Season two of The Mandalorian began with an episode that was everything we expected and more. A few pieces of rumored casting were confirmed, some long-time questions were answered, and episode writer-director Jon Favreau gave fans a story straight from an old-school Hollywood Western with the biggest action set piece the show has ever seen. Finally, after a year away, this is the day.
“Chapter 9” of The Mandalorian is called “The Marshal.” If you’ve been following the rumors for season two, you already have a pretty good idea of what that means. There’s a Mandalorian on Tatooine, which is where a character named Cobb Vanth wears a suit of Mandalorian armor to protect a small town. Vanth is the role Timothy Olyphant was rumored to play, and so it seemed very likely Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), our titular Mando, was going to find him, a Marshal—and very much not a Mandalorian—in a suit of Mandalorian armor on Tatooine. A suit of armor that, maybe, once belonged to Boba Fett.
Or maybe you haven’t been following the rumors and didn’t put that all together right away. Season two begins on a new planet, from what we could tell. Mando and the Child (aka Baby Yoda) have arrived to meet an alien named Gor Koresh (voiced by Favreau’s Chef co-star John Leguizamo), whom we’ve seen in the show’s trailers. He’s an Abyssin who has some information about the whereabouts of Mandalorians—who Mando wants to find so they can help him get to Baby Yoda’s people—and wants to meet Mando at a fight between two Gamorreans. The ensuing scene basically includes everything fans had seen of season two up to this point, in the first five minutes, which is just so cheeky of Lucasfilm.
Beyond that though, Koresh aims to double-cross Mando—he just wants his beskar armor and has set a trap for him. It’s one that our hero defeats with relative ease, and once he gets the information from Koresh about a Mandalorian on Tatooine, we’re on our way…but not before Mando leaves Koresh hanging upside down for critters that look like the evil Yoda creatures from The Clone Wars to eat him. Interestingly enough, those creatures, and the whole city in fact—covered in curious graffiti—felt like a place we may need to come back to as it seemed ripe for exploration and analyzation. But no matter. Mando wants to get the Child back to his people, he thinks Mandalorians can help, and he finally has the whereabouts of a Mandalorian on Tatooine. This is the way.
What came next was one of my favorite parts of the episode: The Razor Crest flying into Mos Eisley. As Ludwig Göransson’s main theme blared through the speakers you truly felt like The Mandalorian was back. His first stop on Tatooine is visiting a friend, Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris). Peli remarks that Mando is different now because he’s OK with letting droids fix his ship (thank you to the late, great IG-11 for changing his mind on that whole droid thing) and jokingly offers to buy the Child from him (who is she, our own James Whitbrook?). Mando isn’t interested in that, however; all he wants is to find this mysterious Mandalorian. He somehow has a location now and that means Peli needs her map…with the help of a familiar little Astromech.
Instantly my nostalgia meter flew off the scale. In rolled R5-D4—the same R5-D4 Owen Lars almost bought in A New Hope before getting R2-D2. Think about that. If there’s no R2, there’s no Leia message. No Leia message, no Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. R5 ending up here, and not with the Lars family, is truly one of the most significant moments in the entire Star Wars galaxy. He’s even still got marks where his bad motivator busted! Truly an awesome little callback.
After that, Mando is off to find what used to be Mos Pelgo, a town that no longer exists as far as Peli is concerned. What I appreciated about this moment is that Mando actually had to travel. In Star Wars, with spaceships and lightspeed, travel always feels instantaneous—even when people go to a planet, they always know exactly where to go. No one says “I live on Earth” to someone on Earth. You live on a street, in a town, in a state, in a country, on Earth. But you never get that huge global scale in Star Wars, so to see Mando travel across Tatooine was a nice touch. One of those ways this series likes to ever-so-slightly deal with Star Wars nitpicks.
After taking a pit stop with some friendly Tuskens (something that’ll become important later on), Mando arrives at the Mos Pelgo cantina, asking about Mandalorians. The Weequay tending bar tells him the Marshal wears armor similar to his and then he appears—a man wearing, yes, the rusted up armor of none other than Boba Fett (just like we all assumed, from Cobb Vanth’s appearance in the Aftermath novels). But it’s still a fascinating tease, to see such an iconic piece of Star Wars imagery, yet totally alien in its appearance—the wrong fit on the wrong man, damaged, modified, and yet still recognizably Fett.
Cobb and Mando have a tense showdown, where the former explains he got the armor from Jawas and doesn’t want to give it up now that he’s Mos Pelgo’s Marshal. Just as Mando is about to make him, a huge quake disrupts their argument. I don’t know about you, but my first thought was “It’s the Sarlacc and Boba Fett is going to be riding it!” Which, honestly, I wasn’t that far off on? It’s actually another thing we’ve seen in Star Wars before—a Krayt dragon. Or at least, we’ve seen the bones of one, as C-3PO pottered past them in A New Hope before being picked up by Jawas. We’ve heard one, too, in Obi-Wan’s strange cry to scare the Tusken Raiders off of Luke and his droids. But now, we get to see one in its full, living scale—a beast that has been terrorizing Mos Pelgo for years. Cobb decides to offer a new deal: If Mando helps him kill it, he can have Boba Fett’s armor.
After accepting his biggest bounty yet (literally rather than figuratively), Mando and Cobb’s quest to the dragon’s lair is littered with cool little Star Wars connections. First, we get an excellent flashback scene to Mos Pelgo on the night the second Death Star was blown up by the Rebellion—the seeming end of oppression from the Empire, only for a new evil force, the Mining Collective, to move in and subjugate the entire town. Whether or not these mobsters have any connections to the various Mining Guilds we saw in Rebels (and that Cloud City was a part of in Empire Strikes Back) remains to be seen, but it’s no matter to The Mandalorian’s tale here: Cobb escaped the slaughter with some of their precious gems, and having been spotted by Jawas as he aimlessly roamed the dunes, used them to buy Fett’s infamous armor.
Of course, he used the new gear to his advantage back at Mos Pelgo to help his people. (Including a use of the always controversial rocket in Boba’s jetpack, a nice wink to toy collectors that we’ll get back to.) It’s a truly moving, cool story that really helps endure Vanth to the audience, and provided some welcome context to the current time period—while providing a vital link to the Star Wars material that came before it.
Along the way we also get to see Vanth riding what appears to be a pod race engine that looks just like the one designed and built by young Anakin Skywalker. Now, we can’t say for sure that it’s Anakin’s pod engine but…it’s Anakin’s pod engine. It’s been modified slightly, broken down a bit, but the actual engine in the back is the same. The yellow fin on the front is there. The message is: Tatooine has a long past and it never leaves (while also being a very cool little wink to the fans).
Nearer the Krayt dragon’s lair, Vanth and Mando run into Tusken Raiders again and the latter’s relationship with them comes in handy. He finds out they too want to slay the dragon—it’s been tormenting the Tuskens for generations, and they know tons about it, including that it lives in an abandoned Sarlacc pit, much to Vanth’s disbelief—and Mando ultimately decides the only way to truly defeat the Krayt dragon is for the Tuskens to team up with the people of Mos Pelgo. Only problem? The Tuskens and people of Mos Pelgo hate each other and both have killed each other’s people. But, for the greater good, and to maybe bring some peace, an uneasy alliance is formed.
This set up was straight out of a Hollywood Western: the uneasy alliance, the common enemy. I was waiting for John Wayne to show up and John Ford to yell “Cut.” Of course, the difference here is our two main heroes have jetpacks and they’re fighting a dragon that’s the size of a mountain, but also, importantly, it’s an alliance that brings nuance to the Tusken Raiders. All we knew of them in the movies at least was that they were savage, brutal raiders—presenting them as they are here gives them a nice texture, and if Star Wars is going to keep revisiting familiar locales, aliens, and characters, that kind of texture is important.
But even with the combined might of the Tuskens and Mos Pelga, Vanth and Mando’s plan doesn’t go as planned—especially when the dragon reveals it’s got acid spit like we’re suddenly in a freakin’ Alien movie. Before everyone’s either eaten or melted to bits (in a way that’s bloodless, but still surprisingly gruesome for Star Wars), the two beskar-clad heroes—one “true” Mando and one just living up to his ideals—have to step in, taking flight with their jetpacks to assault the giant beast. Vanth even gets to do something we’ve waited a long time to see: Boba Fett’s jetpack finally gets to fire off a rocket.
Why is that a great moment? Well, back to toys, the original Fett toy had a shooting rocket on its back that was never officially released because people were worried kids would shoot their eyes out. Unreleased prototypes of Fett with a firing rocket are now some of the most valuable Star Wars toys there are. So to see a this particular rocket actually shoot something in the eye, was just…perfect. One of those references that if you got it, everything was right with the world. And if you didn’t? Rockets firing out of jetpacks is still the good kind of Star Wars silliness.
Not all the toy references in the world could truly stop the dragon however, and Mando soon realizes the only way he’s going to be able to kill the dragon is to sacrifice himself. He tells Vanth to take care of the Child (oh right, remember him? The important baby left in a satchel on his bike right next to the acid-spewing dragon???), and he lets the dragon swallow him whole, along with a poor Bantha loaded up with explosive charges.
Again, this is one of those classic tropes in entertainment. We’ve seen it in Pinocchio, Men in Black, The Legend of Zelda, everywhere. Even Star Wars, of a sort, like the Millennium Falcon blasting its way out of the space slug in Empire. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly powerful, exciting moment when Mando reemerges after electrocuting the dragon and exploding his Bantha bomb, defeating the dragon. The day is won, the Krayt dragon’s in chunky bits all over the place for the Tusken Raiders to use, and poor Mando is just standing there, covered in green slime, which looked delightful. After such an epic battle between the villagers, Tuskens, and this mountainous creature, it was extremely satisfying, a nice little moment of levity that shows that no matter how many times our hero does something very cool, he can still be an imperfect klutz.
Everyone is happy; the Tuskens find a gigantic pearl inside the Krayt dragon (an object no doubt familiar to anyone who played Knights of the Old Republic, and another reference atop the oodles in this episode), the people of Mos Pelgo don’t have to worry about being murdered by Tuskens or eaten by the creature anymore, and the Mandalorian has reacquired a very special suit of armor. “Tell your people I wasn’t the one who broke that,” Vanth says curiously as they part ways. We know who did, but Din Djarin doesn’t.
As the music rises and Mando rides back to Mos Eisley, Favreau changes the aspect ratio once more going full widescreen—yet another nod to the 70mm Westerns of the past. But just as we view Mando catch the binary Tatooine sunset the score changes, as does the perspective. A mysterious bald person is watching our hero. He turns and reveals himself as…actor Temuera Morrison. Which can only mean one thing: Boba Fett lives.
The pieces mostly fit. First of all, Fett would look like that—he’s a perfect clone of Jango Fett, also played by Morrison in the Star Wars prequels. He’d be older, of course. He also looks like he spent some time slowly digesting in the stomach of a giant sand creature. How exactly he got out of the Sarlacc we don’t know, but we can assume that Sarlacc was the one killed by the Krayt dragon. And so, it certainly seems like a near 40-year-old question has been answered: Boba Fett didn’t die. He survived, and he’s got a date with our Mando.
I absolutely loved “The Marshal”—it has just the right amount of Star Wars Easter eggs to enhance a familiar, but rewarding story about acceptance, sacrifice, and harmony. Seeing the Tusken Raiders as more evolved characters was excellent, Cobb Vanth provided a vital link to the often-too-ignored Star Wars novels of this era, and, of course, the whole Boba Fett thing was just the cherry on top.
The only real downside was how the episode sidelined our wonderful Baby Yoda. He’s there the whole time, of course, even when arguably he shouldn’t have been. But he literally doesn’t do anything—you would have thought he could have helped in someway instead of just being cute. Not that being cute doesn’t help, because it does, but considering Mando’s entire mission is about this Child, it would have been nice to see him be a bit more significant. Either way, it was a grand start to season two. In a year that has just constantly been shit, it’s truly a pleasure to have new Star Wars to talk about.
- That sure looked like the mythic Constable Zuvio at Gor Koresh’s fight pit, right? (pictured above) The character who had toys made of him for The Force Awakens but was mostly cut from that film? If it wasn’t him, it was certainly a nod.
- What’s the deal with this Mining Collective? Were they waiting for the Empire to fall to take over these town? How far did that spread? We have so many questions about this new force in the universe.
- Whether Temuera Morrison is playing Boba Fett or not—I mean, it has to be, but we can’t say for sure yet considering this is a galaxy that was at one point filled with people who look like Temuera Morrison!—it’s probably a good bet that the character could’ve also been the one we saw finding, or maybe even rescuing, the wounded Fennic Shand last season. Fett lost his armor, but probably not his boots.
- And speaking of the armor, how did the Jawas get it exactly? If the dragon ate the Sarlacc, maybe it was excreted out (along with Fett?), but something fairly significant would have had to happen for Fett to survive and also lose his armor. I’m assuming there will be an episode to explain more about this.
- Wouldn’t it be poetic if Mando being swallowed whole by the dragon and surviving mirrored Boba Fett being swallowed whole by the Sarlacc and surviving?
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.