If for some reason you’ve been jonesing to see Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame) carefully enunciate the phrase “E-Web heavy repeating blaster” then buddy, your ship has come in. Lots of other, less famous people also say it in this episode, as a kind of bonus. I don’t know how many people looked at Jon Favreau’s script for The Mandalorian’s season finale and thought “ah, good, these characters say ‘E-Web heavy repeating blaster’ a totally normal number of times,” but they could not have been more wrong. The weapon in question is discussed at length, its power and history talked up by Gideon as an intimidation tactic before his entire siege comes to nothing thanks to our plucky heroes.
It’s not clear why the show spends so much time on that particular blaster. It doesn’t have much of an impact on the episode’s plot. It doesn’t look cool, or do something we haven’t seen before. It’s just a big gun more or less recognizable from a brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Then again, that’s The Mandalorian in a nutshell. It’s an entire television series built around the recognizability of Boba Fett’s (Jeremy Bullock) helmet. With the right symbol, or a sufficiently talented creative team, this kind of storytelling is no better or worse than any other. In The Mandalorian’s case, where neither is present, it serves only to accentuate the show’s creative emptiness.
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Mask On, Mask Off
When the show finally unmasks Mando it feels like a weirdly minor deal. Perhaps it’s that it ties into, of all things, his bizarre season-long droid racism arc, or that Pedro Pascal isn’t particularly expressive in this role. IG-11 pops his helmet off, sprays him with bacta, and that’s it. The helmet goes back on.
Why spend all that time hiding the man’s face if you’re not going to do anything with it when it’s finally revealed? The scout troopers who kill a few minutes back-and-forthing about Imperial officers’ penchant for murdering their subordinates while punching Baby Yoda in between jokes feel more human than he does. His backstory, told in an extended flashback, is similarly flat, giving us little more than the name Din Djardin to attach to a character otherwise unchanged.
Helmed by Taika Waititi, the episode’s fast-paced action at least provides pretty good cover for its emotional shallowness. IG-11 wastes a bunch of stormtroopers. The Mandalorian gets a jetpack and takes down a TIE! The mysterious Armorer kicks ass with a hammer and tongs. It’s lively stuff, even if the Imperials are more than a little toothless as antagonists.
Fun action is easy to find, though, and The Mandalorian has nothing to recommend it over other sources. You can experience fun action playing Breath of the Wild or watching Drunken Master, the former beautiful and the latter outrageously funny. At the end of its first season The Mandalorian feels like little more than an exercise in corner-cutting, an attempt by Disney to see how little they can give their audience while still building their brands. I have nothing else to say about it.