by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Chapter 9
After an agonizing ten month wait, The Mandalorian is back. With the premiere of the first season containing a major surprise with the first appearance of the Child (aka Baby Yoda), Jon Favreau and company had a tough task delivering another premiere with a similar level of shocks and thrills. But Star Wars fans are unlikely to leave disappointed as The Mandalorian returned with a thoroughly entertaining, slightly more refined, contained episode.
The season premiere kicks off quickly, showcasing a scene largely depicted in the second season’s trailer involving Din Djarin fighting off goons at a gamorrean fight. Within the first few minutes, the audience is succinctly delivered the premise of the season: to return the Child to his kind, a task that will require other Mandalorians to help guide him on his quest. The episode begins with a set up that will almost certainly become the plot for the season. This sequence involves Gor Koresh, an Abyssin voiced by John Leguizamo (John Wick, The Happening, Super Mario Bros), highlighting one of The Mandalorian’s greatest strengths in delivering brilliant, deep-cut canon references. And before the title card appears, we’re given an incredible, haunting shot of Koresh hanging upside down as mysterious creatures approach him in the night.
The episode really kicks into gear when The Mandalorian heads to Mos Pelgo on Tatooine to seek out another Mandalorian. This character is Cobb Vanth, who has appeared in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novels and was recently spotlighted in a Star Wars Holocron article this week. Vanth, played by Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Deadwood, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), is not a Mandalorian, but merely wearing Boba Fett’s iconic armor, and agrees to give Djarin the armor if he helps destroy the Krayt dragon that’s been terrorizing the town of which Vanth is the Sheriff (hence the episode’s title, The Marshal). With the help of Tusken Raiders, Djarin and Vanth are able to defeat the Krayt dragon and save Mos Pelgo from future harm. Because of this, Djarin receives Boba Fett’s armor and heads back to the Razor Crest. However, akin to the pilot’s jaw-dropping concluding twist, The Marshal doesn’t leave audiences empty handed. In the closing moments of the episode, as Djarin speeds past the famous Twin Suns, a mysterious figure watches. This figure is revealed to be none other than Boba Fett, played by Temuera Morrison. Clearly, his experience in the Sarlaac Pit has taken its toll on Fett, and it seems that he’s been living in the Tatooine desert ever since. Boba’s appearance sets up so many interesting possibilities for the rest of season 2 that we can’t wait to see.
The Marshal highlights a real strength of The Mandalorian so far in delivering truly cinematic, contained Star Wars content. Many watching the show’s first season were surprised that Chapters 4, 5, and 6 were largely one-off episodes, with few major consequences to the overarching narrative. While some people found issues with this approach, we loved the adventure-of-the-week style that The Mandalorian occasionally adopted as it offered a refreshing, entertaining alternative to more story driven installments. Chapter 9 continued this tradition in initially setting up the season’s overarching plot, but, for the most part, centering in on a more contained story of defeating a Krayt dragon.
As hinted at before, Chapter 9 excelled in its cinematic quality, a testament to director Jon Favreau’s craft. The Marshal was written and directed by Jon Favreau, marking the Iron Man director’s directorial debut on the series as he was unable to go behind the camera on the first season due to prior commitments with The Lion King. Favreau directs this episode superbly and makes The Mandalorian feel more like a polished, theatrically released blockbuster than ever. The final battle sequence is a particular standpoint in showcasing the immense scope The Mandalorian can achieve. To see two characters in Mandalorian armor defeating a monstrous creature on Tatooine, surrounded by Tusken Raiders, was epic to see and feels like a Star Wars fan’s dreams come to life. All of this created an incredibly immersive experience for the audience that greatly enhances the overall quality of the episode.
A standout of the episode is Timothy Olyphant, who is no stranger to a Western type role given his involvement in Justified and Deadwood. Olyphant’s character is immediately interesting given that he’s wearing Boba Fett’s armor, and continues to be a scene stealer throughout the episode. In the days after the premiere, some Star Wars fans are even calling for a Cobb Vanth spin-off series and we would definitely not complain about that. It’ll be interesting to see if Vanth reappears at some point this season, especially as a battle between the Mandalorian and Boba Fett is likely to occur. If this happens, Djarin may recruit the services of Olyphant’s Vanth to fight off Fett.
As far as issues with the episode go, the episode is the longest installment of The Mandalorian yet and the length can be felt a little. At 54 minutes, Chapter 9 may have benefitted from slight trimming, especially in the latter half of the episode. In addition, The Marshal has one or two scenes with slightly chopping editing, in particular when the episode flashes back to how Vanth acquired Boba’s armor. Speaking of this flashback, it seems to contradict the tale of how Vanth acquired the armor in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath interlude. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of The Mandalorian, as we have seen aspects of canon in novels and comic books be retconned or slightly retooled in other projects, but this was still something important to note and may upset those who dislike canon discontinuities. However, as you can see, we’re really grasping at straws to lodge complaints about The Marshal as it was a brilliant hour of Star Wars content.
All in all, this episode has a tendency to feel like a one off that doesn’t advance the story much at all, and mirrors Chapters 4, 5, and 6 in that regard. However, there’s something refreshing about debuting the premiere episode of a highly anticipated subsequent season as a largely contained, inconsequential episode. Moreover, a notable difference between The Marshal and the one-off episodes in the first season is what The Marshal sets up. Boba Fett is bound to have a large presence over the course of the season, and it would be surprising if Vanth didn’t return (if not this season, then over the course of the show in general). Moreover, audiences have a better idea of what this season will entail, as the general plot of this episode, Djarin hunting for other Mandalorians, is likely to remain for the entirety of the season 2 run. Despite the isolated plot of this episode, fans still saw plenty of surprises and hints as to what the rest of the season will entail.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+