In his first season, Mando was a bit of a grower. Although the latter 3/4ths of the show were often stratospherically good, the first two episodes were comparatively weak, suffering from the burden of buildup, underwhelming action, and not enough dialogue. Absolutely none of those problems plague The Mandalorian’s impressively layered season 2 opener, which I have referred to as “by-the-numbers” largely because it fails to break new ground in the series. Almost everything The Mandalorian has done well so far “The Marshall” does here, it just does so in ways we have already seen. This is fine for a season premier, as after the stunning climax of the last two episodes of season 1, the narrative had a natural need to slow down for a bit before jumping right back into the action. The result is the series’ longest episode yet, with more time spent on world-building and complexity and less time invested in the episode’s (still suitably big budget) violent payoff.
After escaping Nevarro and Moff Gideon in “Redemption”, Din Djarin quests to fulfill the Armorer’s command to reunite The Child with its own kind. This requires the aid of other Mandalorians, so Djarin pays a stop to a suitably seedy underworld planet to acquire information about their location. When the contact, Khoresh, attempts to kill him and rob him of his Beskar armor, Djarin does what he does best and kills Khoresh’s thugs before interrogating him by force and leaving him hanging upside down by a lamppost to be eaten by red-eyed feral doglike things. This was pretty savage, but then, Djarin has never been loth to summarily kill criminals who happen to also be his nominal former friends.
With information that a Mandalorian is to be found on Tatooine, scene of his former shenanigans with Toro Calican and Fennec Shand, Djarin journeys to the ruined town of Mos Pelgo. There he encounters Cobb Vanth, a non-Mandalorian wearing Mandalorian armor salvaged from Jawas and the eponymous “Marshall” of the episode. This armor is immediately identifiable as that which once belonged to Boba Fett, seemingly killed at the start of Return of the Jedi but later stated by Lucas and in the works of many Extended Universe spin-off writers to have survived his encounter with the Sarlacc in that film. With a krayt dragon terrorizing the town, it soon falls to Djarin to broker a peace between the townspeople and the local Tusken Raiders (Sand People) in order to collaborate and kill the beast in return for Vanth’s armor as payment. This provides a rich opportunity for the show to elaborate on its “Tuskens-as-indigenous peoples” trope established in S1E5, which it frankly does very imperfectly. While, yes, I’m very much aware we’re talking about a race of fictitious humanoids in a sci-fi fantasy western space drama who communicate entirely in grunts and gesticulations , this attempt to humanize the Tuskens feels both genuine and only half-formed in the episode. We get more insight into their culture, rituals, and their conflict with the “civilized” Tatooiners, with Djarin at one point arguing for peace between the two by telling the latter the former are “brutal” but men of their word; but the use of Djarin as constant intermediary between the two peoples, especially when the townspeople have their own charismatic leader in Vanth, makes the presentation of the Tuskens as an honorable but essentially monolithic mass noble savage-adjacent in many respects.
They remain unindividuated and without compelling personalities, when this might have been accomplished by simple choices such as giving them a chieftain or council and subtitling their iconically gibberish language. Perhaps that would spoil the slightly comical effect the Tuskens have always elicited (inspiring a Family Guy bit about a Sand People choir, among other things), but in the end the attempt to represent them as more than savage cardboard is incomplete.
Timmy Oliphant’s Cobb Vanth is a far more compelling sidekick to this episode than the execrable nuisance that was Calican. He is principled and competent, if largely generic, and plays the part of small town sheriff credibly. The episode does not shy away from depicting the resentment between the two communities, but when Vanth stops a paranoid townsperson from instigating a brawl with the Tuskens, it reinforces the notion that he has not been written into the episode just to make someone look stupid, whereas Calican seemed to exist for the singular purpose of exuding smug mediocrity and racism-lite.
The krayt dragon itself eats quite a few people, dissolves others in acidic saliva, and generally acts like a dick before a cinematographically gorgeous but predictable resolution consigns it to the dust heap of Tatooine monster history. As Djarin speeds off into the sunset, however, a robed figure fans will identify as Jango Fett actor Temuera Morrison watches from the hillside. As Boba was canonically a clone of Jango, and as it was anyway already confirmed by the production that Morrison (who played Jango in Attack of the Clones) would take up the role this season, this is confirmation that Fett the Younger indeed survived Return of the Jedi. We’ll see where this leads.
Overall, despite its length, Mando S2E1 makes some admirable, if imperfect, strides in storytelling and contains serviceable action. While a far cry from the heights of “The Reckoning” or “Redemption”, “The Marshall” is a strong, narrative-driven addition to the Mando canon and warrants a more than respectable 8/10.