The Mandalorian - Season 2
This review will mention ongoing politics, including those concerning Cancel Culture. Read at your own risk.
Becoming not only one of the smash-hit shows on Disney+ but also one of the greatest shows to come out of the past few years, The Mandalorian was worshipped as the live-action Star Wars show we’ve all waited for. It benefited from a cinematic extension of the Star Wars mythos, highlighted the journeys of characters worth tagging along with, and introduced the Child, who’s the same species as Yoda and adored by fans and general TV-goers everywhere.
As soon as the Mandalorian returned for its second season, it came back more assertive, more focused, and with the Force being stronger with this one than ever before.
Picking up where the end of the last season left off, Mando was tasked by his Mando leader, The Armorer, to take the Child and deliver it to “his kind”. To do that, she said, he had to travel across the galaxy and seek out a band of rogue Mandalorians who knew the whereabouts of his kind. And, with the help of some of his friends from afar, including Greef Carga and Cara Dune, Mando intended to fulfill his end of the bargain while fighting his way through rogue Imperial soldiers, galactic monsters, and all kinds of unknown adversaries to reach this destination. Unfortunately, while on their way, Mando and the Child were both tracked down by former imperial leader Moff Gideon, who, as Chapter 8: Redemption just unveiled to us, happened to have the Darksaber, renowned as one of the most sacred weapons in all of Mandalorian lore. It turned out, as the season went on, he was stealthily following Mando because he was after the Child; he, too, caught on to the massive powers of the Force the Child was capable of, so he and his troops planned to kidnap him in the hopes of confiscating the power for themselves.
Meanwhile, during Mando’s travels, for every enemy he made, he found himself in the company of allies, both old and new, from time to time. And I don’t mean just Greet Carga, Cara Dune, or the rogue band of Mandalorians. Among such allies were Fennec Shand - played by Min-Na Wen - former accomplice Migs Mayfeld, and a Tatooine marshall named Cobb Vanth. He also ran into two of the biggest characters in the show thus far: Ahsoka Tano, former Padawan of Anakin Skywalker before he became Darth Vader, and the still alive Boba Fett.
To start things off, one of the more fascinating things about the first season was that Mando, besides him serving the Mandalorian clan who raised him, was formerly in it for the money as far as his bounty-hunting expeditions were concerned. So, it didn’t matter to him whose side he was on, whether he was with good or bad, as long as he got what he was after with the wanted criminal in tow. Yet, for all his Eastwood-esque complexions, ever since he met the Child, his perceptions on what or who were worth protecting started to permeate his conscience as he still had him by his side. No matter how rare or sought after the Child was, Mando still looked at him feeling like he was an innocent youngster who still needed protecting nonetheless. So this resulted in a slow but steady bond building up between them as Mando saw to it to watch over him whether it was all as part of an assignment or not. This growth became more apparent this season, which focused on his pursuits to deliver the Child to his kind, just like that.
This is another great strength about the show becoming more apparent with this season. Whenever I reflected on the first season after finishing up the second one, I came away feeling like The Mandalorian only set up certain worlds, characters, and plot threads to weave. It was as if the first season was just an introductory passage to The Mandalorian and the circumstances he often found himself in. Here in Season 2, however, the show found a much steadier footing and, for lack of a more fitting phrase, settled into hyperdrive. The critical component was that the season had a greater focus this time, which was for Mando to deliver The Child to his kind. In turn, it helped the episodes feel more interconnected because there was a common thread keeping all eight episodes together instead of feeling like a splendorous but still slightly jumbled thrill ride like the first season.
While it’s still fresh in my mind, let’s talk about two of the biggest surprise appearances in this show. Chapter 13: The Jedi marked the live-action debut of beloved padawan Ahsoka Tano, who learned the ways of the Jedi under Anakin’s wing, as was shown in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fans worshiped her, and they rejoiced when she reappeared in Star Wars Rebels as one of the leaders of the Rebellion against the Empire. Having seen Star Wars Rebels, I can safely say that her experiences in leading the Rebellion, including a ‘reunion’ between her and her former mentor, solidified her into a gracious, noble, and fierce leader with a strong conviction against the ill wills of the Imperial Force. Her reintroduction in the show as a stealthy yet powerful master felt parallel to the introductions of other such mentors as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. And, watching her interact with Mando about the powers of the Force and how the Child can harness them opened up countless curious impressions over what Mando could’ve learned from her. Her interactions with the Child were sweet and touching, too, on top of revealing another fact about the Child: his real name is Grogu. Breakthrough moments such as these helped the show lend itself further substance and fan appeal thanks to how more interconnected with the Star Wars mythos it has become and has yet to become.
This, of course, leads me to what was a massive surprise to me: the return of Boba Fett. I mean, sure, he made a brief appearance at the end of the first episode, but once his identity was revealed in Chapter 14: The Tragedy, I was left dumbfounded and flabbergasted. The last time I saw him, chronologically speaking, he was eaten alive by the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. But who am I kidding? If Darth Maul can somehow survive being bisected at the end of The Phantom Menace, as the Clone Wars and Rebels pointed out, then anything can happen at this point.
Another thing that came of it and that I found fascinating in equal measure was that in the first episode, Mando discovered that Cobb Vanth secured the leftover armor of Boba Fett from nearby Jawas. Once Mando caught onto it, he promised Vanth that he’d receive it from him if he aided him in killing a massive sand monster that had bothered his hometown for hundreds of years called the Krayt dragon, which he did. For this reason, Boba started looking up to Mando for retrieving the armor that once was his. And once Mando also unveiled a spear made out of Beskar, a traditional Mandolorian metal, Boba and his partner Fenneck Shand suddenly became on his side and in his debt. Because of this, they guided Mando in tracking down the Imperial ships which held Grogu hostage, helped fend off the invading Imperial troops, and helped him and his band of rescuers sneak into Moff Gideon’s Imperial Cruiser in Chapter 18: The Rescue. This ties back into what I really liked about the moral ambiguity in this show. You have Mando, who was against the Empire from the start and had allies in Cara Dune, a former fighter for the Rebellion after her home planet, Alderaan, was destroyed. And at the same time, he also teamed up with Boba Fett, who, as you may remember from The Empire Strikes Back, was paid by Vader to track down and incarcerate Luke and his friends at the Cloud City. This moral grayness, partially inspired by the Clint Eastwood westerns, still helped The Mandalorian maintain its level of unpredictability with the characters and leave you uncertain whether everything they did was for the good of the galaxy or if it was for themselves. Though in the case of Mando, it was becoming more obvious he did it slightly for the good of the galaxy ever since his attachment with Grogu.
Ironically, my only complaint about this season was that it wasn’t specified or explained how Boba Fett managed to escape the Sarlacc in the first place and lived to tell the tale. I haven’t seen the Clone Wars as of this writing, but I’ll wager this show at least may have shed some light on how Darth Maul managed to survive his encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here, very little was shown or discussed concerning his recovery outside of all the scars Boba had on his face and body. For me, until or unless it is given the spotlight in the next season, a little clarification on the matter would’ve been nice.
The visual effects, let’s face it, were hit out of the ballpark every time. From the puppet work on Grogu to the CGI applied onto the aliens, ships, space backgrounds, and worlds, they were displayed so much fluidity and attention to detail that they would leave you under the illusion that the intergalactic worlds were really there, and the characters were really there, and that these aliens really did exist. They were perfect in the Star Wars movies, and they’re still perfect here in The Mandalorian.
The settings in the show were still as stunning as you’d expect from the Mandalorian. Like the last season, they benefited from a fruitful exposition of some of the different worlds, landscapes, and communities that thrived throughout the galaxy. The range of diversity among these locales was thorough. They included a desolate Tatooine village harassed by the Krayt dragon, an Imperial facility on Morak, an ancient Jedi Temple on Tython, and, jarringly enough, a town on Corvus that was conquered by a slithery magistrate and left, along with its surrounding area, in ruins because of her rule. This was where Ahsoka went in hiding and opposed the rule as much as the townspeople did. The settings stuck out thanks to the rich balance of colors, cinematic placement, and empathetic focus whenever they came forth. When it’s upbeat or promising, it looked stunning. When it was uncertain or ominous, it looked murky and uninviting.
The alien creatures were not diversified or given as much focus here in Season 2 as in the last season, but they still stuck out thanks to their uniqueness every time they did. One of the most prominent examples I can think of was an amphibian mother who Mando guided back to her home planet in exchange for leads to the Mandalorian roque band. She, her husband, and her offspring were the last of their species alive, so she had to take extra good care of her eggs for that reason. Of course, this also resulted in some irresistibly funny black comedy from Grogu, of all characters. Whereas the mother and Mando saw the eggs as the last of her kind, Grogu saw them as delicious hors d’oeuvres and snacked on plenty of them as such. Thankfully, Grogu was around to see one of the eggs hatch into a new baby, so this gave him a good idea of who he was dealing with or what he was munching on in the first place. Regardless, watching Grogu suck in mouthfuls of some of her eggs was endearingly sneaky, and it was pretty funny and nerve-wracking at the same time.
The characters were still as delightful and exciting as ever. Their interactions with other people they may have never suspected even to pass themselves as allies kept the momentum going strong, and the focus of the goal never sidelined. As I said, Mando was still brimming with interest because of the closeness he felt to Grogu, and it was becoming more evident that his time together with him was starting to bring out the best in him.
Grogu was still as adorable, quirky, and ominously powerful as ever. Whenever he was not busy doing cute or curious things, his connection to the Force invited interpretations of what he was capable of and what more he had left to learn if he was to become his own master of the Force. According to Ahsoka, he was to be brought to a Jedi Temple where Grogu could’ve had access to the Force and, with any luck, reached out to other Jedi throughout the Universe. And by the time it caught the attention of even the rogue Imperial Force, this elevated his Force capabilities into a valuable but also threatening asset that could’ve put his life on the line if he was not careful with it.
The rest of the supporting characters each played a riveting part in Mando’s journey, too, and in so doing, left a mark in our consciousness for little other reason than their coolness. From the little we saw of her throughout the season, Cara Dane was still one of the kick-butt fighters from the Rebellion that we looked up to whenever she came on screen. One of her more interesting moments came at the end of Chapter 12: The Heist, when she was approached by an X-wing fighter pilot who asked her who she knew from Alderaan, to which she said, everyone. Then, he handed her a badge of the New Republic; this gesture implied he was subtly inviting her to join him and fight for the Republic once again.
And I was quite intrigued by the rogue band of Mandalorians Mando met in Chapter 11: The Heiress. They all wore Mandalorian armor and weaponry, were after the Darksaber, which, as I said, Moff Gideon confiscated from them a long time ago, and yet, they also tended to show their faces, despite Mando pointing out the creed that Mandalorians were never to show their faces. Much like Mando and Boba Fett, this displayed some morally gray areas for them as well, for Mando refused to join them on their quest, even though it was only out of his guardianship of Grogu.
The acting as a whole felt just flawless. All the actors who played either humans or aliens lent their credibility to the characters and gave them a more striking sense of complexion. Pedro Pascal struck it rich with Mando whenever he engaged in another mission, prepared himself for battle, or even at the end of the season, where he had to lift his helmet and let his face be visible. Gina Carano still gave her character, Cara Dune, a level of tenderness to compliment her rough-edged personality, expertise, and occasional snarkiness. Carl Weathers still gave his character, Greef Carga, a layered disposition recognizable from his collaborations with Mando from the last season, even if he was only watching over a Nevarro town in this season.
But let’s talk about three such actors who left such deep impressions here in The Mandalorian.
To start things off, Ahsoka Tano was first introduced and then reintroduced in animated spinoffs of Star Wars, so it was bound to pose significant challenges in properly translating her character into live-action. But Rosario Dawson, thankfully, never missed a beat. Her disposition was such where you felt like you just met a legitimate Jedi Master. And whenever she came out in the flesh, she expressed a balance of feisty and determined but considerate and wise. This felt like the perfect complexion fit for someone who went from learning about the Force from a Jedi Master to using the Force to her advantage in battles against oppressive forces. Her performance was so good, in fact, that a spinoff series centered on her is in development, and this feels like a proper reward for doing Ahsoka Tano justice.
We tend to identify Boba Fett throughout the franchise just from his iconic suit, with the stylish helmet, intimidating cape, and cool gadgetry. But Temuera Morrison was off to a good start in making his character compelling and worth paying attention to even when he’s out of his suit. His intimidating impression and scars all over his body were enough to clue you in that he went through ravaging situations before and that he generally relied on and answered to no one. Even when Boba helped Mando with his rescue mission, you can still tell that he was only doing this out of respect for Mando’s lineage instead of for Grogu’s welfare. So it’s very likely he would still have betrayed others if this was a means to an end and would never have cared less if he accomplished something for moral or immoral reasons. Much like Rosario Dawson, he too left enough of an impression with Boba Fett to have a spinoff series centered on him in the works, AKA The Book of Boba Fett.
Either Disney and Lucasfilm are milking Star Wars for all its worth, or they sure know how to give credit where credit is due.
And last but not least, I was blown away by Giancarlo Esposito’s performance as Moff Gideon this season. When he first appeared in Chapter 8: Redemption, he started as a powerful man with some beef with Mando before proving himself intimidating with the Darksaber. Here, Esposito let Moff Gideon ooze with that intimidation throughout the season, to a point where he perfectly replicated the calm compulsion and patience of a ruthless Imperial leader. This was impressive for another reason: Esposito nailed down the complexions of a high-ranking bad guy before by playing drug lord Gus Fring, both in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul (the first of which, I’ve been waiting a long time to say, is probably my favorite TV show ever). Here, he played his recognizable cards right in an environment that suited him 100%. And whenever he went off in battle mode against someone, he felt equally as ruthless and dangerous.
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Though I will admit, his defeat in Chapter 16: The Rescue felt a bit anticlimactic. What happened was, after a fight with Mando, he was outmatched and brought to the Head Chamber in handcuffs. From there, he made sly remarks and devious remarks about the Darksaber or the circumstances concerning his Darktrooper army while being scowled by either Cara Dune, who wanted to capture him and turn him in alive, or by Kryze, one of the rogue Monadalorians, who was out to reclaim the Darksaber. And after one sly remark too many, he was then knocked unconscious by Cara Dune for the rest of the episode. But, I don’t know, couldn’t there have been a better resolution for him that complimented his ruthlessness?
For all the awesomeness we witnessed from The Mandalorian’s newest season, however, what just occurred at its end are what I see as the yin and yang of Star Wars Bombshells.
Here’s the yang: as Mando, Grogu, Moff Gideon, Cara Dune, Fennec Shanel, and Kryze prepared for the forthcoming of Gideon’s Darktrooper army as it tried to break through a locked door in the Head Chamber, suddenly, an X-wing fighter flew in, settled in the cruiser, and a hooded figure bombarded in the cruiser, slashing his way through the Darktroopers like it was no big deal. He had a green lightsaber, and Grogu gazed at him through the monitor screens, like he could feel his presence from afar. Soon, the hooded figure reached the last Darktrooper, crushed it with the Force like a soda can, calmly stepped into the Chamber, and lifted his hood to reveal... Luke Skywalker.
When I saw him reveal himself, I was temporarily left in shock. I knew that Princess Leia’s cameo at the end of Rogue One was well done, but this just took the cake.
Watching Luke singlehandedly demolish the otherwise powerful Darktroopers was a feast for the eyes, but the fact that the Jedi that Grogu’s presence at the temple summoned happened to be the star of the heralded Original Trilogy? This was just one of the most unprecedented, glorious moments you can ever imagine for either The Mandalorian or anything under the Star Wars name. There were just three icings on the cake. One was the de-aging, which looked just phenomenal. As of this writing, Mark Hamill is in his late 60’s, early 70’s, and the visual effects applied onto him to make him look just as he did out almost 40 years ago just did wonders with his character. Two, R2D2 happened to accompany Luke on his journey to find Grogu, and this was also a delightful surprise. And three, all of this led to a heartfelt, bittersweet parting between Grogu and his surrogate family, including one emotional scene where Mando allowed him to see him as he is, without his helmet, one last time before Grogu left with Luke and R2D2. It was bittersweet, it was emotional, it was action-packed, it roped in plenty of Star Wars icons in one room. This was just the overwhelmingly perfect ending to Season 2.
Spoiler Alert Ends
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But then, on February 2021, came the yin: the firing of Gina Carano.
How did this occur? Well, here’s a simplified version of what went down. Gina Carano, a Conservative actress, lamented the current political climate in America, which, in 2021, became, to put it mildly, chaotic and unstable. So she sent a tweet on her Instagram comparing the situation to how Jews were treated in concentration camps during World War II. Not long after, an onslaught of demands asking for her removal from the Mandalorian bombarded her. Then, Disney and Lucasfilm unwisely gave in to those demands without a second thought and axed her from the show, and thus, Cara Dune from the show from here on out.
I read some reports about Cancel Culture, and I always found them a nuisance, especially since this occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s death. But when I heard about this, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, man. I went from dismissing Cancel Culture as a pain in the butt to flat-out opposing it. Why? Because all she did was make a hard-hitting but ultimately harmless post commenting about the conditions, and here she was, given the boot by Disney and Lucasfilm just for expressing her opinions. Most likely because they may not have jibed with what other people considered proper ideas of an opinion, which is just callous and beyond stupid.
In response to this, I wrote letters to Disney and Lucasfilm after the news broke out, telling them why their decision to fire Gina Carano was unfair and unfounded. I also told them how this would’ve affected both the show that put the streaming service on the map and those who idolized Cara Dune and that they would kiss my revenue stream goodbye unless they reversed their decision.
Surely enough, not too long afterwards, even though my subscription doesn’t expire ’til the end of next year - that’s another story - I ultimately canned my Disney+ subscription just to give them a taste of their own medicine.
As time went by, of course, let’s say that even though Gina Carano might not come back anytime soon, and The Mandalorian wouldn’t be the same without her, I started wondering what that might do to Cara Dune’s character. The last time we saw her, she was standing in the Head Chamber watching Luke and R2D2 depart with Grogu. And this made me wonder: what would become of her once Season 3 comes around? Would she just accept the offer the X-wing fighter pilot gave her and join the New Republic offscreen? Who knows? And besides, this isn’t the first time high-quality shows continued without all the main supporting characters along for the ride. Recent shows like The Kominsky Method and Pose had major supporting characters who departed or died once their third seasons started. And they still managed to turn out great material regardless. So maybe the same could happen with the Mandalorian. Only time will tell.
Also, I can’t help but feel like, somehow, sometime soon, maybe Disney and Lucasfilm will have learned their lessons about infringing on someone else’s career out of political obligations. After all, they are public American entertainment companies meaning to please as many people as possible. As in, instead of one or the other. So, I’ll bet something will come about that’d let me give them the benefit of the doubt.
Politics Alert Ends
Until then, however, and just so I can steer my mind away from all the negative stuff, I can say without a shred of a doubt that The Mandalorian’s second season was an absolute blast.
It took what made The Mandalorian such a groundbreaking show in the first place and elevated it into a new level of cinematically enthralling storytelling fit for Star Wars. It developed the characters in an organic and attention-grabbing way. The story had a much stronger aim this season. The acting was phenomenal. The visual effects were still at their authentic best. And, it continued to open new pathways for our beloved bounty hunter and adorable Baby Yoda.
This is the way. And may it remain so.
My Rating on the Season: A
My Rating on Gina Carano’s Layoff: F