This is the way: ‘The Mandalorian’ hits the ground sauntering in slow but scintillating season 2 premiere

Mandalorian
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Quote of the Week: “You know this is no place for a child.”

After an action-packed finale concluded season one of “The Mandalorian” last December, audiences might have expected season two to debut with an equally high-octane episode that would set the scene for the season to come. But, for “The Mandalorian,” high-octane isn’t the way: quiet drama, eclectic character encounters and slow burns — this is the way.

Season one ended with Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda — sorry, “The Child” — embarking on a quest to return The Child to his home planet. “Chapter 9: The Marshal” is ostensibly the first step on that journey, although the duo doesn’t make it very far before it’s sidetracked. Mando learns that there might be another Mandalorian in the city of Mos Pelgo on Tatooine, and he desperately needs allies after the empire wiped out his entire enclave last season. 

As soon as Mando and The Child reach the town, the show leans into the Western genre archetype more than it ever has. Mando and The Child ride slowly into the quiet town, drawing wary looks from the townspeople, enter a saloon and wait for the ominous arrival of the rumored Mandalorian. But, the person they’ve been waiting for isn’t a Mandalorian at all; it’s a regular man wearing Mandalorian armor he picked up off some Jawa traders. The not-Mandalorian, Cobb Vanth, is played by “Justified” star Timothy Olyphant, whose filmography alone brings even more Western cachet to the episode. 

Cobb’s face isn’t his most recognizable feature, though. That distinction belongs to his helmet and chest plate, which “Star Wars” fans will recognize as the armor belonging to Boba Fett, the Mandalorian bounty hunter who met his demise at the hands of a Sarlacc at the beginning of “Return of the Jedi.” Mando takes issue with Cobb wearing the Mandalorian armor, but before the two can settle it with a gunfight, it’s interrupted by a rumbling coming from outside.

The ground is being shaken by a krayt dragon, which is basically what you’d get if you gave the sandworm from “Dune” the acidic body fluids of the xenomorph from “Alien.” The monster has been terrorizing the people of Mos Pelgo for generations, and as the titular Marshal, it’s Cobb’s duty to protect them, but he can’t do it alone. Cobb and Mando strike a deal: If Mando can help take down the krayt dragon, Cobb will relinquish his armor. 

To defeat the monster, Cobb and Mando enlist the help of the Tusken Raiders — a group typically hostile toward townspeople, but that also badly needs the dragon gone. With Mando acting as a liaison between the two groups, they come to an uneasy trust and collaborate on a plan. This dimension of the episode relies on a tired Western trope — sullen outsider brings two enemy tribes together to defeat a larger threat — but because it plays out in an environment with all the stylish trappings of the “Star Wars” universe, it’s fresh enough that the lack of originality gets a pass.

After they defeat the krayt dragon, Cobb honors his word and hands over the armor to Mando, who speeds back to Peli’s mechanic outfit. The final shot zooms out from the pair, revealing a scarred, armored onlooker. The unnamed man is played by Temuera Morrison, otherwise known as the actor who played Jango Fett — Boba Fett’s clone — in the “Star Wars” prequel films. Though we’ve never seen Boba Fett’s face, the evidence suggests that he’s our mystery man. We can also assume he’ll be wanting his armor back.

“The Marshal” is a strong start for season two, one that plays to the show’s strengths. Rather than offer a sweeping overview of how the season will play out, the episode simply picks up where season one left off, with Mando and The Child moving from place to place, making friends and enemies as they go. So far, season two doesn’t seem to be offering much in the way of new directions, but its formula delivers excitement every time. Even if it didn’t, Baby Yoda’s facial expressions are enough to keep us coming back for more.

“The Mandalorian” is streaming on Disney+ every Friday.

Matthew DuMont covers television. Contact him at [email protected].