Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Mandalorian (Season 1)

We were supposed to start "The Mandalorian" on December 27th, 2019, the day episode 8 dropped. That was the plan. Wait until it was all out, then binge the whole thing! No nasty cliffhangers.

Then some friends basically said "here you go, have some Disney Plus, and WATCH THE MANDALORIAN."

Well. We couldn't argue with that.

For the most part I'm tremendously grateful. Except for the part where we watched episode 7 right before Christmas even though my husband had been spoiled and knew there was a nasty cliffhanger and I had to go into Christmas wondering WHAT HAPPENED TO--------- [redacted for spoilers]-----????

Anyhow, if you are reading this and haven't watched the show yet, unless you fall asleep or the power goes out or you have some pressing work commitment, nothing should keep you from going from episode 7 into episode 8.

Lucky you!!!!

Although let's be honest, at around 35 minutes an episode (with rather gratuitous end credits), this might be one of the easiest shows to binge watch ever. It's an interesting choice, as live action drama usually stretches 45-52 minutes here in the States. However it works surprising well in "The Mandalorian," perhaps in part because at least some of the creative team has been honing their skills on the animated Star Wars shows and are used to a shorter format. As parents catching the episodes during baby's naps, my husband and I appreciated the the length!

Preamble accomplished, what did I think of the actual show? Well, I thought it was exactly the STAR WARS show that we need. Something largely unconnected to the Skywalker saga (although with plenty of easter eggs), part episodic, part overarching plot, a fun callback to the western-style format (capture all those Firefly fans, y'know), a likeable, laconic hero with the cutest ever sidekick...

...we all know 2019 is going to go down as the year of Baby Yoda.

My largest frustration with the show was the glaring lack of female characters during the first three episodes. STAR WARS has come so far, and done such a better job in recent years with balancing things out (haha), that it just felt plain weird to have a single female speak during the first three episodes. And it would have been SO easy to make almost any one of the other secondary characters be female. I was confused, disappointed, and sad. Honestly, it helped me understand why there is such an outcry in general over representation in storytelling. I don't think I've ever felt so...invisible before. So, personal realization moment there!

Now, of course, the show DID redeem itself in that regard with episode #4 being extremely female-centric, and a couple of other good uses of females coming through later. Still, after episode #3 I was struggling, feeling that the showrunners were banking on keeping the female audience largely through Baby Yoda's existence.

I won't lie. I was watching mostly for Baby Yoda.

That issue aside, I really did enjoy the show. I thought it was engaging, funny, well-written for the most part (with a few mis-steps in the middle), and a good expansion of the cinematic STAR WARS universe.

My hands-down favorite two scenes were a) Mando's seige of the Jawa cruiser, and b) the opening scene of episode 8 which I won't spoil but totally had me in stitches.

I loved seeing some actual live action Twi-lek characters even though they were pretty weird. (I played a twi-lek in one RPG...and she had an older brother! ha...but she wasn't a Harley Quinn wannabe) I had zero interest in Mandalorian culture prior to watching the show, but now I have appreciation for why there are die hard Mandalorian fans (even though I'm also aware that the show portrays just one tribe of Mandalorians).

We were a little thrown by the appearance of Uruk Hai in episode 4 (which appears to have taken place in Minnesota, lol), and we appreciated the exploration of droids, the effect (or non effect) of the Rebellion, and the big reveal at the end which I won't spoil but certainly has interesting connotations for the next season.

I remember hearing, about fifteen years ago, that George Lucas wanted to do a live action STAR WARS show. My mind was blown. How could such a thing be financially possible? What kind of miracle would this be?

But now, honestly, in this day of superhero TV galore, the surprise is not that we have a live action STAR WARS tv show, but rather that it has taken this long to exist. That said, it was worth waiting for the show to be done right, and I personally don't think Disney could have done much better for their initial foray than they have with Season One of "The Mandalorian." Is it perfect? Clearly not. Is it perfect for what we needed right now?

Oh yes.

And I can't wait to see what they do with "Obi-Wan."