The following is a spoiler-free review of the second-season premiere.
(CNN)If “Baby Yoda” (a.k.a. “The Child”) was the big surprise when “The Mandalorian” made its debut a year ago, the second season arrives amid sky-high expectations that seemed difficult to fulfill. Yet the Disney+ series managed to deliver on them with its premiere, which featured numerous creatures and aliens looping back into the mythology of the original trilogy, and yes, another flourish designed to set the Internet ablaze.
One of the most impressive aspects of the first season involved the show’s ability to tap into “Star Wars” nostalgia while charting its own creative path. Another hinged on executive producers Jon Favreau (who wrote and directed the premiere) and Dave Filoni possessing an innate feel for the way those early films mixed cinematic genres, adapting that into a series format imbued with the same combination of old and new.
The second-season opener particularly reflected the franchise’s western roots, with the Mandalorian (voiced by Pedro Pascal) and his young sidekick coming to a remote town on a familiar planet, where he’s forced into an alliance with the local marshal (guest Timothy Olyphant, adding another lawman to his resume) to face a very big threat.
That framework draws upon everything that fans have come to enjoy — and frequently miss and grouse about when it falls short — regarding “Star Wars,” including theatrical-quality visual effects, bountiful action and humor.
“The Mandalorian” has also proven adept at crafting largely self-contained episodes while gradually advancing the larger story line. The same goes for focusing on these specific characters while delivering references and moments immersed in “Star Wars” trivia, in a way that surely would elicit whoops and hollers were it presented to an assembled audience.
For now, with the theatrical business hobbled and the “Star Wars” galaxy essentially between movies — waiting to see what director Taika Waititi can conjure after the completion of the most recent trilogy — Disney+ has, practically speaking, become “Star Wars'” home base.
“The Mandalorian” is already a key asset for the studio, including all the merchandise Baby Yoda appears destined to sell heading into the holidays. Far from resting on its laurels, though, if the balance of Season 2 can match the promise of this first episode, it’s still easy to have a good feeling about this.
“The Mandalorian” is currently streaming on Disney+.