Star Wars TV show’s eye-popping opener
The Mandalorian blasts it way back onto our screens this weekend.
The Star Wars spin-off has been, undoubtedly, the shiniest jewel in Disney's streaming crown and after almost a year since fans were obsessed over the first season, season two was going to have to really impress.
The first episode delivers that and more with a thrilling, high-octane action piece that also incorporates a hell of a lot of familiar lore. When it's done right, fan service doesn't have to be a bad thing - and The Mandalorian is doing it much better than the misguided The Rise of Skywalker 's clunky efforts.
Titled "The Marshal", don't be surprised if chapter nine elicits many audible intakes of breath followed by "ohmigod" - it's packed with eye-popping moments that take full advantage of that gargantuan Disney budget.
It's not just that The Mandalorian is spectacle, it's that creator Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed this episode, understands that the fireworks need to be balanced out with a taut, clear-cut story.
And for that, The Mandalorian continues to heavily lean into its classic Western influences, from Ludwig Goransson's Ennio Morricone-inspired score to the even the subtle metallic scraping of Mando's armour as he approaches the saloon, an aural cue that invokes spurs.
For the most part, like the cinematic traditions it draws from, there's a white-hat-black-hat simplicity to The Mandalorian, a code that's easy to relate to, and which helps frame the action without getting too bogged down in superfluous twists.
Especially when it's also throwing huge action set-pieces at you in those 54 minutes.
Mando's (Pedro Pascal) mission to reunite The Child (aka Baby Yoda, still as adorable as ever) starts with a quest to find more Mandalorians, which leads him to the desert home planet of the Skywalkers, Tatooine.
There, he meets a character played by Timothy Olyphant (a clever bit of casting that nods to Olyphant's six-season run as a marshal on western series Justified) whose town is besieged by a fearsome creature. To defeat it, they must team up with an unlikely ally.
Without spoiling too much, let's just say the franchise return to Tatooine means there are a lot of familiar things and beings, and a much-teased connection to George Lucas' cinematic features. The revelation won't disappoint - in fact, you'll probably whoop.
It's a really solid, tonally on-point episode to lead into the rest of the season, one that resettles you into the imaginative Star Wars world without going too quick into the mythology and the wider arc.
"The Marshal" lets more casual fans, those who probably haven't interacted with any Star Wars accoutrement since the first season finished in December, reacquaint themselves without any confusing whiplash.
Having said that, the episode still positions the story within the context of the Empire's at the end of The Return of the Jedi - as we all know, Endor wasn't really the happy ending the Force ghosts' presence suggested.
In one of those frustrating moments in which a character turns subtext into text (the dialogue is still The Mandalorian's weak point), the series will obviously continue to explore the consequences of the Empire's fall.
Disney has been keeping a tight hold on what to expect from the rest of this season, but we do know that there will be the return of some characters from the first season and from elsewhere in the canonical universe, and the promise of more riveting adventures.
If the "The Marshal" was anything to go by, we're pumped for it.
The Mandalorian season two, episode one is streaming now on Disney+, with new episodes available on Fridays
Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima
Originally published as Star Wars TV show's eye-popping opener