I guess there really is a first for everything.
And The Mandalorian Season 2 wasn't about to break that spell.
I never thought I'd see so many grown men (with rows of plastic toys behind them) reduced to tears over the return of a beloved fictional character. And one not played by the original actor or a decent look-alike, but rendered using CGI and a healthy dollop of uncanny valley. Urrggh.
Despite this nastiness, it appeared to do the trick. Satisfied fans galore! Anything to ease the pain I guess. Personally, I would have preferred a look-alike such as Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier) to step into the role of Luke Skywalker just for the few moments we actually get to see Luke's face. I'm done with the whole CGI reincarnated character experiment. I've seen enough - Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia - to know that it's very jarr jarring and, in my opinion, a little bit disrespectful to the original actors.
But we got what we got and the effect was good enough. A whopping great cherry to top off the sweet treat that The Mandalorian Season 2 managed to deliver after a successful, if a little wobbly, season 1.
In my review of season 1 ... I came down quite hard on the aspects of the show that I thought needed improvement or shouldn't have been there to begin with - such as the very short episode runtime and the videogame-like monster-hunt repetition of quests.
Although the format of monster quests remains throughout the first half of season 2, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to see the plot move forward with The Mandalorian's, Din Djarin's, Mando's search for other Mandalorians and his desire to dump the little green pest - alright... The Child... whatever - on some other poor sod, preferably a gullible Jedi.
Chapter 9: The Marshal
The opening episode of The Mandalorian season 2 had me a little worried straight out of the gate. While we were fed a new character and plenty of spectacular action set pieces, the overall plot revolved around yet another big monster hunt. I thought to myself... here we go... that's what this series is going to be - a new monster challenge every week, but little attention to character development or a plot with some direction to it.
Thankfully, the rest of the season proved me wrong and I now look forward to rewatching some of the better episodes that made me sit up and pay attention instead of just being mildly entertained by the action and gorgeous visuals that have become a feature of the series.
So this new character turns out to be The Marshal aka Cobb Vanth played competently by Timothy Olyphant and he's wearing none other than Boba Fetts iconic body armor! Of course, the mere sight of this set minds racing - could it be? Could he still be alive? And if so... how the hell did Boba survive the digestive juices of the Sarlacc pit when he fell into it like a clumsy oaf in Return of the Jedi?
Basically, it's called the magic of TV and movie plot twists. Even the evil emperor made a comeback in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker just to look ridiculous and play the dark father role (where have I seen that before?) to Rey, the most undeservingly powerful superheroine the Galaxy has ever seen.
Anyway, if you need an explanation for Boba Fett's miraculous escape, here it is...
Chapter 10: The Passenger
So after Mando and his merry band of Tuscan Raiders defeat the Krayt Dragon, and Boba's return is confirmed, we move on to episode 2 where a female frog-like alien cleverly named The Frog Lady needs to transfer her precious eggs to another planet. There's only one problem... that little shit Baby Yoda can't keep his hands off anything that looks like food!
Of course, these scenes caused mild uproar among some very weak-kneed viewers that couldn't stomach the idea that their cute little hero puppet was actually a genocidal maniac. Have these pathetic creatures never heard of caviar?
Anyway, in this episode, instead of a monster quest we get to see our heros chased by hundreds of baby ice spiders and of course big mummy spider is pissed so she tries to kill Mando and the Razor Crest. What set all of this pandemonium off? You guessed it... Baby Yoda couldn't resist a baby spider egg snack!
Chapter 11: The Heiress
So here's where things begin to pick up. Mando delivers Frog Lady to her Frog Husband on Trask with a few less eggs than when she started out, but no one appears to be counting. Mando fixes the Razor Crest... again. And lo and behold, our helmeted hero finally meets more of his kind and there's something a little odd about them... they DARE to remove their face coverings IN FRONT of other people... in BROAD DAYLGHT!! Our hero nearly fainted at the sight of naked Mando faces! A little bit like what's going on the real world right now!
Since our helmeted hero Mando Djarin is a bit of a clutz and never plans ahead when setting out on a mission and blindly trusts most of the new characters he meets even when they are named Quarren and have a face that looks like an octopus, a situation needs to be set up so that he royally fails in his duties of protecting the little green parasite - oops I mean Baby Yoda - so that his newfound Mandalorian buddies can swoop in and save the day. It was well done though and watching Baby Yoda be tossed into the mamacore was worth it even though you know the puppet will only suffer from soiled pants and little else.
Anyway, Bo-Katan and her friends make for a hugely interesting addition to the cast and we'll likely see more of them in season 3 if the showrunners continue with the storyline of taking back their home planet. The juicy tidbits about Din Djarin's upbringing as a Child of the Watch also help to clear up his obsession with helmet etiquette in line with the ancient cult's beliefs.
Next up? Another side mission! We get to blow away some pesky stormtroopers aboard an Imperial Gozanti freighter no less. Again, none of the stormtroopers laser blasts manage to hit Mando's weak spots as he runs towards them with thermal detonators, but it's all good. We find out that Bo-Katan is desperate to get her hands on the Dark Sabre which we know Moff Gideon is rather fond of and won't give up easily.
Later Bo-Katan realises that she's not the only one with obssessive compulsive disorder. The Child of the Watch Din Mando is hell-bent on finding a new baby daddy for the little green bundle of joy. Quite honestly, I don't blame him. You can't take the pointy-eared little devil anywhere without all hell breaking loose.
As if taking pity on the poor beskar-armored guy, Bo-Katan tells Djarin there's a Jedi called Ahsoka Tano in the city of Calodan on the forest planet of Corvus. And with that... millions of desperate Star Wars fanboys fell out of their chairs.
Chapter 12: The Siege
The episode that started the Baby Yoda blue cookies craze!
Apart from this historical turn of events (where the big-eared green troublemaker is sidelined yet again so that the adults can get on with business) we get to enjoy an action-packed destruction mission on Nevarro with a little help from our old friends Greef Carga, Cara Dune and the blue fishy alien guy from season 1.
During the raid of the Imperial research base, we learn that Moff Gideon's people are secretly trying to create clones with powers using Baby Yoda's blood. This could lead to some interesting events later on in the series. We may even need a bit more help from those crazy old magicians known as Jedi.
Anything jetpack is a joy to watch and this time we're treated to a spectacular chase with speeder bikes and TIE fighters which Mando takes out with a repaired Razor Crest pulling off maneuvers that it really shouldn't be capable of based on its design and crappy condition, but at this point... it's all good.
Chapter 13: The Jedi
Finally! Here it is. The big one. Some juicy Jedi goodness to show everyone how it's done. Step aside Mando, there's a new sheriff in town, her name's Ahsoka Tano and she's here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And she lost her bubble gum a long, long time ago!
This is probably one of the best episodes of the series so far only to be outdone by Chapter 16: The Rescue. Rosario Dawson does a fantastic job portaying an older, wiser Ahsoka Tano. She dual wields white lightsabres with devastating ruthlessness and whizzes around the rooftops of Calodan returning laser blasts like a pro. My only gripe is that her hair tentacles looked a little fake at times, but then when have they ever looked better?
At first glance, this episode would appear to finally set up the handing over of the "little green blighter" to a master Jedi for training, but since she ends up declining - poor Mando - all we get is a naming ceremony. And the great reveal isn't exactly what I'd call satisfactory. I mean... Grogu? Really? It takes a little getting used to. And even then, it doesn't really stick. Greedy little pointy-eared bastard is more fitting in my humble opinion.
Anyway, the fight that ensues between Ahsoka and the Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth is adequate while also obviously dumbed-down and equalized for match-making purposes. Mando faces off against Michael Bien aka lieutenant Lang in a classic gunslinger duel complete with twitchy gun fingers. Epic stuff that all leads to Din Djarin inheriting a beskar staff weapon that can block lightsabres. I have a problem with this since I like to believe that lightsabres can cut through absolutely anything, but lore is lore I guess and it gives our hero a fighting chance against the likes of Ahsoka and Moff Gideon with their fancy blades.
Chapter 14: The Tragedy
So this episode does a lot of things. A LOT! There's much fun to be had here and some real dark downers too, particularly if you've grown attached to a certain spaceship and a shifty little green fella that drains like a battery every time he uses his powers. If Din Djarin had known what he was getting into in season 1, he would've allowed the IG-11 to shoot the Baby Yoda puppet and that would've been that. What? Too much? Did I hurt your liddle feelings?
It's true. The old rusty bag of bolts known as the Razor Crest bites the dust in this one, but not before Mando and The Little Green One face off against Boba Fett and Fennec Shand who prove they have really bad timing when they interupt Grogu's Jedi temple "is there anybody out there" messaging ritual.
The temple mount on Tython is a little like a phone booth for Jedi which Ahsoka told our heros to use because she didn't want to train Grogu 'cause he had a bit of fear and anger in him not unlike her old master Anakin. And look how that turned out. Still... she chickened out. Didn't want another cockup on her hands. Understandable really, but still gets a thumbs down for shirking responsibility.
Nothing is ever easy in this part of the galaxy. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Boba wants his armor back. Moff gideon wants Baby Yoda's blood. And Dark Troopers want to look baddass dropping out of the sky like bandits to abduct 50 year old babies while stormtroopers set up cannons just so they can become cannon fooder and the butt of everyone's joke. Some things never change. And that's a good thing.
My favorite part? Seeing the Slave 1 appear and do its reverse landing thing. Never gets old.
Back on Nevarro with his new crew, Mando asks superwoman Gina Carano aka Cara Dune to set up the next episode with Bill Burr - which I have to admit turns out to be one of the best buddy performances I've ever seen.
Of course, the episode ends with the Grogu puppet being tortured which makes fans very angry and distressed. Moff Gideon is a monster they scream. Takes one to know one says I.
Chapter 15: The Believer
Bill Burr returns as Mayfield. And I am floored at how good he is portraying this scruffy, mouthy, outcast, mercenary dude alongside our helmet-wearing, stoic knight in shining armor, Mando.
I have to say it. This is a really well constructed episode that moves the story forward in much needed ways. The Mandalorian is without his pseudo child. There's an anxiety here, palpable, an urgency to be reunited. Mando has cemented his father figure role and he will do anything now to find the little green one and punish those who dare to lay there filthy hands on him.
Even when there's no action, there's an intensity brewing with the back and forth conversation in the transporter leading to explosions and impressive fight sequences on top of moving vehicles - always a winner. The cheesy use of an unstable substance called rhydonium as their cargo works incredibly well combined with the pirate attack and finished off with a large dollop of Imperial TIE fighters saving the day.
The intensity continues once inside the Imperial base and the confrontation with over-the-top villain, Valin Hess, is a joy to watch, especially when Mayfield loses his shit and blows him away.
The way we get Gideon's ship co-ordinates is all a bit silly with the terminal being in the canteen and our guys choosing not to wear helmets, but how else are you gonna create conflict, mandatory shootouts, and get to see Pedro Pascal's face otherwise, capiche.
To top it all off, we get some crazy scenes outside the compound with excellent sharpshooting from all involved, but, of course, Bill Burr aka Mayfield gets to blow up the whole base as they're flying away in the Slave 1 with a perfectly placed long-range sniper shot targeting the truck full of rhydonium. This guy needs to be a regular!
Chapter 16: The Rescue
This episode has the highest score on IMDB so far for the whole series. 9.8/10.
So why the almost perfect score?
Was it the amazing acting by the guy in the helmet? Maybe the award winning performance by the green puppet with the big ears? Or was it Giancarlo Esposito practically peeing himself for real seeing the black-robed CGI devil chopping up Dark Troopers like they were ham sausage on the hallway monitor?
Bingo! The computer-generated, green lightsabre-wielding maniac with a knack for making a dramatic entrance is the single reason that many Star Wars fans wept tears of joy after a long wait for the return of their hero, Luke Skywalker.
The rest of the episode plays like a heist - the bounty? - Grogu the green-skinned midget who is all powerful, but can't fight his way out of a paper bag when the plot needs him to be weak. Guess every hero needs kryptonite, right?
Once the Mando / Bo-Katan rescue team is on Moff Gideon's cruiser, the Dark Troopers are unleashed and we get to watch their hilariously clunky attempts to punch through thick steel doors only to be destroyed by Luke later on. You would think robots in this universe would have super-fluid movements similar to Ultron and other such machines, but it wouldn't be steampunk Star Wars then, would it?
Mando does get punched in the face repeatedly by a Dark Trooper and ends up in a scrap with a Dark Sabre-wielding Moff Gideon. That beskar staff actually came in handy in the end and Gideon cries like a little bitch once he realises the gig is up. But not before he unsuccessfully tries to stitch up Mando by reminding Bo-Katan that the Dark Sabre should really be hers.
Season 2 couldn't have ended on a higher note. Even so, it was a bitter-sweet finale. The one and only Luke Skywalker returns as a powerful Jedi Knight in his prime only to play the "villain" in a way. A villain that yanks Baby Yoda out of the hands of his newfound pseudo dad. Okay, he doesn't yank Grogu away, but it feels like it. And Mando feels it too. Enough to take his helmet off again one last time so that his kid can see his face and remember it as he completes his training.
Will they meet again? I think so. I hope so. On Mandalore would be nice. And if Grogu can talk by then, that would be a bonus. Time to lose the Child status. The kid needs to grow up. And maybe some of us fans could take a hint? Nah, not yet. Maybe when the show is done. Plenty of time for grown up stuff down the road.
Extra! Extra! Cara Dune Did Nothing Wrong!
She was simply defending free speech and her conservative values. If that gets you fired from the hottest show on TV today, then something has gone horribly wrong with the industry and I don't know how anyone can feel comfortable working in such a ridiculously sensitive environment. There's nothing more disgusting than watching actors rush to defend criminals within the industry and prostituting themselves for whatever cause celebre they've been paid to promote. Shallow, vapid, souless entities that do as they're told or get cancelled. Courageous individuals like Gina Carano pave the way for others who are sick and tired of having to tread on eggshells in the extremely liberal, hypocritical and politically correct movie industry.
It's getting to the point where the off-screen social drama and insane cancel culture get more attention and "higher ratings" than the actual shows churned out by Hollywood themselves. And by Hollywood, I mean the evolution of the whole movie and TV show production business that encompasses Netflix, Amazon, HBO, AMC, and of course, Disney.
In my opinion... it's people like Kathleen Kennedy that need to go!
The New Sign Of The Times: Get Woke Go Broke
More and more it looks like customers of entertainment media (or just anyone with a brain that recognises propaganda when they see it) are rejecting the flood of political correctness spraying from the hose of Hollywood scriptwriters, producers, and hopelessly deluded actors. I mean, you can call us all the names you want, but at the end of the day, we don't want to be constantly talked down to when we're simply trying to relax and enjoy some entertainment.
It's not just Hollyweird that is dying a horrible self-inflicted death. Professional sports, Big Tech, Mainstream Media News, and the comic book and videogame industries are all going through a crisis of relevance. It's as if they have become mentally unstable and instead of backtracking to safer ground, they push ahead with their agenda of "cultural enrichment." This only serves to push half of their audience away in search of alternatives and the alternatives are rising to the challenge.
I believe that sooner or later, the split will happen. Much like secession of states from the overbearing control and dogma of a centralised power, all forms of entertainment will be tailored to meet the needs of different groups. Those that don't want or need left wing propaganda shoved down their throats every time they play a game or watch a TV show will be able to find what they want from alternative outlets.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to The Mandalorian season 3. Let's see if it can maintain the high standard of season 2.