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'The Mandalorian' Returns With an Explosive Premiere Filled With Big Action and Plenty of 'Star Wars' Deep Cuts

Naturally, there are major spoilers here.

The second season of The Mandalorian picks up almost immediately where the last left off. Din Djarin, the Mandalorian, has been quested to return the child (known as Baby Yoda on the internet) to its people and decides that seeking out other Mandalorians will aid him in this venture. Since Mandalorians fought against the Jedi in the past, perhaps they can lead him to those who can take the child. This leads him to Tatooine, chasing the shadow of one who was never a Mandalorian but bore the armor. That, of course, is the armor of Boba Fett. 

The Mando finds himself in the small and dusty mining town of Mos Pelgo, where he finds a Marshall named Cobb Vanth wearing the armor. The two are ready to duel to the death for the Mandalorian’s right to take the coveted armor, but they’re interrupted by none other than a marauding Krayt Dragon. Vanth and the Mandalorian strike a bargain: if the Mando will help kill the Krayt Dragon, he can have the armor without a fight. 

The Mando agrees, but might have got more than he bargained for.  In order to kill the Krayt dragon, Vanth and the Mando will have to employ the help of the townsfolk of Mos Pelgo and the Tusken Raiders they distrust so much.

After they vanquish the leviathan and the Mando goes on his way with the armor of Boba Fett, it’s revealed that a familiar face is watching, played by Temuera Morrison (the actor behind Jango Fett and the updated voice of Boba Fett). Could this be Boba Fett? Or just another clone? Hopefully, this secret will be revealed in the future.

The Writing and Filmmaking

This episode is the Mandalorian directing debut of Jon Favreau. Though he’s been the creator of the show and primary writer, Favreau hasn’t, until now, been able to sit in the director’s chair. He proves why he’s such an adept storyteller in this episode and is able to do what George Lucas did best: weave cinematic influences into the fabric of Star Wars and, in the process, show us something new that rings familiar. 

The cinematic influences run deep in this episode. Many of them start with Star Wars, though. Attack of the Clones gets the most references in this episode on a number of levels. Thematically, it makes sense given the ending. When the Mandalorian lands on Tatooine and encounters Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), she shows him a map where the city of Mos Pelgo doesn’t even exist, though she assures him it does. This is the same situation Obi-Wan found himself in when seeking out Kamino. Thematically, both quests for a place that didn’t exist on a map ended with Boba Fett. Or clones, at least.

Deadwood also finds itself working in the casting. Cobb Vanth is played by Timothy Olyphant, who played the sheriff Seth Bullock on Deadwood. A bartender on the show, played by W. Earl Brown, brings new life to a similar role here, playing the bartender in Mos Pelgo. 

I wonder who played a larger inspiration on Gor Koresh, the character John Leguizamo plays: Ray Harryhausen or Peter Boyle.. The character looks to be a one -eyed puppet that is an exact mix between the cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Peter Boyle in either the sci-fi western Outland or in the role of Wizard in Taxi Driver.

There are flourishes from other Spielberg and Lucas films as well. As Cobb Vanth refuses to drink the Tusken offering in the episode, it brings to mind Willie Scott insulting her hosts in front of Indiana Jones as he translates. The Mandalorian even gets a line similar to the classic, “You’re insulting them and you’re embarrassing me.”

The film this episode takes the most inspiration from, though, is Jaws. As the Tuskens and denizens of Mos Pelgo are forced to work together to kill the beast. Favreau combines two story points from that film, Quint getting eaten and the shark eating the explosives, into one: The Mando (as Quint) getting eating alongside a Bantha laden with explosives. Then, from the inside, the Mando is able to take the shot that destroys the Krayt dragon. Favreau also employs a pullback of the Mando and the Krayt Dragon that reminds one of the shot in Jaws where Spielberg is quoting Alfred Hitchcock in Vertigo, knowing that the camera moves will help build the tension.

The whole situation is reminiscent of another episode of Star Wars television that features clones of Temuera Morrison: Star Wars Rebels season 2 episode 3, “The Lost Commanders.” That episode takes cues from Jaws as well, and features the crew of the Ghost helping a group of Jango Fett clones led by Captain Rex to kill a Joopa, a shark and Krayt-like creature on a desert planet.

This episode also further explores the use of flashbacks on the show, which mean that there is every chance we’ll be able to see more and more events from the past pop up as people are able to relate stories from the past. In the case of Vanth, where his version of the story conflicts with the version told in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath books, it opens the opportunity to realize that our narrators might not always be reliable or tell versions of the stories that are more expedient to this form.

It also opens the possibility that we won’t just hear about The Night of a Thousand Tears, but might be able to witness it, too.

Another thing Favreau is able to do is add more nuance to the Tusken Raiders. George Lucas coded the Tusken Raiders with all the racist stereotypes of Native Americans in classic westerns. As the timeline of Star Wars advances, it makes sense that attitudes toward these mysterious nomads would change as well, with heroes like Din Djarin brokering peace between the townsfolk and the Tuskens, uniting them all against a common enemy. It’s something that makes their stories all the more interesting and sympathetic, especially after their Searchers-like slaughter in Attack of the Clones. This rehabilitation and acknowledgment of a greater understanding of a formerly misunderstood marginalized population is a good thing.

Overall, Favreau weaves a satisfying tale and is able to direct it with an energy befitting of the opening of a new chapter of The Mandalorian. All of the supporting cast delivered something special, particularly John Leguizamo and Timothy Olyphant, but I think Amy Sedaris works even better here than she did in the first season.

Design that tells a story

Good design tells a story and the minds behind The Mandalorian know that. They’re able to design something and insert it into the fabric of Star Wars at just the right moment and imply so many stories beyond it.

The flourish of a design-implied story that I loved the most from this episode is Cobb Vanth’s speeder. It’s apparent to anyone with any love for The Phantom Menace that the design of Vanth’s speeder is predicated on Anakin Skywalker’s podracer. The intake and exhaust ports are identical and the wings at the top of the engine are even the same color as Anakin’s. I don’t think this is actually a speeder built of Anakin’s pod, but I think Anakin set a trend in design that descended through Tatooine over the course of 40 years. 

It’s easy to imagine that Anakin’s pod became popular after his win at the Boonta Eve Classic and with Qui-Gon Jinn selling the pod itself, it’s not hard to imagine that those who bought it did so to reverse engineer it for their own purposes. Why not adapt the design to a line of speeders?

And with this one bit of design inserted into The Mandalorian, we get the influence of the boy who would become Darth Vader casting an even longer shadow in the galaxy.  That’s something good design should do. As Star Wars expands and we revisit planets in different times, watch for these stories told through the design. They will always be there.

Vanth and Boba Fett

Like the twin suns of Tatooine, the two reveals that shone the brightest on this episode were Cobb Vanth and the shadow of Boba Fett. 

Vanth first appeared in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novel and gained Boba Fett’s armor from the Jawas, albeit slightly differently from what we saw on this episode. There’s no reason for Vanth to get into more detail than he did, though. 

The second reveal, that of Temuera Morrison following the Mando, is something else that is ultimately intriguing, though I will admit, I am conflicted on the reveal. I am beyond excited to see Morrison back in the role, but will be greatly dismayed if this turns out to be Boba Fett. I think the character works better dead in this timeline, unless he’s actually going to explore the themes of being a clone and having the face of his father haunt him. Boba Fett in the classic trilogy is a cartoon and we already have more bounty hunters with far more depth in the tapestry of Star Wars

It’s also important to note that Boba Fett’s armor is not Beskar, it’s made of Durasteel, and Boba Fett is not a Mandalorian, either. Will these two facts lead us somewhere in future episodes? Only time will tell. 

What to look out for

This episode was chock full of references to other parts of Star Wars and there are likely more than I even realized. Some of the things are minor, but entertaining. We get another Three Stooges routine from the Pit Droids. R5-D4 is an interesting choice for an easter egg, especially as his bad motivator has been clearly, but sloppily repaired. Throughout Tatooine, we’re treated to many closeups of Scurriers, the adorable little rat-like creatures that first made their way onto Tatooine in the Special Edition release of A New Hope. 

For fans of Attack of the Clones, there are even more details from that episode on display here. The dog-like massiffs were introduced in that episode and the encampment looks like an exact repeat of the one Anakin Skywalker raided on his way to retrieve his mother. That level of detail does not go unnoticed. It was curious, though, that there were no women or children seen at the camp. 

An interesting reference is to the Droid Gotra. As he pleads with the Mandalorian, Gor Koresh swears on the Gotra. The Droid Gotra is a criminal syndicate of droids, working to their own ends of droid freedom. Would this small detail mean that the Mandalorian has put himself on the bad side of this powerful enterprise? Perhaps we’ll learn more in the future.

The easter egg that might make the most ardent fans cheer would be the Krayt Dragon pearl hoisted by the Tusken Raider at the end. Krayt Dragon Pearls have been part of Star Wars since Kevin J. Anderson introduced them in the novel Darksaber. They’ve had a long and storied history as one of the most prized hunting trophies of Tatooine and found their way into the lore of Knights of the Old Republic as Darth Revan was in possession of one. Seeing it hoisted by the Tusken Raider at the end will make a lot of Star Wars nerds very happy.

Coda

As we embark on the journey of the second season of The Mandalorian, we’re left with few of the questions we had from last season answered. As the Mando begins the next phase of his journey, the only thing we can be sure of is that he is going on a true adventure.

If this episode is any indication, he’ll find that he’s going to get more than he bargained for every step of the way.

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