Run, Shoot, Repeat: Mando Keeps on Kicking


In my last post, I discussed how the two major science fiction franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars, now had live action TV series  that were carrying on their legacies. I dissected Star Trek Discovery in that post. In this one, I turn my eye to the Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.

When I heard the initial premise for The Mandalorian, I was not particularly enthused. A bounty hunter? In the Outer Rim, dealing with low-life criminal types? This was an aspect of the Star Wars universe that didn't feel compelling to me. But the first season was a revelation. It had the feel of the original trilogy, but it took us to new places and expanded upon existing concepts. And of course, there was Baby Yoda.

The second season began airing on October 30, 2020, and as of this writing, there have been five episodes released. This season is so far notable for giving viewers a look at the larger Star Wars universe, providing greater insight into how things are shaping up since the death of the Emperor and rise of the New Republic in Return of the Jedi, and the introduction of characters who create a bridge from the animated shows, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, to the live action Star Wars universe.

By once again building off of existing concepts, and incorporating fan favorite characters and ideas, The Mandalorian has managed to keep the enthusiasm level high. Star Wars lore is a seemingly bottomless well that yields new surprises every time it is plumbed. So far we've been delighted by revisiting Tatooine and finally seeing a Krayt dragon, discovering the recovered armor of Boba Fett,  witnessing X-wing chases through an icy canyon, seeing the first live action appearance of Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze, reuniting with Greef Karga and Cara Dune, uncovering more of Moff Gideon's plans, and now, finally, encountering Ahsoka Tano.

Although I've enjoyed this entire season, episodes 12 and 13 (The Siege and The Jedi) stood out to me. Seeing Mando invade an Imperial base with his colleagues Karga and Dune was thrilling, and the clues regarding Moff Gideon's plan were tantalizing. Those tanks full of bodies seemed to tie into the new trilogy and Emperor Palpatine's cloning program.  Considering the level of controversy among fans over the new trilogy, I thought it was surprising that the series' creators, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, would want to create such a connection. But I could be totally off-base with this idea. In The Jedi, we finally see former Jedi Ahsoka Tano in the flesh, via actor Rosario Dawson, and she did not disappoint. The episode was written and directed by Filoni, who co-created the character (with George Lucas) in 2008. Filoni gives Ahsoka a fitting showcase, as she faces off with a truly deplorable opponent, and gives Mando his first real clue about the Child's background, including his name, Grogu.

In some ways, a lot has happened in five episodes. But has it really? The main plot - Mando's efforts to find a Jedi to help train Grogu - has not moved forward very much. Each episode seems to be a sort of 'side quest' that takes him away from his goal. Little progress is made and the episodes, while exciting, have a certain sense of repetition. 

With only three episodes left, it seems safe to say that there are a handful of things that will likely occur by season's end. Mando will take Grogu to Tython, where he will reach out through the Force. The call will probably alert both friend and foe. Mando and Grogu will run afoul of Moff Gideon and/or his forces. Grogu may be abducted by Gideon, and a Jedi might show up to save him. Or this may stretch into next season. And what of the stranger who appeared at the end of episode 1? Will we see Boba Fett before the season ends? How would he fit into the story - working for Gideon? I'm guessing Fett will wait for next season.

For the most part, this has been a satisfying season, although the lack of progress on the main story has become obvious, and depending on how the season resolves, it may impact that appreciation. One thing that does bother me is that there never seems to be a chance to take a breath and see how Din Djarin himself may be changing and growing. Has he thought any more about what Bo-Katan said about different groups of Mandalorians and their practices? And what about his relationship with Grogu? We see a few hints that it has grown stronger; he expresses some pride when the child uses the Force to bring the gearshift knob to him. But he still keeps his helmet on even when he eats in front of Grogu. 

This brings me to another question: what is the endgame here? Will Mando ever separate from Grogu?  That would be a show-killer. Baby Yoda has become a phenomenon and removing him from the show seems highly unlikely. So where does the story go? You could spend all or most of next season trying to rescue him. But again, that just delays the inevitable. Is he destined to go off and train with a Jedi or not? 

But these are questions for the future. Right now, the show is entertaining and exciting. It's something I  look forward to each week. It has been able to tell a new story and still expand the Star Wars universe in a way the new trilogy didn't. The Mandalorian doesn't feel as hemmed in as the new trilogy, since it isn't constrained by being linked to the Skywalker saga. There's a lot to explore, but as this season has shown, there's also the potential for it to get stale if they can't move the main plot forward successfully.


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