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It’s a relief to dive back into a favourite show and discover that things are just as they were. In such an uncertain world, even small consistencies can feel like the greatest of comforts. No one really knew where the second season of Disney+’s The Mandalorian was headed.
The last thing we saw, after all, was the legendary Darksaber – an ancient weapon with a storied history, familiar to those who’ve seen the animated shows. It hinted at what many fans feared most: that the first live-action Star Wars TV show, a chance to break out and explore new corners of the galaxy, would inevitably get absorbed into the Skywalker saga.
Don’t worry – at least, not yet. The first episode of season two, titled “The Marshal”, fulfils all the show’s promises in spectacular style. It’s an even greater commitment to the label of “space western” than we’ve seen before, both on the show and elsewhere in the Star Wars franchise.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, the series creator, it’s structured around the most classic trope of the genre: a lone gunslinger (the titular Mandolorian, Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin) arrives at a dusk-choked town, here on Tatooine. He’s on the search for any clue that might help him return the precious cargo in his care, The Child, otherwise known as Baby Yoda, to his people.
Watch: The Mandalorian season 2 trailer
But he’s a stranger here. As he walks down the town’s only road, its inhabitants stop and stare. They’re a hardy people, with distrust and disillusionment carved into their sunken faces. He reaches the local saloon – sorry, cantina.
There he’s introduced to the Marshal (Timothy Olyphant), who lingers in the doorway, much like Din did the very first time we met him. The rest of the episode spills out in a way that feels both familiar and classic: there are grouchy cowboy accents, the phrase “I figure only one of us is walking out of here”, fingers hovering over blaster holsters, wide desert vistas, and a canyon stalked by coyote-like creatures. Ludwig Göransson’s score, with all its nods to Ennio Morricone, feels right at home.
Favreau has taken Lucas’ initial vision of Tatooine and made its allusions more concrete. Here is a colonised place, filled with luckless settlers trying to make a living off a cruel, unforgiving land, while its indigenous people are driven into the shadows and treated like bogeymen.
Those people are the Tusken Raiders, first introduced in A New Hope. The most interesting part of “The Marshal” is the way we get to see these old antagonists in a new light – all part of The Mandalorian’s wider mission to bring a little moral complexity to the traditional rogue’s gallery of Star Wars. The idea works well, right up to the point you try and link any of this to the historical reality of indigenous people.
The Child doesn’t make much of an appearance here – he coos a little, squeaks in fear, then chews on a vase. It’s less of a problem than you’d think. Favreau seems intent on showing his audience that The Mandalorian is far more than a one-baby pony. This is a story, and a perspective on the galaxy, that could extend far beyond The Child’s inevitable fate.
A brief prologue takes us to the backstreets of a Kessel-like urban planet, where there’s graffiti splashed on every wall and a mass of bright, red eyes poking out of the darkness. Are they very large rats? Who knows. This place is so different than what we're used to.
There’s a fun surprise, too, for any hardcore fans who have ventured beyond the screen and explored the many Star Wars adventures written for the page. And then there’s that final shot, left ambiguous enough to keep everyone feverishly discussing The Mandalorian’s future – until next week, that is.
Watch: New Baby Yoda portrait unveiled