Warning: This The Mandalorian season 2, episode 1 review contains major spoilers – turn around to avoid having the new episode ruined!
The Mandalorian has returned and nothing's really changed. Despite the acclaim and the viral memes, Jon Favreau's Star Wars series remains a wonderful piece of escapism that once again follows a familiar "monster of the week" formula, all while edging on the overall story slightly and not overdoing the Baby Yoda moments.
The premiere begins with the Mandalorian – now wearing fully beskar-ed out armour – and The Child (AKA Baby Yoda) arriving at a fighting pit, a hive of the worst scum and villainy in the galaxy. Onlookers cheer as two Gamorreans fight it out and Mando quickly defeats a gang of troublemakers. This is exactly what Favreau's series promised to be back in 2019: an exploration of the Star Wars universe's unseen underbelly with a central, faceless hero who kicks ass, takes cheques, and leaves evil-doers to the wolves. A western in space.
That opening quickly submerges us back into Mando's world, and then we blast off to the all-too-familiar Tatooine. This time around, we're going to another village on the sand planet that once homed Luke and Anakin Skywalker. After finding out about another potential member of his kin, Mando heads to Mos Pelgo, a place that's being ravaged by a Krayt Dragon – the equivalent of a Sarlacc who can actually move around the planet like a huge worm (it feels very Dune).
Mando's not one to care about anyone other than himself – and Baby Yoda – for no reason. Enter Timothy Olyphant's marshall who wears some very striking armour... Yes, it's Boba Fett's set of wears, somehow no longer on the iconic character. There's a certain thrill to seeing Boba back up and running, even if the news that Olyphant's character would be wearing the armour broke earlier this year.
The Mando and The Marshall's confrontation nearly ends in a showdown, yet quickly turns into a blossoming friendship as they team up with the locals, Tusken Raiders, to take on the Krayt. From here, it's a relatively straight-forward "us against the monster" story that ends with a defeated dragon, peace between two differing peoples (the Tuskens and the people of Mos Pelgo), and Mando flying off on the ship he rode in on, but now with Fett's armour.
Star Wars fans will, of course, recognise a lot: Boba Fett, Tusken Raiders, Banthas, Gamorreans, and the pit droids. Even the marshall's speeder looks similar to Anakin's podracer in the prequels. These Easter eggs serve hardcore fans but, thankfully, aren't overdone to the point of being off-putting to newcomers. Favreau's obviously having fun playing within the Star Wars' sandbox, yet The Mandalorian still treads fresh ground while fleshing out old favourites like the Tusken Raiders who, lest we forgot, first appeared on screen in 1977. Have the Sand People been misunderstood this entire time? I didn't think that would be a question I would ever ask, but here we are.
Even with so many nods to Star Wars' past, The Mandalorian's not overstuffed. This week's adventure is as simple as they come, and, as expected, Baby Yoda's as cute as ever. Better yet, the green creature's used with trepidation – a few cutaways here and there, but not the centre of attention. Olyphant's warden is also a great addition to the series, marking another character who, while his journey with Mando seemingly ends here, I hope to see again.
The Mandalorian season 2 premiere sets this latest series up to be similar to the first: a straightforward, effective, Easter egg-laden trip in that galaxy far, far away. Sure, a few characters we already know are returning – Boba Fett does, after all, appear at the very end – but the delightful core of Mando remains the same. I can't wait to see where Baby Yoda goes next.