By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 22, 2019)
CHAPTER 2: THE CHILD
I won’t even front, this is the show I’ve been waiting for that I never knew I needed. There are questions to be answered, but there’s a satisfaction in both the first two episodes with what’s occurred on screen. Maybe most of all, I feel good at the end of these easily digestible, not overly bloated chapters of a story that I’m interested in, that I care about, and that I’m officially looking forward to each week.
It’s amazing just how effective what amounts to a little shy of 1:15 total can accomplish when in the proper hands. Jon Favreau did wonders for Marvel when he took on the original Iron Man over a decade ago, and what I’m left wondering as The Mandalorian continues to impress me is what he could do with the Star Wars property in a major motion picture with a long-term vision and commitment. However, I’ll be satisfied to continue watching this show as long as he wants to make it, or I see no reason not to have confidence in that sentiment.
I’m a sucker for a good quest tale, from Frodo to Harry Potter to Percy Jackson to Robert Langdon to Indiana Jones and certainly to the Mandalorian. Here, we have Mando, increasingly becoming more of a hero, now protecting an asset we’re supposed to feel affection towards, and we have one real supporting character in Ugnaught, who may or may not already have said his goodbye. Favreau’s smartest move thus far is in not throwing too much at the audience, allowing them to get to know the lead, the child, and gradually introducing mythology and other concepts into the fray.
Keeping it simple is undeniably the best way to go here, because as deep as the details run in the Star Wars mythos, there’s no reason for Favreau not to tell his story in a basic way. If he brings us along slowly, he can eventually ramp up the difficulty level. It’s like we’re brand new to his offense and as we get more comfortable, he’s going to open up the playbook and really let us fly. I appreciate the ease with which we can watch this show, and though we want to know how big a deal Baby Yoda is going to be, why it’s special, and what’s to come, this crew has my trust.
We’ve also gotten a couple of fun battles, which gives the series a chance to flex its visual muscles, this time with the Mudhorn vs. Mando, which may have ended tragically, had it not been for the biggest reveal of the episode. Baby Yoda already possesses the Force, and knows how to use it. At fifty years old, it’s not exactly an infant, however because of the timeline of the series, shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi, with an Empire completely decimated, explaining the level of defenses around Werner Herzog’s character. He’s one of the last remaining of his order.
We know Yoda already existed prior to this series, so some have mentioned the possibility this is the Yoda we’ve met so many times before in reincarnated form. That’s a little further than I’m willing to go as of now, but I’m open to continue thinking about it and reassessing a little further down the road. What we can enjoy for the time being is a Baby Yoda with powers Mando, Ugnaught, and nobody else we’ve encountered thus far fully understand. As our protagonist learns more, we learn more.
That’s another thing Favreau is doing with The Mandalorian. We are the title character. We don’t have all of his background, but we learn it in subtle lines, like his description to Ugnaught that weapons are part of the Mandalorian religion, which explains the reverent process of melting down the Beskar in the premiere. What we don’t know, we’ll find out, probably through seemingly throw-away lines that are designed to make us pay closer attention to every line of dialogue. We want the richness of this story to fully envelop us, and it’s so approachable as to make that feat achievable.
The Mandalorian being relatable makes the series relatable in a way a lot of series in 2019 fail. I always look to see who WE are in the show, and its usually a secondary character with common sense that feels ahead of the game. Here, we’re Mando, and it’s clear we’re supposed to be Mando. And, we are just as irritated as he is with the Jawas. They remain a gigantic nuisance, and when he breaks out the flamethrower, I laughed. It’s exactly what I’d have wanted to do if I were Mando in that scenario. Thieves, scrap scavengers, but again with the story here there’s a little bit of Firefly mixed in, which is never going to be anything but a huge compliment coming from me.
Also, when Mando finds out the Jawa want this egg from the Mudhorn cave, he goes to all these lengths to get it, and with Baby Yoda’s assistance, he pulls it off. And then, they crack it open and begin gorging on the orange gunk inside it. Maybe it’s the equivalent of LSD to them, but it’s better that it turns out to be nothing of immediate importance to us or to him, because it shows just how different these characters are from one another. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, being the operative thought running through my mind. Here, it’s some orange nastiness…although it might taste like candy to them.
I thought of two video game experiences watching this episode, which doesn’t exactly jump my “cool” factor, but I’m also at an age where I don’t care. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most unique and satisfying, large scale endeavors I can remember this century in gaming. The remake was heavily sought after, but watching Mando battle the Mudhorn, I thought of him scaling it in much the same way I climbed up a skyscraper-sized monster to strike weak points. If only I’d had Baby Yoda, I’d have beaten those bosses quite a bit easier.
And then, there’s Dead Space, another wholly unique adventure where Isaac’s suit reminds me a bit of Mando, and when he goes into the cave and slowly explores and searches around, eventually running into a formidable monster, I had flashbacks to that survival horror classic I will never fully forget from a little over 11 years ago. I also thought of how good a game The Mandalorian could be down the line with all these large set pieces and already the battle just before the Baby Yoda reveal, the Mudhorn, and even the Jawa. This is a show that will probably build itself behind it’s story, but will advance based on one huge event…travel…and another huge event…travel. That’s the Star Wars way. No reason to change it. It’s great. It’s a formula that works in quest stories every single time.
Hopefully, we’ll run into Ugnaught again sooner rather than later, but as the episode comes to a close, Mando flies through space on his repaired ship and Baby Yoda wakes up from his lengthy post-Force slumber. Ugnaught’s belief that he exists to serve as his work is interesting because it intimates a totally altruistic character, even one with a bit of a snark to him here and there. “I’m surprised you waited.” Mando thought his compadre would bail, but the response is ten times better. “I’m surprised it took you so long.” Bruh. Burn.
Two chapters in, Disney+ is already well worth it just for the entertainment of this series. I anticipate each episode, and love that Jon Favreau knows he doesn’t have to make every episode an hour. It’s arbitrary in terms of time, because you’re not filling a television quadrant or segment. You make a “chapter” that actually fits that part of the story, when it’s over, when it’s logical to close, you close. Because of it, there’s no bloat here, there’s not a bunch of worthless stuff to fill. So many streaming shows adhere to invisible time rules that only exist in standard television formats.
The beauty of streaming is you MAKE the rules. Jon Favreau is one of the few that figured it out. And The Mandalorian is far better for it. This felt like a full hour’s worth of story, condensed without having to zip the file or compress the quality. Kudos on that just as much as the story, which is unfolding at an exciting pace.
I’m @JMartZone. I have spoken.