I’m not sure if this is just my 2020 nihilism getting to me or what, but that wasn’t great, right?
… And apparently nothing has changed. Nothing at all.
While the Mandalorian’s first season was a lot of fun with some so-so filler episodes, there was enough about it that was unique and fun to float the parts that didn’t work forward. It also didn’t hurt that what Star Wars had become on film was impossible to enjoy, right? A lot of my viewing time over the last year has been catching up on Clone Wars, especially considering the last season was released this year and capped off the story in a satisfying fashion. Needless to say, I was ready to return to the Star Wars universe.
When I fired up Mandalorian episode 9, I’m not sure what I was expecting, really. If you haven’t watched it yet and want to avoid spoilers, I advise you to stop reading, but otherwise… I had already seen that Timothy Olyphant shows up and was in some what looked like Mandalorian armor. The opening was pretty cool, our titular hero showing up in an underground fighting arena looking for answers, John Leguizamo decked out like a sleazeball alien gets in his way and a really tightly choreographed fight scene unfolds. Cool.
What we learn is that it’s time to return to the most-traveled planet in the Star Wars universe, Tatooine. Remember the boots from the last episode on there? There’s a Mandalorian on Tatooine, and it’s somehow the next clue for Mando in trying to return Baby Yoda to his people. No, it sorta doesn’t make all-that-much sense, but, hey! We get to see Amy Sedaris again, who explains that the place he’s looking for doesn’t exist anymore. Well, actually it does! It’s just an old mining town that nobody goes to because Tatooine is very dangerous. Mando borrows a speeder and heads to the town, which is quite literally a one-street town from an old western just with a Star Wars motif.
It’s at this point that the show is abundantly clear: they aren’t done with the wink wink, nudge nudge “hey it’s a western.” Timothy Olyphant, you know, the guy from Justified and Deadwood? He’s the Marshal! And he’s got Boba Fett’s armor! Glimpses of tension between the two men, a demand for the armor, followed by exposition about how he got the armor from the Jawas and used the armor to save the town, is interrupted by a giant sandworm attacking the town.
A deal is struck: the armor for this stranger to help the poor townsfolk out by slaying the beast, and everyone can move on. If this sounds like a mishmash of two episodes from last season, you’re right, it is. There are a lot of westerns to sample from, and they sampled from themselves. The catch is the Sand people, enemies of the town, are needed to catch and kill the giant worm. If it feels like we’re jamming a lot of tropes into one episode, we are, because it’s longer than the other episodes at about 52 minutes.
What happens is almost inconsequential. People that you don’t know, are given no reason to care about, and don’t seem to appear on camera after dying (even if we get a shot in the same location) get covered in sandworm acid, Mando and the Marshal work together only for Mando to make a big, heroic gesture that he might not come back from. He does. The beast is dead, and the plot has not really gone forward at all. Oh! Except for the final shot of the actor that played Jango Fett in the prequel movies, watching Mando from a hillside. Mando has Boba Fett’s helmet, chest piece and rocket pack now, so where’s the rest of the armor, right? Because that’s probably Boba Fett.
Here we are. While fun and I know better than to expect Star Wars to do a lot, this was still disappointing. I fully understand that people love this episode and just want more of the same, but this is really more of the same for the sake of being more of the same. This is a good way to create a few more action figures or Lego sets and it makes me wonder how many episodes of this season will move the plot forward or if any of the one-off episodes can do more than retread not just on territory established in Star Wars, but in this very show. There are a lot of stories they could have told with a similar setup outside of man vs. wild without really saying anything, just like they could have given Olyphant’s character more depth and intrigue than his weirdly overacted exposition sequence and the one face-off they had in the bar before becoming good pals and having almost no friction with each other again.
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