The Mandalorian: 3 ways ‘filler’ episodes add value to the show

The Mandalorian season two chapter nine, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved
The Mandalorian season two chapter nine, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved /

The team behind The Mandalorian has found clever ways to make one-episode adventures be meaningful to the larger goal and story of the show.

The season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian was met with overall enjoyment, thanks to the introduction of a new character, the unique look at krayt dragons, and an intriguing tease in the final moments. However, the episode didn’t really address any of the burning questions heading into the season, which left some fans disappointed, especially since the series is adopting another eight-episode run.

From a critical view, there’s already a small batch of episodes that make up season 2, so any one-off adventures (like the middle of season 1) are seen as a wasted opportunity to explore the core story. However, these “filler” episodes have value, and they actually help further the show and its goals. Here’s how:

1. Side-story episodes help introduce us to new characters

The focus of The Mandalorian is on, of course, its titular character and The Child. However, the supporting cast helps make the show what it is. Season 1 wouldn’t have been as impactful without the helpfulness of Kuiil or the usefulness of IG-11. Another important season 1 figure, Cara Dune, didn’t make her infamous debut until Chapter 4 when the show took a one-episode detour to Sorgan.

This chapter is looked at as “filler” between season 1’s main arc, but by being adjacent to the main story, it allowed for the focus to be on Dune’s arrival. The show didn’t force viewers to accept Dune into the clan without getting to know what she’s about; instead, we got an entire episode that highlighted her gifts and showcased why she works well with Mando. Without this episode, the team up aspect of Chapter 7 — which got the show back on track regarding its main story — wouldn’t have been as exciting.

Keep this in mind for season 2 and Timothy Olyphant’s character, Cobb Vanth, who was introduced in the premiere. Vanth was allowed to be a centerpiece of Chapter 9 since the episode had a contained story, and he’s the kind of character you’d like to see again. He even told Mando to let him know if he ever needs help again, foreshadowing that Vanth could play a part down the line this season.

2. The power of teases in The Mandalorian

Each minute of an episode of The Mandalorian is precious, especially given that some chapters have lighter runtimes. Sometimes, though, the show only needs mere seconds to pique our interest.

This was the case at the end of Chapter 5 in season 1. During this episode, Mando teamed up with aspiring bounty hunter Toro Calican to capture the elusive Fennec Shand. The duo succeeded, but Shand was able to turn Calican against the Mandalorian, which led to a standoff that ended very poorly for Calican. The episode could’ve wrapped up neatly there, although instead, the final scene featured a mysterious figure (with spurs on their boots) finding Shand in the desert.

This tease was thought by some at the time to be Boba Fett. We still don’t fully know who it was, and maybe we never will. But this moment helped elevate a relatively low-stakes episode into a talking point.

That brings us back to the season 2 premiere, which was a similar small adventure on Tatooine, followed by an even larger tease than Chapter 5. This time there’s little mystery: Boba Fett is likely back. Questions regarding how Fett will play into season 2, or the series going forward, are running through the minds of Star Wars fans. His return is a big deal in itself — especially since he was presumed dead after Return of the Jedi — and will hopefully be addressed soon.

Even if the majority of the episode wasn’t an efficient use of runtime in terms of progressing the overall story, the tease at the end of the episode could be a huge part of season 2 and beyond.

3. Star Wars “filler” is still better than anything else

The word “filler” has been used to describe these one-off, adventure-of-the-week-style episodes. Sometimes viewers would rather have each episode focused on exploring bigger issues — Moff Gideon and the Darksaber, The Child’s powers and origins — rather than chapters that see the heroes help the stereotypical small town in need. And that’s a fair expectation, especially since there’s so few episodes in a season.

However, it’s possible these expectations are asking for too much, too quickly. Part of the allure of this show is its mysteries. Din Djarin’s pivotal childhood moment was seen in jumbled parts throughout season 1 before it was finally revealed in full in the finale. Also, Mando taking off his mask was hinted at, but it didn’t actually happen until Chapter 8. The payoff from these moments was better than being spoiled with everything in the first couple of episodes.

There’s still seven episodes remaining in season 2. That leaves plenty of time to explore The Child, Moff Gideon, the Darksaber, where the other Mandalorians are, and even the Jedi (possibly). Chapter 10’s synopsis seems to be the premise of another one-episode adventure, but it’s also been theorized that the episode will introduce viewers to Sasha Banks’ mystery character. That’s exciting, especially given who she could be playing.

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Even if the episode doesn’t have a larger impact on the season, who doesn’t want to spend more time following Mando and The Child along? Getting these side-story chapters out of the way early also sets up a story-heavy back half of the season. And Star Wars “filler” is still better than anything else on TV.