A worthy follow-up to the inaugural episode, the second chapter of The Mandalorian builds upon its predecessor in nearly every aspect. ‘Chapter 2’ takes the series in a slightly different direction. Rather than sharing the first episode’s indulgence in “badass” moments, this episode feels much more subtle and softspoken. This is not to say there is any remote lack of exciting thrills, but within the context of the episode, they feel much more fluid, well-earned, and satisfying. This narrative progression feels natural yet still manages to isolate itself and create a self-contained adventure in the Star Wars universe.
The most drastic improvement upon the first episode is a more interesting and centralized focus on the Mandalorian himself. With even fewer lines of dialogue than before, Pedro Pascal’s faceless bounty hunter manages to succeed in the depiction of a conflicted drifter thanks to superbly subtle body acting and intimate direction by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope). Framed by Baz Idione’s (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) gorgeous cinematography, these aspects of ‘Chapter 2′ display astute ability in understanding characters and conveying their unspoken emotions to an audience. The episode’s character-focused moments stand out, electing to not only spend quiet scenes with its main lead and his bounty but also infuse that level of characterization and plot into portions of the action.
On the surface, the plot feels rather insignificant to the main goals of the overarching narrative. However, this is a demonstration coming from a Lucasfilm with more interests than just style and flair within its new TV endeavors. This is actively seeking the well-roundedness associated with quieter and intimate moments that resonate with audiences more than a flashy blaster stand-off. Even more, the skilled storytelling at play allows not a moment of longing for anything other than what is on screen.
The brisk 32-minute run time keeps the story snappy, albeit rather short. Famuyiwa’s direction demonstrates full control of cinematic storytelling- creating gripping moments of kinetic action and emotional understanding. To this point, the episode contains a number of new set pieces unique from anything seen before in Star Wars canon thus playing to the strengths of the filmmakers and to the possibilities of the show’s premise. Tense sequences of harrowing feats paying homage to the show’s Western inspirations are executed with precision. This is emphasized by Ludwig Göransson’s riveting score, which seems to only get better with each passing note.
Despite the entirety of the episode taking place on a desert planet, the tangibility of each environment far exceeds that of any other show on TV. Even on a less than feature-length budget, the world of The Mandalorian is incredibly immersive. While the show still cannot seem to perfectly nail the Blurrgs, the visual effects and production design continue to hold up remarkably well- even surpassing that of the pilot. A particular highlight was the usage CG-augmented of puppetry.
The finale to ‘Chapter 1’ was a major surprise to many, promising an interesting and exciting narrative to be explored in later episodes. The bounty or “asset” is one of the highlights of ‘Chapter 2.’ Between the frequent close-up shots on its adorably gargantuan eyes, the charming movements of its infantile limbs, and undeniably cute sound design- one cannot help but feel compassion for it. Thanks to such capable filmmaking, the bounty feels not only alive but compelling as a looming moral and emotional crux of the show. The further exploration of its value, not only as a source of money and power but as a source of internal conflict continues to be engaging and interesting. The Mandalorian’s greatest potential lies in the examination of its characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves, and so far it has not skipped a beat.