“The Mandalorian” has a problem.
Please excuse the following “rant” regarding the latest episode of Disney’s ‘The Mandalorian’. If ‘Star Wars’ isn’t your thing, you might want to skip this one. Carry on, and stay blessed!
It’s been a while since I last wrote about Disney’s new “favorite son,” The Mandalorian. And, honestly, that’s because chapters 6, 7, and 8 of season one were quite spectacular — and on top of that the opening episode of season two was probably the best of the series so far. I guess you could say I was optimistic that things would start to fall into place with this show. That we’d start to get somewhere with Baby Yoda and why he’s so important and why the Empire is after him (and how he wound up on that secluded desert planet in the first place!). There were indications that after a meandering first season, “stuff” that actually mattered would start to happen.
But, alas, chapter 11 — titled, “The Heiress” — arrived on Friday (S2:E3) and, unfortunately, it’s just more of the same. You could literally reduce the plot of every episode of The Mandalorian to the exact same formula: Mando goes to another remote planet in order to find some more information about the Foundling (a.k.a., Baby Yoda) only to come across someone who knows something but they won’t help Mando until Mando helps them. That’s it, that’s the show. Insert new places and new faces into that formula and you’ve essentially recreated all eleven chapters of the series so far. This recipe is more than a little wearisome at this point.
But, to be honest, that’s not what frustrates me the most about this show. The most frustrating aspect of The Mandalorian is its incessant need to be driven by Star Wars lore. Chapter 11 is, perhaps, the prime example of this annoying way to tell a story. The episode’s runtime is just over 35 minutes. But there’s enough plot points and story beats to fill a 90-minute movie. It feels so rushed. It’s like listening to a podcast on the “x2” setting. You get what’s going on but you miss a ton of details in the meantime. Elements that should be developed are glossed over for the sake of time, or something. Again, this was gripe I had with season one: the episodes are too short. They don’t allow you to get invested in anything that’s happening on screen. Yet, at the same time, the show-runners want you to be invested, especially in Mando and Baby Yoda. But everyone else feels more than a little extraneous.
The prevailing pitfall of The Mandalorian so far, however, remains the show’s intrinsic proclivity to suggest or outright include characters, narratives, and entire plots from other Star Wars stories and properties. Joshua Rivera, writing for The Verge, articulated well this predicament:
The tension between The Mandalorian’s desire to be a Western and the burden of its Star Wars pedigree is one of the most interesting things about it — specifically the way it refuses to cater to its family’s tropes. The spare dialogue and absence of space dogfights and Jedi are hallmarks of the show and are what make it fun to watch and perennially accessible. It’s one of the few bits of event television that delights in episodic storytelling.
In 2020, this is the most surprising thing about The Mandalorian: it’s not yet interested in hyping up a spinoff series, in furthering the complex mythology of Star Wars with plot twists and supplementary materials. That’ll change, and probably soon.
If only Mr. Rivera knew how prophetic those last words were. Because it seems as though the creators of The Mandalorian are more interested in cramming as many allusions and “Easter eggs” into the show than they are in actually crafting a compelling and “perennially accessible” narrative. The more self-referential The Mandalorian becomes, the less inviting it becomes. I shouldn’t have to read or watch some other property in order to be fully invested in whatever’s going on. That’s lazy writing. Passive storytelling.
Over at The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh claims that chapter 11 expanded the universe and “broadened the scope” of Mando’s storytelling by introducing “cherished characters from ‘Star Wars’ lore.” And perhaps that is true, in one sense. But tying The Mandalorian’s narrative into whatever else is going on in whatever Star Wars cartoon is currently airing keeps this universe extremely narrow. This is supposed to a vast galaxy “far, far away,” populated with untold worlds and creatures and people and lives. Yet, we keep seeing the same people and planets over and over again in regurgitated plots and stories. Enough with this timeline. Enough with this corner of the galaxy.
The Mandalorian was originally touted as this new piece of Star Wars IP that would be entirely different than anything else we’ve seen before. But I guess that was just a smokescreen. The allure of “lore” is just too much, I suppose. But even still, the less like Star Wars Mando is, the better it is.
Sorry, I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening. Back to regular programming.