Dragons, Spiders, and Other Useless Storytelling

Review of Season Two of The Mandalorian


Liam Smith, Writer

The Mandalorian season two has made its debut, and to the surprise of no one, it is very successful. Gaining 73 percent more viewers on its season two premiere than it did last year on the pilot. This new season has, however, taken a massive turn in who it’s trying to entertain. Mandalorian season two relies almost entirely on the use of fanservice, which could make it polarizing to new viewers. 

Quick disclaimer: this season hasn’t finished airing yet and I plan to spoil the whole first season, and the first three episodes of season two, so if you haven’t watched it yet this is your warning.

This new season starts in a polarizing way. The first episode seems to entirely ditch the setup of season one’s finale, instead opting for more wacky adventures. In the first episode, the main character goes to a desert planet to find more of his kind, only to not find anyone, and instead, he helps kill a dragon. Now the highlight of this first episode is the new “Marshal” character, who was so bland and forgettable I forgot his real name. The Marshal serves one real purpose: to be fanservice. The first time we see this character he’s wearing Boba Fett’s armor and rides the engine of a Podracer. This whole first episode could be entirely taken out and you wouldn’t even notice. It holds almost no bearing on the plot, and the main character doesn’t even find what he was looking for anyway. Besides a cool piece of fanservice, this episode drops the ball as a season premiere.

The second episode is, arguably, worse. After not finding anything in the first episode the Mando takes a job from a humanoid frog to taxi her around space so her eggs can hatch. Despite a humorous bit of The Child eating some of the eggs, this episode doesn’t even offer fanservice. After traveling for awhile their ship is stopped by what is basically sci-fi traffic cops, and they go into a chase. They end up crashing the ship, giant spiders show up for some reason, and the same characters who were trying to kill the protagonist show and help him for no reason. Once again a useless episode that provides nothing in the way of storytelling besides the moral ambiguity of eating eggs.

The third episode is where things start to get better. After dropping the frog lady off, the Mando quickly gets to looking for more of his kind. He finds them, but not until after he nearly gets murdered by squid men and they have to save him. It’s this episode that reintroduces Bo Kataan, a character from the animated clone wars show, with Katee Sackhoff reprising the role in live-action. Sackhoff knocks it out of the park in this performance and manages to fully realize the character in a way we haven’t seen before. This episode seems to also get the plot back in motion as it sets up future plots and we even get a small cameo of the main villain. Bo Kataan gets the setup for a character arc, and the Mandalorian gets information about where to find a Jedi. Overall this episode is what the other two should have been.

To elaborate more on what I said about fanservice, I’d like to make the distinction between fanservice and callbacks. A bit of fanservice relies solely on “the rule of cool”, whereas callbacks are usually hard to notice. Fanservice is usually presented in an over the top way in an attempt to grab your attention by showing you things you like without any real thought or substance. Callbacks, however, reward your knowledge and perception by presenting things that might take a second or third watch to get. Callbacks are rewarding, fanservice is manipulative.

There is something to be said about production value. The soundtrack is phenomenal allowing scenes to have an air of drama where there isn’t any. The set designs are also amazing, creating some of the most awe-inspiring scenery I’ve seen on television, truly an amazing sight.

Overall this new season manages to keep the ball rolling on hype, but falls flat with substance. If the show can keep up that level of enjoyment this season will be a success.