The Mandalorian season 2 surpasses the original season

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Jackson Rickert, Opinions Editor, Columnist

Amidst a year of chaos and pain, “Star Wars” was a consistently bright spot. Starting with the release of the final season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Disney followed up with a slew of announcements for new “Star Wars” shows, and of course the release of the much anticipated second season of “The Mandalorian.” After a resounding success in the first season, the second season was awash in discussion and speculation. Now, after the airing of all eight episodes, we finally have a chance to look at the second season as a whole.

I think now is a good time to mention that there will be some light spoilers throughout this article. If you haven’t watched the second season of “The Mandalorian,” I’ll cut to the chase and tell you to go do it. It’s a very solid season, and it’s worth your time. For everyone already familiar, I’ll keep going.

Overall, season two of “The Mandalorian” is an upgrade from the first. Primarily, the overarching story maintains it’s intrigue while meaningfully connecting with the larger “Star Wars” universe. Familiar faces, stories and locations all work to relate the world of the first season to that of other media while simultaneously maintaining the individuality and identity of the show itself. The season as a whole feels more cohesive and engaging, and the second season’s story is definitely a worthy continuation of that of the first.

The characterization, development and writing for our main characters, as well for minor and side characters, maintain the quality of the first season. Watching the titular character Din Djarrin’s (The Mandalorian) bond with Grogu (The child) develop over the course of both seasons has been very rewarding, and above all this season is focused on maintaining the bond between these two principal characters. Each gets a lot of interesting characterization and interaction that feeds back into the themes and ideas of the story.

Really quickly, I’ll also say that the season has beautiful visual effects, is shot and directed well, that the acting remains at a high level of quality and the music is phenomenal. This is all to be expected after the original season, and I won’t dive into it too much, but I wanted to touch on it nonetheless.

Something I really loved about the first season was how it deviated from the interconnected nature of typical “Star Wars”. The whole franchise has a problem with making the universe unnecessarily small. Familiar faces pop up all the time, every upcoming plotline is referenced or foreshadowed in every other work, out of thousands of planets we somehow only revisit 3 or 4 regularly and so on and so forth.

The original season was really good about being its own thing that felt like it was just in the “Star Wars” galaxy. Sure, there were references to the movies, but only vague outlines of what happened. When they announced, or rather leaked, a lot of the returning characters that ended up appearing in the second season, I was worried that immediately the story would be rendered either insignificant to the broader story of “Star Wars”, or that it would end up serving as a sort of support for the more recent movies, working to give more context to the new era of “Star Wars” and losing itself in the process.

I’m happy to say that this was not an issue, at least for the most part. I think the second season was very tasteful with its inclusion of recurring characters and plotlines. Every familiar face serves a narrative purpose that makes sense within the context of the show and is involved in the story in a way that removed my worries that they would be included as mindless fan service.

I do think the second season was a little indulgent at times, but it never felt like it was over the top or out of place. At worst, I was taken out of the experience because of the frequent familiarity, at best I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the unprecedented. Still, while I really enjoyed the familiarity of this season, I do think it made the “Star Wars” universe feel a bit smaller than it could have been otherwise. As a whole the season makes “Star Wars” feel both familiar and new, but season two definitely felt a little more connected to the rest of the franchise than the first, for better and for worse.

Lastly, I want to touch on the length of the season. Again, we got only eight episodes this year, and now we again begin the wait for another season. While I don’t think the show itself suffers from it’s ephemerality, I do think that as a proven investment for Disney, they can definitely afford to make the seasons longer. Logistically, I don’t see them upping it to a typical 20 episode season, but I could see a solid 10-12 episodes. That would give each season a bit of breathing room. Maybe I just want more good “Star Wars” content. Either way, the dozen or so new “Star Wars” projects announced should help to fill this void left between seasons.