The novelty of a high-budget, live-action Star Wars series swept the world of fandom off its feet last year. And then did so again when the show actually (somewhat) delivered on its on-paper merits. Unfortunately, around the halfway mark it became abundantly clear that the show had already stalled, with its scripts (predominantly writer by showrunner Jon Favreau) doing little to drive the plot, and instead being content to emulate old Western serials (repetition and all).
The final two episodes, however, seemed to promise a breakthrough for its already ordered second season, introducing a more fully realised villain, quest and fan-favourite McGuffin in the Dark Saber. So how well does the second season premiere carry this baton?
The initial set-up to the episode is simple and quite promising: the Mandalorian is searching for others of his kind to help him find The Child’s home. This brings him back to Tatooine, where he briefly reunites with the wonderful Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), who points him in the direction of Mos Pelgo. In this town, the Mandalorian encounters Cobb “The Marshal” Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), who is not a Mandalorian, but has acquired some very famous armour. In return for the armour, The Mandalorian promises to help save the town from its woes.
At around this point, the story unrolls exactly how you’ve been taught to expect it, if not from previous episodes in the series, then from comic books, television, film etc. Jon Favreau’s writing is clearly not the highlight of the series, and I’m beginning to wish that Dave Filoni will be more prominently featured as the creative director of the show. At nearly an hour, you certainly feel the length of the episode, which relies on winks and nods to parts of the Star Wars universe to capture its audience’s attention.
What keeps the premiere afloat, are the joint performances of Pedro Pascal and Timothy Olyphant. Though the writing is predictable and hops between cliché and the border, Pascal and Olyphant hold it together with sound chemistry and a charming sense of wit and sarcasm. Given the series’ habit of introducing characters and actors through a revolving door, it would be nice to see a more established and consistent ensemble; this would at least deter an over-reliance on The Mandalorian’s broodiness.
Pascal and Olyphant hold it together with sound chemistry and a charming sense of wit and sarcasm
Where Jon Favreau really proves his worth to the show is through the special effects innovations that he oversees. Far from a bucket episode, The Marshal hits blockbuster film level of special effects, with the creature terrorising the town of Mos Pelgo being one of the most intensely detailed renders to appear in the franchise, let alone the series thus far. Sprinkled with humour and decent sense of threat, the creature feature of the week gives the episode a much-needed sense of exhilarants to carry the tedious pace of the over-arching story.
While far from perfect, The Marshal provides enough entertainment to make it worth your time. However, it doesn’t instil much confidence in the season going forward if the series has learned nothing from its mistakes in its first season – I’m afraid there comes a point when it can no longer be passed off as “growing pains”, and I’m even more afraid that The Mandalorian doesn’t know the difference.
Feature Image Credit: Disney, IMDb