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This is DrunkWooky back with another totally unsolicited review! That’s right. Nobody asked for it. Nobody needs my opinion, but here it is anyway! I’m continuing my reviews of the Mandalorian episodes as they’re released. My take on Episode 1 can be found over here.
PSA: SPOILERS will follow in this review. You’ve been warned.
Let’s start out by talking about that otherworldly soundtrack that it sounds like we’re going to get treated to throughout this series. Instead of the traditional blaring fanfare that the great John Williams has blessed us with since the early days of the galaxy, in every episode of the Mandalorian the mood is set by what I can only describe as something like ancient pipe instruments. I’m going to be the guy who nerds out on the “Sound of the Mandalorian” featurette when it inevitably comes out. I’ll be bashed for continuing to draw ad nauseum comparisons between the Mandalorian and Spaghetti Westerns, but the soundscape int he Mandalorian is very reminiscent of the whistling theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
This series has a sense of a Star Wars story smaller in scope than the rest of the concerns of the now so-called “Skywalker Saga” and a more humble cast of characters who may, as-of-yet, be involved as cogs in machinations much larger than any one of them. The more sparse cast of instruments matches this tone and the pace of the atmospheric soundtrack matches that of the cinematography playing out as well. Again, that pace is the pace of a Western.
There’s probably an example of a space western soundtrack that has been produced before now, but not that I know of. If anything, the score is immediately recognizable and makes the Mandalorian feel like a unique entry into the Star Wars canon.
The original Star Wars trilogy filled so many of us with wonder through it’s glimpses into alien worlds and peoples. Whether by constraints of movie-making resources of the 70s or constraints of the plot mileage those films had to cover, that’s all we got–glimpses. However, a ground-level series like the Mandalorian, gives us adequate room to explore these elements. Who didn’t push their micro machines Jawa sandcrawler around the carpet imagining all the Tatooine adventures our favorite characters could have?
We got to see the dark belly of the scavengers’ crawling city/fortress when Threepio and Artoo were picked up in a New Hope, but not much in terms of characterization of the Jawas as a species and culture beyond shrewd traders. The Mandalorian Episode 2 changes all that. Mando returns to his ship to finds it stripped. After disintegrating a half-dozen Jawas (literally, disintegrating), the Jawas make off with their salvage. There’s an extended chase scene, again in the vein of a western train heist, that results in disheartening failure for Mando. Through this great piece of action sequencing, we get to see the Jawas’ fighting style, more elements of the Sandcrawler’s defensive capabilities, a little bit of the interior cockpit make-up, and, again, a fallible protagonist we can identify with.
Our old friend Kruill brokers a deal between Mando and the Jawas and this scene carries some heavy-duty character-building weight as well. “Weapons are my religion,” Mando states when asked to leave his weapons on the sled, away from the dealings. When asked to trade his helmet and pauldron, Mando’s Beskar armor is, again, harped on as essential to his identity.
The parties to the negotiation finally settle on a quest! For an egg! In the end we don’t know what significance this strange furry egg has to the Jawas. Is it a religious rite to crack it open and eat the contents? Was the mudhorn (rhino alien beast) a scourge that the Jawas wanted eradicated, including it’s unborn child? Who knows. Again, the Mandalorian is characterized more by what it doesn’t show than what it does. Not in some maddening Lost-style, never-ending mystery b.s. But in a nuanced way that leaves mystery in one of our favorite imaginary alien galaxies. Sure, Kruill could have explained the Jawa’s ritual of egg consumption. The two loners shaking their heads while observing is so much more powerful for an ongoing Star Wars franchise, though.
It’s somewhat impossible to escape that a lot of whether an individual fan will enjoy this series has to do with whether or not they accept Favreau and Filoni’s bold move to add a third of Yoda’s species to the official canon. Additionally, whether fans accept this little dude’s (maybe a female, who knows) prowess with the force at such a young age.
Recently there has been some heated debate, to say the least, among the Star Wars fandom regarding the sequel trilogy and Rey’s force abilities. There has also been some debate about Leia’s flight back on board her ship in the Last Jedi and any number of other story decisions so far. I’m of the mind that once my belief in reality has been suspended during a viewing of a film or show, I can’t very well go around saying things are unbelievable or unrealistic. That is to say, at its core, we’re talking about a space fantasy with very little in the way of constraining rules that have been put down to say what is and is not possible within that make believe universe. To my mind, if Anakin has enough raw force ability to be one of the only humans to race podracers, and beyond that, do it as a child, then Rey can summon that same power from within without much need to convince me with extended training montages. Further, if an astronaut in our very real universe can push themselves back to a shuttle by throwing a wrench in the opposite direction due to the laws of physics operating in the vacuum of space, then I’m ok with Leia floating back to her ship.
In the various iterations of the Star Wars canon we have had Starkiller rip a Star Destroyer out of the sky, Darth Nihilus could consumer entire planets, and there was even a Jedi tree. This is all to say that what some people may think is silly and outside of some arbitrary set of rules they’ve concocted in their head should be well within the suspension of reality we’re operating in when watching Star Wars.
Now there are theories going around that the same force-conception that produced Anakin in the virgin Shmi, created this Baby Yoda. I’d be quite happy with that explanation. Palpatine and Plagueis in the now “Legends” and non-canonical novel, Darth Plagueis, supposedly force-meditated Anakin into existence through an attempt to shift the balance of the force towards dark. After Freddie Prinze Jr.’s rant about George Lucas’ concept of balance in the Star Wars universe, it would make sense that a Baby Yoda may have cropped up at around the same time during the Prequel Trilogy. A most powerful dark-lord conceived; and a most-powerful Jedi youngling conceived in unison. Again, all speculation, and that’s part of the wonder of the Mandalorian.
Of course, we see glimpses of the little alien’s power early in the episode as the Mandalorian recovers from his run-in with yet-more bounty hunters equipped with fobs tracking Baby Yoda. Mando waves him off.
We get a full reveal of what this tiny force-sensitive can do during Mando’s mudhorn encounter. I won’t spoil too much, because that’s worth watching fresh if you haven’t already.
During the mudhorn encounter, we see a repeatedly-beaten Mando finally come to terms with the fact that this fight might be his last. In this scene we’re shown, rather than told, the Mandalorian’s cultural focus on a warrior’s death. “This. is.
At the episode’s end, the most important questions we want answered remain tantalizing mysteries still. Episode 2 was basically a side-mission in the main bounty and it was artfully used to characterize not only our protagonist and side-kick/bounty, but also some aspects of the Star Wars universe in general. We still don’t know if Mando’s defense of Baby Yoda stems from the higher reward for a live quarry or his inner morals. We still don’t know how he’ll deal with delivery of the asset. I speculate Cara Dune will show up and intervene in these questions soon.
All-in-all, I felt like this episode was more well-rounded and balanced than Episode 1. However, Episode 1 had a lot of introductions and ground to cover.
Looking forward to Friday when Episode 3 drops! I’ll be here to discuss!
Until then, DrunkWooky out!