It’s time for The Mandalorian to deliver the ‘package’ and, as per the Guild code, he’s not supposed to ask any questions or do any ‘follow-up’. But delivering a baby – even if it’s a small green baby with some eerie force-ful powers – to a client who doesn’t seem to have the creature’s best interests at heart… doesn’t sit well with him and brings back memories of when he too was young and caught in deadly crossfire battles. But his reward has already paid for armour-upgrades, so can he really go back on his word, risking life and death and his reputation… or would that be too high a sin?
And there are other pressing matters… such as how does he get one of his peers’ fancy rocket-packs?
The Mandalorian has had an interesting start, the first two episodes uneven in length, content and even tone – winning the praise of some and disappointment from others. On a visual level it’s completely a part of the Star Wars universe, but in execution it’s falling somewhere between reverence and indulgence… as if show-runner Jon Favreau didn’t so much have a solid story so much as a series of vignettes, a checklist of props to re-use and homages to indulge. That in itself is no bad thing. Favreau is a solid director and the Star Wars universe has a plethora of background material for the eagle-eyed fan to devour, but so far proceedings have just felt less than… urgent
So it comes down to the third outing – entitled ‘The Sin‘ – to finish laying down the series’ initial groundwork. Thankfully back to a longer length after the second episode’s reduced running-time, there’s still some notable padding here. Though we’ve got a major blaster-fight between opposing forces, well-choreographed and with some classic Saturday matinee derring-do, this episode could still have done with far less repetitive imagery of yet more personal armour being forged – something that’s so much about symbolism and archetypes that there’s temptation to shout that ‘Yes, we’ve got the western/knight/samurai analogies already!‘ And that may continue to be the problem here: The Mandalorian himself doesn’t have a true name or face so far (at least, officially) and so we’re left with a striding stoic figure that makes us feel we could be watching a well-articulated droid rather than a human. Buried under that armour, Pedro Pascal gives the character some nuance with the occasional lilt of the lead or hesitation, but it’s still proving hard to feel a real connection thus far.
At the other end of the scale, the coo-ing ‘Baby Yoda’ couldn’t be more purposely emotive if it tried. It’s hard not to like the little-green-critter despite the obvious committee of cuteness that’s created him for the show and who have delivered a character that continues to get the soft-focus degree of screen-time usually involved in marketing exercises (and therefore it’s no surprise that that a full range of such is already shelf-bound and will make a fortune…). The stoic Mandalorian and the coo-ing Muppet Baby Jedi Master make the odd-couple that is now the show’s main hook beyond the sheer nostalgia element and in that sense it works well enough.
The Mandalorian is worth watching (if not necessarily worth signing up to a whole platform just to see that alone) but while it’s a worthwhile exercise, it just all seems a bit calculated and stilted… strutting around but without saying much, allowing audiences to watch the various set-pieces play out while also giving them plenty of opportunity to note every single obvious influence in real-time. As noted before, there’s every chance you’ll spend half the experience searching for references, easter-eggs and motifs: this week there’s the much-lauded prop of a commercially-known ice-maker-turned-cosmic-storage-device design from The Empire Strikes Back making a return appearance, this time containing the Mandalorian’s reward and there’s also the appearance of an assortment of familiar alien races. The idea that only one Mandalorian at a time can venture out on a mission seems wholly arbitrary and a needless story quirk and wrinkle designed to make our hero’s task harder and to give a nice pay-off at the end when his ‘colleagues’ finally offer some assistance in what feels like a Tony Scott-styled Hail Mary.
The Mandalorian continues to be fun, if not exceptional and though we’ve seen Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte featured, other promised faces that featured in the initial publicity (such as Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito and Ming-Na Wen) have yet to make an appearance, giving the sense that it’s taken three episodes to tell a set-up story that could have been done in half the time.
But the chances are that if you’re still watching, you’re hooked and Disney+ have the success they wanted if not quite the fulsome praise from all critics they might have hoped for.