28/05/2021

I Finally Watched The Mandalorian

I'd kind of tried to avoid spoilers for it until now, but you try not being spoiled about the existence of Baby Yoda in the age of the internet... still, I managed to not learn too much about the actual plot until I was ready to see it for myself. Note that there will be lots of spoilers in this post as well!


Season 1

So initially, I was really impressed, by everything. I liked that new little "Star Wars" intro with the helmets - quite a departure from the classic Star Wars title sequence while still hitting all the right notes. I liked the end credits with the concept art. I adored the music - again, quite different from "typical" Star Wars, but appropriate and extremely catchy. The stunts were great; the CGI was great. The first few episodes were also kind of... "artsy" I thought, due to the way Mando spent a lot of time on his own and the show had to work hard to pull you in and hold your attention during a lot of quiet moments where he was just doing his thing, and you could barely even read any of his body language due to the armour.

As the season progressed and he started interacting with more people, it got more... "normal" though, which was a bit of a step down in this case but still far from bad. I just thought episode four was a bit of a low point, what with the lone ranger coming to save a village of peasants from the Uruk-hai. After that, it got a bit better again but also... a little odd. I was very invested in the action, but at the same time also found myself yelling "oh, come on" or similar phrases at my screen. Like the gunslinger just leaving Fennec's body behind for seemingly no reason. Or my favourite secondary character getting killed off off-screen. In the grand finale, they seemed to throw all logic to the wind and just had characters do stuff that looked cool. And that's coming from someone who's not usually particularly nitpicky when it comes to fictional characters making bad decisions... I mean, ultimately I was able to forgive it because I still enjoyed myself, but it also seemed like a bit of a shame when the writing had started off way better than that, so the writers were clearly competent.

Season 2

Interestingly, the second season almost immediately felt quite different from the first. While the first one also had an arc, the individual episodes still all had their own, distinctive tone. At least to me, the second season felt a lot more tied together. The writing seemed to have improved a bit overall, which was nice, but on the other hand the fan service suddenly went through the roof, something I'm a bit ambivalent about.

Doing things that fans like is obviously not a bad thing in principle, but I've long grown tired of how official creators keep reducing this wonderful sprawling universe to the same few people, concepts and planets. Yeah, the first season also had jawas and Tatooine, but not too much else. In this one though, we go from Krayt Dragons to Bo-Katan to Ahsoka Tano to Boba Fett. The latter was kind of funny to me actually because in hindsight his involvement was clearly telegraphed for several episodes, but I was completely blind to it - I didn't even realise the armour was his until he showed up to reclaim it; I'd just perceived it as generic Mandalorian armour the entire time.

And then you have the grand finale of course, which was the ultimate fan service. That one was kind of the opposite of the Boba Fett situation for me, as I found myself thinking ahead of time: Hm, I wonder who this mysterious Jedi is going to be that comes to pick up Baby Yoda. Can I think of any Jedi characters from the EU that might still be alive? Ahsoka is obviously busy elsewhere... Maybe it could be someone entirely new! No, it couldn't, because people would just be annoyed that Mando has to give up Baby Yoda to some complete no-name. So it would have to be someone important... it's gonna be Luke, isn't it? Yeah, it'll have to be Luke.

And I guess it turning out to be Luke wasn't bad... but the way it was done just felt gratuitous, with those endless shots of him cutting down droids to show how cool he is, and then everyone just staring at him and not even asking as much as who he is (cause we, the viewers, obviously already knew, so who cares).

Overall Thoughts

Apparently there's a season 3 in the works, though I'm not sure what that's going to be about. Sure, there's still the hook with the Darksaber, but at this point it's hard to imagine Mando without Grogu anymore! I guess we'll see.

Overall I really enjoyed the first two seasons of the Mandalorian, but I have to admit that I also have somewhat mixed feelings about it when I hear comments like how this show "made Star Wars great again" and stuff like that. I do think it's good, and I do think it's better than a lot of the major franchise releases that Disney has produced recently, but there's also a part of me that worries that both Disney and portions of the fandom could come away from its success with the (in my opinion) wrong lessons, e.g. that Star Wars is only good if the main protagonist is an emotionally repressed guy whose face is hidden under a helmet all the time, and that it can only be successful if it keeps recycling the same locations and characters that fans know and already love. Because while those are things that just about work in the Mandalorian, I feel it almost works despite of those things instead of because of them.

The SWTOR Connection

Finally, some SWTOR specific comments: While nobody but Bioware and EA know the numbers, it seemed to be commonly agreed that the release of this show helped SWTOR's popularity, because if it leaves you with an urge to take on the role of a cool bounty hunter in a video game, there aren't that many options out there.

I was kind of surprised just how well it mapped to the game though, as the bounty hunter class story actually touches on some similar themes in regards to Mandalorian culture, or the problems of your bounty hunting job potentially conflicting with your morals. I was also incredibly amused by how much Mando's quest on the show frankly resembles that of an MMO player at times, with every person he meets wanting him to run some personal errand first before they'll help him. Episode two of season two could even be interpreted as an escort quest, including the urge to move agonisingly slowly! I just thought those parallels were very funny. I hope anyone who started playing a bounty hunter in SWTOR because of this show got exactly the experience they hoped for.

7 comments :

  1. That show had me forming operation groups only for Bounty Hunters as I played The Mandalorian theme song and Spaghetti Western music.

    Regarding Grogu, I'm sure something is going to happen and he'll be back.

    I'm wondering if we will get to meet baby Rey and/or baby Kylo at some point.

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  2. In regards to the show making bounty hunters popular in Swtor I can definitely concur. Being in a mando guild myself our numbers spike every time a new season comes out.
    I too had the same thought that sometimes the show came across as a game with all the fetch quests he had to do, which amused me a lot. In my opinion the second season had a tad too many fan nods and I think it would have been better if they had spread it out a little bit more. In spite of that I did enjoy the second season because like you said the story was more tied together and the writing had improved.

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    1. To be fair, our numbers are always sky high and if we spend half a week without cleansing, we'd be past the limit, EVEN CONSIDERING the only-one-alt limit.
      I'd say it's not ONLY because of the Mandalorian theme, but also because it's always there in Cq leaderboard (it does advertise) and because we're VERY inclusive and active, holding dozens of events per week, helping new players, etc. It's just a very active community, and a very involved one, it gives people the sense they have a "home" in the game. I don't think a lot of the real active players in the guild are also active in other guilds, for example, even if they have toons elsewhere. People are quite loyal, it's cute. :)

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  3. I can see why many fans feel like The Mandalorian made Star Wars "great again". It felt like it embraced the franchise with love without being yet another clone of Jedi vs Sith. All without being the divisive entity that the most recent films were. It was enjoyable escapism that works for involved fans as well as those that just know the movies and/or TV shows.

    Yeah, the nods and fan service were definitely in there, but most of the time if you weren't an in-depth fan you'd miss references. I know I missed a lot until it was pointed out to me. To me that's a good thing -- knowing it added, but not knowing it didn't detract from the story. Also, I don't mind them revisiting obvious places. While those may feel overused to us, they aren't overused to a casual fan. As long as every ice planet isn't Hoth, I can live with a couple of trips to Tatooine. :)

    For me, that final episode was incredible and emotional. I hadn't tried to figure out what was coming for any of the episodes. I just let the story carry me along. Now, while the thought of Luke appearing occurred to me, I didn't think they would do it as I felt they would keep the movies and the TV series separate in terms of crossovers. When he did appear and was the badass Jedi Master 14 year old me when nuts with excitement. This was the Luke I had always wanted to see and never got in the (to me) disappointing sequel movies.

    As it is, I've had enough quality enjoyment that I can forgive mistakes and missteps. I have positive thoughts about what they will be releasing in the future.

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  4. Well, I'll agree - the second season was far superior to the first, and the writing more even. Sure, there's a lot of fanservice, but it *doesn't get in the way of the story*, so, I'll take it. I'll confess I was bored out of my mind by S1E4, might've fallen asleep twice during it, which's just annoying (the only other time I recall forcing myself to sit through it after so much boredom was "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks"). The Twi'Lek twins ep also bothered me... But that's just because the excessive pointy teeth in Twi'Leks bother me (and it wasn't as good as it COULD'VE been).

    As for SWTOR connection - I have to say, if you take a look at their battle choreography, there's A LOT that feels so much like swtor that you could name the ability being used. It's quite quite fun to catch it.

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  5. I was afk when this was posted, so a rather belated comment. Some great points, I feel like I should rewatch the series to pick out the MMORPG quest analogues, I didn't have that in mind when I watched it!

    I love the main theme tune. It was good to watch a series that deals with the fringes of the galaxy, I too am wary it will fall too heavily into the same old locations / characters trap - those episodes where we see new worlds and new characters were generally my favourites.

    My biggest moment of the series was actually not when Luke appeared, but rather when Slave 1 deployed the seismic charge to destroy the pursuing fighters.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJTeatDqXrc
    I may have cheered outloud at that point :-)

    Did you have a particular highlight moment in either series from a MMO player or Star Wars lore perspective?

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    1. My inner MMO player appreciated a lot of the fights using weapons/abilities that are also available to bounty hunters in SWTOR. :) I think my favourite lore moment was Bo-Katan telling our hero that his whole "Mandalorians don't take off their helmets" thing was part of a silly cult doctrine (because I'm sure a lot of people had been wondering up to that point what was up with that).

      In general my favourite moments were the strongly character-driven ones, such as:
      - Mando's first team up with IG-11
      - Mando's duel with Cara Dune ending when Grogu shows up sipping broth
      - Kuiil's speech about how he reprogrammed IG-11 and that you don't need to trust a droid, just its creator
      - IG-11 saving Mando from the fire and taking his helmet off
      - The first meeting with the Marshal
      - The duel between Ahsoka and that lady being conveyed mostly through distant grunts while Mando and that other guy stand outside and chat about how it's going
      - The scene with Mando and Mayfeld in the Imperial cantina

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