After giving the first four episodes of the Mandalorian glowing praise it feels strange that for a second week in a row they hit us with what felt like a side quest from a Bethesda game with little in the way of ramifications to the story. The story hasn’t really moved much since episode three, actually. I suppose it makes sense to show what life is like out in the New Republic’s outer rim before the big baddies rise up and we are in the JJ Abramsverse.
It makes sense to continue to show bounty hunters from the guild chasing after the Mandalorian, just like it makes sense that the Empire is also looking for him. We got a tease of someone pursuing our hero at the end of the last episode which is most likely the character Giancarlo Esposito plays considering he’s credited with two episodes and didn’t show up this time around.
I want to say this: there’s nothing inherently wrong with episodes of little consequence to the overall plot. Some of my favorite Star Trek episodes are like this. The problem is that most seasons of Star Trek were 20+ episodes, leaving plenty of room for exploration. Season one of the Mandalorian is a svelte eight episodes, meaning we’ll most likely have two really exciting, story-filled episodes coming our way. The problem lies in the fact that there has been very little in the way of movement, character development or any real reason to draw us in further.
World building throughout your second act without pushing the plot forward is not just careless, it’s nonsensical. While there is definitely room to experiment with plotting, doing so in a $120 million Disney show sort of meant to save Star Wars from oblivion feels strange to me. They teach most of us the “plot mountain” from an early age to the point where it probably doesn’t stick. So here it is.
See? You probably remember that. Here’s what the Mandalorian season one looks like.
See? That’s… Pretty strange, right? Like I said, there isn’t a right way to tell a story and compelling stories can be told through a variety of different ways. These episodes are fun on their own, they just aren’t building towards much of anything. Looking at IMDB gives away that most of these characters are guest stars and after their appearances are done, meaning that the next few episodes we can expect Gina Carano’s two appearances and Giancarlo Esposito’s one to happen, but past characters to be exactly that: the past.
Not that any of what happened in these episodes will be pointless, we got some further information about our title character, how he lives, his backstory and all of that is good. The problem is, once again, the plot mountain and how without building relevant story beats the payoff for this season will have less of an impact.
There’s a fine line for a lot of this kind of stuff. Hollywood has been overwhelmed by formulaic movies and TV shows for too long now. While virtually every major blockbuster of the last 10+ years has owed its birth to the Save the Cat formula, television has provided more room for experimentation for shows with decent budgets, streaming services especially. The Mandalorian is a good show with a good premise and a good team at the helm and somehow it feels like they don’t have a good idea of what the story should be.
This episode was a simple heist episode that felt more like a way to fit a slew of great guest stars into the mix. Comedian-turned-anti-politically correct activist Bill Burr made an appearance as a guy with a lot of guns, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones standout Natalia Tena was a sadistic Twilek, Clancy Brown was a horned devilman, the always funny Richard Ayoade was a droid and Mark Boone Jr., the guy from uhh Sons of Anarchy was, essentially the same character but in space! There were more, too! So, to fit such a strange cast together we have them as an outlaw crew that the Mandalorian once worked with, returning to help them on a job of freeing a prisoner (Ismael Cruz Cordova) from a New Republic prison barge. The Mandalorian does some cool stuff, still gets hurt a lot because he’s good but not GREAT, gets double-crossed but then outsmarts everyone, plants a distress beacon on the prisoner and a squadron of Mandalorian directors in X-wings came and blew them all up.
It was a fun episode; I enjoyed it, I just didn’t enjoy that the plot has stalled out for approximately 1/3rd of the show’s entire first season just to fit in guest appearances.
I honestly just have little to say about this episode other than I’m looking forward to the rest, but am still sort of shocked at how little the plot has moved.
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