I always thought The Mandalorian would be good. While I wasn’t necessarily as excited for it as a lot of other people were, I always had an optimistic expectation about it.
When you put people like Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni into the mix for the production of a Star Wars adventure, it’s difficult to not to be optimistic about the prospects.
Add to that George Lucas’s rumoured involvement; and the idea of a story being told in a time-period of the Star Wars chronology that we haven’t really seen explored on-screen before and it’s all positive.
Like most people, I was totally in love with the first three episodes.
How could I not be?
It’s Star Wars. Really, really Star Wars.
And also… I mean, Baby Yoda. Who could resist? Who could not fall hook, line and sinker for the bait?
I mean, whoever it was who came up with the idea of a baby Yoda as the premise for a series – take a bow. Curiously, George Lucas had always stated that one of the cardinal no-no’s in Star Wars expanded universe storytelling was anything revealing more about Yoda, Yoda’s origin or his species.
So it’s curious that the very first Star Wars live-action TV show is in fact centered on a member of Yoda’s species – with the implication that we’re going to learn a lot more about the species. It’s hard to imagine that Uncle George himself didn’t have some input, no matter how minor, in the establishment of this premise for the show.
At any rate, yes, I loved the opening few episodes. The Spaghetti Western style and tropes are great. The pairing of the stoic Mandalorian with the innocent baby Yoda makes for the best SW double-act since Artoo and Threepio. And the little bits of SW lore and tidbits we get here and there whet the appetite and draw you into this new take on an old world.
By the fourth episode, however, the first real hints of ambivalence started to appear.
I was a little bored by Chapter Four (‘Sanctuary’). I don’t want to make too fine a point of that: if three out of the four episodes had me totally hooked, it’s hardly a criticism or a reason to worry if one episode didn’t quite feel as good.
And Chapter Five (‘Gunslinger’) was also very enjoyable – and full of sweeteners (or ‘fan service’, if we want to put it that way).
But the slight dip in excitement for Chapter Four just served to remind me that this series isn’t necessarily going to be bullet-proof or flawless. By Chapter Four, I was starting to wonder if this series is beginning to lack weight a little.
It sometimes feels a little light on plot and substance and heavy on imagery, as well as a touch slow.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m liking The Mandalorian. I’m just not finding it quite as spectacularly awesome as so many people seem to be saying it is. The main problem is that it doesn’t give the impression necessarily of a show that knows where it’s going.
I guess some more complexity and some more consequential storytelling is what I’m looking for.
In general, it’s hard to argue with The Mandalorian.
It’s a great little slice of Star Wars and it has come a very good time. It feels like old-school Star Wars. I feels, in fact, a lot like some old Star Wars comic-book come to life in screen format. In fact, I recently read (and reviewed) the Boba Fett comic from the Age of Rebellion line: and watching The Mandalorian at times reminds me of reading that kind of comic.
I like the main character himself. I like the feel and the tone and the settings. Who didn’t go slightly weak at the knees for seeing an IG-88-type unit strutting its stuff? Who didn’t become a six-year-old again for a moment when they saw that Jawa sandcrawler come into view?
And who doesn’t outright adore the ‘baby Yoda’?
On the other hand, all the ‘fan service’ elements sometimes leave me feeling like I want to be more challenged in the way that the Sequel Trilogy is more challenging and daring: yet, at other times, I feel so comfortable and cosy with the way The Mandalorian unfolds that I’m hardly able to complain.
It’s nothing mindblowing or earth-shattering so far: just simple, down-to-earth, solid Star Wars storytelling. At this point, I’m still more invested in the upcoming Episode IX and the end of the Skywalker saga than in this weekly serial: there’s just much more gravity and weight to that event and many more questions and elements to it.
But The Mandalorian is more like a steady stream of non-controversial and low-stress Star Wars storytelling to enjoy in easy doses: and it fulfils that function perfectly. Despite the way some voices in the online community are trying to portray it, The Mandalorian does not exist in conflict with or contest with the Sequel Trilogy or Episode IX – it exists alongside it, offering something different in style and scale.
It’s a good mix of things, in fact – to have this big-scale and big-issues cinematic event happening in the form of Episode IX, while having a smaller-scale and less complicated thing going on at the same time with The Mandalorian.
And if the reaction to The Mandalorian is anything to go by, this future of televisual (or streaming, I guess) Star Wars content looks promising: with implications too for the recently-announced Kenobi series.
This somewhat takes some of the pressure away from the dynamic of everything riding entirely on the reaction to the big-screen productions. From now on, the question of whether the Disney era Star Wars franchise is a success or a failure won’t depend entirely on how well the movies are received.
It seems to be that most people who hate the Sequel Trilogy actually love The Mandalorian, for example. So things are going to get more balanced out.
And I’m enjoying both.
That’s probably a good situation for Lucasfilm/Disney to be in right now. Whatever the general reaction is to Episode IX, there will need to be a cooling down period after that massive film: time for the Sequel Trilogy to settle and to find its legacy. In the interval, some Star Wars TV-format content is definitely the way to go to occupy that period.
As I said, I’ve enjoyed The Mandalorian so far. If I have anything resembling a gripe, it would be that the plot feels a touch slow-moving so far. For a show that’s six episodes in at the time of writing this, it really feels like the plot development we’ve had could’ve fit into just two episodes. The show so far seems to be more about tone and style than about plot. That’s just an observation – not a criticism necessarily.
It’s doing it’s thing and doing it at it’s own pace and that’s fine.
In a way, most of what we’ve seen feels like Lucas-style tone poems and very visual storytelling, perhaps laying down the foundation for better plot development in the future.
One thing I would really like to see The Mandalorian do is to fill in more background about this time-period after the events of Return of the Jedi and the fall of the empire.
There’s a lot of possibilities there, even if it’s only background stuff or key references here and there. It would be great, for example, if we at some point get to see the Mando heading into the center of the New Republic or Coruscant: so that we can get some sense of the Galactic Center post-ROTJ.
It would also be cool to see a few little link-ups or crossover elements to connect The Mandalorian with other Star Wars shows like Clone Wars and Rebels – the same way that Saw Guererra was put in to Rogue One two years ago.
But that’s just me and my Star-Warsy wish-list. All in all, this has been quietly enjoyable stuff so far: again, nothing mind-blowing or all too compelling – but thoroughly enjoyable.