Returning to the world of The Mandalorian right now is honestly kind of a relief. Sometimes, you want an escapist treat that just eases you into a simple story of good versus evil, but sometimes, that’s not enough. You need a story that’s incredibly dense and complex with its callouts and cross-connections, that draws upon literal decades of canon, engaging every aspect of your brain even while on the surface telling a very simplistic story, one which maybe didn’t require nearly an hour of screentime while still proving to be pretty damn satisfying.
So, yep, the Season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian definitely delivered on that front, while also reaffirming the show’s commitment to an episodically driven narrative. While each episode might be literally referred to as “chapters,” implying that each installment is really part of a larger whole, “The Marshal” is for the most part a self-contained story with its own explicit action and a solid conclusion.
The premiere’s plot, when summed up as spoiler-free as possible, comes down to “our favorite gunslinger (and cub) arrive in a remote outpost and agree to help fight an outside menace” — a narrative which fits perfectly into The Mandalorian‘s pre-defined ethos, especially in consideration of the middle episodes of Season 1.
Much of the action in the season premiere is focused on the Mandalorian continuing his mission of trying to return Baby Yoda to its people, a quest established at the end of Season 1. But where that quest leads him is fascinating in how it adheres so closely to basic storytelling principles — a character wants something, and makes bargains to get it — while also still leading to some pretty wild scenarios.
Of course, the thing about the middle episodes of Season 1 is that they ultimately didn’t have a huge impact on the arc of the season, and the fact that the premiere is so focused on what at this point feels like a stand-alone story (barring a few character introductions who could become a bigger deal down the line) feels like a strong indicator that that heavily episodic approach will be a defining aspect of Season 2. This is said, of course, despite the looming threat of villains introduced in Season 1 and perhaps some new forces to come in Season 2. How the series encompasses both aspects will be fascinating to watch roll out, especially as the producers seem far more confident now in both their concept and the technology they’re using to bring it to life.
(I am, to be clear, writing this review in the wee small hours of the premiere’s premiere day, because critics were told that to provide any screeners whatsoever for this season would jeopardize the surprises in store. Again, there will be no spoilers here, but based on the first episode… well, maybe that will matter more, down the line.)
When it comes to the premiere, one of the strengths of Season 1 was that the bulk of the episodes were in the 40 minutes or less range — it never felt like an episode was longer than necessary. I honestly can’t say that to be the case with this episode, stretching as it does to 55 minutes with at least a few moments which feel like filler.
However, the premiere features some wild creature battles, a key flashback sequence which showcases how the events of Return of the Jedi might have affected the outskirts of a galaxy far far away, and some very welcome guest stars who really bring their all to the field.
It’s all impeccably rendered (and given how much we know now about the production, impressively naturalistic). But the most exciting aspect of the Season 2 premiere, in the long run, comes down to this: The Mandalorian really has made the case for its existence by how it highlights what life is like in the Outer Rim — which is to say, what life is like for the non-“heroes” of the Star Wars universe, the people just scraping by day to day, trying their best to survive and maybe also still be able to look themselves in the mirror when they’re done. It’s a concept to which “The Marshal” remains steadfast and true, perhaps proving a bit too simplistic in its approach while leaning hard on the mythology, but still delivering clean, honest storytelling about life in the grittier corners of this galaxy.
It’s all part of a massive machine of content, to be sure, but it’s one that is still so fun to engage with. Yes, Baby Yoda remains as cute as ever, but more importantly, the show’s titular anti-hero will do what’s right when the time is right, but isn’t afraid of grey areas in other circumstances. In those moments, The Mandalorian is at its boldest and most fascinating. Here’s hoping future episodes this season lean into that.
New episodes of The Mandalorian will drop Fridays on Disney+.