The Mandalorian season two review – gun-slinging action with TV's coolest dad

The Star Wars spin-off from Disney+ is back with its signature mix of violent toughness and attentive parenting – but can Mando keep Baby Yoda safely in his armoured pushchair?

Mando’s back and, like a lot of stressed single parents, he still hasn’t got time for any of your nonsense. The Star Wars spin-off from Disney+ works because it mimics its bounty-hunting main character and unwaveringly follows its own path. The Mandalorian has all the quirky luxuries of the fictional universe you know from the films – the monsters, the gadgets, the characters who only previously appeared in Return of the Jedi novelisations – yet it never lets the weight of expectation slow it down, as it does exactly what it wants.

What it wants is to deliver sleek, lean action stories that jettison the lamer elements of the movies and focus on the cool bits. No to windy philosophising, yes to punch-ups against bipedal reptiles in bars with blue clientele. Less sentimentality over fallen heroes, more moments like the one halfway through the season two opener, where a failed attempt to snare a ravenous sand-worm leads to perhaps the funniest horrific death in the whole Star Wars canon.

And yet this isn’t just gun-spinning machismo and matchstick-chewing snark. The show’s most startlingly confident creative decision is the central presence of the character known as Baby Yoda, an infant whom the titular Mandalorian must – because he’s a man of moral strength and iron principle – protect until he can return him to his tribe. He’s an unstoppable galactic avenger who’s not too embarrassed to bring his kid to work, a ruthless mercenary who knows how to sing a lullaby. He’s Jason Bourne bringing cupcakes to the NCT coffee morning. Once you recognise The Mandalorian’s endless quests and battles as a metaphor for parenthood as well as old-fashioned science-fiction entertainment, you can enjoy it on a new level.

The signature mix of violent toughness and attentive-dad sexiness is in evidence straight away this time around, as Mando arrives ringside at a presumably illegal axe-fighting match, with Baby Yoda in his pushchair (it’s an armoured space pushchair that hovers in the air, but still). The guy running the event, a footling hoodlum with one big eye and a grassy combover, is reluctant to give our man the info he needs but, one massive fight sequence later, Mando has it and is off to Tatooine, the land of sun(s), sand, and desert breezes rippling the hair of people filmed in silhouette.

This is the ideal location for a genre that Star Wars and The Mandalorian always have one eye on, but rarely embrace as fully as they do here: the western. Mando, perpetually clad in that helmet with the T-shaped aperture that makes him seem as if he’s wearily narrowing his eyes at everyone – guardians of pre-school children will again feel the resonance – encounters another figure who has a similar get-up. Just as aficionados might be clocking that his armour looks a lot like Boba Fett’s and is therefore probably stolen, he helps the rest of the audience out by shattering Mandalorian protocol and taking his headgear off, to reveal the welcome silvery sparkle of Timothy Olyphant as Cobb Vanth – not one of Mando’s brethren, but a smooth-talking chancer who has lucked his way into the job of marshal in a dirty little town full of dismal, fearful folk.

The two of them face off, standing in a saloon bar in front of a bartender nervously polishing shot glasses. Creator/writer/director Jon Favreau, never one to miss a knowing gag, even allows himself to pull focus on to Olyphant’s right hand twitching by his holster – but then the town is threatened by a vicious outsider. It’s the aforementioned massive man-eating worm rather than black-clad bandits on horseback, but the effect is the same.

Thus begins the sort of simple story that Favreau and his cast always execute efficiently. There’s a monster, it’s going to kill innocent people, and so the Mandalorian has to shape his new pals into a ragtag army and blow the big bastard up. If this involves a little too much recycling of the series’ own tropes – the narrative is a supersized remake of season one’s second episode – that doesn’t matter much when the special effects are so impressive and when Olyphant’s naughty cheek is such a good odd-couple fit with the deadpan monomania of Pedro Pascal, who continues to give his lead performance its nuance without the use of any facial expressions.

After a typically spectacular and satisfying battle, the beast is slain and Baby Yoda is safe. Mando is bruised and somewhat sticky but, as befits TV’s coolest dad, he’s ready to do it all again.

Contributor

Jack Seale

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode eight – not your average finale
As another run of the Star Wars spinoff concludes, a superbly paced episode sees Grogu’s fate revealed, and there’s a major cameo

Paul MacInnes

18, Dec, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode seven – behind enemy lines
Din Djarin may have been responsible for landing Migs Mayfeld in jail, but that’s all water under the bridge as they team up to infiltrate the Imperial base

Paul MacInnes

11, Dec, 2020 @2:10 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode four – never let your guard down
Mythrol provides some light relief from Mando’s brooding heroism, while the remnants of the Empire shows its hand

Paul MacInnes

20, Nov, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode five – witness the return of the Jedi
This week sees a character make their long-awaited debut, and we learn more about the Child and his possible future

Paul MacInnes

27, Nov, 2020 @2:05 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode six – they grow up so fast
Our diligent Mandalorian assembles a squad of equally elite fighters for this week’s mission, and learns more about Grogu’s hidden depths

Paul MacInnes

04, Dec, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode three – steer clear of the seafood
From squid-like Quarrens to prawn-looking Mon Calamari, there is an aquatic theme this week as our hero takes to the sea, while a would-be power-player reveals her true colours

Paul MacInnes

13, Nov, 2020 @3:15 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode two – watch out, giant ice spiders are about!
As we return to Disney+’s Star Wars spinoff, Baby Yoda’s independent streak is growing, and there are ugly, monstrous creatures on the loose

Paul MacInnes

06, Nov, 2020 @1:30 PM

Article image
The Mandalorian recap: season two, episode one – a dangerous quest to offload Baby Yoda
There’s a man-eating dragon, new faces and a moral message as the Star Wars spinoff returns to screens with a western-style adventure

Paul MacInnes

30, Oct, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Gina Carano fired from The Mandalorian after 'abhorrent' social media posts
Lucasfilm has ‘no plans’ to work with the actor again on the Disney+ Star Wars series after she appeared to compare the treatment of Republicans in the US to that of Jews in Nazi Germany

Toby Moses

11, Feb, 2021 @10:16 AM

Article image
Boba Fett is dead: how Disney+ ruined Star Wars’ coolest character
The Book of Boba Fett has resurrected the badass bounty hunter, only to destroy everything that once made him so great. It’s a fate worse than being eaten alive

Chris Edwards

19, Jan, 2022 @10:35 AM