‘The Mandalorian’ Episode Two Review: “A Self-Contained Space Western”
The following review will contain spoilers for the second episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. If you haven’t read our review of the first episode, you can read it here.
It’s hardly a stretch to say that the first week of Disney+ has been a resounding success. Although some are (justifiably) wary of Disney’s growing share in the media marketplace, it’s hard to argue with the vast wealth of content available on the service. The crown jewel of the first days of Disney+ was definitely the electric first episode of The Mandalorian. The follow-up, entitled “The Child”, does not disappoint.
Like the first episode, “The Child” is light on the bigger overarching story, instead going for characterization of the titular character. Pedro Pascal continues to give a wonderfully confident physical performance, as expected. After the bombshell of him finding the 50-year-old “child” that appears to be the same species as Yoda, director Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) gives “Mando” and the child some time to bond.
Walking through the dusty deserts of Arvala-7, Mando betrays a hidden care for the child. Not the least of which because he defends it against an onslaught of fellow bounty hunters. But things really heat up when Mando finds his ship ransacked by Jawas. Enraged, he jumps on the ship, engaging in a pulse-pounding low-speed fight. Like Rogue One and Solo, the rough-and-tumble vibe of those action sequences carries through. Honestly, we need more of this. One of the things that made Star Wars as a trilogy back in the day so impactful was the tangibility of the world. That tangibility translates to this episode not only in terms of the action, but also its beating heart.
Following the ransacking by the Jawas and inability to stop them, Mando goes to Kuiil (Nick Nolte) for help. Kuiil negotiates a deal between Mando and the Jawas to get an artifact known as “The Egg” out of a dangerous cave in exchange for his parts back. From there follows a fairly contained story evocative of westerns. Lone gunslinger out for himself ends up in a situation where he has to help another.
Is it a familiar narrative? Sure. But when it’s told this well, it hardly matters. Famuyiwa’s direction is efficient. He doesn’t let one moment linger on longer than it has to. Instead it makes every image vital to the story of what’s essentially a 32 minute short film. By telling such a straightforward Western story in the space of a Star Wars story, Famuyiwa both gives an opportunity for Mando to have some real development, familiar though it may be, and expands Star Wars into hard genre territory.
This is something fans have been wanting for a while now. Seeing a moment such as Kuiil thank Mando for bringing peace to his valley feels significantly more poignant because you’re not expecting a moment so human to come through in a series that increasingly thrives on its big budget spectacle.
That’s not to say this episode doesn’t drop one big tease on us, though. As Mando is fighting a hulking horned creature in order to retrieve the egg, the baby Yoda-type creature lifts the entire creature in the air with the power of the force and it’s made immediately clear why there’s such a bounty on its head. What does this mean for the expansion of the Force? How is Baby Yoda of interest to so many? I for one can’t wait to find out.
Yet, that’s beside the point. The Mandalorian episode two works because it’s firstly concentrated on telling a good, simple story within the short span of an episode. If the stories continue to be this well-told, I’ll take many more. –James Preston Poole
What do you think of The Mandalorian so far? What do you hope to see in the third episode of the Disney+ series? Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of The Mandalorian release on Disney+ weekly.
The series stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers, Bill Burr, Taika Waititi, Ming Na-Wen and Werner Herzog.
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