✰✰✰✰ 4/4 stars
Chapter 9 of the Mandalorian kicked off season two in spectacular fashion. In one hour we’re swept from a dark and seedy underworld of fights to the death and traitorous mercenaries to a familiar desert planet. It’s unbelievable the scale and world building created in a single one hour episode.
The episode starts with just the right amount of action and mystery, then quickly zooms to the main plot. Characters are introduced quickly but satisfactorily. We immediately see who Cobb Vanth is, and that he’s not yet another in a string of treacherous deceptors. Like our main character, Vanth has a set of morals, even if rough around the edges.
Seeing Vanth and Mando in conflict over a certain set of armor, only to unite to fight a common enemy is not a new concept for a western or a space opera. Comparing this story to the complexity and slapdash pace of the sequels though, The Mandalorian continues to be refreshing for telling such a relatively quaint story in such an epic way.
Unlike recent Star Wars movies, Chapter 9 allows us to live in the setting of Tatooine and experience the Star Wars world in the way we deserve. Rich establishing shots and interesting set designs give us plenty of time to take in the isolation of Mos Pelgos and the desolation of Tatooine. Seeing the townspeople and the Sandpeople journey to the cave of the Krayt Dragon reminds me of the journey to Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. A group of out of luck survivors making a last stand against an unstoppable enemy. Jon Favreau manages to make an episode of a TV show feel as epic as a three hour movie, and more fun than over 6 hours of Star Wars sequels combined.
The cinematography and choice to transition from 2.39:1 to 16:9 IMAX at the start of the climax was something I never expected to see on TV. The twists and turns during the fight with the dragon, and some of its abilities, were truly surprising to me. Despite the short run time the episode feels so well paced, that you feel for the sandpeople and people of Mos Pelgros as they are consumed, or melted, by the Dragon. I’m glad the episode wasn’t afraid to let the “Mandos” fly and work together and I'm incredibly happy they chose to end on such an honorable high note, with no last minute double cross.
Despite the fantastic 3rd act, my favorite aspect of the episode isn’t the action. I most enjoyed The Mandalorian’s function as a bridge builder between the Sandpeople and the people of Mos Pelgos. I don’t know how Mando knows the language of the sand people, and I don’t care. Let it be a mystery. What I do know is, our world is full of people seeking to build walls and burn bridges, to see a heroic character doing the exact opposite is what I, and I believe many others, need right now.
If The Mandalorian continues on its current path I believe Din Djarin could rank up with TDK’s Batman, Aragorn, and Luke Skywalker on my top shelf of selfless heroes.
- R5’s appearance felt forced and very “Rogue One”, which is not a compliment.
- An engine from Anakin’s podracer from 40+ years ago being made into a speeder bike and used by a central character in the episode really took me out of the story, if briefly. Maybe that’s a common engine but it sure seemed pod-racers were all pretty unique in TPM.
- Some mystery around Boba Fett’s fate going into chapter 10 would have been better IMO than a last minute reveal at the end. Imagine if they actually left us to think he might be dead at the end of this episode?
- All my “complaints” center around the fact that there’s still some sequel style forced fan service. The story is strong enough that it doesn’t need these call backs to things we know. It’s already richly woven into the Star Wars mythos, we don’t need a bunch of useless call backs when we’re also getting the return of original characters.