A critic’s work is to approach art on its own merits, to evaluate it in the rich and ever-changing context of human creative endeavor. Nit-picking an artist’s work is seldom productive — but sometimes it’s all there really is to do.
The Mandalorian’s sixth episode begins with Mando docking at an outlaw space station in search of work. An old friend (Mark Boone Jr.) greets him like this: “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you in these parts again. It’s good to see you. To be honest I was a little surprised when you reached out to me.” It’s hard to think of a worse way to get that information across. The entire first sentence is unnecessary, the first and last redundant, and “see you” is said twice in the space of four seconds. The guy could say “Surprised to see you back here” or “I didn’t expect to hear from you” and we’d get the entire picture.
It’s not that we’re gaining some kind of insight into the character, either. Boone Jr. is onscreen for maybe four or five minutes out of the episode’s forty and change, and he isn’t shown to be much of a talker. Ungenerous as it is, the only explanation is that the script is shoddy. Jon Favreau has never been much of a writer and his work here has been reliably indifferent.
With a fisful of strong character actors including the legendary Clancy Brown, Richard Ayaode, and Natalia Tena of Game of Thrones fame he goes broad from start to finish. Tena’s psychopathic rogue snickers evilly and licks her teeth. Brown’s heavy grunts and roars. The jailbreak plot is similarly limp, its segue into red-lit slasher antics toothless even before the ending reveal that rather than kill his treacherous crewmates, Mando threw them in a cell.
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The Mandalorian’s sudden concern about the value of life is an odd creative decision given that by now he’s killed a good three or four dozen people, minimum. He vaporized Jawas for wrecking his car, for Christ’s sake. Now he suddenly cares about whether or not some sleazy mercenaries ice a cop? Last week he shot a rookie bounty hunter for drawing down on him and taking his adopted Yoda child hostage, now he spares hardened guns for hire after they betray him and try to leave him in prison, then narcs on the gangsters who organized the mission?
It’s sloppy writing, inattentive to what little characterization the show has managed thus far and actively destructive to its coherence as a piece of genre fiction. When even the people making The Mandalorian can’t be bothered to care about it, why should anyone?
Half-baked plotting, unimpressive alien makeup and prosthetics, and off-puttingly poor performances come together here to deliver one of the show’s least enjoyable episodes yet. Director Rick Famuyiwa again displays almost total indifference to crafting images worth looking at, shooting the entire episode like a twitch stream with a default in-game camera setting. The whole thing isn’t so much rushed as it is disinterested, a show created without passion or craft. I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more creatively offensive than that.