However you felt about the first season of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” you can expect to feel pretty much the same about Season 2, if the premiere is any indication of what’s to come. The first episode’s compact, standalone plot is as thrilling as it is predictable and suggests that the second season will likely parallel the first in pacing and design.
The first season surprised viewers by functioning as a series of short stories loosely following a larger plot, focused more on building the universe laterally than moving the story forward. For those who can appreciate it for what it is — compact and precise storytelling with an emphasis on worldbuilding, it is a pleasant viewing experience. On the other hand, the format made many of the first season’s episodes seem like filler. There’s worry that the show won’t have a lot of meaningful character building and will be weighed down by disposable characters that don’t contribute much plotwise.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t count “The Mandalorian” out just yet. The short story formula has worked for other fantasy shows; you don’t have to look much further than “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher” to recognize how side quests along the way can act as a compelling heart of a show. At least with “The Mandalorian,” there’s an added bonus of an excellent soundtrack and cinematography, as well as a vast source canon. The series does a tasteful job of sprinkling callbacks to the broader Star Wars canon, but make no mistake, this show has its own distinct feel and you need no attachment to George Lucas’s original series to enjoy it.
Oddly, it’s because of all the things going for this series on paper that I find it difficult to be impressed by it. Though the final product is satisfying enough, the show doesn’t take many creative risks. The twists and turns are expected in just about every way. While predictability isn’t necessarily uninteresting, there needs to be more heart or humor or action, or just anything, to make a predictable plot a worthwhile journey. “The Mandalorian” doesn’t really provide that. It’s nothing more than your average pleasant viewing experience.
Unlike other fantasy shows with broader ensembles and alternating plotlines, “The Mandalorian” opts for following only Mando (Pedro Pascal, “Narcos”) and The Child (David Acord, “The Secret Life of Pets 2”) (otherwise known as Baby Yoda). This is powerful at times, but as The Child functions more as a plot device and comic relief than as an autonomous character, the overarching narrative is left to be carried by Mando alone. Mando may be compelling, but his responsibility seems to overwhelm him at times when the narrative falls flat, which happens quite a few times with a show this formulaic.
Overall, for better or for worse, the season 2 pilot continues right where season 1 left off. The strengths and weaknesses of the show remain the same, so if you had fun watching the first time around, you’re likely in for a treat. Otherwise, it seems the show has more convincing to do. Luckily, the premiere, as standard as it is, has left space for the show to grow and prove that the journey really can be as fun as the destination. It just needs to be brave enough to take the risks needed to do so.
Daily Arts Writer Sarah Rahman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.