The quest begins.
What They Say:
The Mandalorian is drawn to the Outer Rim in search of others of his kind.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
What we all want from a Star Wars project is very different. I don’t presume my wants are the same as others and vice versa. I’ve talked about how instrumental the original films were in my life in opening so many different doors and the years since in exploring the nooks and crannies through novels and TV series and comics. The Mandalorian, along with other upcoming shows, furthers that in ways that tickles my fancy. Fanservice to some, pointless to others, entertaining and engaging to me. Such is the case with this series that leans into my enjoyment of the spaghetti western and so much more from that type of filmmaking with the universe that is as large and varied as our own with so much to explore.
With Mando now feeling formally like he’s on a quest to bring The Child to his people, which would be the first real look at the unnamed species that Yoda is a part of, the clues will take him to a lot of places across the outer rim to be sure. He has an encounter with a gangster named Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo) that potentially has a path he can follow but is really just after the Beskar armor as it’s worth its weight in a whole lot of money. It’s a fun little role and one that sets Mando to head back to Tatooine where Koresh convinces him that there is another Mandalorian there, even though Mando never heard of that during his travels there. I know, I know, Tatooine. The furthest spot from the brightest part of the galaxy, as Luke would say. But clearly, there are things about this world where the Skywalker lineage comes from that are important.
Mando’s time on Tatooine takes him to a familiar place in Mos Eisley first in order to get the Razor Crest cleaned up a bit after recent events and to allow him to try and find Mos Pelgo. This small town was wiped off the map some years ago and is literally not on the maps anymore as the fall of the Empire caused them to pull out and unsavory types to move in and the whole thing to supposedly fall apart. The reality is a little trickier though. Mando’s arrival in classic Western form has him discovering that after the Imperials departed, the mining guild took it over and killed a lot of people. But even that didn’t last long as an unexpected savior stepped up and saved the town and has protected it since. The story of Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) was covered in the first Aftermath novel as a standalone short single-chapter story that was amusing.
The basics are that when the town fell, he booked it out into the desert and nearly died if not for some Jawas coming across him. Since he had something of value on him, he was able to barter for what turned out to be Boba Fett’s armor that the Jawas had scavenged out of the Sarlacc pit. With that not five years past, Vanth has served as the marshal of the town after ejecting the mining guild and keeping people safe. The only thing he hasn’t been able to protect them from in full is the krayt dragon that comes to feed there from time to time. We’ve seen this critter in bone form in A New Hope and a few times in other works, but this is the first time in a live-action project fully blooded. And it’s a big nasty beast that basically reminds you that George Lucas lifted a few things from the world of Dune.
With Mando wanting the armor since it needs to be returned to its heritage, I was rather pleased that the two opted to work together to get what they wanted instead of fighting it out. What takes this into a bigger realm is that in order to take down the krayt dragon, Mando knows they need help and the best help are the Tusken. I absolutely love what this series has done in just a couple of episodes to really build something about what the Tusken are, their language (and sign language) and the culture about them. The show spends probably half of its episode in putting together things to go after and actually deal with the krayt and that means a lot of classic Western cliches are employed, from indigenous people working with the “settlers” and dealing with some of the racism and such of it all. It’s not badly done but it is obvious, which really is one of the main pieces of what Star Wars is in its own origins. I absolutely love everything about the fight that gets underway, how it unfolds, the craziness of the attempt itself, and just seeing Mando and Vanth flitting about in their rocket packs trying to take out the krayt that is all over the place.
My only real problem with the episode isn’t with the episode itself but the way everyone seems to be reacting to the final sequence, which shows “mysterious stranger” in the desert that we actually had show up in the first season in a very teeny tiny way. This appearance here is basically a cameo with Temuera Morrison showing in a dusty traveler form watching Mando speed away and he’s got Tusken style weaponry on his back. Now, everyone seems to be making it clear that this is Boba Fett and extrapolating from there. But I really hope that it’s not because everything about Fett surviving the Sarlacc is just wrong, from old comic interpretations to fan dreams. I’m convinced that this is some other clone that has survived and spent his time hardened in the desert since rather than Fett. The timeline just doesn’t make sense if Vanth has had the armor for five years and people off-world are even aware of it. If this is another clone that survived Order 66 in some way, it could help explain some of the scarring as well. Plus, I’d really rather see Morrison playing the role of the older clones living in a post-Empire world more than another round of Fett wanking.
Thankfully, there wasn’t much for The Child to do here and it didn’t get to steal the show. I love it to pieces but the character has to be carefully used, both in cuteness (of which we get some) and in power usage (of which there is none here). The focus on Mando works well as does exploring some of the recent past with the destruction of the second death star and the celebrations that lead to power vacuums that were quickly closed. I love that Vanth’s tale is largely adapted cleanly from the novel story with “a certain point of view” being usable to nuzzle through any inconsistencies. The action is big and crazy fun but it’s also rightly restrained at times and focused. Olyphant, as much as I love the actor, is Olyphant in Star Wars here. It works, luckily for him, and I’m thrilled by it. But it reminds me why I really like that so many more actors are able to just blend into things here. Plus, once again, I absolutely adore how much Tusken material we get. These may be the real treasures of the expansion with this series.