Here we sit, the final episode of The Mandalorian drops at the end of this week. So far this season, jaws dropped, fans jumped up and down with the live action creation of fan favorites like Ahsoka and Boba Fett. “Baby Yoda”, now Grogu, continues to steal every scene he shows up in. No doubt this season contains many epic moments, but has this truly been an epic season? Or are the crack in the Beskar beginning to show? Bring me the Hydrospanners and let’s take a look.
The first season of The Mandalorian was so fresh, new and re-energizing in many ways it became the modern A New Hope. It will always be well remembered, but that does not mean there are some very large flaws. So far the sophomore season seems to be superficially wonderful, but when looking deeper, the show begins fall apart. Now keep in mind when I say fall apart I’m talking grade A to grade B, not Rise of Skywalker falling apart.
Bring Me the Hydrospanners – Tempo Control Draining Life
One of the chief criticisms so far of The Mandalorian centers on story telling. Each episode tells a plot point in an overly rigid manner. Ep1 needs to tell this plot point. Hit point A. Hint point B and hit point C. End episode. Ep2 needs to tell this plot point. Hit point A. Hint point B and hit point C. End episode. Each episode is its own mini-quest to reach the final boss. That type of format may work, but when it’s so locked down and rigid it begins to feel boring and repetitive. We know how every episode will play out.
The other down side to this is that story takes precedent and we see very little character development or charm. The characters receive no time to interact, build relationships or show off their charm. Let’s face it Star Wars was great visually, but what was loved were the quirky interactions of the droids or Han and Leia. Those moments endear characters to us for a lifetime. Now I bet some of you are going to try and list some moments like this. I will counter with almost every single good moment like this being in an episode directed by the F-brothers or Deborah Chow.
Bring Me the Hydrospanners – We’re Coming in Too Hot!
Another issue tied closely to this last issue is episode length. If an F-brother (Favroni) directs the episode, you can bet it will run in the 50+ minute range. Every other director has turned in run times in the upper 30 to low 40 minute range. Episode need to be lengthened. Accomplish your mission, but then give us some down time with these characters. Let us watch them interact with each other and their environment. The best example of this for season 2 came from Chapter 9: The Marshal. Not only did we see Din and the Marshall interact with the town folk, but the Tuskens as well. Just one problem. Guess who directed – Favreau. It was also a 54 min episode.
All of the other episodes clocking in at over 10 minutes shorter need to be lengthened. The more we can see of these characters, the more we can connect with them over time. Right now The Mandalorian has it easy. No other Star Wars or Marvel titles vie for attention. As we found out from the Investors Meeting Thursday, that will be changing in 2021 and beyond. Whether it be the “Favroni” brothers guiding new directors or simply giving the noobs a bit more free reign with each episode, lengthening needs to happen. Especially when we are only given eight chapters a year.
The extra time added when done right helps relax the show and give it more feeling, but it doesn’t have to be quiet time either. Ever notice how easily Djarin and Co. maneuver in and out of strongholds with ease? Make the fights longer, or give us more dog fights. I know these can up budget costs, but better that than to strangle the life out of the show.
Bring Me the Hydrospanners – The Many Expressions of Vader
Most of you I am sure have seen this meme floating around the internet:
Vader and Kristen Stewart had a Meme-off on who could show the most expression (jury is still out on the winner). Whether it comes from facial expressions or tone, you need to have characters who can show expression, and so far this season very few have.
Our lead character wears a mask. That doesn’t help, but given his nature, one does not expect Din to show much feeling. This can be fine, but you must follow Character Creation rule #69: If you have one extreme, you must have the other extreme (where did you think I was going with that!?). Simply put if you are going to have a main character that acts stoic, logical, emotionless, you MUST have a character that is loud, flamboyant, and emotional to play off that character. Otherwise you get a lot of boring screen time and no emotional connection with the audience.
Now Din is cracking. In this last episode we begin to see the emotion within Din regarding Grogu. If you pay attention you see a brilliantly acted subtlety to Pedro Pascal’s performance. Mayfeld brings up Operation Cinder and begins laying into the Officer. The camera tracks over to Pascal and you see an extremely subtle shake of his head warning Mayfeld not to press the issue. Then later you get the look of ‘WTF just happened’ from both Din and Mayfeld (and the troopers) after Mayfeld blasts the officer.
These moments are few and far between. Cara, Boba, Fennec all carry that emotionless demeanor. Granted Gina Carano has no acting range, but the show really needs a bit more life to it. Even Ahsoka’s appearance brought no life to the cast. I get this is a more worn Ahsoka than we might be used too, but it also shows the difference between Rosario Dawson’s voice and Ashley Eckstein’s voice. Ashley can bring that light-hearted feel anytime she wants with her voice. Rosario not so much.
Bring Me the Hydrospanners – They’ll Be Here Any Second!
If we want to talk about story pacing disasters we need look no further than the sequel films. The overall story is a mess. The Mandalorian goes nowhere near that type of disaster, but at the same time I worry about this season’s pacing. Each episode stays so tight to the assigned plot points that I fear too much needs to be resolved going into the final episode. If this last chapter stays as tight as the previous episodes it will not reach the levels it should have.
Now this final episode will most likely be directed by Favreau. This means the run time will stretch into the mid 50s somewhere and he will deftly handle the subtleties most of this season lacked, but lets face it that still leaves a lot to be done. Almost all of this final chapter will need to center on Gideon and retrieving Grogu, but that means there would still be so many loose ends left floating in the wind.
Where is Bo Katan? Did anyone hear Grogu in the force? I’d tack on Ahsoka, but her own show can handle her story now. I think the overly tight structure of the previous episodes will work against the finale. It feels like there should be at least two more episodes of The Mandalorian. Do not count out an extreme WTF cliff hanger for the ending.
Bring Me the Hydrospanners – Hyped Up Window Dressing
This season showed us some amazing moments, but so far it has not lived up on a substantive level. Many love Moff Gideon and think he is an awesome villain, but as I asked in a conversation – what’s he done? He looks bad ass. He wields the Darksaber, but what has he actually done? We know of no victories or extraordinary abilities. This final episode will either show us once and for all, or leave him an empty shell, but they could have given us some more of Gideon’s story to SHOW us he’s worthy of respect.
If this format continues, I think The Mandalorian may crumple under the pressure of other Disney+ shows to come. It needs more than a few amazing reveals to maintain its prowess. In some ways this feels like Rebels. The strength of the Rebels series rested more on the cameos and finale’s than it did the show as a whole. If The Mandalorian does not put more length, depth and feeling into its episodes, it will run out of shocking moments to maintain it.