The Mandalorian (round-up)

Hey everybody!
So we’re now at the point where the final episode of The Mandalorian has aired, and we’re left with thoughts, hopes and dreams for season two, which was recently announced by series creator Jon Favreau. I thought I’d come along here and catch up with the series, after the first two installments of my look at season one, here and here.

Major spoilers to follow, guys!

Chapter 6 is a prison heist episode, as Mando attempts to earn some credits without returning to the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are mostly after his hide following the breakout from Nevarro. Taking a job from his old friend Ran, he teams up with a rag-tag group in an effort to break out the Twi’lek Qin from a New Republic prison ship. Qin’s sister Xi’an is part of the team, who all proceed to double-cross the Mandalorian and leave him on the ship, the pilot having activated a distress beacon. Mando isolates and defeats each member of his erstwhile team, then delivers Qin to Ran and leaves. Ran, attempting to launch a fighter to pursue Mando, has his space station blown up by New Republic fighters, who have followed the beacon Mando placed onto Qin.

It’s something of a throwaway episode, much like the previous two, but the series has been really good at taking this sort of extended look into the underworld, and continuing to give us decent action, even if the individual episodes are, well, episodic in nature. It harkens back to older-style TV series, which used a similar method of storytelling, much in the way the original movies harkened back to the adventure serials.

However, chapters 7 and 8 form essentially a two-part season finale, and the last episode is the longest yet at close to an hour. To begin, Greef Karga sends Mando a message explaining that the Client has overrun Nevarro, and proposes that the bounty hunter return, using the Asset as bait in order to draw out the Client, kill him, and free the planet. In return, Karga will call off the bounty on Mando and allow the hunter to operate in relative peace. Sensing a trap, Mando recruits Cara Dune and the Ugnaught Kuill to assist him. In addition, Kuill had salvaged IG-11 and reprogrammed him.

Along the way, Baby Yoda heals Karga following an attack by mynocks, and he reveals that his original plan had been to kill Mando and take the Asset to the Client for his own purposes. The plan changes, and Karga pretends to have captured Mando in order to get close to the Client, while Kuill takes the Asset back to the ship. However, the Client is contacted by Moff Gideon, who arrives in force with stormtroopers and deathtroopers, and shoots up the cantina where the meeting was taking place, killing the Client in the process. Scout troopers have been dispatched to recover the Asset, who kill Kuill in the process.

Chapter 8 picks up almost immediately, and we see that IG-11 manages to recover Baby Yoda, thwarting Gideon’s plans. In turn, the Imperials attempt to destroy the cantina, threatening the group with an E-web repeating blaster, and then incinerator troopers.

The group manages to flee into the sewers, where they discover the Mandalorian enclave has been all but decimated following Mando’s departure from the world. The Armourer remains, and informs them that some did flee off-world, and provides them with some assistance for their escape. She also tells them that the Asset appears to be a Jedi, the ancient enemies of the Mandalorians, and charges Mando to return it to its people. Following a lava river, the group manages to escape the Empire thanks to IG-11 triggering his self-destruct, but just then Moff Gideon pursues them in his custom TIE fighter. The Mandalorian uses his new jetpack to fly up to the TIE and plant some detonators on it, causing Gideon to crash.

In the wrap-up, Cara Dune agrees to stay on as Karga’s enforcer, while Mando must pursue his new mission, reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. Finally, we learn that Moff Gideon has survived the crash, cutting himself out of the wreckage with nothing less than the Darksaber!

Looking back, this series has been just incredible!

I was really gushing about how much I have been enjoying the small-scale adventure stuff in my previous blog, but that still holds true, even when we have the might of the Imperial Remnant under Moff Gideon. We have a fairly pitched battle, with massed stormtroopers as well as the more esoteric varieties that call on the expanded universe of yore, which continues to provide that element of fan service without seeming to browbeat us with it.

While Baby Yoda has clearly been the breakout character here, I think there is still a great story being told, and it doesn’t rely on this cuteness or anything to make it work. Chapter 8 brought us a lot of answers, seeing the extended flashback of Mando and getting, basically, his origin story. We also finally see him without the helmet, which was interesting as it did serve the story and wasn’t simply checking off a list.

I think that’s been the great success with the series as a whole, though, as we’ve seen some really great storytelling without resorting to an over-reliance on snazzy effects or something. It’s character-driven stuff, really reverting back to the type of the original trilogy. It really succeeds with the small-scale adventure, such as Chapter 4’s assault on the AT-ST, and through having some really great moments to build on the core characters, chapter 7 felt really good to see them now united in their cause.

Season 2 is expected next Autumn, and while we can assume we’ll be seeing Mando and Baby Yoda road trips while they attempt to find either (a) more Yodas, or (b) surviving Jedi, it has been suggested that we might also be seeing the formation of the First Order. Personally, I hope we don’t get that – The Mandalorian has been at its most successful, to my mind, when it avoided all of that galactic-scale stuff, and instead told its story of outlaws on the galactic fringe. If we start scaling things up, then I think we’ll risk losing the charm of what has made this season so successful.

Hopefully, Jon Favreau and co will stick to the formula, and have an overarching storyline that also takes the time for those episodic parts, where we can just continue to build on the characters. Speaking of which, while I think we can be fairly sure we’ll see Cara Dune, Karga and Gideon again in some capacity, I hope we get to find out what happened with Fennec Shand, as I’m pretty sure she survived at the end of chapter 5…

It’s been really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more live-action Star Wars on the small screen in the future!

The Mandalorian (catch-up)

Hey everybody,
It’s time to catch up with The Mandalorian! So, rather than trying to write up some thoughts after each episode, I thought I’d just do the odd catch-up blog after a couple, having enjoyed the first three episodes immensely.

Chapter 4 branches out a little bit, as we follow Mando in his attempt to get away from the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are tracking him for both vengeance, and a chance to take back The Asset. Arriving on the forested world of Sorgan, Mando teams up with Cara Dune, a former Alliance shock trooper turned mercenary, to defend a village from Klatooinian raiders. After the battle, Mando realises that the Guild is still tracking the Asset, and so leaves.

This episode had all of the hallmarks of the classic Western, with the reluctant hero saving the village from marauders. What really excited me was the fact that the whole thing is so small-scale, which meant that the inclusion of the AT-ST walker in the battle was actually something to be worried about. It feels a little bit like this series is serving to enhance the films – I’m sure the next time we watch Return of the Jedi, the chicken walkers won’t be dismissed quite so easily.

Of course, the original trilogy was pretty much entirely told in small-scale, where the Alliance is depicted as just two squadrons of one-man fighters going up against the Death Star, or the small insertion force led by Han going up against the Empire on Endor. I suppose that’s what makes Return of the Jedi‘s final battle seem so epic when you look at the original trilogy in isolation – the limits of film-making at the time have actually served to give us a science fiction trilogy that is almost entirely character-driven, in direct opposition to the movies that have come thereafter. The Mandalorian is helping us get back to that small-scale storytelling, where a lone AT-ST can actually pose a visceral threat to the action.

I think my buddy JP put it really well, likening this episode to an RPG, or a mission from Imperial Assault. It has that feel about it, somehow. Sure, it comes across as a bit of a standalone adventure, though I’m once again wondering about that sense of gathering the crew, and whether we’ll see Cara Dune again before the season finale.

Chapter 5 was both written and directed by Dave Filoni, and I think it really helped me see him in a different light. Up until this point, I was only going off his work on both Clone Wars and Rebels, and I was not impressed. Considering he was George Lucas’ protege, I think he has done more harm than good to the Star Wars universe, by tearing up the continuity and twisting things to his own ends.

Here, we get a much more interesting Filoni, whether because he is now writing for the more mature end of the market, who knows. Yes, there are a lot of callbacks to A New Hope – indeed, you might almost say the episode leans so heavily on the original movie that it is propped-up by it. Mando is almost shot down over Tatooine, as bounty hunters continue to pursue him and the Asset. In order to pay for repairs, he takes a job with the bounty hunter wannabe Toro Calican, who is trying to get into the Guild. The bounty is on the renowned assassin Fennec Shand, who is believed to be hiding out in the Dune Sea.

They apprehend Fennec, but she attempts to drive a wedge between the two hunters, telling Toro that the Mandalorian has his own bounty now. Toro kills her, and attempts to apprehend Mando, but is definitely in over his head, and Mando kills him.

It’s a fairly simple episode, and while it only aired on Friday, there has already been an outcry about a lack of Baby Yoda time. Well, the show is much better than relying on the cuteness factor, for sure! It’s interesting to me, though, at how well the episode manages to integrate itself into the existing movie lore, while at the same time giving it almost an update. Mos Eisley is still a grim backwater, and there is something vaguely 70s about Peli Motto, the docking bay owner.

Did we need to rely so heavily on references to A New Hope? Probably not, but it was still undeniably cool to see these iconic locations once again. EV-9D9 appears to be working behind the bar at Chalmun’s cantina now (I wonder if Chalmun has moved on?) and business looks to be decidedly slow, but then the streets seem quieter as well – I wonder if this is meant to show the lawlessness of the Outer Rim, and people are keeping to themselves? Hm.

Coming at the mid-point of the series, I thought it interesting that the fifth episode borrowed so heavily from A New Hope, as that kind of tactic feels like something more appropriate to the first episode, as it tries to hook us in with nostalgia. I also find myself wondering if we’ll be seeing any more “classic” locations before the end of the season…


This show continues to delight me, and I am really looking forward to future episodes. The finale will be airing Christmas week, so I’m planning to do a bit of a roundup of the show sometime thereafter. Stay tuned for that!

The Mandalorian (so far)

Hey everybody!
So Star Wars has finally got a live action TV show, and I have to say, it’s really something. For years now, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of there being a live action series set in a galaxy far, far away, but nothing has ever come of it. There were strong rumours from 2005-ish, talking about the possibility of young Boba Fett helping the Empire to hunt down Jedi between III and IV, but I don’t think that idea ever made it out of development hell. Following the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, the scripts were reviewed, and in 2018 Bob Iger announced that a few shows were being developed.

the mandalorian

First out of the gate, we have The Mandalorian, currently streaming via Disney+. To date, three episodes have aired – contrary to Netflix, the show sees new episodes released every Friday, which is quite refreshing for a streaming service these days.

The show is set five years after Return of the Jedi, around the same period as the Aftermath books. It takes place in the Outer Rim, and sets out to have a Wild West feel while staying true to the Star Wars name. We are introduced to the titular Mandalorian bounty hunter as he goes about his business, collecting a bounty and using his earnings to support his clan brothers. The sense of clan loyalty is obviously quite strong here, although the clan is not above some fractious behaviour, as we see in the third episode.

The Mandalorian

 

The story, so far, has followed the bounty hunter, called Mando by those who hire him, as he collects on a bounty for The Client. This mysterious figure appears to be an ex-Imperial, or possibly still is with the Empire, or trying to get back in with the Empire by bringing them The Asset. Memes abound across the internet, with a lot of not-so-subtle spoilers doing the rounds now showing us the delight that is Baby Yoda. Apparently it’s not actually Yoda, of course, but rather one of the same species – rumours are flying around that it could be a clone, but who knows.

The Mandalorian

Baby Yoda is a delight, and helps Mando during a tough spot when his ship is ransacked by Jawas, and the only way he can get his stuff back is to bring them the egg of a horned beast. Despite this, Mando still trades him in for the bounty, but then has second thoughts and infiltrates the (former) Imperial’s base, rescuing Baby Yoda from what appears to be genetic experimentation.

The Mandalorian

Along the way, we get to meet quite a few Underworld / Fringe types, and get to learn a little of the state of the galaxy right now. Seems the New Republic is struggling to establish its rule across the whole galaxy, leading to the feeling of general lawlessness across the Outer Rim – perfect for that Wild West vibe, as we’re very much on the frontier here.

The Mandalorian

Star Wars has always been famous for the lived-in universe feel, at a time where sci-fi was showing us a pristine future, we saw grubby-looking outlaws and collections of junk piled in the garage to be forgotten about. That sense of place carries over here in the TV show, and we definitely get that sense of realism, not just because the sets feel grubby, but there is also that sense of time passing. The impaled stormtrooper helmets, above, convey so much information about where and when we are, and the show is replete with these sorts of visual references.

I hope we get more of this – not just of The Mandalorian, but more live-action shows. Hopefully they stick to the shorter eight-episode format, as we’ve seen so often with those running to 22 episodes the quality suffers as the need for filler increases. Sticking to the Outer Rim would allow stories to be told without having to re-cast pivotal roles like Luke and Leia, and doing so could link in with stuff like the Aftermath books, and show us the beginnings of the First Order in live-action.

The Mandalorian

There is a similar feeling to Rogue One here, as well – in keeping with the fact that the movie was originally pitched as an arc for a TV series back in the day. It has the sense of nostalgia for the original trilogy, updated without losing the charm. As I’m watching the show, I find that I’m not particularly thinking about “what will happen next?” and endlessly theorising about Baby Yoda’s possible origins as a clone of the OG Jedi Master, but rather I’m just sitting back, soaking it all in, and enjoying the ride.

But I can’t wait to see where this story takes us!