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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Force in Focus: The Mandalorian Season 2x01

"The Marshal"

Hoping to find other Mandalorians to aid him on his quest to reunite the Child with its people, the Mandalorian learns from fight promoter and beskar-dealer Gor Karesh that someone in beskar armor has been seen recently on Tatooine. He and the Child proceed to Tatooine and reunite with mechanic Peli, who points them to the city of Mos Pelgo. There, the Mandalorian meets Cobb Vanth, who is serving as the town's marshal and wearing the beskar armor. He strikes a deal with the Mandalorian: help him rid the town of a krayt dragon threatening it, and he'll hand over the armor. Together, Vanth and the Mandalorian form an alliance with a local tribe of Tusken Raiders, and both the tribe and the townspeople come together to destroy the dragon. In the aftermath of their success, Vanth hands over the armor, and the Mandalorian and the Child speed back to the ship, as they're unknowingly watched by someone familiar with Vanth's now-former armor. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This episode returns the series to Tatooine and in the process, introduces Cobb Vanth, a miner who acquired Boba Fett's Mandalorian armor and used it to free his town of the Mining Collective goons holding it under their thumbs, setting himself up as the town's marshal. This is Vanth's first live-action appearance, but he debuted via a brief interlude in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath novel, one of the first novels of the new post-Disney canon, which explored the period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens (the depiction of the acquisition of his armor there differs a bit from what is shown here, but the gist - gets it from Jawas - is essentially the same). 

It also, seemingly, reintroduces Boba Fett to the Star Wars universe, confirming his survival of the events of Return of the Jedi (something hinted at in Aftermath that was also very much a staple of the old Expanded Universe, in which Boba Fett had a rich and detailed post-Sarlaac life). Seemingly, because while the unnamed figure watching the Mandalorian and the Child speed away from Mos Pelgo with Boba Fett's armor is Temuera Morrison (who played Boba Fett's genetic template Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones as well as the non-CGI parts of the Clone Troopers throughout the Prequels), it's possible he's playing a different Jango Fett clone, as both clone commanders Cody (Obi-Wan's chief lieutenant) and Rex (who fought off the pull of Order 66 to help Ahsoka Tano survive the Jedi purge), as well as other clones, survived the end of the Clone Wars. 

This is the first time a Krayt dragon has been shown in the live-action flesh, but they've been around since the earliest minutes of Star Wars; the skeleton Threepio passes on Tatooine early in New Hope is a Krayt dragon, and the yell Obi-Wan makes when he rescues Luke from the Tuskens is met to be an imitation of their cry. 

Casting Call
Timothy Olyphant, of Justified and Deadwood fame, plays Cobb Vanth. 

Comedian Amy Sedaris returns as Tatooine mechanic/droid wrangler/Child enthusiast Peli. 

Gor Karesh, the Abyssin fight promoter/beskar enthusiast is voiced by John Leguizamo. 

Character actor W. Earl Brown (who was also on Deadwood pouring drinks) plays the Weequay bartender in Mos Pelgo 

A Work in Progress
The green pig-like Gamoreans fighting in Gor Karesh's arena are the same species as the guards at Jabba's palace, while Karesh himself is an Abyssin, one of which appears in the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope

Spotchka, the drink Vanth orders at the bar, is made from ingredients found on the planet the Mandalorian visited in episode 4 (the one where he met Cara Dune and helped the villagers fight off the Imperial walker).  

The destruction of the (second) Death Star in Return of the Jedi is watched by the citizens of Mos Pelgo in a flashback, something which recalls the "galactic celebration" montage at the end of Jedi's Special Edition. 

The Krayt dragon in this episode is living in an abandoned Sarlaac pit, one of which is the thing that "killed" Boba Fett in Jedi

When the Tuskens descend on the carcass of the krayt dragon, they pull a shiny orb out of its guts; these pearls are highly valuable, with the Tuskens hunting smaller dragons to acquire them. 

Did You See?
Constable Zuvio, a character from The Force Awakens infamous for being featured as an action figure in the first wave of TFA toys only to end up with all his scenes on the cutting room floor, is in the audience  

The astromech in Peli's shop who pulls up the map of Mos Pelgo is apparently R5-D4, the droid Uncle Owen bought from the Jawas but malfunctioned shortly thereafter, allowing Artoo to stay with Threepio.  

Vanth's speeder bike is made out of a podracer engine. 

Austin's Analysis
The Mandalorian
is back, and as much as the first season finale broke open the show in terms of the mythology of the Mandalorians, the relationship between the Mandalorian and the Child, and the larger galactic threats facing them, this season two premiere makes it clear that the show doesn't intend to stray too far from its "western in space" roots. Not only does it hit familiar beats from Western tales (the gruff but good-hearted town marshal, a "force of nature" type threat to a town, the coming together of settlers and a misunderstood indigenous population to benefit both groups), but it reasserts the visual language of the series: of speeder bikes racing across barren plains, of the Mandalorian making gruff but ultimately helpful allies, then sitting down with those allies around a glowing campfire, of approaching the mouth of a cave to accomplish a task in the face of long odds. 

What keeps all of this from being repetitive & rehashed is the heaping helping of additional Star Wars lore that gets weaved in along with those beats: from the more background moments of two Gamorrean guards fighting with axes to the introduction of Cobb Vanth to the presence of Boba Fett's armor (and his seeming brief appearance at the episode's end) there are tidbits sprinkled throughout the episode that will catch the eye of Star Wars fans from the casual to the hardcore. The relationship between drawing on and furthering that lore, and performing vapid fan service, is one the series has always had and will continue to have to thread carefully. But the tremendous success of the first season (and it's current role as the vanguard of live-action Star Wars stories) buys it some credit in that regard, and the fact that this episode managed to strike the balance between being true to the kinds of stories it clearly wants to tell while also embracing a wider view of the larger Star War Universe, bodes well for it. 

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  1. // The astromech in Peli's shop who pulls up the map of Mos Pelgo is apparently R5-D4 //

    I’m pretty sure that we already saw him at Mos Eisley last season, complete with lingering scars from his malfunction.

    Also, I:

    … had no idea that Cobb Vanth wasn’t original to this series. Given that it’s obvious Boba Fett himself is almost surely not the one under that helmet pretty much the moment he shows up, I guess his backstory wouldn’t really operate as a spoiler to those with knowledge of the novel. And the reveal at the end is a genuine surprise regardless.

    … can’t say exactly why but something about the Gamorreans has always seemed particularly Henson-ish — as in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop — to me.

    … was a bit alarmed by the length of this episode before watching, afraid that the success of the first season had dictated more just for the sake of more, even though the surprisingly short runtimes of much of that first season often left me wanting more. Happily, I didn’t find it padded or indulgent.

    … rolled my eyes at Cobb Vanth wearing the helmet precisely as long as he needed to keep the audience in some modicum of suspense and project hoped-for mystique onscreen and not a moment longer even after hopping on a speeder bike. The Mandalorian never takes his off in others’ company, sure, but I think even if he did he’d pop it on for safety when zooming over harsh terrain. Of course, Timothy Olyphant’s recognizable face would otherwise be hidden, so once his identity is revealed it’s time for Matt’s Least Favorite Superhero-Movie Trope. At least he put it back on when flying.

    1. I’m pretty sure that we already saw him at Mos Eisley last season, complete with lingering scars from his malfunction.

      I believe you're right, though I admittedly completely missed it in the first season.

      Of course, Timothy Olyphant’s recognizable face would otherwise be hidden, so once his identity is revealed it’s time for Matt’s Least Favorite Superhero-Movie Trope.

      Ha! I honestly think I didn't mind it as much in this episode just because Vanth looked kind when he had the helmet on. Like, intentionally, the armor looked a little ill-fitting, so I kind of preferred it when he didn't have the helmet on. Even though, as you say, it makes little tactical sense for him NOT to be wearing it more.


  2. Oh, I agree 100% about how awkward the armor looked on Vanth. What really bugged me was that the helmet neither fastened to a collar / breastplate / whatever nor even seemed to have any padding inside to secure it in place.

    On another note, Blogger's latest round of terrible changes seems to have knocked the "notify me" check-box for comments out of commission, so that's fun.

    1. Thanks for the shout-out, Blam! My wife and I spent some time catching up on the season to date over Thanksgiving, and sure enough, this drove me nuts. In fact, not only did Vanth remove the helmet and never put it back on until the end, it appeared he just left it sitting on the cantina table when he and the Mandalorian departed on their quest!

      I get that Timothy Olyphant is a big name and they want to get their return on investment by showing him off to the viewers, but c'mon. There would've been plenty of opportunities for us to bask in his glory while still having him wear the helmet when appropriate (Such as while riding a speeder bike. Heck, most of the speeder scene was a flashback anyway!)

      (And I should add that I love Timothy Olyphant, by the way. JUSTIFIED is one of my favorite TV shows of recent years.)

      Other than that, I really liked this episode. And it occurs I could watch an entire series set on Tatooine. If and when the Obi-Wan series finally debuts, I hope they keep him there for most/all of it, rather than having him jet off on some damn fool crusade across the galaxy (though probably shouldn't hold my breath).


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