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‘The Mandalorian’ debuts to great fanfare but doesn’t quite warrant the hype — for now

The season opener of Disney’s “The Mandalorian” feels familiar

Actor Pedro Pascal returns to "The Mandalorian" as the voice and occasional face of the titular hero.
Actor Pedro Pascal returns to "The Mandalorian" as the voice and occasional face of the titular hero.

“The Mandalorian” returned to Disney Plus Oct. 30 for the debut of its second season. The long-anticipated return of the series’ second season left many anxious to see what the armored hero’s next adventures would be.

Pedro Pascal returns to the series as the voice and occasional face of the titular hero. Pascal can do no wrong as the Mandalorian. The steadiness and force of his voice makes one wonder if Pascal should have a celebrated filmography as a voice actor. Hopefully, this season will give audiences another glimpse into the psychology of the faithful warrior and another peak at the man underneath the helmet.

The first episode returns to the standard format of an episode of “The Mandalorian.” There is a larger-than-life foe which a group of villagers cannot fight alone and need Mando's help. Mando, being a lone Mandalorian, will also join forces with one of the villagers to take down the foe. Throw in an unlikely team-up and a signature species in the “Star Wars” universe, and this is a classic episode. In the end, the foe dies, and everyone is happy — all too predictable, unfortunately. To make matters worse for a case defending the originality of this episode, the setting is in the familiar “Star Wars” location of Tatooine. Mando and the Child have been there before and return once again with little thrill. 

Following another series tradition of celebrity cameos, the first episode sees guest star Timothy Olyphant come face to face with the Mandalorian. Olyphant, in all his salt-and-pepper-haired glory, is cast again in another authority archetype. He’s played sheriff roles in shows like “Deadwood” and “Justified” and even reprised the latter role in the last season of “The Good Place.” Despite the overfamiliar casting choice, “The Mandalorian” leans into Olyphant’s good sheriff motif to get the plot of the episode moving. Staying less true to what made “The Mandalorian” so successful last year, this season’s opener featured less baby Yoda than usual. While there were funny cuts to the green infant, the first episode was not focused around him and did not earn itself any more love for the little alien. 

Even with a less than stellar plot for the opening entry of season two, the visuals of “The Mandalorian” can never be faulted. The world-building of the galaxy Mando traverses is epic. From a daunting alien cityscape to a beautiful dusk campsite, “The Mandalorian” keeps the “Star Wars” universe alive and vibrant. In a welcome departure from previous episodes, during a crucial action scene, the screen ratio shifts gracefully from a 16:9 ratio to a 4:3 ratio — fully capturing the magnitude of the foe and Timothy Olyphant’s gorgeous eyes. 

On the whole, the episode falls a little flat. It just feels all too familiar. While the episode is new, “The Mandalorian” has produced this kind of story before — only for audiences to leave with no more information about the upcoming season than they already knew. For a season opener, this episode felt more like the filler of a third or fourth installment in the season. Considering “The Mandalorian” has a main overarching story that stretches from season one to season two, it can be forgiven that the first entry to this season was a little less than substantive. Hopefully, this will be the last episode to revisit this plot format for a while. The series has been a great source of fantastic villains and plot twists, but for now, audiences will have to wait for “The Mandalorian” to prove the success of the first season was not a fluke.

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