The second episode of The Mandalorian dropped on Disney+ over the weekend. The Star Wars series got really strange, in a good way.
Be warned: Spoilers from here on out
Star Wars is weird. Really weird.
Now, before the hounds of fandom are unleashed upon me, I should explain. I don’t mean “weird” in this sense to be a pejorative, or to imply that it is off-putting or to downplay the proceedings in any way. What I mean is that Star Wars, in its’ most uncut form, is wonderfully strange, in a way that only a Flash Gordon-meets-Joseph Campbell space opera can be, in ways that “hard” sci-fi properties like Star Trek or The Expanse are not.
Think about it, if you will. The entire saga is predicated on the existence of laser weapons, space wizards, monsters and the like.
For goodness sake, one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy is a backward-talking, wrinkled, 3-foot-tall frog creature that can lift objects with his mind! The point is that the absurdity is baked into the concept, and deeper meaning and compelling stories can be derived from that.
To that end, this week’s episode of The Mandalorian is weird and abstract to a degree that the live-action movies never could be.
As our intrepid bounty hunter makes the long trek back to his ship with his quarry, an infant that just happens to be the same species as departed Jedi Master Yoda, literally in tow behind him, he encounters all sorts of strange things, from ransacking Jawas to a giant, shaggy, mud-caked space rhino that somehow lays eggs (which, or course, the Jawas see as a delicacy).
It’s to director Rick Famuyiwa’s credit that the episode never gets lost in all this strangeness, preferring to keep the focus on the budding relationship between the Mandalorian and the child he’s been hired to bring to his client alive.
A wrench gets placed in the works, as the audience (and the Mando, for that matter) learn that the the cuddly green baby is absurdly strong in The Force, throwing the entire operation for a loop.
What will become of the relationship between the Mandalorian and his charge remains to be seen, but it just might prove to be the most important element the further the season progresses.
I’ll be honest again: Originally, I believed the child to be nothing more than a pointless distraction, borne out of a need to inject some cuteness into a franchise that admittedly isn’t lacking for it.
One the gears of the story started to turn, the need for such an element became clear to me: it serves as the emotional anchor for the entire season: the story of how a cold-blooded loner gradually learns to move beyond self-interest.
It’s also a needed counterbalance to the all the patented Star Wars weirdness. If the story doesn’t at least attempt to infuse some actual, genuine emotion and meaning into the proceedings, if that weirdness isn’t grounded in something human and relatable, then it becomes wallpaper.
Interesting to look at, but ultimately flat and devoid. To that end, The Mandalorian is off to a good start, so far.
The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney+.