Review/Recap: ‘The Mandalorian’ Gives Arrakis a Run for Its Money in Epic Season 2 Premiere

***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian!***

Din Djarin's back and better than ever! The first season of The Mandalorian was just about perfect in every way, but the Season 2 premiere (“Chapter 9: The Marshal”) blew the first eight episodes out of the water in only 54 minutes. Now that the live-action Star Wars show has found its footing (and a sh** ton of popularity), creator Jon Favreau and his talented crew can just show off now.

Everything — be it sets, costumes, music, set pieces, or nods to the original and prequel trilogies — is perfectly in place. The second season opener is an impressive flex of Lucasfilm muscle.

While Season 1 left us on a cliffhanger in regards to Giancarlo Esposito's Moff Gideon, Season 2 decides to ease us back into the universe we've been sorely missing for about a year now (and what a year it's been). It's a smart plan of attack, not to get into the heavy stuff too soon. For the most part, “The Marshal” is a bit of a standalone episode that builds on the concepts explored in “Chapter 4: Sanctuary.” But we'll get back to that soon.

Chapter 9 begins with a scene featured in the trailer Disney+ unveiled last month. Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda visit a boxing match of sorts, except this fight is between two axe-wielding Gamorreans. You may recall that the green, pig-like aliens were the guards of Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi. By the way, was that some C-3PO graffiti art that Mando and BY passed on their stroll down the poorly-lit street?

Anyway, Mando seeks out a one-eyed crime lord named Gor Koresh (voiced by John Leguizamo), who may have information on the whereabouts of the last vestiges of Mandalorians in the galaxy. If he can find some of his own kind, Din believes, they can help him reunite The Child with its own kind.

Instead of aiding the bounty hunter in his newfound quest, the crime boss decides to make a play for Mando's valuable Beskar armor. Knowing what's in store, Baby Yoda adorably hides inside his shell. The scene doesn't turn out well for the shadowy underworld figure, who has his minions dispatched in quick succession (shoutout Whistling Birds). Once again, the titular character reminds us how much of a badass he truly is.

It's a great opening that throws us right back into the seedy and lawless corners of the Outer Rim. Out of options, the crime boss tells Mando that he's heard about a Mandalorian in Mos Pelgo on — you guessed it! — Tatooine. This episode contains three (count em') references to womp rats, which Luke used to shoot with his T-16

Djarin and BY head back to Mos Eisley spaceport, where they enjoy a lovely reunion with Amy Sedaris's Peli Motto and her troupe of bumbling, Three Stooges-esque pit droids. Jubilant to see BY again, Peli (who still feels out of place in the best way possible) informs Mando that Pelgo is an old mining settlement that somehow fell off the map when the Empire fell. She offers to watch The Child, but the little one no longer leaves the bounty hunter's sight and so, the two set off for Pelgo on the speeder bike Mando used in “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger.”

This is where the Season 2 premiere veers back into the classic Western territory as Mando rides into Mos Pelgo and the town's residents gaze upon the stranger with suspicion. Ludwig Göransson leans into the genre with his excellent score and like Favreau, he can have fun with his own sonic creation now that we know what to expect. And make no mistake: the composer is certainly taking his music to new heights this time around. I already want a soundtrack to “The Marshal”!

Mando saunters into a local cantina and asks about a Mandalorian that's supposedly been living there. The bartender says Din must be talking about the Marshal and lo and behold, the Marshal appears. But wait, could it be? Is the Marshal Boba Fett?!?! Alas, not. For a few seconds there, Favreau tricks us with a little bait and switch.

The Marshal is actually Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), a man who bought his Mandalorian armor off some Jawas. Using it, he's been able to protect Pelgo from bandits, Tusken Raiders, and the Mining Collective that tried to rule the town shortly after the war ended. Cobb, like, Mando, is a total badass (did you see him blow up that Mining Collective speeder with the rocket on his back?! So cool!). Like me, you may not have known that Cobb is a character featured in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath novel published in 2015. Just another sign that the show (most likely under the guidance of executive producer Dave Filoni) is respecting the deep Star Wars mythos.

Mando demands that Vanth return the armor and a shootout nearly takes place between the two space cowboys.

Their showdown is interrupted by a mysterious rumbling because not all is peaceful on the Tatooine frontier. You see, the people of Pelgo are constantly terrorized by a giant sand monster known as a “krayt dragon” (not to be confused with Crait, the salt planet in Last Jedi). Denis Villeneuve's Dune is delayed to next year, but The Mandalorian is here to give Arrakis a run for its money with another worm-like creature that attacks from below. Oh, and this one's got acid spit.

Taking a page out of the Tremors playbook, Vanth asks for Mando's help in killing the creature and promises to return the Beskar armor if they're successful.

And so, the two ride out to find the dragon's den, Mando on his speeder bike, and Vanth on the engine of what looks to be an old pod racer. A montage of them racing across the Dune Sea offers some really great visuals that make the world of the show feel like an actual, lived-in place.

The cinematography, set dressing, and even the CGI are second to none (all the more impressive when you consider that post-production Season 2 was completed during COVID lockdown).

On their quest, Mando and Vanth run into some Tuksen Raiders and proving that he can practice diplomacy as well as violence, Mando communicates with them and learns that they want to kill the dragon, too. They've been studying its feeding habits for generations and try to keep it asleep for as long as possible.

The Sand People have tracked its den to an old Sarlaac pit. Ayup, the dragon ate a frickin' Sarlaac! Exploiting a shared desire to see the monster vanquished, Mando forges a shaky alliance between the people of Mos Pelgo and the Tusken Raiders (a relationship that is not unlike that of the pioneers and Native Americans in the Old West).

This leads us into the epic climax in which the Pelgo residents and Tusken Raiders wage war against the ornery dragon. I can't think of a bigger or better way to bring a show back. This, people, is how you do it. Go big or go to your slimy mud-hole on Dagobah. The effects are top-notch, the stakes are high, and two characters that nearly killed each other at the start of the episode — Mando and Cobb — work side-by-side to achieve a common goal.

The beast swallows a bantha covered in explosives and meets its demise. RIP. Do you think this dragon was related to the stripped krayt skeleton C-3PO passed in A New Hope? In any case, the species is known for the precious pearls they produce, something that greatly pleases the Sand People at the end of “The Marshal.”

True to his word, Cobb returns the Beskar armor to Din Djarin. Another mission has been accomplished and another ally has been created. I really do hope Olyphant returns in later episodes or seasons. He's got the cowboy thing on lock and his intro reminded me of his brief appearance in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

As Mando and The Child ride back to Mos Eisley (a chunk of fresh dragon meat strapped to the speeder) a lone figure watches them from a distance dune. Who should it be but the actual Boba Fett, the rightful owner of the Beskar armor Din just got back from Cobb Vanth.

Yep, you're eyes did not deceive you, that was Temura Morrison returning to the galaxy far, far away for the first time since the prequel trilogy. And yes, Boba Fett was indeed swallowed by the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi, but clearly, he was able to escape. What isn't clear is how the show will explain his survival.

Will the series embrace the canon of 1995's Tales from Jabba's Palace or will it forge its own explanation? And how did he lose his armor? Moreover, will Din consider Boba a true Mandalorian if he was only the clone of one?

Only time will tell. This is the way!

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Baby Yoda is as cute as ever, peeping around corners and letting his ears flap in the wind. When the dragon first passes through Pelgo and devours a bantha whole, The Child hides inside a cantina spittoon. I just love that visual.