This article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2 episode 4.
Though Disney+’s first Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian is only a year old, the series is already starting to circle back on its own mythology. In season 2 episode 4 “The Siege,” the show brings back a secondary character who factored heavily into the series’ very first scene.
That’s right: Horatio Sanz’s “The Mythrol” is back and he’s just as useless as ever. Longtime (well, if November 2019 was a long time ago) Mando fans will remember Sanz’s unnamed Mythrol as the first bounty that the show’s titular bounty hunter collected. After saving the Mythrol’s life from a group of trawlers, Din Djarin a.k.a. The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) went ahead and captured the amphibious rogue himself. The Mythrol was encased in carbonite Han Solo-style and handed over to the Bounty Hunters’ Guild.
When the Mythrol pops up again in “The Siege,” he’s a little worse for wear. He still can’t see out of his left eye (proving that carbonite is unlikely to get that New Republic FDA approval any time soon) and he owes Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) a debt of 350 years for performing a bit of “creative accounting” with his books. It’s not long before Mando, Greef, and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) convince the Mythrol to come along on their mission to take down the last remaining Imperial base on Nevarro.
It’s here that showrunner Jon Favreau and the other folks behind The Mandalorian reveal once again just how much they appreciate and respect some good comedic relief. Many ostensible drama series have come to realize the value in adding comedic actors in dramatic roles. Breaking Bad experienced so much success in casting comedians like Bob Odenkirk, Bill Burr, and Lavell Crawford that it even got a six-season spinoff out of it. The Mandalorian in turn has featured the aforementioned Burr, Eugene Cordero, Brian Posehn, Adam Pally, and Jason Sudeikis. Sanz, however, was the first comedic actor to pop up on the show and he is the second one to recur (after Amy Sedaris’s Peli Motto). As it turns out, Sanz’s style of deadpan, anything-goes comedy is a perfect fit for a show that requires multiple escalations of nonsense per episode.
The Chilean-born Sanz is probably best known for his lengthy stint on Saturday Night Live. From 1998 through 2006, Sanz was a frequent background player in sketches and even played some regular characters such as Aaron Neville, Gobi (co-host of Jarrett’s Room alongside Jimmy Fallon), and grotesque cartoonist Jasper Hahn. He was also well-known for his minimalist, yet absurdly catchy Christmas ditty “I Wish it Was Christmas Today.”
Still, despite being a member of the cast for eight years, Sanz’s time on SNL is seen as largely undistinguished. He would “break” in sketches frequently, cracking up at the absurdity of whatever Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, or others were bringing to the table. One got the sense that he stuck around the show so long because he was a favorite of his fellow castmates, and not necessarily the audience’s.
After his SNL career came to an end, the Upright Citizens Brigade-trained Sanz began to reveal his improvisation and “up-for-anything” skills that made him a curious fit on SNL but a perfect fit for inventive shows like The Mandalorian. There’s a concept in improv comedy known as “yes and,” which states that improv performers should respond with a figurative (or sometimes literal) “yes and…” to their improv partners’ comedic concepts so that sketches can continue and escalate in their absurdity and humor. Sanz embodies that “yes and” spirit writ large, and it can be best observed on his frequent Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast appearances alongside host Scott Aukerman.
Over seven appearances on the show, Sanz portrays a laconic, white-haired character named “Shelly Driftwood.” Shelly isn’t so much a character as he is an empty vessel for Sanz to take any comedic setup from Aukerman and run with it to its absolute comedic extreme. The “canon” of Shelly Driftwood became incredibly complex, oft-contradictory, and completely ludicrous through his final appearance. The Comedy Bang! Bang! Wiki tries to sum it up as best it can thusly:
“Shelly Driftwood is a character played by Horatio Sanz. He is a book writer who wrote a book exonerating O.J. Simpson, because he actually killed Ron Goldman. He sells Porsches (but drives a 1989 Prius). He once sued Target but it was a scam and he only got $2400, even though one of his eyes now sees upside-down. He once pranked his best friend by pissing on his mom’s face.”
That level of Dadaist madness is what one can achieve when they “yes and” to an extreme level. Given that The Mandalorian is a scripted show (and an enormous, important IP for Disney), Sanz likely hasn’t had many opportunities to improvise during the Mythrol’s two appearances thus far. But that “yes and” spirit persists in the actor and carries over in the much put-upon character, creating one of The Mandalorian’s better comedic creations. Sanz is up for anything, and Mythrol is up for anything as well (via his still many-yeared obligation to Greef Karga). Let’s hope the show is up for continuing the sad, hilarious saga of this unnamed fish man.