The Mandalorian: Peak Good Star Wars
Disney + has been a subject of intense scrutiny and some derision because of the nature of their business practices: but that doesn’t make The Mandalorian not an excellent addition to the Star Wars universe.
And that’s because the show does two notable things. Though the overall quality of the writing, the camera work, effects work, the pacing, is all excellent, polished and strong, it doesn’t inherently make it a good Star Wars show—there’s got to be more to it than that. Two big choices make The Mandalorian stand out to me as something wholly worthy and interesting.
The first is that this is a western. The pilot, especially, is clearly and heavily inspired by that sort of media. Sure, it’s got a varnish of sci-fi and such, but this is a show that continuously has characters get into standoffs, enters new “towns,” and deals with a rotating cast of new and interesting characters that we then move on from—usually because they die. Bounty hunters are all over the place, and there’s an air of the classic plot of “anti-hero protects an innocent child in a lawless world.”
Old Genre Allusions Abound In The Mandalorian
It honestly reminds me heavily of Firefly—and that’s high praise indeed.
And the second thing is the part that really impresses me: the lack of talking. The show is hyper-visual. The Mandalorian doesn’t speak much, and “Baby Yoda” (as the internet is fond of calling him) only coos. There are a lot of scenes where not only is it just the set, the camera, and the actor’s body language communicating every aspect of the plot—but our main character does all that and we can’t see his face.
Compared to wooden and awkward lines and acting in the prequels, this is a godsend. Compared to modern-day standards of what shows are like, this is still impressive. It’s not Handmaid’s Tale levels of acting, but it’s closer than I expected.
The Mandalorian Is Good In Surprising Ways
For me at least, episodes flew by—as there’s nothing to drag down the plot. The creators simply expect you to get what’s happening from context, and, upon my re-watching of the first two episodes, they planned everything. Small details, worldbuilding aspects: we are talking about a masterful application of Chekov’s Gun across the board.
Sure, it’s pulpy and tropey—because that’s what Star Wars is. Old genres and methods of storytelling, but now in space. But now with telepathic samurai. But now with massive alien monsters that eat people. The Mandalorian doesn’t feel like a slave to the canon, the fandom, but is still in the world, the universe, and is fun and exciting. That’s what fans need.
With The Mandalorian, Star Wars has been done right—so I hope everyone else learns to follow suit.
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