It’s Never Going to be FireflyThe Dark Herald
The Mandalorian is never going to be anything better than an acceptable mediocrity. That is pretty obvious at this point.
Episode one of the first season was promising. The brief exchange between Mando and Grief Cargill over the form of his payment did more world building in five minutes than the entire last trilogy did in six and a half hours.
Sure, it was heavy on the fan service and light on character arcs but hell, that was just the first episode. Characters have to be introduced before they can progress, right?
Besides, there was kind of a hint that this would happen. I mean Mando didn’t kill Baby Yoda when it would have been easier to shoot him and bring back his pathetic little corpse. That’s character development isn’t it?
However, we have now hit the middle of the second season, and everything is staying in shallow waters. Trust me, I do in fact understand that Star Wars has always been an action franchise. I’ve been here for all of it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dig a little deeper. Even Star Wars has been able to do that in the past.
At this point, the problem is clearly Favreau and Filoni. Admittedly, they are both much better storytellers than Abrams and Johnson, but that’s like saying a saltless cracker tastes better than poop. It’s not exactly a high standard of excellence.
To give credit where it’s due, Favreau can not only tell a complete story but he’s also willing to take risks doing it. Making the Mandarin just an actor in Ironman III was a gutsy move on his part. Dave Filoni can manage long term story plotting and not everyone can do that (witness: Stephen Moffat and George R. R. Martin).
That said, The Mandalorian has hit its creative glass ceiling. The last episode left little doubt of that. The show has become a mosh-pit for Clone Wars/Rebels fan service. And if you were really into both of those shows then I can understand why you would be super stoked each week.
I, on the other hand, have had to hit Wookiepedia after each episode this season to find out what the hell the backstory is on whatever plot element has been introduced. If you have to consult Cliff’s Notes in order to “get” a story, it’s got something fundamentally wrong with it.
Then there is the matter of Baby Yoda’s true identity. Asoka revealed his name was Grogu. There was a shit-ton of complaining about that on Twitter. And yeah, it’s a dumb name but I honestly don’t see how it’s any worse than Wedge or Biggs Darklighter. I strongly suspect that what most people were really upset about is that he had actually been given a name and backstory.
Look, I hate Abrams Mystery Box theory as much as anyone else but that doesn’t mean that mystery doesn’t have its place in storytelling. Pulp Fiction would have lost quite a bit of its mystique if we had ever found out what was in the briefcase. Whatever was in the Fedex box in Castaway couldn’t have been worth the hell Tom Hanks went through to deliver it. And finding out the name of the Man with No Name from the Dollars Trilogy would have ruined the character. Eternal Mysteries can be compelling if done right.
The problem here is that it felt like they were going with an Eternal Mystery. We were settling into a situation where Mando and Son would never know the truth of his origin and they would have to get on as best they could in life. Presumably with Baby Yoda eventually getting his own diminutive armor and following The Way.
And then all at once, that’s gone in what felt like an unearned exposition dump.
The show had Asoka doing a Jedi mind-meld with
Grogu Baby Yoda. And dropping all of the background information on the audience in a great big pile. This was clumsy and dull.
The other big reveal was that Grand Admiral Thrawn was also in this universe. And I actually knew who that was, so at least I didn’t have to fire up Wookiepedia. But it felt like the start of a spinoff, which made it indistinguishable from most of the episodes this year.
As I said, we’ve hit a hard cap on the question of how good this show is going to be? And the answer is; not very. You don’t hate it like the Kathleen Kennedy films but there just isn’t a lot of love about it unless you are a middle-aged man still sleeping on your Star Wars bedroom set.
Okay, I’m done here.