These days, it can be nice when in a world rampant with spoilers, some things can still surprise you.
I remember wandering around Star Wars Celebration in 2019, and seeing people psyched up for The Mandalorian. Even with a prop speeder bike from the show on display, I just dismissed the show as some way to placate the Boba Fett fanboys.
Imagine my surprise later that fall, when I found out how series creator Jon Favreau had something a little different in mind: a series that tapped into the western and samurai tales that George Lucas sought inspiration from, and attempted to tell a live-action story outside the confines of The Skywalker Saga.
Pretty soon, I was drawn into the adventures of Din Djarin (aka the Mandalorian), and his unexpected charge Grogu, aka “The Child.” The show managed to hit me with just enough nostalgia, while taking us off into places that the films would not generally go to.
And now, we find ourselves at the end of the second season, and it’s much-anticipated finale.
With the coordinates to Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) cruiser now in his possession, The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) puts his plan into action to rescue Grogu.
Along with cohorts Cara Dune(Gina Carano), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Mando recruits fellow Mandalorians Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), and Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks) to help them out.
After episode 6 of this season, I did wonder if the season finale could do everything it needed to in just 45 minutes. Turns out, I didn’t have much to worry about.
One thing that has been clear over much of season 2, is how the show feels no guilt in reaching back into it’s cast of characters to pull some into the light for various missions. Characters like Mythrol and Miggs Mayfield were definitely a surprise to see play larger supporting roles this season, but I didn’t expect to see Bo-Katan and Koska return before the season ended.
For much of the episode, the action is split-up (with Boba taking a backseat to much of the action). While Mando goes in on his own, it was a nice touch seeing the women of the episode work together in infiltrating the ship. Each of them brings something useful to the fight, and getting to see them interact was a highlight. One highlight for me, was seeing a bit more action given to Fennec Shand, whom I have felt had been rather downplayed since her return to the series.
Seen briefly in episode 6, we also get some of our first full glimpses of Moff Gideon’s nightmarish Darktrooper squad in action. The Terminator-like creations provide some nice tense moments, with an added musical cue from composer Ludwig Goransson to make things seem even more harrowing when our group encounters them on the cruiser.
Like a number of episodes this season, this one attempts to balance out action with emotion, and when it comes to emotions, this episode might hit viewers in ways they never imagined.
Certain revelations given in this episode did push a number of my emotional buttons, but once I had some time to recover and collect my thoughts, I had to judge the episode on it’s overall merits. In fact, one revelation would have probably pushed the episode to the top of my favorites of the season, if certain information hadn’t been given away a few times prior to this episode.
One of the things about the first season of The Mandalorian that I really enjoyed, was that Din Djarin seemed to be a part of the Star Wars galaxy, but quite removed from the previous “lore” that had been a major part of our lives. Seeing Mando encounter characters like Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano I feel is okay, but I often felt that with Star Wars being such a large sandbox to play in, the show could have done a better job of carving out it’s own way in the universe. That to me seems to be the teeter-totter that the series rests on: it tries to make it’s own way, but has a “habit” of diving a little too often into “the familiar.”
The Rescue definitely feels like a turning-point for the series. It draws a curtain over the eight episodes we’ve invested in over the last few months, but much like The Empire Strikes Back, leaves us at a point where we don’t know just where its characters can go. While some mysteries have been solved, new ones have been revealed. It doesn’t feel like there are any easy answers regarding where most of our main characters can go, and that will surely have many of us guessing as we wait once again, for a new season to start up.
I will admit that season 2 of The Mandalorian didn’t win me over as much as the first season, but watching it there were moments where I wished I was watching these episodes with a theater audience. I saw scenes where I could imagine audiences being just as rowdy and enthusiastic as I recall from the opening night of some of the Star Wars films.
If anything, my one hope is when the series returns, we get a lessening of “guest stars,” and focus a little more on developing the cast of characters surrounding Din Djarin, and where his journeys will take him next.
Final Grade: B+
As we near the end of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, it’s been a bumpy-yet-enjoyable ride. There have been quite a few callbacks to Season 1, with some new revelations adding to the story of Mando and his young charge, Grogu. The show has also twisted in ways I didn’t expect, and still it has proven itself to be one of the most enjoyable things associated with the words Star Wars in quite some time for me.
Thanks to some help from Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Mando manages to spring a mercenary named Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr). A former Imperial, Migs is Mando’s key to finding Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who is now in possession of Grogu.
With an assist from Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), the group head to the planet Morak, where Mayfield can hopefully put his former skills to good use.
It feels like just when our momentum was building up in relation to the closing of Season 2, the series once again puts us in a “holding pattern.” The Believer is another “heist” storyline (directed by show alumni Rick Famuyiwa), but with a few tricks up it’s sleeves.
When it comes to Mayfield, I think like many of us who saw him in the season 1 episode The Prisoner, we figured he wasn’t ever going to be seen again. Much like the character of Mythrol a few episodes back, Mayfield is a reluctant part of the crew. While abrasive and a bit of a motormouth (he feels like the Joe Pantoliano of the episode!), the writers manage to give most of his ramblings a purpose to the story. A highlight comes during a transport scene, where he attempts to engage Mando in conversation.
For much of the story, Mando’s companions take a backseat as he and Mayfield are front-and-center on their mission. It almost becomes an impromptu buddy storyline, and even gives us some further insight into just how strictly Mando is willing to stick to his Mandalorian code given where his journeys have taken him.
In terms of new worlds on the show, Morak is one of the first jungle environments we’ve seen, and one that manages to give us callbacks to Rogue One in terms of the types of troopers we see. There’s also an action-scene involving a turbo tank-style transport vehicle, that definitely feels like it could have been plucked right out of a video game. The planet stop-off gives us another glimpse into the remnants of The Empire working to rebuild in the shadow of The New Republic, and offers a brief glimpse into Imperial ideologies, in the form of an officer named Valin Hess (Richard Brake)
Unlike typical Imperials, Hess’ drawl seems a little out-of-place coming from the mouth of an officer. Even so, the character manages to be quite intriguing given his limited appearance. The show has done a commendable job so far making even the post-ROTJ Imperials interesting characters to watch.
Overall, The Believer feels like previous Season 2 episodes The Passenger and The Siege: it gives us a chance to catch our breath, before plunging us into what will hopefully be an even more exciting episode. Even so, it might be one of those episodes that may age better with time, given some of what is discussed and revealed regarding its characters, and their ideologies.
Final Grade: B-
When it came to the recent Disney animated series The Owl House, I didn’t know what to expect. It started innocently enough, watching four episodes in one night on Disney+, and soon snowballed into completing the series over the Thanksgiving weekend!
With a start somewhat akin to Alice in Wonderland, Luz Noceda follows a little owl through a doorway, and winds up in a place called The Boiling Isles. It is here she meets a rogue witch named Eda and a demon named King. Rather than return to the real world where her mother thinks she is at a camp to calm her “creative impulses,” Luz decides to stay with Eda, where she hopes to become a witch and learn magic, before she has to return home one day.
Each episode seemed to bring new character revelations and new information about the world of the isles, that soon had me wanting to know more. With a structure very much like Gravity Falls mixed with the strangeness of something like Star vs The Forces of Evil, the nineteen episodes soon wouldn’t get out of my head…leading to me deciding to make a Top 10 list of the episodes I felt were some of the first season’s best. And so…off we go!*
*This list contains my own personal choices regarding favorite Season 1 episodes. It may not be the same as a number of other lists out there, and I have tried to keep most episode spoilers to a minimum.
This is kind of a throwaway episode given those that came before it, but it is nice to see Luz, Willow, and even Amity Blight standing their ground in a Grudgby sports match, after Luz takes a stand against resident Hexside mean girl, Boscha. Plus, given revelations that came to light in the previous episode (Enchanting Grom Fright), Amity has some entertaining moments of awkwardness. The subplot where Eda and her sister Lilith play their own Grudgby game is okay, but felt like the writers were struggling for what to do to bring the two sisters together, before the final two episodes of the season hit them hard in a big way.
This is one of the first episodes that serves as a stepping-stone to Luz understanding a little more about magic and demons. When a dark creature attacks the Owl House during a dangerous storm, it’s up to Luz and King to stop it. The set-up acts like a horror film at times in how it’s paced, let alone revelations and parts for the main players to all have a hand in. It serves as a nicely-balanced story with mood, while also giving us some additional history regarding Eda’s past.
I almost pushed this one down a bit more, but it is an integral storypoint introducing Eda’s sister Lilith, along with revealing more about covens and witchcraft, and how they are set up in this world. We also get some more insight into Amity Blight and what seems to be her dream to one day be part of the Emperor’s Coven, which is the most powerful coven in the land. Most of this moves along well enough, that King trying to snag convention freeebies from the event can be overlooked, though a highlight for many is an action-oriented scene near the end.
This episode is often at the top of most fan-lists for the show given it’s revelations near the end, but while it does bring about some nice and enjoyable moments, I feel the overall story structure can be a bit unwieldly. The main plot involving Amity and Luz worrying about the events of Hexside School’s Grom Night is the superior story, while there is the hammering in of a very minor subplot revolving around King and Luz’s school friend Gus doing Grom Night emcee duties. We also get a reminder that in the human world, Luz’s Mom thinks she’s at camp, and Luz wrestles with her emotions regarding not telling her Mom the truth. This ends up being a nice tie-in to something Luz fears, while reminding us that her time in this world is limited.
While the first episode of the series was okay as an introduction, this second episode was what got me curious as to what was in store for Luz on the Boiling Isles. Being the only human in this world (that we know of), Luz wonders if she may be a “chosen one” figure like in some of the fantasy stories she reads. This episode functions as a nice dose of fantasy vs reality, as Luz goes off on a quest with Eda and King not far behind. Seeing it for the first time, there is the enjoyability factor as we accompany Luz on her quest, before the episode wraps up to a nice conclusion.
With this episode, we get one of the most involved storylines of Eda working to train Luz, in the traditional style of “the master frustrates the student with her weird teaching methods.” The journey takes us to another part of the Boiling Isles, let alone brings us an encounter with Amity and her older siblings. King gets his own solo B-story, using some of Eda’s magic to create minions of his own…until his brash demands end up backfiring on him. Fortunately, the A-story manages to be quite interesting as we see the Blight siblings, Eda, and Luz interact in ways we haven’t before, let alone learn a little more about the isles.
When Amity ends up accidentally damaging Willow’s memories, she and Luz go into Willow’s mind to fix what has happened. The episode is a window into not only showing us some of who Willow is, but that she and Amity have a history before their time at Hexside School. We also get another episode showing how Luz and Amity work together, while also building up new understandings. A subplot about their classmate Gus struggling to find someone to interview for a school project is a little weak, but the main storyline dealing with Willow keeps the interest going.
A trip to the library ends up being a most interesting storyline, that opened viewer’s eyes to see that Amity Blight might not be as bad as we first thought. Along with introducing us to her playful-yet-abrasive elder siblings, the story also gives more insight into Luz, including how she may willingly throw herself into a dangerous situation, even if she isn’t fully prepared to deal with it. The B-plot of Eda and King dealing with an unexpected babysitting gig had its entertaining moments, and fortunately was entertaining on its own terms.
Though the final episode of the season, this one managed to provide a little information about the mysterious Emperor Belos, along with just why Eda’s sister Lilith has been trying to get her sister to give herself over to the coven. Luz and King also team up to try and get Eda out of Belos’ cluthes, showing how much Luz has grown to care for her mentor, and demonstrating what she can do using magic in her own way. These storypoints manage to override what feels like a shoehorning in of a secondary subplot that seeks to turn public opinion on how Belos feels about non-conforming witches (such as Eda). It could have been a stronger concept, but it feels like it suffers from having other revelations revealed, but still, one of the stronger episodes of the first season…but not as strong as…
The season has had little moments of emotion here-and-there, but this episode really amped them up in a number of ways. As Eda’s magical curse becomes more unwieldly, Luz uses a school field trip to the Emperor Belos’ castle to try and find a magic relic that might cure her. Unfortunately, she has the misfortune to run into Lilith, who decides to set a trap for her uncooperative sister. This leads to one of the most action-packed scenes in the season, let-alone gives us probably one of the most emotional moments seen on-screen for the series.
And there we have it.
While not perfect, there were definitely more good things than bad about the first season of The Owl House. The Boiling Isles as a locale is rather grotesque yet fascinating, and unlike my frustrations with Star vs The Forces of Evil, we’re often provided with enough answers to satiate most of the questions I have about the world.
There’s some very entertaining character development that sucked me in, let alone Luz’s adorkable personality and trying to be positive in the face of often overwhelming odds. The optimism ends up being one of her best traits, and the show can often show a nice contrast between creativty and conformity.
Having premiered at the start of this year, word is a second season is currently in production. Needless to say, I have a feeling that this time until the next premiere will be a great way to draw more people into the series, and build even more anticipation regarding what is in store for Luz and her friends coming up.
We’ve now reached the 75% mark for Season 2 of The Mandalorian, and the episodes have tended to bounce back-and-forth between great and good. With the last several episodes delving into The Clone Wars series, the latest episode catches up on a real blast from the past.
After their encounter with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu (formerly known as The Child) head to Tython, where there exists a place that can possibly help them contact other Jedi who might help them give Grogu safe haven.
Shortly after touching down, things don’t go as planned when Mando finds himself facing off against stormtroopers, a foe he once thought dead, and a bounty hunter with a familiar ship.
Following last week’s events, the opening moments show some further understanding between Mando and Grogu, though it is soon after this that their latest adventure becomes like a video game level. Ever play video games where you have to keep the enemy from advancing on a specific target? This is the episode-equivalent of that very game level!
One thing I was largely on the fence about as soon as it was announced, was hearing that Temuera Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones) would be appearing as Boba Fett this season. I’ve long been of the thought that while he looked cool, Boba had served his purpose and perished in Return of the Jedi. However, the reappearance of his armor and the final shot of the Season 2 premiere episode The Marshal, piqued my interest.
For this episode, Jon Favreau manages to write Boba as being much more interesting than just the cool-looking guy standing around in the original trilogy (even giving Boba a small callback to his father). We can believe Fett knows his way around blasters and jetpacks, but going into action without these things was most unexpected. A highlight was seeing Morrison wield a gaderffii stick like a Maori warrior, causing me to get drawn into the character for the first time watching him onscreen.
We also get the return of Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), whom we last saw on Tatooine in the first season. Much like that appearance however, she’s mainly just along for the ride, making me wonder if the show is just saving her for a much more interesting bit later on (maybe she’ll get her “moment” like IG-11 in the first season?).
When it comes to the arrival of the stormtroopers (coming in some pre-Episode VII troop-transports), this is where the video game-style feelings of the episode begin. Pretty soon, the standard white of the trooper armor gives way to several different varieties, making it feel like a group of online players are mounting an assault on the show. There’s even the appearance of some troopers that play into what was shown at the end of the last episode, making me develop some ideas regarding what the villainous Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wants Grogu for.
The episode is short on revelations, and feels moreso like the kind of action-oriented fare we saw in The Siege. Director Robert Rodriguez (known for his El Mariachi trilogy) never keeps the action from getting dull, and there are some moments that really pushed my buttons emotionally (including one that made me sense a great disturbance in The Force). There are a few times where I did question some things he made Mando do that were somewhat repetitive. It might have been meant to make it seem humorous with each attempt he made, but it felt like it was merely a way to stretch the run-time out a little (this episode clocks in at just 33 minutes, the shortest chapter of the season so far).
The results of The Tragedy, feels like we are entering the Empire Strikes Back portion of Season 2. not that the first 5 episodes weren’t hard on Mando in their own right, but this episode ends in probably one of the most tense cliffhangers yet. It isn’t on the same high shelf that I place Season 2 episodes The Marshal and The Jedi, but it manages to make due with what it has to offer. I do hope that with the final episodes, we get a return to stories that have been longer than most of what we’ve encountered this season.
Final Grade: B