Editor’s Note: Welcome to Mandalorian Monday, when Vanyaland film editor Nick Johnston recaps last week’s episode of ‘The Mandalorian’. It runs — you guessed it — every Monday during the show’s second season, so you have the chance to watch it over the weekend and he can write about it without having to put a big SPOILERS warning atop the page.
So, after a long 11-month wait, The Mandalorian has finally returned. It could have been even longer, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we dodged a huge-ass bullet as the show stopped filming literally days before Europe shut down. Sure, poor Ludwig Gorannson had to compose this season’s music remotely with each individual instrument section recording in socially distanced groups, but, hey, you can’t even tell the difference. It still sounds like Star Wars cowboy music and I’m here for it because I can guarantee you that those are the sounds that Jon Favreau hears in his head every night before he goes to bed (or at least he started hearing them in his head right around the time Zathura came out — why else would you burn all that studio money in order to make Cowboys and Aliens if not to do a dry run for a Star Wars Western?). Actually, here’s the live-feed into Chef’s head for your own viewing pleasure.
As a lot of other people have pointed out, Episode 9: “The Marshal” feels quite a lot like a genuine Western, thanks to its Fordian plotting, the acrid setting — dusty-ass Tatooine once again, where the sand is coarse and rough and gets everywhere — and, of course, the presence of the featured guest star, the titular “Marshal,” Cobb Vanth, played by Timothy Olyphant, who is wearing the armor of ya boy Boba Fett. Casting the Deadwood veteran was both an obvious choice and a genius one on the part of Favreau, and man, he kills it here (more on that later). But we’ve got a plot synopsis to get through, losers, and it’s a fun one.
Well, we begin with the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda rolling through a desiccated bad-part-of-town in order to parlay with a criminal named Gor Koresh (played by John Leguizamo and, surprisingly enough, not a description of the end of Waco) who has valuable information about the location of other Mandalorians. You see, Mando’s been tasked with bringing Baby Yoda to its people, and he wants to use the Mandalorians’ secret underground network of bases and communities to avoid detection from the Imperials, and he’s heard that Koresh is the kind of fellow who has that information. So, the pair meet up with the gangster at a fight night where two Gammoreans are trying to turn one another into green eggs and ham with giant axes for the adoration of the crowd, and are very clearly there to be double-crossed. Turns out Koresh tricks Mandalorians into coming to him for help in order to kill them and take their armor, and our boy Din Djarin is next in line. But, then again, Mando went to the same school of combat that Zack Snyder’s Batman did, and he handily takes care of the guards (after an adorable Baby Yoda moment where, sensing that shit is about to go down, the young one closes up his floating pram from the danger). Even more Batman-like is the way that Mando strings up a fleeing Koresh and extracts what he wants to know out of him — turns out there is another one of his people on Tatooine, even if Mando doesn’t quite believe it given that he’s seen so much of the planet on his travels in the Outer Rim — before leaving the disreputable fellow to get eaten by space raccoons. Well, that’s what I think those things are, anyway — have you ever seen those little motherfuckers go at it? It’s intense!
So, Mando and The Child make their way back to Tatooine, where they encounter Mos Eisley’s most famous 46-year-old Freshman, former boozer/user/loser, and current spaceport owner Peli Motto, played by the one and only Amy Sedaris. Peli’s pumped to see the child again, and Mando’s happier to see the Pit Droids this time around, given how he’s learned how to stop worrying and love droids, even if they did kill his parents all those years ago (I still miss you deeply too, IG-11). After pleasantries, Mando asks Peli where exactly Mos Pelgo — a rumored mining town far beyond the friendly confines of Mos Eisley and Mos Espa — is, given that it may be the home of this rumored Mandalorian. She gives him directions with the help of an R5 unit (is this Skippy the Jedi Droid?) and loans him the Swoop he used back on his last visit to the Desert Planet, back when he had to cap a loser who wanted to get into the guild. Mando and Baby Yoda make their way to the town, and this is where the Western influences come out in full force (no pun intended). He rolls into the main drag, catching eyes from the passerby like he’s on the back of a steed, and saddles up to the local watering hole (literally, it’s probably the only place you can get water in town) to get info from the bartender, which is where he meets Vanth for the first time.
Vanth, clad in the armor of probably the most famous Mandalorian to people outside of the Star Wars universe, immediately offers Mando a drink and pisses him off when he takes his off to slurp down a shot. You see, Vanth, as he’ll later tell Mando, acquired the armor from Jawas following the Mining Guild’s takeover of Mos Pelgo and the enslavement of its people, and he used said armor to protect the town from all threats foreign and domestic. This is pretty similar to the rumored plot of The Mandalorian from a few years ago — you know, the one where a kid finds Boba’s armor and impersonates him in his small town — but Vanth’s a pretty good dude all things considered. But right now he’s staring down the shiny silver Beskar helmet of Din Djarin, and, were it not for the timely intervention of a massive Krayt dragon coming through town and straight-up eating a Bantha, the two might have shot it out.
The pair strike a deal — if Mando helps Vanth slay the Krayt dragon, he’ll give him the armor so that it can be properly disposed of — and they set off to find where the monster lives. In perhaps the coolest little ancillary detail in this episode (well, perhaps aside from bane-of-Black-Series-collectors Constable Zuvio maybe being in the stands at the Pig fight), Vanth’s own speeder bike is made from the repurposed engine of a Pod Racer, which is another fun nod to the prequels in this series that is sure to deeply upset elder nerds and delight younger ones.
Vanth and Mando encounter some massifs — the hunting dog of the noble Tusken Raider, who will hereby be the stand-in for Native Americans in Favreau’s take on a typical Western tale of colonizers and indigenous peoples having to work together to stop an even greater threat from killing them both — and Mando has to help Vanth overcome his prejudices when they finally meet up with their owners. Vanth doesn’t want to taste the ceremonial tea, and very nearly gets both of them killed when he starts shouting about how they’d killed his pals and they start shouting about the fact that the mining town steals all their water before our hero interjects and reminds them about the stakes at hand. The next day, the Raiders try to show the pair how they’ve managed the Krayt dragon in years past by offering up a Bantha to it to ensure it stays sleeping in the massive cavern that it calls home, but it seems the dragon’s figured out the ruse: Instead of going for the yak-like creature tied to a post, it comes out of its hideout and eats the Raider who put it there. Mando and the Raiders then realize that the only way they’ll be able to stop it is if the people of Mos Pelgo help out as well. This goes over at a town meeting about as well as an Ewok showing up at a gathering of an Imperial Veterans of Endor gathering at the Coruscant VFW, but Mando’s able to persuade the people with a deal: If they leave the carcass of the dragon for the Raiders, the Raiders promise not to attack the village unless the Mos Pelgoans start shit. Sure enough, the Mos Pelgoans agree, and they’re off to the cave.
So, with Vanth and Mando acting as the joint John Madden for the Raider/Townsperson offense, The Mandalorian gets one of its standout action scenes, in which the townspeople fight the massive beast (Monster Hunter ain’t got shit on this) and attempt to lure it towards explosives buried in the soil where, presumably, it’s underbelly will be more vulnerable to damage. The black widescreen bars fade-away, and we get full screen, which makes me wonder somewhat if they had intended for this episode to be shown in IMAX theaters — you don’t typically see it outside of Chris Nolan Blu-rays, frankly — and man, if they were going to do that, it would have absolutely fucking murdered. It’s pure chaos, with Raiders being dissolved by the acid the Krayt vomits up, townspeople being eaten, and explosions going off all around.
Sadly, the plan doesn’t work — in fact, it only pisses off the dragon more, and he bursts through a mountaintop, raining acidic bile atop the Raider offense like his name was Tre Mason — and Vanth and Mando have to get to work. The pair take to the skies (honestly, this still makes me giggle whenever it happens, given that it’s some straight-up Commander Cody shit), and our hero devises a last-ditch plan. Mando busts up Vanth’s jetpack, tells him to watch The Child, and, along with an explosive-packed Bantha, gets swallowed by the monster. Like the second Death Star, the dragon goes ka-blam, and the Raiders and Townspeople are overjoyed. The Raiders get massive hunks of meat from the beast and find a pearl in its corpse, and Vanth holds up his end of the bargain, giving Mando the armor back. The pair are now best buds, and I, for one, hope to God that we get to see him again.
But wait! As Mando rides off into the twin sunset, a shadowy figure watches him from the horizon. He turns to face the camera and it’s… Bill Sadler’s Death from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey! No, it’s a grizzled, armorless, hairless Boba Fett, played by Temura Morrison, who has presumably been scoping out all of this action. Does it rule? Absolutely! Will most people have no idea who he is without going to the internet? Probably! Either way, I’m hyped for Friday.
Honestly, I think this is one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian yet. I’ve always been partial to the Lone Wolf and Cub series and anything episodic-like this that sees our Mando and Baby Yoda rolling up to the party and solving problems in a neatly-contained story that has a beginning, middle, and end is absolutely fine in my book. There are a few bits and pieces I didn’t care for — the Pearl was just a bit too similar to the Egg from last season for my liking, and the specifics of the plot are just a little too Cowboys and Aliens for my liking (it seems Favs only really has one Western idea, all things considered) — but overall, this was a lot of fun, which is a bit of a contrast compared to how last season began.
Well, that would be Olyphant, who just fucking rocks it here. He’s cool as shit in the way that most classic Western protagonists are, though with an added sardonic edge befitting somebody like Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a movie that came to mind a few times while watching this one. He’s not as much of an asshole, though, given that, you know, the movie isn’t literally titled after his murder, so I’ll compare him more to Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone, rather than that or any one of Olyphant’s own performances. The dude just exudes cool in a similar fashion, and weirdly enough, he actually gets cooler when he takes the mask off! Funny how that works, huh?
Star Wars Fan Film of The Week:
This week, I’m spotlighting Bucketheads, a Canadian fan film made by Transmute Pictures a few years ago, and it’s a lot of fun if you’re willing to roll with a few “ehs” every now and then. Great production value, too. After all, we need more movies from the Imperial perspective, and, hey, the whole fucking genre of Star Wars fan film was basically founded upon Troopers, right? They’re currently making a full season of these films, so if you like what you see here, be sure to give them a follow on YouTube for more.
This Week’s Weirdest Piece of Baby Yoda Merch:
I present to you the Baby Yoda Chia Pet. And no, you’re not growing chia from the little guy’s head, sadly: He’s sitting in a whole bunch of the plants, apparently. You can get your very own from Entertainment Earth for $19.99.
And with that, the time of “The Marshal” has come to an end. Stay safe, everyone, and remember: go vote. This is the way.