The Mandalorian Season 1 Review: Chapter 6
Note: This review contains spoilers
Six episodes in, it’s become fairly clear that The Mandalorian isn’t interested in the kind of serialized storytelling that’s dominated the streaming era. Back when shows like Kung Fu or Walker, Texas Ranger aired, the constraints of the pre-DVR era required many narratives to remain fairly episodic in nature, accounting for fans who wouldn’t necessarily tune in every week or might watch the shows years later in syndication. Disney+ does not possess these limitations as no one is obliged to watch the episodes out of order.
The episodic format presents many advantages. A show like The Mandalorian doesn’t necessarily need some big overarching narrative. There’s nothing stopping the show from adopting more of a serialized approach down the road, or even next week if it wanted to.
While the show borrows heavily from the Western genre, The Mandalorian often skimps on the kind of exposition that’s usually required to endear the audience to the situation presented. Western heroes, like Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, are often stock characters without much backstory, but there’s usually a few scenes meant to explain who the person is and why an audience would care about them.
Chapter 6 exposed some of the broader flaws with the series, mainly its reluctance to explain any of the Mandalorian’s decisions. This show has almost no exposition. Mando travels to planets or starships, shoots his weapon, and Baby Yoda looks cute. That’s basically the whole show.
That kind of model has produced some good television thus far, but there’s a lingering problem facing Chapter 6 that it chooses not to address. Why would Mando bring Baby Yoda to a ship with very shady people that he clearly doesn’t trust? His old friend Ran is a slight exception, but he spars with the rest of the group almost immediately.
Two episode ago, Mando was trying to lay low with Baby Yoda. He even considered leaving the little guy on Sorgan to live a better life before realizing that there’s still plenty of danger out there. Since then, we’ve had two straight episodes where Baby Yoda has been put in harm’s way because Mando can’t find a solid babysitter.
Does he need money? We don’t know. The show decided not to tell us.
Did anyone really think it was possible to hide Baby Yoda on a small ship with that many people on board? We learn absolutely nothing about Mando’s thought process with regard to taking this job. This episode was longer than many at just over forty minutes, but again we’re presented with a situation where a few more scenes of basic narrative exposition would go a long way.
The fellow bounty hunters were perfectly fine. Bill Burr was engaging as the evil Mayfield, who had the audacity to drop Baby Yoda. The Gungan joke was hilarious. Xi’an fell a little flat, relying a bit too much of her past history with Mando that we the audience know nothing about. We’ve seen the Twi’lek species before, but these random characters are harder to care about when the show decides it doesn’t feel like telling us anything about them.
As for the job, the action was fine. The droids certainly looked cool. The whole New Republic emergency beacon thing was a little unnecessarily convoluted. The double crossing of the Mandalorian was quite predictable, underlying a broader concern with the narrative. It’s harder to feel sympathy for the plight of Mando when we’re not let in to his thought process at all. He even hates droids, yet is perfectly content to leave Baby Yoda alone on a ship with one.
Chapter 6 topped last week’s episode as the weakest of the season. In many ways, it’s great that there isn’t some big broad narrative underpinning the show. These episodic narratives have occasionally been a lot of fun.
Trouble is, we the the audience are following along each week. The Mando of last week needs to have something in common with the man we’re seeing in the next chapter. The same mistakes each and every week just isn’t going to cut it forever. As the season progresses, the returns are starting to diminish.