In 2020, we returned to a galaxy far, far away, following mysterious bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), known to most as Mando. The Mandalorian’s Golden Globe-nominated second season is Djarin’s quest to find the Jedi, who he believes will train and care for the small green alien in his charge (affectionately dubbed ‘Baby Yoda’ by Twitter). Deftly weaving together nostalgia and novelty, humor and tragedy, this season offers new hope to fans that had feared Star Wars was losing coherent creative direction.
The Mandalorian, under familiar twin suns, first searches Tatooine for another of his own kind. When he winds up in a dusty mining town, even casual viewers recognize the battered armor of Boba Fett, an eternal fan-favorite, now worn by a smirking town-dweller who keeps the law. This is our first hint that Fett might not have spent the last few decades being digested by the Sarlacc (as fans long theorized), and what follows is a gritty tale of enemies turned allies. Most interesting to me was the humanization of Tusken Raiders, with whom Mando speaks and shares fires; they have long been the one-dimensional bogeyman of Tatooine, but here we see an emphasis on their relationship to their planet and their pained encounters with settlers. The Mandalorian feels like a sci-fi Western, doing its best to revisit and qualify old narratives of indigeneity and confrontation.
Episode three, “The Heiress,” is when the fun really begins. I, an avid fan of the cartoon series The Clone Wars, was delighted to recognize Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), who is hungry for power and determined to reclaim Mandalore. She shakes Djarin’s worldview: The Way, Mando’s guiding philosophy, is not the same for all his people, who consider him a zealot. Hot on the heels of Bo-Katan’s appearance is the legendary Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) in episode four, “The Jedi.” And while I had appreciated the space being given to new characters, the momentum from these familiar faces in their live-action debut makes the show feel more cohesively Star Wars. They, along with the likable badass with a gray morality and the both inhospitable and beautiful worlds, give us the sense that this is part of a larger narrative. Each bit of Star Wars media brings that narrative into a more detailed focus, a grand tour of lore both cherished and debated by the ever-combative fans.
Ahsoka reveals the Child’s name, Grogu, and she gently refuses to train him, citing his attachment to Djarin. Somewhat predictably, Djarin’s search for a willing Jedi teacher continues, leaving Ahsoka’s journey to a future show of her own and leaving fans who haven’t seen the series Rebels or Clone Wars to do some baffled Googling.
When Grogu is kidnapped by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and his ‘Dark Troopers’ (menacingly chrome, Ultron-esque flying robots), an alliance emerges between Mando, assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) and Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison). In exchange for his returned armor, Fett’s sense of obligation to Djarin makes him the dry-witted chauffeur. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Their desperate mission to rescue Grogu results in what I consider perhaps the two most iconic scenes of modern Star Wars. The first is Mando’s infiltration of an Imperial facility, during which he is forced to remove his helmet — something a zealous Mandalorian cannot do. His love for Grogu eclipses even his devotion to creed. Mando’s show of character growth also brings out the best in his cynical accomplice Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), whose rage in the face of Imperial apathy is redemptive in a way that no viewer could have foreseen.
In the finale, I thought nothing could top Mando and Gideon duking it out with the Darksaber or the all-woman dream team (Bo-Katan, Fennec, Gina Carano’s Cara Dune and Sasha Banks’ Koska Reeves) absolutely bringing it. Yet when things seemed most dire, who should arrive in all of his CGI glory, but Luke Skywalker with his Chanel boots. Jokes aside, seeing Luke demolish the droids and Mando say his tearful goodbyes to Grogu reminded me why I love this saga in the first place; namely (1) lightsaber fights in hallways, and (2) poignantly moving character arcs.
Although some episodes are so self-contained as to be formulaic, the second season is altogether both a first-rate adventure and a character study centered on a man’s transformation from hard-hearted fighter to devoted protector and father. We get a generous dose of nostalgia, but with Jon Favreau’s compelling storytelling as the vessel. We are left with questions, not the least of which being the fate of Grogu and of Mandalore. The next chapter of The Mandalorian could take many directions. If the consistent writing so far is any indication, it will continue to explore characters whose choices will resound in countless stories yet to be told. This is the way to the dynamic heart of Star Wars.
Charlotte Mandy is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]