OPINION – After I’ve watched 4 episodes, I’m finally starting to figure out what kind of series this really is. The Mandalorian doesn’t really feel like it has a constantly evolving story, unlike most other modern TV shows that have a finite end. It rather feels like a corny “villains of the week” type of show from the mid-90’s that can go on forever, it feels like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: The Warrior Princess.
What differentiates it and makes it better in some ways though is that it is more professionally made – it has a stronger technical (and possibly artistic) background. The cinematography is excellent for TV show standards and the blend of practical and CGI elements work very well here. However, in almost every other aspect – aspects that really count in presenting an enjoyable experience that will be stuck with the viewer – The Mandalorian simply underdelivers. Not just compared to the other two shows I’ve mentioned but in general.
But just to stick with my two examples, Xena and Hercules, yes, they are corny as hell, yes, they are tongue-in-cheek, but they are actually fun to watch. They have real, well-defined characters, humorous and self-reflective dialogues that often work really well, and enjoyable little stories throughout the episodes. Both series are simple and you can criticize them for a lot of reasons, but I feel like they were made by passionate people and in the end, it shows.
The Mandalorian is clearly a better-made show but it also lacks some kind of spirit and heart that would make it truly resonate with me. It often feels emotionally distinct and sterile, just like Rogue One. For example, most of the dialogues feel artificial instead of natural. Therefore, in the rare moments when someone wants to express their emotions, it feels like if a robot (in the conventional sense) would try to act like a human – it just comes out wrong and feels wrong.
This kind of almost autistic approach to emotions also shows in other aspects of the show as well, such as the soundtrack. It feels like every time it takes a step in the right direction, it immediately takes two steps back. From an emotional standpoint, the show is just as conflicted as Darth Vader was in Return of the Jedi and overall, it’s one of the main reasons that hold it back to become something better.
It feels like the creators feared to make the series emotional because they wanted to create a gritty and serious story – again, just like Rogue One. Why? Possible because in this postmodern world of ours, the masses simply love and praise everything that has nihilism and darkness in it. However, through writing and shooting, they also realized that a story without emotions and relatability is not worth telling, so they stuck in this eternal conflict between gritty+serious and fun+adventurous and they failed to balance the two sides out – even though it would have been entirely possible, just look at The Empire Strikes back.
Unfortunately, the series is just as conflicted and messy in other aspects as well, such as character-development, pacing, narrative and storytelling, general structure, etc. Sometimes I feel like a really simple story without any worthy world-building and character-building is drawn out for 40 minutes. In other times, I feel like the given story would require more screentime to be explored thoroughly, but instead, we jump between different scenes in a fast and erratic manner. Sometimes nothing is happening for tens of minutes, and sometimes important scenes don’t have enough time to breath and the viewer doesn’t have enough time to take them in. This makes it really hard to care at all about what’s happening on the screen.
A good example for all of these is the latest episode, in which basically after three sentences, the Mandalorian and the woman with the child almost act like they have fallen in love together, without any previous relationship development between them at all, while the whole “teaching the locals how to fight under two minutes” part was just as laughable and cheesy. These type of scenes worked a million times better in the A-Team 30+ years ago. Moments like these can’t work without proper build-up or without hitting the required tone for the series – the suspense of disbelief is immediately shattered when they try to do these in a show that they also want to be taken seriously.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to tell strong stories in which you start to care about the characters in a short amount of time – it’s totally possible, but the creators behind this show are simply not talented enough for that. Or at the very least, they would need to write the dialogues better in order for them to be more expressive, and they should also manage the timing of the script better so it could be more effective. It can be done, The End of the F***ing World is a great example. In that series, every moment, every scene, every dialogue has a meaning and it constantly builds towards something, while you also start to care about the characters after a very short time.
If I want to say a video game analogue, I think that the episodes of this show feel like secondary side-missions from above-average open-world/RPG titles. They are passable and sometimes have their fun moments – but that’s all. Go there, do this, bring me that, etc. But at least, in the world of games you also have the presence of interactivity that can elevate even a simple story to greater heights.
Now this all may sound very negative, but just to be clear, I’m not saying that The Mandalorian is bad. I’m just saying it’s not very good either and I think a lot of people would definitely need a reality check here. In the past years, a lot of shit came out in the world of Star Wars and I think a negative side-effect of it is that now whenever a mediocre or slightly above average, competent work comes out, people automatically tend to overpraise it. And this is the case with The Mandalorian as well.
TL;DR: The Mandalorian is a competently made show that has its moments, but overall, there are far better TV shows to choose from if you really want to watch something – even in its genre. The Star Wars name alone won’t make anything instantly unmissable.
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