By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – December 14, 2019)
Another week, another attempt on Mando’s life. This is the Star Wars equivalent of “same old, same old,” but I’m not growing tired of it. While this was the longest episode of the series thus far, and it didn’t need to be, it was a well-crafted story that defined its hero and its cast of villains, parceled out Baby Yoda carefully, and succeeded in its ultimate goal.
The dialogue on this show is never going to be its strong suit, because the series is so reliant on quick sentences without a lot of independent clauses and semicolons. I know it because I watch the show with subtitles on and see all the snippets. It’s designed to be easy to follow and to be more about the one liners and the quick hits than anything too elaborate. My guess is Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola would thumb their noses at it, but there’s room for all of these things in entertainment.
The Irishman is tremendous, but I’m digging The Mandalorian, and I’m positive I’ll watch it again over the years, while the former may be a one watch experience. Both are good, both are wildly different in so many ways. But, the one continuing piece of the story that matters most is the child being a major albatross around Mando’s neck every time someone discovers its existence. This is expected, but because of it, we can see more of Mando’s heart behind the armor, because the Mandalorian warriors, and even him in past years, would have discarded the dead weight, even though we know it isn’t dead weight.
This gang of mercenaries run by Ran (Mark Boone Junior) were so immensely unlikable, which would have made the episode insufferable, but for the point of making them dispensable and making us all want to see them get got. Bill Burr’s Mayfeld has some snark, but he’s basically Joe Pantoliano in The Matrix at his most annoying. Natalia Tena plays Twi’lek knife master Xi’an, and she could be the most obnoxious character we’ve ever seen in the Star Wars universe not played by Hayden Christensen. I also thought when I first saw her it might be Marilyn Manson.
If Greedo were still around, I hope he would shoot first, meaning shoot before asking questions. Burg is a mix of Hellboy and Sloth from The Goonies, and he’s also a pill, and then there’s inquisitive droid Zero, who I would like to have seen ripped into 20 pieces for daring to pull a gun on Baby Yoda.
These people were some amalgam of Mass Effect after you put together your crew, and Firefly, but with none of the charm of any of them. They were designed to make us hate them, and they succeeded. Once they fully turned on Mando, moving past mere mockery and skepticism about his value and abilities, it went from problematic to awesome, because it was time for our boy to beat the crap out of some bullies that talked too much.
There’s a history with Xi’an (and Qui) and Mando, but I couldn’t quite tell if it was a spurned romance or if she was hurt when he left the team the first time around, or if she grew to dislike him. It was no doubt a mixture of all of these, to some degree, but I was almost disappointed that Mando played Batman and left them all alive in that cell. I’d have been perfectly happy to see them all decimated.
He completed his job, then escaped and managed to get the tracking beacon onto Qui before leaving, knowing Ran would double cross him as soon as he flew away into the skies. It’s never not going to rule seeing X-Wing fighters, especially when the three pilots are series directors, as they were in this case. That’s a fun little aside, the kind of thing that just plays well in nerd land, plus it’s cool for them to be on screen in that kind of role.
The child was about to use his powers, thought maybe he (or she, still think that’s possible) had, then realized it was Mando that took Zero out for good… or zeroed him out, if you will. Each week, these two get into a scrape, and we know there’s virtually no one they can trust other than each other. We’re nearing the end of the first season, which means something has to go wrong that actually STAYS wrong to lead to our finale for the initial run of episodes. Not sure what it will be, who it will involve, but it seems almost too easy for it to be one of these two.
Perhaps a family member, or Gina Carano, or maybe we even end up going to another village. It’s also in the cards that someone major is going to appear. We cannot forget the timing here, both with Christmas a few weeks away and The Rise of Skywalker now less than a week from hitting theaters. The time of the show and the movie are different, but an older character in the movie could arrive as a younger version in the show. Brand synergy has to be a strategy for Disney and for Lucasfilm here, or that would make good business sense.
People have to stop underestimating Mando, much less the Child, because they’re all left looking like fools, if they’re lucky enough to remain breathing. The show is still very simple, but that’s not bothersome. We’ll see if more depth is on the horizon, as some people might think it’s too easy. Last week, a few readers sent me messages talking about the infantile nature of the dialogue. Folks, this series is for all ages, no question about it, and that’s not likely to change. I’m good with it. The show is fun without trying to change the world. It’s purpose seems to be putting smiles on our faces.
And it keeps on doing that for this reviewer. How about you?
(I will be screening The Rise of Skywalker on Tuesday afternoon, so a full review (without spoilers) will be here for you before any of the other advance showings begin. I will be careful to give nothing away, and we’ll do a Pop 6 on Episode IX (and then go back through the entire run in early 2020) with all sorts of spoilers and thoughts a few weeks after release.)