Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Mandalorian Returns with Spectacle and Sign Language

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Even among all the divisive toxicity of the Star Wars fandom, where no one agrees on anything except disagreeing over everything, there was one thing that people seemed to agree about; the first season of The Mandalorian was pretty good. Jon Favreau’s space-western about a vagabond Mandalorian bounty hunter and the baby Yoda he adopts was a hell of a fun time, flaws and all. I am one of those dirty fans of The Last Jedi, but even I would probably agree that The Mandalorian is the best live-action story to come out of Star Wars since Disney bought the IP up.

Season 2 now has hype and expectations to deal with. How did the premiere fair? Read below for one humble fan’s opinion.

Say what you want about The Mandalorian, but it is an absolutely gorgeous piece of filmmaking, and this season premiere was a stunning visual treat. The majority of the episode takes place on Tatooine, with Mando hunting a Krayt dragon in order to retrieve Mandalorian battle armor from a local sheriff. Multiple scenes happily bask in sweeping desert vistas familiar to anyone who watched the first season.

The Krayt dragon itself is monstrously huge and amazing looking. The fight against the beast hits all the action-fan sweet spots, with a variety of ballistae, blasters, and explosives used to try and take the monster down. It ends with a predictable but exciting attempt to blow the thing up from the inside. It is just cool. Supremely cool, and exciting to watch, and the kind of thing you would not see on TV even 5 years ago.

It is gorgeous and a true testament to how far television budgets have come. At this point, The Mandalorian is damn near the equal of any Star Wars movie in its visual effects. Regardless of plot, watching this episode is arguably worth it just for the spectacle.

But what about said plot?

the mandalorian tuskens

“The Marshal” felt like an example of the “plot of the week” structure done as well as you hope for. This said plot was directly related to the overarching story of the season, where Mando is trying to find more Mandalorians to help him bring baby Yoda (I will not call it The Child) to the Jedi. This leads him to the said sheriff in Mandalorian armor that he procured from Jawas, and a dead-end lead.

Within this eventually fruitless search is an interesting look at modern Tatooine and the people who call it home. By far the best part of this exploration of Tatooine race relations is the welcome examination of the Tusken Raiders.

As far as I can recall, this is the first time the Tuskens have ever been portrayed in live-action Star Wars as anything but troublesome mini-villains with the expected negative connotations of the name “raiders.” The Mandalorian instead showed Mando not only with a positive working relationship with the Tuskens, it had him fiercely respect and defend their culture and lifestyle from the human town they are in conflict with.

The coolest feature of this expanded Tusken culture was their communication, which depended heavily on sign language. Even cooler is that a deaf actor on the show created the sign language specifically for this episode and based it on Tusken life. Major, major respect to The Mandalorian for this move. I hope the fact that they used a created sign language means that they will use it more moving forward.

Together, the Tuskens and the human town take the Krayt dragon down. It is a development that, along with the positive portrayal of the Tuskens, makes for nice episode about inclusion and the elimination of racial differences in the name of a shared good. It is a nice message boosted by a unique look into more of the Star Wars world.

And, you know, the titled marshal is played by Timothy Olyphant, doing his perfected gunslinging western sheriff routine as well as ever. Always a plus.

In the end, the marshal gives the Mandalorian armor back to Mando, and he leaves Tatooine to continue his search for another member of his caste. On his way out, the episode has a big surprise to end on. After all, Olyphant’s Mandalorian armor had to come from somewhere, right? We see him pick it up from Jawas, and it looks very familiar. Who may have lost/sold armor like that on Tatooine?

Yep, Boba Fett is here.

While nothing is explicitly confirmed, this is the same actor who played Boba’s father Jango, so we pretty much know this is Boba Fett. Talk about a hype moment. There are various ways he could involve himself moving forward, and we will see what direction things go. For now, let us bask in the hype.

Overall, this made for a good way to kick off season 2 of The Mandalorian. It was nothing too complicated or intense, nothing demanding too much of the viewer. Sometimes you just want some gorgeous, fun Star Wars to watch and this episode gave it to me in spades. Here’s hoping season 2 continues the quality and builds the plot forward as the former Jedis and lost bounty hunters make their presence known.

Images Courtesy of Disney

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