Olyphant's debut on the Disney+ Star Wars series in the Season 2 premiere is "an ideal little bit of Olyphant myth making," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "It’s not just that he’s well-known for playing breaks-the-rules law-enforcement officers, it’s that those characters tend to have important relationships with their hats. In Deadwood, Olyphant as Sheriff Bullock rarely wore the cowboy hat. It was a sign of Bullock’s reluctance to fully assume a position of authority. When he did put that hat on, though, whoo baby. Things were gonna get real. On Justified, Olyphant then fully embraced the hat, stalking through the Kentucky hill country with an impressive, wide-brimmed cowboy hat that became a key part of his character Raylan Givens. That hat was the hat of a confident man. That hat did not care if you saw it coming. It wanted you to see it coming. So casting Olyphant in The Mandalorian as a character wearing a costume that notably involves never removing your helmet, and to then have his crucial introduction scene involve removing the helmet, is just a fantastic nod to Olyphant’s career. Plus, once he takes his helmet off, you can see his perfect, perfect haircut."
The Mandalorian is as impressive and instantly absorbing in Season 2 as it was last year: "Disney did not provide screeners in advance, so all there is to go on is that first episode, but it’s a strong first episode, a case study for the things that make The Mandalorian such a consistently entertaining series," says Jen Chaney. "Chief among those is its economical approach to storytelling. As epic as The Mandalorian is in terms of scale — it travels to various planets, introduces all manner of creatures great, small, adorable, and odd, and features visual effects worthy of any of the Star Wars motion pictures — it keeps its scenes and story lines simple and focused. Even those who may not be able to recite the history behind certain settings and species off the top of their heads can easily hook in and understand what is happening and what’s at stake for the characters."
The Mandalorian is not the future of Star Wars: "This is a safe next step for Disney," says Matt Miller. "Movies are expensive (the shows are, too, for sure, but don’t have the same risk and expectations). If they’re going to keep this IP alive, TV shows starring familiar characters are an easy way to continue to cash in on our deepening thirst for nostalgia. And that’s what The Mandalorian does to a brilliant degree. Baby Yoda is perhaps the single greatest Star Wars invention since R2-D2. And even Baby Yoda is not new. Sure, Disney wants you to call it The Child—but Baby Yoda is what he is, a baby who is also a Yoda creature. With Baby Yoda in tow, a man in familiar armor goes to familiar bars, talks to people who use familiar language, and fights familiar foes. He’s presumably fighting the same battle Star Wars has been fighting since the beginning. This is not a bash on The Mandalorian (again, I love it), but it would be foolish to say this show is anything new or different...The Mandalorian does not kill the past. The Mandalorian basks in the past, offering a slightly different perspective on it. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy living in the Star Wars universe, to soak in it like a warm bath."
The Mandalorian is a success because it lets go of the past: "The show is basically a space western: there’s a heist, a Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai-inspired riff on protecting a defenseless town from enemy invaders, plenty of gunfights, and bounty hunting," says William Goodman. "Gone are the galactic wars, the Skywalker family tree, the good vs. evil battle between the Jedi and the Sith -- all the tiresome, endlessly picked-over, self-serious drama that Disney decided to rehash yet again in its movies. Instead, our nameless bounty hunter spends his time rubbing shoulders with the denizens of a grimy underworld while having utterly no idea who Luke, Leia, and Han are. Blissful relief! The Mandalorian’s eight-episode first season feels more in line with old Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon serials, two touchpoints that inspired Lucas when creating the very first Star Wars back in ‘77. The Mandalorian’s clever relationship to the original franchise is best exemplified by Baby Yoda, who became the kind of instant, organic, ubiquitous meme that giant entertainment conglomerates can only dream of. Baby Yoda is familiar enough to keep hardcore fans intrigued, and cute enough to pull in a new generation. He’s not just a propulsive plot device, he’s also a litmus test: If you love Baby Yoda, you’ll probably dig the rest of the series, which incorporates elements of a show like Lone Wolf and Cub into its space western vibe."
The Mandalorian makes a masked bandit an honorable sci-fi outlaw: "The Mandalorian has frequently been compared to movies like True Grit and characters like Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name," says Linda H. Codega and Christina Orlando. "Star Wars, as a franchise, has always been understood as a science-fiction Western, and The Mandalorian is inspired by Western conventions. However, its eponymous protagonist Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) doesn’t neatly fit into the American conception of a lone gunman. The Masked Bandit—a romantic figure in the tradition of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro and Tarsem Singh’s The Fall—allows us to look at the Mandalorian as a critique of heroic masculinity, undermining the expectations for male aggression set by contemporary action films. The Mandalorian subverts popular narratives of vigilantism (which traditionally operate parallel to authority) and instead proposes an alternate, anonymous form of heroism; one which serves his community, family and morals."
The Mandalorian is now the star of the Star Wars franchise: "The past year has reoriented the power structure of Star Wars toward the small screen," says Ben Lindbergh. "The Rise of Skywalker was, by Star Wars standards, both a critical flop and a box office disappointment, a derivative work that warred with its predecessor, divided fans, and continues to plague me personally. The Mandalorian, by contrast, was a critical darling, earning 15 Emmy nominations (including the prestigious 'Outstanding Drama' category) and seven award wins."