The second installment of this brand-new Star Wars sci-fi show had a lot to live up to, considering the widespread critical acclaim received by the premiere episode. The thing is … it really didn't. Titled "The Child," referring to the jaw-dropping surprise reveal we saw just a few days ago, the episode picks up where we left off, with our antihero looking after a baby (a 50-year-old one) of the same, as-yet-unnamed species as Yoda.
Unfortunately, the biggest shock this week had nothing to do with the plot. It was that this episode was even shorter than the first of this already brief show. Last week's debut clocked in at 39 minutes, which is about what you'd expect from a network program in a 1-hour slot, once you've factored in all of the commercials. "The Child" runs for just 31 minutes. And don't forget that there are only eight episodes in the first season, so we're already a quarter of the way through Season 1.
It's a little hard to see where the $12.5 million was spent for this particular episode, the primary purpose of which was purely to give us one important piece of plot-related information, which we'll come to later. The show's creator, Jon Favreau, is going to have to work considerably harder at evenly distributing the story over the length of an entire season.
We rejoin the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) right after the assault on the encampment to capture his target. Presumably, he's lost his Burrg ride and is having to make his way back to his ship on foot. The child remains in its orb-crib and floats alongside the bounty hunter as he walks. It certainly looks like a practical special-effects prop, rather than computer-generated imagery, and it is undoubtedly the most adorable hand-operated puppet ever seen in sci-fi.
The beautiful, Sergio Leone-style pan flute music score by Ludwig Göransson continues to create the feeling of a frontier-esque setting in which the story takes place.
Something triggers the Mandalorian's senses, and he's ambushed by three Trandoshans who have been clearly also tracking the target, even after they left the compound. It's not quite clear yet how these tracking fobs work – whether they're keyed into the target's unique life signs or something else. No doubt we'll find out in time.
We also get to see just how versatile the Mandalorian's signature weapon is. Believed to be a modified Amban phase-pulse blaster, he uses it effectively as a quarterstaff, a stun weapon, sniper rifle and as an extremely powerful blaster, utterly disintegrating any unfortunate soul he shoots at.
The Trandoshans put up a good fight, and as the Mandalorian makes camp for the night, he attempts to repair his damaged armor and patch up his wounds. The child, meanwhile, keeps being extremely cute and adorable, and climbs out of its orb-crib to try to help. We already see that the bounty hunter is beginning to bond with it. Perhaps Disney has another spin-off up its sleeve - a rom-com about "The Mando and a Baby" together with a reboot of Steve Guttenberg's career.
At dawn, the Mandolarian continues the journey and eventually approaches the valley where he left his spacecraft. He rises over the ridge and spies a Jawa sandcrawler parked next to his now-stripped Razor Crest… and it really has been thoroughly taken to pieces. Let's not forget, the bounty hunter has probably been gone close to a week by now, and seeing the hollow shell of the Razor Crest, with parts lying all around it, is utterly heartbreaking.
Incensed by this, he unshoulders his weapon and begins blowing away the Jawas, who naturally drop everything and run to the safety of their massive sandcrawler. It's doubtful this planet is Tatooine - or, to put it another way, we pray this planet isn't Tatooine - so perhaps, hopefully, Jawas live on more than one world.
He chases after the sandcrawler and manages to climb aboard. The child and the orb-crib follow from a safe distance; the crib appears to be controlled by an arm-mounted panel on the Mandalorian's armor.
The chase sequence is thoroughly entertaining and even has a little Indiana Jones feel to it. The Jawas are throwing all sorts of junk at him from open hatches as the Mandalorian tries desperately to both cling on and climb up. From time-to-time he's able to grab one, yank them out, and throw it to its death on the rocky ground below. A Jawa-sounding Wilhelm scream would have been a real treat here, especially since this show is incorporating many Easter eggs from Star Wars history.
Time and time again, the Mandalorian is knocked down, and even narrowly misses getting crushed by a rockface, but, eventually, he manages to get to the top of the sandcrawler, where he's greeted by a dozen Jawas who simultaneously use their stun weapons, sending him flying off and landing hard on the ground below as the sandcrawler rumbles off into the distance and out of sight. By all accounts, he's having a pretty bad day.
The Mandalorian eventually regains consciousness, and utterly dejected, he looks around at the sandcrawler tracks leading to the horizon and beyond. He looks at the trail of debris and looks at the child, who is sitting in its orb-crib and seems to be smiling at him. He makes his way back to his ship to appraise the situation. It has indeed been completely stripped; entire control panels are missing along with sections of the hull plating, and his entire armory is also gone. There's really only one thing he can do at this stage, so off he goes to find Kuiil the Ugnaught (voiced by Nick Nolte).
Everyone needs a friend like Kuiil, and he's quickly established himself as one of the best characters in the show so far.
"I thought you were dead," he says to the Mandalorian when he eventually reaches the Ugnaught's home.
The bounty hunter explains what happened as the child continues to be cute and adorable in the background, even when it eats a frog whole and gives a traditional Star Wars burp, albeit a baby one (see: worrt and Sarlacc from Return of the Jedi).
Kuiil says that the only solution is to trade with the Jawas so that he gets all the parts from his ship back, and the very next morning they set off. They catch up with the parked sandcrawler and the Jawa’s encampment. All sorts of scavenged bits and pieces lie strewn over the ground, and there's even a red-and-white striped R5 astromech droid in the distance, like the one that had a bad motivator in A New Hope.
Understandably, the Jawas are uncomfortable with the Mandalorian being there - he did kill quite a few of them earlier on - and he's still understandably unhappy that he has to actually trade to get his stolen stuff back. But under the wise guidance of Kuiil, a deal is reached and the Jawas demand the bounty hunter retrieve something referred to as "the egg" in exchange for his ship parts.
He approaches and cautiously enters an ominous-looking cave. Whatever is in there, chances are it's going to be unpleasant. He switches on a light that's on the side of his helmet to better explore the depths of this dark cavern … and here's what we would have liked to have seen: The Mandalorians keep their armored helmets on all the time and never take them off (a little like Judge Dredd). So, the helmets must obviously be comfortable to wear for so long, and more importantly, offer an advantage of some kind to warrant keeping them on all the time, especially as the head coverings must restrict their peripheral vision. So, incorporating options like infrared or even night vision would make sense. Watching the Mandalorian flick a switch on the side of helmet and seeing his visor turn a subtle shade of night vision green would have been a nice touch.
He soon finds the inhabitant of the cave - an enormous, horned quadruped that seems pretty upset that the Mandalorian just tried to steal one of its eggs. An entertaining fight ensues in the mud outside of the cave, and the bounty hunter gets utterly pummeled. In fact, with his Amban phase-pulse blaster choked full of mud and unable to fire, he looks like he might not survive the day. He pulls the only weapon he last left at his disposal, a 7-inch or so knife, and he stands his ground as the beast charges.
We mentioned before that the orb-crib followed the Mandalorian around; it's quite understandable that he doesn't want to let it out of his sight. And the child has been watching this fight unfold. As the giant creature charges, the adorable little Yoda-baby gently closes its eyes and lifts its tiny, adorable hand, and our suspicions were proved correct - it is very strong with the Force. The beast is lifted off the ground, just like when Yoda lifts Luke's sunken X-wing out of the swamp on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. The Mandalorian is amazed, the creature is aghast, and we're awe-struck.
Seizing this bizarre opportunity, the bounty hunter plunges his relatively tiny blade into the relatively enormous creature and fortunately hits a vital spot, killing it instantly. Battered and baked in mud, the Mandalorian ventures back into the cave to retrieve the precious and sought-after egg. The Jawas have more or less given up on him and are about to leave when he appears in the distance, barely able to walk. The child, exhausted from its experience, passes out.
The Mandalorian presents them with their egg and we wonder what significance it might have to the Jawas. Perhaps it's something of value that they will then trade, or maybe it has some cultural, religious or historical importance. Then, in the blink of an eye, one of them whips out a knife, cuts the top off and they all start gorging on the gooey, yellow yoke inside.
We might not actually see it, but we suspect that the Mandalorian is rolling his eyes.
With his missing parts stacked and secured on a Burrg-pulled sled, Kuiil and the bounty hunter make their way back to what's left of the Razor Crest. All things considered, that stack looks a little small compared to the gaping holes we saw on his ship. Along the way, Kuiil asks, "Explain it to me again. I still don't understand what happened…" To which the Mandalorian replies, "Neither do I."
They reach the Razor Crest and the Mandalorian moans, "There's no way we're going to get this to work without a full maintenance facility. This is going to take days to fix."
"If you care to help, it might go faster. There's much work to do," the ever optimistic Kuiil replies.
And herein lies our biggest complaint about this episode - aside from the short run time. Given the attention to detail that Favreau displays with this show, inserting little Easter eggs here and there, and referencing forgotten elements of Star Wars history and nostalgia, it seems bizarre that an A-Team-like sequence of wielding, hammering and patching up metal plates would be sufficient to effectively rebuild a vintage, light speed-capable craft and make it space worthy again.
Perhaps the Mandalorian had one of those Haynes Owner's Workshop Manuals at hand.
That said, thank goodness this wasn't Star Trek; otherwise, everything would have been fixed by waving a tricorder about and using a phase matrix recalibrating optronic coupler. No one ever seems to get their hands dirty in the Star Trek universe.
In all seriousness though, it's a weak ending to the episode. One of two things should have happened: Episodes 1 and 2 should have been combined into just one, or the second installment should have been fleshed out more. Perhaps the Razor Crest could have been partially repaired and flown to a maintenance facility to be fixed further. If this is Tatooine, it could have been flown to Anchorhead or Mos Eisley. A thousand different adventures could have unfolded in 30 minutes in either of these locations or a completely different spaceport if this isn't Tatooine.
The Mandalorian thanks Kuiil and offers to share the reward - after all, he couldn't have done it without his help - but the Ugnaught refuses. The bounty hunter even offers him a place on his crew, but Kuiil is just happy that no one else will come looking for the child and thus, peace has been restored to his valley.
Meanwhile, the bounty hunter flies off in his perfectly functional spacecraft, presumably to give the child to the client (Werner Herzog), and that's going to be an interesting exchange. Will the Mandalorian simply give up the most adorable baby in sci-fi to a pseudo-space-Nazi and his kooky quack sidekick, Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi)?
While this is still the best thing to happen to Star Wars since Rogue One, the story pacing needs work, and fans will begin to get annoyed if they have to wait until 3 a.m. ET every week to watch just half an hour of this show.
The third episode of "The Mandalorian" will air on Disney+ on Nov. 22, followed by weekly installments on Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, 18 and Dec. 27.
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