There will inevitably be a point in time, presumably in the relatively near future, when we can look back at The Mandalorian as a complete show, from its very first episode to its last. Fans can assess its highs and lows, favourite episodes, character development, and potentially gain a greater understanding of showrunner Jon Favreau‘s “masterplan” for the series. The Star Wars films themselves have never been particularly interconnected in the way that more recent franchises have aspired towards, and often built upon the successes and failures of previous entries as opposed to feeling like one big plan – one only needs to look at how Leia is presented across each film in the original trilogy, or just watch The Rise of Skywalker immediately after Episodes VII and VIII. This all makes the idea of a tightly-plotted Star Wars TV series quite strange to me, and even stranger still is Favreau’s approach to the series’ narrative structure – particularly with this second season.
There’s at least three “arc-plots” in Season 2 so far: Mando returning the Child to the Jedi Order, Bo-Katan and…whatever she was doing last week, and Moff Gideon’s pursuit of the Child. All of this is also interwoven with the “adventure-of-the-week” stories, like Mando helping the Marshal to defeat the Krayt Dragon, taking the Frog Lady back to her partner on Trask, and destroying an Imperial base on Nevarro. Oh, and Boba Fett is there as well in a story beat which may or may not be important later.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be a clear focus for Season 2, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does feel like we’re jumping between different stories each week instead of watching one continuing narrative, which makes for a slightly confusing viewing experience. At least Season 1 balanced its “adventure-of-the-week” episodes with only one “arc-plot” spread over a few episodes, but now the show is juggling a number of ongoing storylines but not managing to find the time to really develop any of them.
On that note, I think it’s worth acknowledging that Chapter 12: The Siege does go some way to develop the loose thread from last season regarding the Empire’s interest in the Child / Baby Yoda. Based on the final scene, it appears that Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wants to harvest the Child’s blood to create what could be Force-sensitive Stormtroopers – or Imperial soldiers of some description. It’s an interesting story idea, and one I’m intrigued to see unfold over the coming episodes, but I’m also resigned to the fact that this probably won’t be resolved in any way until the show’s third season at the earliest. Esposito himself is always good fun as Gideon, even in brief cameo appearances, with a certain evil presence that makes him arguably one of the strongest Star Wars villains to date – despite not actually doing a huge amount.
This intriguing narrative development has been semi-hidden in an “adventure-of-the-week” plot with Mando (Pedro Pascal) returning to Nevarro to reunite with Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, who also directs this chapter) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano), who want his help to destroy an Imperial base on the other side of the planet. It’s a fairly simple set-up, but unlike last week’s big “pull the rug out from under you” plot, it did feel like the episode was more obviously building to some kind of big reveal in that base – even if I didn’t necessarily see it coming. However, just like Chapter 11: The Heiress, the entire episode hinges on the bigger “arc-plot” narrative as opposed to telling a satisfying standalone story in one episode, which might work in hindsight (once we see what the story is building towards), but it does result in the individual instalments feeling underdeveloped in themselves.
That’s not to say that Chapter 12: The Siege isn’t without merit, delivering some great action set-pieces throughout. I particularly enjoyed the chase away from the Imperial base, with the protagonists pursued by troopers on speeder-bikes, before building to TIE-fighters. There was a great sense of scope to the sequence, and it really felt like a segment from a feature film as opposed to a TV episode. Sure, the last-minute arrival of the Razor Crest was a bit of a cheat (especially considering that Greef Karga specifically pointed out that it would take some time to repair it), but it was still a lot of fun of watch – and looked like everyone had a lot of fun putting it together.
While the Child was far away from the action for most of the episode, I did enjoy his little antics throughout, from Force-stealing somebody’s biscuits (or whatever strange alien equivalent they were) to his delight at the Razor Crest rollercoaster near the end. You’d expect the Baby Yoda magic to wear-off by now, but it is still a very adorable puppet, and brilliantly performed by the production team.
Overall, I found this chapter of The Mandalorian to be another mixed bag. As a standalone story there’s not much there, and as an “arc-plot” episode it’s hard to assess as we’ve still got no idea where it’s all heading. Perhaps by the end of this season or the next, I’ll have more of an appreciation for these kind of episodes, having seen how the narrative unfolds. Until then, at least we have more Baby Yoda to look forward to every Friday – and that’s all that matters, really