week” story drawing us back into the show’s universe.
The Mandalorian makes a deal with the Marshal to destroy the Krayt Dragon, but in order to do so, the town must ally themselves with the Tusken Raiders. The Tuskens themselves are fleshed-out much more in this episode, building on Mando’s friendly interactions with them last season, and making them feel like more interesting aspects of the Star Wars universe. The very western feel to the small town on Tatooine was a nice touch, but all of the characters felt very derivative, with some clichéd dialogue and story beats. It’s a neat idea to see the Marshal (Timothy Olyphant) use Boba Fett’s armour to defend his town – and he makes far greater use of it than the iconic bounty hunter did in any of his film appearances – but the character wasn’t particularly interesting beyond that.
What really made the episode was the visual story-telling. The opening sequence of Mando and the Child wandering through the dark streets of a new alien world, the fighting arena and the different places on Tatooine felt very well-realised, with some great production design and alien make-up and effects work. The Krayt Dragon looked terrific, and the action sequences were handled with a sense of clarity and creative flair. In a surprising move, the climactic set-piece was presented in an expanded aspect ratio, shifting from the show’s usual “letterbox” 2.35:1 to “full-screen” 1.78:1 – the first time this has been done in the Star Wars franchise, with the exception of The Force Awakens‘ IMAX release. I do wonder if this episode was intended to have a cinematic IMAX release, similar to Marvel’s Inhumans, but was scrapped due to Covid-19 concerns. It’s hard to tell, but it was an interesting touch nonetheless.
Overall, Chapter 9: The Marshal made for a solid, if not especially exciting start to The Mandalorian‘s second season. With fun action, cool aliens and some great bits of Baby Yoda reacting to everything around him (always a highlight in this show), it hits all the right beats, but it feels like the best is yet to come this season.