There’s an odd quality to most of The Mandalorian’s guest appearances and secondary characters. Maybe it’s just the substandard script, or the unconvincing CGI panoramas, or the fact that most of the time the only person they have to bounce off of is masked and fully unresponsive. They feel almost like improv artists doing a bit.
That’s the case with Amy Sedaris’s goofy starport mechanic Peli Motto and her crew of stooge-like pit droids. Her line readings are loose and silly. The script fills the Mandalorian’s silences with her repetitive chatter. It’s not a particularly funny performance, nor a particularly interesting character concept, but we spend a significant chunk of this week’s running time listening to her crack semi-wise.
Director Dave Filoni provides not one shot worth the time it takes to look at, and while the brief glimpses of aliens whipped up from puppetry and glistening goop in a Mos Espa cantina are a welcome breath of weirdness the scene is all too brief, the town itself lifeless and cold. Why bother taking us back to Anakin Skywalker’s hometown, the site of the Star Wars series’ foundational trauma, if all we’re going to do there is meet a few unfun characters who’ll be dead before the episode is done? Why show some mysterious figure kneeling by Fennec Shand’s (Ming-Na Wen) body without giving some clue as to who it is or how they might be connected to the story?
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Bounty Hunter? I Hardly Know Her!
An episode of serialized television must, at the very least, do one of two things to justify its own existence. The first is to impart new information about its world and characters. The second is simply to be fun to watch. The Mandalorian has precious little interest in the former and lacks the creative talent needed to pull off the latter, leaving each episode an inert clump of shopworn genre plotting and indifferently broad gestures toward characterization. Take Toro Calican, the hotshot wannabe bounty hunter introduced and offed this week. Why does he want to join the Guild? Why is building his reputation so important to him? Even hinting at answers would enrich his rivalry with and eventual betrayal of the Mandalorian, but there’s nothing. No material at all.
The flat ugliness of this episode really hammers home the shortcomings of the show’s reliance on the Unreal Engine to render its landscapes. The particle effects on the wakes of sand thrown up by the spider bikes are abysmally inadequate, the exterior glimpses of Mos Espa simultaneously too sharp and devoid of detail. In the open desert things only get worse, with every scene transparently taking place in front of a green screen.
If you can’t achieve realism, why shoot for a variant of visual falsehood so profoundly drab and unexciting? The Mandalorian is conveyor belt TV, created not because an artist had and nurtured an idea but because a board room specified such and such a raw tonnage of Star Wars-branded slop had to be dumped in a trough by the end of the year.