I’ve had a little while to ruminate on “The Mandalorian” Season 2, and the impact it’s had on the “Star Wars” franchise, and as a fan, sometimes it’s just fun to nerd out and make arbitrary lists. So here’s my top 10 best things Season 2 of Mando gave us. I don’t anticipate making a top 10 worst list.
10. Great Action
While Mando Season 1 also had great action, I feel like Season 2 really raised the bar, with Ahsoka and Mando’s assault on Calodan, Boba Fett’s introductory fight scene, Ahsoka’s duel with the magistrate, and Mando’s fight with the Dark Troopers and Moff Gideon being memorable standouts for me.
9. A Memorable Lightsaber Duel
Speaking of Ahsoka’s fight with the magistrate, this season managed to pull off a tense and well-paced lightsaber duel with that fight. Armed with a lightsaber-proof beskar spear, when I think of this fight, I think of the atmosphere, the well thought out strikes and counters, and the sparks coming off the magistrate’s spear. In an episode clearly inspired by the work of Akira Kurosawa, it was a fitting centerpiece.
Which brings us naturally to …
In her previous appearances on Dave Filoni’s “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” shows, Ahsoka’s character design was made clearly for animation. So going into Season 2 — even though it had an enormous budget of $100 million — I was nervous that she’d look fake and unconvincing in live action, even embarrassing.
But they pretty much hit the nail on the head, both in her casting and production. It makes me feel a lot better about the upcoming “Ahsoka” show in the works.
7. Robert Rodriguez
His episode was glorious, and his action know-how proved perfect for the Star Wars universe, especially for a character like Boba Fett. For me, he is the best episode director this season, with Carl Weathers being a close second.
6. Spinoff Shows
Season 2 proved to be a jumping off point for the “Boba Fett” and “Ahsoka” shows, and they’ll be joined by a “Rangers of the New Republic” show. While I can’t talk about the quality of shows that don’t exist yet, Mando’s success proves to be what the “Star Wars” sequel movies should’ve been; a point from which to expand the Star Wars universe and licence.
5. A More Connected Universe
With callbacks to “Clone Wars” characters like Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka integrated fantastically, as well as elements from the Expanded Universe like the Dark Troopers, Mando Season 2 feels like it’s actually connected to the Star Wars universe, and that there’s a larger world to explore.
I understand that not everyone sees this as positive, as the appeal of Mando Season 1 was that it was a small, contained story in this universe. But “Star Wars” has always been interconnected, and Mando Season 2 was able to do a lot of worldbuilding without sacrificing its storytelling.
4. Cobb Vanth
Timothy Olyphant’s brief appearance in Season 2 started the show out strong, and he is perhaps one of the best written one-off characters in the show that I’d like to see more of.
3. Luke Skywalker
I couldn’t make this list without including Luke Skywalker’s surprise appearance in the finale. Mirroring Darth Vader’s hallway scene in “Rogue One,” we finally get to see Luke Skywalker in his prime — a far way from his fall in the divisive “The Last Jedi.”
It sent a resounding message to fans: Yes, the awesome things you like are allowed to be awesome once again.
2. The Rehabilitation of Boba Fett
It would have been very in line with the sequels’ direction to make Boba Fett a joke character who died in “Return of the Jedi” embarrassingly, and have that be the end of it. But keeping in line with the spirit of letting awesome things be awesome, they took a page from the Expanded Universe, had him survive his fall in the Sarlacc Pit, and basically become the same character from the EU that we all know and love.
And they accomplished that by hiring one of the best action directors on the market in Robert Rodriguez, who gave him some of the best action sequences in the show.
It showed a love and reverence for a character that has meant so much to a lot of people, and that care reverberates throughout the show.
1. An Overall Positive Impact
Probably the best thing Season 2 is it left “Star Wars” in a better place than when it started. Disney might have put out three technically competent movies via its sequels, but it’s mishandling of the brand is evident, and considering how strong “Star Wars” was when they got it versus where it was in 2019 after “The Rise of Skywalker,” I wouldn’t be surprised if it sticks as one of the worst brand transitions in recent history.
Never would I imagine that I’d see a major studio-produced “Star Wars” film lose money, but that’s exactly what we saw with 2018’s “Solo.” And I would have never imagined that “Star Wars” merchandise would have trouble selling, especially during a period of regular theatrical releases, but Disney saw repeated declines in sales throughout the release of the 5 films it has produced.
I think it’s very telling that when I go to any given department store, what dominates the “Star Wars” section is merchandise of Baby Yoda and The Mandalorian, with barely any merchandise from Disney’s five feature films, other than in the clearance aisle (“Rogue One” and “Solo” merchandise remains to be a main staple at my local Five Below). If you’ve never seen the films and your only knowledge of the franchise was from its merchandise, you might think the sequels came out five years ago, but “The Rise of Skywalker” is just over a year old.
It’s a far cry from the over-merchandising of the prequel era, where Star Wars was everywhere.
While merchandise sales are not everything, I think there’s a direct correlation with them and the renewed hope and investment in the franchise Mando has given people. The sequel trilogy is three competently-made, mostly flavorless films that leave a bitter taste on your tongue during some parts.
Mando has given people something to love in the “Star Wars” universe again. And that’s easily the best thing it’s given us in its first two seasons.