I couldn't sleep last night. After several hours of restless dreams about Baby Yoda, I woke up at 6 a.m. ready to begin The Mandalorian Season 2. To be honest, I was worried. Could Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni match the excellence of Season 1? Could they move the story forward while maintaining the mystery? Could they introduce rumored characters like Ahsoka Tano without getting bogged down in Star Wars canon?
Based on The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1, the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding yes. "Chapter 9: The Marshal" was everything fans wanted and more, building on the world we came to love in Season 1 while expanding in bold new directions that are sure to pay off later in Season 2.
Light spoilers below for The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1.
The world — If you loved The Mandalorian because it wasn't like the Star Wars movies, you're in luck. Season 2 Episode 1 sticks to the show's winning formula of "Western on the edge of the Star Wars galaxy," taking us to a mysterious new city full of dangerous criminals and monsters that roam the streets at night — and that's just in the opening scene.
From there, The Mandalorian takes us back to Tatooine, but unlike the pure fan service we got while visiting the planet in Season 1, this time around there's a lot more to discover. After a brief cameo from Amy Sedaris, who reprises her role as a friendly mechanic while dropping a dozen movie references in under a minute, Mando jets off to a new town where he encounters fresh faces, a possible ally, and an incredible monster to fight — and that's is where the differences between Season 1 and 2 really become clear.
The action — In The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 2, Mando fought a big rhinoceros. In Season 2 Episode 1, he fights a freaking dragon. The beast is introduced early on, but the episode culminates in an epic battle between this gargantuan monster and an alliance of townsfolk and Tuskan Raiders led by Mando. It's literally the most badass thing I've ever seen in Star Wars, putting other creature moments like the arena scene in Attack of the Clones to shame. (It's almost like Lucasfilm somehow knew Dune would get delayed and decided to give us a giant sandworm anyway.)
The Krayt dragon might be a massive hunk of CGI, but it looks real and it breathes acid. Watching Mando take on the beast is the perfect way to kick off Season 2, though I'm slightly worried The Mandalorian won't be able to keep this up. Did Favreau and Filoni blow their special effects budget on Episode 1?
Then again, with ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano still rumored to show up, Moff Gideon waiting in the wings, and Baby Yoda's Force powers only growing, we could be getting something in Mandalorian Season 2 that Season 1 never offered: a lightsaber battle. However, that's where this season could run into trouble.
The really geeky stuff — When names like Ahsoka Tano and Temuera Morrison started getting tossed around in connection with Mandalorian Season 2, it became clear that the show was about the change in one major way.
Season 1 might have existed in the Star Wars galaxy, but it was a new story about new characters with little connection to the mainline movies. Season 2 is already changing that approach in a big way. Episode 1 introduced a new character wearing some very familiar armor, and the final shot all but confirmed that one of the most famous Star Wars characters of all time is back (more on that here).
It's exciting to see all of this happen in Episode 1, especially since it seems to confirm that some of the wilder Season 2 rumors may also be true. But at the same time, cramming The Mandalorian full of geeky fan service risks alienating a more casual audience and losing what made this show special in the first place.
Hopefully, The Mandalorian Season 2 can strike the right balance between its accessible space western story and some hardcore fan service. If Episode 1 is any indication, it's already on the right path.
The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 1 is streaming now on Disney+.