By now, if you live in the center of that Venn diagram that has a circle for Star Wars and a circle for Subscribers to Disney Plus, you’ve watched their House of Cards/Morning Show/Fleabag flagship show, The Mandalorian.
I know this because if you are a subscriber to Disney Plus, and you’ve perused their Original Content slider, your choices are between The Mandalorian, a show where Jeff Goldblum walks aimlessly for thirty minutes, a super meta High School Musical series and a documentary that will seemingly never end about how Disney created an animatronic Lincoln.
So, yes. You’re watching The Mandalorian.
I’ve watched every single episode thus far. Well, I’ve watched every single episode except for the last week’s episode (Chapter 5) and what will be today’s newest episode (Chapter 6) mostly because after trying to get through Chapter 5 for, count ’em, five times, I finally had to give up on the show. Because, as the headline (which I wrote myself without any headline writing assistance) reads…
It’s more like The Bore-dalorian.
What happened to the show that was advertised in the trailers? That show looked amazing. It had action! It had space battles. It had a sense of a ticking clock about a Mandalorian trying to make his way in the world today, taking everything he’s got. It was about a bounty hunter, taking a break from all his worries, because that sure would help a lot. It was about a Boba Fett lookalike wanting to get away where nobody knows his name. It was, without us knowing, about Baby Yoda; but more about that later.
What we got was Highway to Heaven.
Heard of it? If not, go look it up, and come back. It was a popular network show from the 80’s starring angel Jonathan Smith (Michael Landon), who was stripped of his wings and sent back to Earth where he basically went from town to town each episode, found someone who needed helping, then helped them out. He did this, of course, with his sidekick — a rough and tumble retired policeman now bouncing from job to job, and from place to place.
If you’re watching The Mandalorian, you’re experiencing a show that is literally Highway to Heaven; with Mando going to a new planet each week, establishing thin relationships with the locals, doing them favors, saving them from their situations, and doing so with his plucky, rough and tumble sidekick who is also going from place to place without a home. Yes, your pal and mine…Baby Yoda.
Are you bored yet? Like me?
I wanted to love this show. But the minute Chapter 5’s Amy Sedaris showed up in the Tatooine ship bay, with her Marx Brother-esque robot pals, cuddling Baby Yoda and prattling on like Mama from Mama’s Family (another horrible 80’s reference you must look up), it was time to go. When it takes you five times to go back and try and give an episode a second, third, fourth and fifth chance…there’s a problem.
Aside from the boredom that set in, can we talk about the budgets of the shows? The first episode looked pricey, with great visual effects, action and, yes, Baby Yoda. But as the series went on, you could start to see the seams of the sets, the budget-friendly choices (i.e. barren wastelands, wetlands, grasslands, nondescript locations) that drove storylines into the land of bore. While Jon Favreau, who wrote most of the series and has been most deservedly well-lauded for his creative vision on many feature projects including Iron Man, chose to go episodic for this series, it’s where most of the problems arise from. The Mandalorian should have been a serialized show, with one narrative throughline. Instead, we’re being bamboozled with something that’s technically being sold as one story, when every single week there’s a neat plot, with a beginning and an end, where you half expect the in-studio audience to let out an oooh and an aaah as Baby Yoda once again lands in the arms of Mando, and they set off for yet another coincidental ship breakdown or bounty hunter pursuit, only to find themselves, yet again, on another stinking planet.
The Mandalorian is boring. The stories are tired. The effects dried up in Chapter 3. I can only hope that this week’s Chapter gets the show back on track. That it gives us a story that doesn’t feel disposable, but rather significant for a storyline we care about.
Because if it doesn’t?
Well, then that horrible headline is gonna stick.