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And That’s It? (spoilers)

Warning, this contains spoilers for Season 3 of The Mandalorian. Continue reading at your risk.

That’s it? All that build up to end in Mando and Grogu hanging out in a cabin in the countryside? Seriously? The ending of this season was entirely underwhelming. It’s hard to know where to begin on this mess.

Too Many Loose Threads

Nothing got resolved about the Mythosaur, it’s as if it was never part of the story. IG-11 is “miraculously” put back together to be the new Marshall. The Darksabre is destroyed, which implies it was never that important. Who the hell knows what’s happening back on Coruscant, even though it was important enough to dedicate 1/8th of the season’s story to it (seriously, it could have been a 10-second sequence). Oh, and what ever happened to those giant chicks they got? Did they become dinner in some subsequent episode? And where’s the pirate gone? Is Moff Gideon really ash, or did his super-duper armour protect him?

Yeah, yeah, stuff for Season 4. If there is one. If Disney decides to end it here, I’d be fine with that. The only good season was the first. The second was okay, although the “let’s set up another spinoff” thing was getting a bit wearisome. This third season was a pointless mess.

It all wraps up so Mando and Grogu can go off on new adventures. Yeah, this is such a satisfying end (spoiler alert: it isn’t).

All Filler, Little Content

There was, at best, 2-3 hours of actual story in this season, and 5-6 hours of useless filler. All the stupid side quests did nothing to advance the overall plot, and weren’t a way to introduce any new meaningful characters. As cool as it was to see Uppa back in his X-Wing, and as amusing as it was to see him show just how incompetent the New Republic is, again, it added nothing overall. This whole season could have been a movie, and then it might have been more satisfying.

If there is a Season 4, maybe getting back to a more episodic form might be better. Although a different title might be in order (maybe The New Adventures of Mando and Grogu?). It might be entertaining. But part of Star Wars is that there is a grand arc, a bigger story that the stuff we watch (or read) is part of. The entire franchise is premised around it. And as bad as Lucas might have been at dialog, he had a knack for telling stories within stories. Season One of The Mandalorian fit within that. The next two started to drift somewhat.

All I can say now is thank goodness for Andor and The Bad Batch. Maybe we can get some stories about the Adelphi Rangers?

It Took 7 Episodes To Get Here? (spoilers)

Warning, this contains spoilers for Chapter 23 of Season 4 of The Mandalorian. Read at your own risk.

Took Long Enough

So it took us 7 episodes (and about 7 hours) to finally get to the point of this thing. Seriously? Take away all the side-quests and distractions, and this should have been the third episode of this season, not the seventh. It could have even been the second episode. We didn’t need to know what was happening with Dr. Pershing. They could have left it as mysterious. A two-minute holo comms sequence with Moff Gideon and Kane, the “His research is lost” line in the holo-Zoom staff meeting, and leave it at that. The “let’s fight pirates” bit. The useless “have to fix IG-11” and it turns out it wasn’t necessary. The rescue, the droid behaviour mystery. Seriously, none of this advanced the narrative.

Too much of this season feels like padding, like fan service and not story telling. It’s like they don’t actually know what story they want to tell, or maybe don’t have a story to tell. I mean, cool, we get some great cameos from some great performers. But we don’t have to try to jam every character the series has presented (that’s still alive) into the season. That’s just not necessary.

Grogu’s New Toy

I was so worried they had pulled a deus ex machine with IG-11 when he came strolling in. But when it was clear he’s just a mech, okay, maybe that’s something that can work. At least Grogu has a bit more mobility, and can do more than make baby noises and Force Grip stuff. It was funny watching him stumble around a bit while he figured the machine out, and pounding away on the “yes” and “no” buttons.

The only concern I would have might be budget. It’s way cheaper to digitally composite a floating egg (which can be closed, reducing detail and fidelity requirements) than an intricate machine. But whatever, not my problem. At least Grogu can be a more active participant in things.

Expect It To Feel Rushed Or Incomplete

There’s only one episode left in the season. That can mean one of two things. First, that they’re going to rush the final conflict between the Mandalorians and Gideon. Don’t be surprised if the New Republic just happens to show up, riding to the rescue. Given how sloppy the story telling as been so far, that wouldn’t be surprising at all. But it would also be a massive disappointment.

The other alternative is that the Mandalorians are chased off “for now” in a lame attempt to set up the next season. Assuming there is one. I have not seen a lot of positive comments or reviews so far, and I see a lot more “glad I skipped this season” instead.

And that leads to the question: will there be a fourth season? With poor reviews, what appears to be a disappointed (and possibly shrinking) audience, this could very well be it for this story line. It could live on in comics and novels. But these aren’t cheap to make, and Disney’s pockets aren’t infinitely deep. I’d rather see the budget put toward ensuring Andor retains it’s high standards and quality. Money spent making another disappointing season like this would be a waste.

The Mandalorian Is A Mess (Spoilers)

This contains spoilers for Season 3 of The Mandalorian, as it discusses major plot points. Read further at your own discretion.

Um, Wut?

Season 3 of The Mandalorian is a flat-out mess. It has no apparent direction, plan, or point. The show has wandered the wilderness, with a series of pointless side-quests and abandoned plot lines. Sure, it was cool seeing Christopher Lloyd, Jack Black, Lizzo in Chapter 22, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in Chapter 21. But Chapter 22. like the previous 5, was verging on stupid and was entirely pointless.

This whole season has been like that, feeling more like they’re making it up as they go along rather than having some broader season-long story to tell. We start with Mando deciding he needs IG-11 to “make sure the air is safe” on Mandalore. He starts to search for the necessary parts (well, for about 10 minutes), and instead ends up with an astromech droid. That droid screws up (and Grogu loses his little dome), so Mando has to “seal his helmet” and go in on his own anyway. He needed a droid for what, exactly, then?

Return of Bo-Katan

We get exploring ruins, a few no-too-bad fights, and the setup for Bo-Katan having a legitimate claim on the Darksabre. A pointless “let’s rescue the foundling” side mission reveals just how stupid the “don’t remove your helmet in public” thing is. The rescue team, “hiding” under a cliff while LIGHTING A FIRE, has to eat, so they scatter to private locations. Yeah, that isn’t a tactically stupid thing to do at all. And for all the concern about “the creature will kill if it knows we’re here”, one would think a fire would be the last thing you’d want.

Then we get the “oh yeah, we had pirates, forgot about them” episode (although with a cool aerial battle). Of course the one pirate got away, so we can expect another pointless and meaningless diversion when he pops up. And the Mandalorians now have a home, no more hiding in the shadows. Okay, then. At least we got to see Carson Teva again, and a taste of the ineptitude of the New Republic. They were clearly not ready to actually govern after beating the Emperor.

Let’s Take Back An Empty Planet

On the planet of over-indulgence, we get another pointless side quest. And somehow Lizzo being disappointed in her chief of security is enough to cow a man who was prepared to unleash massive death on the population. “I’m going to kill everyone here!” leads to “I’m disappointed in you” with, essentially “sorry, Mom” and he’s sent to his room without supper. Good grief. But this episode isn’t done. This useless side mission is followed by the lamest fist fight so far, and it ends when Mando basically hands the Darksabre to Bo-Katan with a “oh yeah, you dropped this back on Mandalore”. Bo-Katan back in charge, the next step is to “take back Mandalore”.

And that “grand quest” should be a ten-minute on-screen sequence. Pack up the ships, hyperspace to Mandalore, touch down, drop the ramp, step off. There, you’ve taken back Mandalore. The planet is entirely empty. Sure, there’s a few monsters you might deal with. But it isn’t like they have to plan some grand campaign to take it back from someone else occupying the place. Unless, of course, the “what happened to Moff Gideon” thing resolves to “he set up his base here”. Odd, since there was zero indication there were any ships or anything there during the “let’s stumble upon a mythosaur” sequence. You’d think that anyone entering the system would detect the constant radio noise of the comms from hundreds of TIE fighters and multiple cruisers of various classes.

An aside: in the scene where Mando and Bo-Katan enter the droid cantina, there was a perfect opportunity to make a callback to Episode IV. A droid bartender could have pointed at them and yelled “hey, we don’t serve your kind in here”. With all the other pointless callbacks, this was one that might have actually been funny and on-point. Instead we get a lame line from Mando about “our kind”.

So What’s The Point Again?

Season 1 of The Mandalorian was brilliant. It was focused, every episode moved the plot forward, and while the real destination wasn’t obvious up front, it at least had one. The second season was less cohesive, but still had a main mission: get Grogu to the Jedi. That season was, however, littered with multiple “let’s set up another spinoff” episodes. It wasn’t horrible, but it felt less satisfying. Luke showing up at the end and basically mowing down droids like a Weedeater was pretty cool.

Season 3 is meandering around the galaxy, feeling more like a bunch of characters searching for a story, or at least for something to do. All the key plot points that got us to where the story is at the end of Chapter 22 could have been done in a single episode, two at most. Seriously, none of the side quests have done anything to advance whatever the main story is supposed to be.

The Mandalorian has evolved into a mess similar to the one in Book of Boba Fett. That was a series that appeared to be more about fan service than telling a compelling story. There was no larger story arc, and it felt far too much like they were making it up as they went along. This season of The Mandalorian feels like that. A series of “let’s have an adventure!” with only a notional idea that maybe there’s a bigger thing happening.

I Guess We’ve Been Spoiled

Trying to hold up against some of the best Star Wars TV is a challenge. Living up to the standards set in Season 1 are hard enough. But then you add in The Bad Batch, Obi-wan Kenobi, and Andor, and that sets the bar incredibly high. The Mandalorian started out so well, and it has since decayed. I’m not giving up on it just yet. But unless they turn it around, I’m not sure I’ll bother watching a season 4, should such a thing come out.

Is Andor Near-Perfection? (Spoilers)

(Warning this contains spoilers on Season 1 of Andor, proceed at your own risk)

Season 1 of Andor wrapped up on Wednesday, and I am almost speechless. The consistency and quality over 12 episodes was breathtaking. It’s interesting because it’s Star Wars, but not Star Wars in the conventional sense. It’s like Star Wars, but with a real edge. I am keeping fingers, toes, eyes and whatever else I can cross crossed because I hope they can maintain it into season 2. And I hope beyond hope they don’t use the second season to hype up more spin-offs they way they did with season 2 of The Mandalorian.

Amazing Material

The depth of the characters, the dialog, the pacing, the dialog (again), and THE DIALOG. Holy crap, it’s nice to see someone who can write high-quality dialog that is expository and exhilarating, and doesn’t leave you thinking “c’mon, just get to the point”. Luthen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) speech at the end of episode 11, and Maarva’s (Fiona Shaw) speech via hologram on Rix Road were both poignant, powerful, but still to the point. There was very little wasted dialog.

The dialog was further bolstered by the sets. Those that should be pristine were pristine. But not everything was neat and clean and orderly, and the disorderly or well-worn looked the part naturally. None of the settings felt contrived or fake. They looked and felt like real places that you could visit. You felt the depth and history for those sets that were old. Niamos (aka Space Florida) looked as it should, sorta-new but sorta-tired at the same time. Few resorts are as nice as the brochure, and this was no exception.

The acting for every single character was incredible. I didn’t see a single flat or phoned-in performance, and even the truly minor characters that had a few seconds of screen time felt real. But the main characters were each able to shine, even when you had groups of them together. Their energy and their performances seemed to feed off each other.

There was a single, brief space battle. And as short as it was, it felt special, it was exhilarating. I suspect its because we weren’t immersed in action, so it stands out. It’s uniqueness in the story makes it more dramatic, and it’s pacing and composition as a small story was incredible.

Not-so-Minor Characters

Syril Karn’s (Kyle Soller) arc in the story was incredible, not because it was so compelling necessarily, but because it was so well done. His narcissism having his rent-a-cop uniform tailored. Every scene where he is eating at his mother’s home is him eating a children’s cereal, never “grown up food”. His demeanour around Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and his uncertainty when dealing with other people in general was so well portrayed. I was sure he was going to kiss her after rescuing her from the street battle, and was impressed the writers had the courage to stay away from that trope. Syril had just enough growth to be plausible, but wasn’t entirely transformed, which is a good thing. People don’t change as much as we think in a short period of time, so why would he?

Watching Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) switch between clean and coifed and grubby and ready for action was impressive. The first time, I wasn’t sure I was watching the same performer. Seeing a character that wavers between confident and tentative, from certain to uncertain, made that character more believable, more real, to me.

The droid B2EMO (voice by Dave Chapman) was made important, and had a personality. Watching the little guy reacting to Maarva’s death was truly emotional.

There are so many characters with limited time in the story, but that are still important to the story. You’d be hard pressed to remove any one of them and have the thing hang together. And every one of their performances left an impression. Kino Loy, Ruescott Melshi, Saw Guerrera. The list just goes on.

And Then There’s Cassian Andor

Diego Luna’s portrayal of Cassian Andor is simply spectacular. We can see someone who is still growing, still learning, becoming the character we eventually see in Rogue One. The man is an incredibly talented performer. He takes the amazing material at his disposal and creates a masterpiece on the screen.

The character’s strengths and flaws are there for us to see. Luna’s performance brings both the good and bad in Andor to the fore. And the storytellers never resort to cliche or stereotypes to get their tale told. It’s incredible.

Don’t Forget The Soundtrack

The music for the show is it’s own strength. The opening theme is the same melody, but a different performance each time. There are very few repeated musical cues, and none of the grand symphonic music from the rest of the Star Wars universe.

What’s equally impressive is the diversity of musical styles throughout the show. You have classical, synth, basic rock, and a host of other styles, sometimes all within one episode. I read an article (I’ve lost the link) that interviewed the composer, and he spent as much time making the music as they spent filming and editing. He spent hours on a piece that would only be heard for a few seconds in one case, but wanted to write the entire song to it felt complete. There is one song that they decided would be a “galactic hit”, so it appears in its original form, and in various forms including muzak throughout the rest of the show. Brilliance.

Hopes for Season Two

I have high hopes for season two. My wish is for them to put the same care and attention into it, and to avoid a sophomore slump. I hope beyond hope that Disney leaves them alone (and with Iger at the helm again, that may just happen). Don’t use it as a vehicle to push other products. Stick to the story.

If the producers, cast, and crew can make season two with the same stunning quality as season one, I will be thoroughly impressed. It can be hard to carry on something at that high level. At some point, there will be stumbles. That it never happened, at all, in 12 1-hour episodes is truly impressive. If they can repeat that in season two, then they deserve all the accolades possible.

The Problem with Machete Order (Spoilers)

(Warning, Spoilers ahead). There is a recommendation about the order to watch the Star Wars movies in, called Machete Order. It comes from a blog post on Absolutely No Machete Juggling, and it arose because of a dissatisfaction with the prequel Star Wars episodes. It attempts to tell a better story, but after viewing it a couple times, it has some problems.

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Creating In An Existing Universe

There are plenty of creators (writers, directors, composers, etc) who end up creating work within a existing universe. Think making Star Wars movies, or writing a Star Trek novel. Often the desire for the creator to put their own stamp on the work bumps up against the “rules” and history of the universe. But how should you approach creating something in a universe that already has rules and history?

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