The Mandalorian S01E05 Review: The Gunslinger – High quality fan fiction

We’re continuing our episode-by-episode review of Disney+’s flagship show, The Mandalorian. It’s the first live-action Star Wars show ever produced and Lucasfilm has spared no expense with it, giving it a feature film-worthy budget, top creative people overseeing it, and an all-star cast. You can check out previous reviews here…

The Mandalorian S01E01 Review: Episode 1 – Disney spared no expense and it shows

9/10 – The Mandalorian starts off strong with a visually-entrancing debut outing. The series is confident, highly produced, with a great lead and a great premise…and there’s even room for improvement.

The Mandalorian S01E02 Review: The Child – Flashy, fun and little else

8/10 – The Mandalorian continues to be gorgeous to behold. After eighty-minutes of the story, however, I’m ready for things to start happening.

The Mandalorian S01E03 Review: The Sin – Act one ends with a bang

9/10 – The third episode of The Mandalorian is a lot of fun in a short amount of time and, if nothing else, finally launches out into the expanded Star Wars universe and to all the fun that’s sure to be found therein.

The Mandalorian S01E04 Review: Sanctuary – Nothing memorable or consequential…

7/10 – Not a bad episode, but nothing memorable or consequential either, and for a show with only eight (weekly-released) outings, that’s a bit of a disappointment.

After episode four ended, I said this…

 In a lot of ways, the shift from the highly serialized nature of episodes 1-3 to this episode reminds me of a similar shift in focus in the back-half of Battlestar Galactica’s third season. There’s still an overall arc to be considered but it’s put on the backburner while the “plot of the week” is given the foreground, a reversal from the previous approach to the show.

With episode five completed, there are only three episodes left in the show’s first season and in the two episodes since our main characters went on the run, it seems we’ve only taken one tiny, baby(Yoda) step in the narrative toward whatever big conclusion we’re going to reach at season’s end.

I suppose I shouldn’t criticize; there is, after all, much to love. It’s also not a terrible surprise to me that the middle episodes of the season are so episodic. That was, after all, the prediction I made a couple of weeks ago (that the first three episodes constituted act one, the middle three constituted act two, and the final two constituted act three).  Nevertheless, predicted or not, it’s still a bit underwhelming for the same reason as last week: It’s a fine half-hour of Star Wars fun, but it’s also 1/8th of a season as opposed to 1/22nd. This is a show that has to offer quality in lieu of quantity.

So far the plots have lacked quality.

Episode five, entitled “Gunslinger” is the most “fan-fiction”-feeling episode to date, in all the best and worst ways.

At its worst, it’s derivative, shallow, and has some horrible acting from its two guest stars. At its best, it’s filled with all the creative uses of the universe that good Star Wars fan-productions have, except with a budget infinitely better. Take away the baby Yoda subplot and you basically have a “Star Wars short film” here: A bounty hunter (who, of course, looks like a Boba Fett knock-off) visits Tattooine (specifically, Mos Eisley, and specifically-specifically the Cantina, to help a rookie Bounty Hunter track down a prey. You can easily see it working as a twenty minute YouTube video, only if it was an actual fan-made short, there’d need to be a lightsaber fight somewhere, just because.

Everything moves along at a brisk pace, following perfectly expected story beats, until the conclusion, where there’s a final showdown (the twist that the hotshot young bounty hunter tries to be opportunistic but ends up getting fried was predictable but at least well-executed…no pun intended). There’s also, thankfully, a small teaser/cliffhanger at the episode’s close, showing us someone is still tracking Mando and his quasi-adopted son. Who that is we don’t know; I suppose we’ll find out next week.

Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll just get another half-hour plot that adds nothing to the overall story but is at least pretty to look at.

STRAY THOUGHTS

Despite my criticisms, I did take great pleasure in…

  1. The opening space battle was a lotta fun.
  2. The fact that Mos Eisley’s Cantina is now run by droids (a nice callback to the old owner and his droid prejudice).
  3. The seamless and movie-quality special effects work.

But I have lingering issues of the micro kind that I can’t shake…

  1. What is it with Mando being so careless with Baby Yoda? Dude just left the backdoor to his ship wide open and let the little guy stroll on out. I almost expected a “baby (Yoda)’s day out” B-plot before the repair lady scooped him up.
  2. I know that Star Wars is “space fantasy” and not science fiction, so there is less of an emphasis to explain how the tech works. But still…how do those Bounty Tracking Fobs work? It’s like magic!
  3. Just to repeat myself: These episodes are fine enough but not much more than that; they feel like what they are, stories on par with the Clone Wars animated series, a show that had 22 episodes a year whereas this only has 8. It sounds spoiled but I’ll say it anyway: I expected more.

7/10 – In a vacuum, this is a mostly-fun little short-story sort of episode. There is no vacuum, however; The Mandalorian is an eight-episode special event that feels far too run of the mill in its scripts lately to live up to its potential…or its hype.

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