Well, that was a thing.
I have a certain amount of faith in Jon Favreau, given all of the Marvel work he has done. Plus, of course, I had been witness to the outpouring of fan love for Baby Yoda that happened on Twitter when people in North America were able to watch the show. Now, finally, all episodes of The Mandalorian are available in the UK. Was it worth watching?
The first thing to note is that it absolutely is a Western. It plays Western tropes so hard you’d have to be pretty innocent of Westerns not to notice. Then again, there’s quite a bit of the original Star Wars that owes a lot to Westerns. The Jedi have a lot in common with samurai, and there’s the whole feedback loop between Westerns and Kurosawa’s samurai movies.
Not being heavily into Star Wars, I had no idea what a Mandalorian was, other that it was someone who wore a helmet like Bobba Fett’s. After 8 episodes of the show I’m still not sure that I know what one is, other than that they won’t take their helmets off and go around muttering “this is the way” all the time. The series clearly felt that it didn’t need to explain.
Of course the series comes with all of the usual Star Wars caveats. If you pay too much attention to the man behind the curtain you will find out that the plot is held together with bits of string, the odd piece of tape scavenged from other places, and a great deal of that well known adhesive called “a wing and a prayer”. That’s supposed to not matter if you are having fun, which for the most part I was.
Baby Yoda is, of course, incredibly cute. And I’m fairly pleased to see that there will be a second season which, I hope, will dig into who he (she, they?) is. That is, after all, the only big mystery about the show.
I was also pleased to see that the show didn’t take itself too seriously. My favourite bit of the entire season came at the end where the two scout troopers who have [redacted] are waiting for orders before entering the town. Bored, they decide to have a bit of target practice. Even though the thing they pick to shoot at is not far away, they seem incapable of hitting it. They examine their Imperial-issue blasters with dismay.
I’m not sure that the final episode deserves a place on the Hugo ballot. I would probably have picked “Sanctuary” simply for its re-use of Western and Samurai tropes. But “Redemption” is the most familiar episode in Star Wars terms so I’m not surprised it was popular.
I am also hoping that season 2 will have more of a story arc, rather than being just Favreau showing how well he understands Westerns as an art form.