Ian Thomas Malone

Star Wars Archive



April 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 24

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Last season’s finale reduced grown adults to tears, not simply for the nostalgia of deep fake Luke, but because the show had invested heavily in the arc of its characters. Season three began with a quest for Mando to take a bath because he once took off his helmet, only to conclude with the retaking of Mandalore and the radical rollback of his people’s fanaticism, reuniting with the sect of their religion that likes a little vitamin D on their faces. The show rarely seemed interested in cohesive plot progression, or the relationships between its lead characters.

To some extent, “Chapter 24: The Return,” might have been dead on arrival. The Mandalorians might be forgiven for not knowing there was some giant secret Imperial base on their homeworld, though no one seems to wonder what happened to the Tie Fighters who blew up Bo-Katan’s base on Kalevale back in the third episode of the season. For a warrior people, the Mandalorians don’t seem terribly interested in making plans.

We the audience, know nothing about their strategy. We didn’t even really know how many of them there were until the closing sequence of the episode, where maybe a hundred or so Mandalorians attended Bo-Katan’s celebratory bonfire. The show doesn’t need to stage a giant battle sequence that wouldn’t fit in the budget, but it also made no effort to explain why anyone would think leaving a single person aboard their Imperial Light Cruiser was a good idea, sacrificing their best ship to a handful of fighters.

Why did this happen? Who thought this was a good idea? Until last episode, the only times we’d seen groups of Mandalorians in action was in service to saving people in need. Heroism can carry a certain undercurrent of stupidity when you’re risking yourself to save others. These past two episodes have shown the Mandalorians acting like reckless fools for no higher purpose. No wonder they lost their homeworld. They don’t seem like very smart people.

The sheer recklessness of the Mandalorians undercuts the emotional turmoil of Mando seeing Grogu in danger. Mando was 100% complicit in the poor strategic planning that got them there. The fight sequence utilizing R5-D4 to operate the shields was some of the show’s most impressive choreography, though poorly served by the droid’s continued cowardly antics.  In most other episodes, that battle alone could have carried the entire episode.

Everything wrong with Disney’s love of StageCraft was on full display with the air battle between the Mandolorians and the jet troopers. The frantic cinematography couldn’t do much to salvage the cheap special effects. The choreography conveyed no cohesive story, just blurs, and laser blasts. Everything felt cheap, rushed, and narratively empty.

The return of Moff Gideon was as anticlimactic as the destruction of the darksaber. It’s clear the show only brought him back because they needed something for the finale. The darksaber, rarely ever used on the show, served as little more than a plot device because the people who worked on The Clone Wars thought it would be fun to see on a live-action show.

There’s a certain irony in Gideon’s efforts to wield the force in an episode where a baby who abandoned his Jedi boarding school displayed an uneven relationship with his own abilities. The narrative trope of the child prodigy struggling with their gifts falls a bit flat when Grogu probably would have been better off training with Luke for most of the season instead of doing practically nothing with Mando. He could have even shown up at the finale like he did in The Book of Boba Fett, which would have actually given the show some weight.

The episode’s conclusion aimed to pack an emotional punch, but the narrative to adequately sell any beauty in Mando adopting Grogu. As rushed as things felt with Mando leaving Mandalore to live on Nevarro, an episode after the Mandalorians left Nevarro to live on Mandalore, three episodes after the Mandalorians left that unnamed desert planet to live on Nevarro, the closing scene accomplished one important objective. This show knows it’s time for a reset.

The season three finale was an embarrassing, sloppy conclusion to a season defined by narrative laziness. This show has lost its way. Thankfully the fix is rather easy, if only the writers could develop something resembling an attention span. Time will tell if viewers stick around to find out.



April 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 22

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The Mandalorian has spent most of its third season grappling with its conflicting interests between episodic and longform storytelling. Last week’s episode blended the two quite effectively, albeit in a rather inexplicably abrupt manner for a show with no real runtime constraints. There’s nothing stopping the show from engaging in meaningful character development alongside its fairly self-contained adventures.

Part of the fun of The Mandalorian is the way the show can jump across genres. “Chapter 22: Guns For Hire” is essentially a buddy cop episode. After a scene reminding the audience of who Bo-Katan’s old friends were, the show mostly gives itself over to a silly droid caper on the planet Plazir-15, ruled by Captain Combardier (Jack Black) and the Duchess (Lizzo). The show did a laughably bad job trying to come up with an explanation for why this nonsense needed to serve as a precursor to Mando and Bo-Katan’s intended helmet missionary work, but Black and Lizzo were entertaining to watch. It’s a little unclear why Mando felt okay leaving Baby Yoda with complete strangers, but we got some cute Grogu antics out of it.

The return of the Battle Droids, stalwarts of the prequels, was a bit of a mixed bag. The show abandoned much of the cringe comedy that defined the Battle Droids in Revenge of the Sith, but the chase sequence with Mando and the Super Battle Droid fell a little flat. No droid has ever moved like the Super Battle Droid in this episode, looking far more human than machine. Star Wars droids are not known for being nimble.

As a location, Plazir-15 was a much-needed breath of fresh air over the show’s preference for one-note planets or stale CGI, but the special effects weren’t necessarily great either. Thankfully the practical sets were pretty beautiful and the CGI showed plenty of variety, even if the planet came across as fairly sparsely populated. It seemed odd that neither Mando nor Bo had previously heard of this place when their local Ugnaught population seemed to know his old friend Kuill. Is this universe so big that people don’t know all the planets, or so small that everything revolves around a handful of families and people overlapping with each other across the decades? Star Wars has seemingly reverse-engineered their species’ entire culture to center around their debut appearance in the Cloud City garbage room in Empire Strikes Back.

The episode took a weird stance on capitalism and democracy. Captain Combardier and the Duchess ceded power to plurality rule, but the show clearly took the stance that the citizen’s exit from the working class was incompatible with a happy life. The droids are also apparently incapable of seeing their life through any lens but their own use value to their “creators,” the proletariat perpetually in debt to the bourgeoisie. Chapter 22 firmly established that the sympathies of The Mandalorian reside with capital over labor, a slap in the face to the franchise’s proletariat roots.

Christopher Lloyd put forth an easy crowd-pleaser as Commissioner Helgait, a Count Dooku-worshipping head of security. Helgait was a very predictable villain, and his Separatist nonsense will sail over most casual fans’ heads, but Lloyd was a lot of fun causing low-stakes mischief while envisioning himself as the living embodiment of a long-failed movement. An over-the-top villain isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world for something like Star Wars.

Director Bryce Dallas Howard continued her streak of excellent action sequences, aside from the sloppy Super Battle Droid chase. The fight between Bo-Katan and Axes Woves was an instant highlight of the entire season, Katee Sackhoff firmly establishing herself at the heart of the show’s emotional core. For a season that’s been oddly light on Grogu, Bo-Katan seems to be the only person with a clear character arc.

The show had to bend over backward once again to come up with a reason for Mando to hand over the darksaber without turning the show’s protagonists against each other. Mando using the transitive property to explain how Bo had actually bested him already was pretty pathetic, the kind of empty narrative hole that can’t be covered up with a cute puppet. This show does not enjoy doing its homework when it comes to long-form plot progression.

Chapter 22 made for entertaining television, but the episode also highlighted some of the show’s broader problems. The Mandalorian isn’t the low-stakes Western it once was. This show has broad ambitions for Mandalore and the fall of the New Republic, but it never seems interested in laying down the actual groundwork that brings these stories together. Something’s missing about this season that goes beyond its complete abandonment of exploring the relationship between its two key characters after reuniting them on a completely different show. The Mandalorian clearly wants to be more than The Baby Yoda Show, but it doesn’t necessarily know what it wants to be either.



March 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 21

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The Mandalorian premiered at a precarious time for the Star Wars franchise. Hitting Disney+ just a month before The Rise of Skywalker landed with a thud in theatres, Mando and his adorable sidekick offered a palette cleanser to anyone depressed by the narrative abomination that was the sequel trilogy. One of the main draws of The Mandalorian was the distance it afforded viewers from the endless nostalgia sucking all the air out of the mainline franchise.

Season three is clearly intent on closing the gap between the series and the films a bit. The return of Dr. Pershing and his love of illicit cloning, along with the emphasis on Coruscant and its messy political landscape, point to an unpleasant reality that’s kind of hard to ignore. It seems very likely that Grogu’s DNA/midichlorians will be used as the foundation for whatever Snoke was.

Chapter 21, “The Pirate,” blends a few of the show’s plotlines together in a well-paced, action-heavy episode. The episode’s most important achievement was the validation of Nevarro as a position of narrative value rather than a convenient place to kill time whenever the show thought it might be fun to check in with Greef Karga. It is somewhat refreshing to see the show actually weave its older supporting bench into its long-term plans.

The return of Captain Gorian Shard was undercut by Nevarro’s inexplicable lack of defenses, Karga looking fairly inept at urban planning in the Outer Rim, a dynamic that’s harder to forgive when the episode leaned so heavily on his army-wrangling prowess in the early days of the show. The townsfolk were shown to have blasters at the end of the episode, but it’s more than a little lazy that none of them were shown to have lifted a finger when Shard first attacked. A meager attempt at a defense would have been understandable given the ship’s overwhelming firepower, but nobody even tried. How does Nevarro normally handle any sort of crime or violence?

Having no one around to blast the giant spaceship that was later destroyed by a single N-1 starfighter, Karga turns to another recurring character, Captain Carson, to send the New Republic to help. Carson visits Coruscant in person for seemingly no other reason than to bring Elia Kane back into the fold after spending most of Chapter 19 following her adventures with Dr. Pershing. Colonel Tuttle’s apathy toward Nevarro effectively sets up some cracks in the New Republic, but it’s hard to call any of this particularly satisfying when Coruscant still feels so small despite having seemingly billions and billions of people living in the city.

The idea that R5-D4, used up until this point almost solely for comic relief, is some kind of rebel spy in active communication with Captain Carson is beyond absurd. Elements of the fandom have for decades leaned into the gag that R5-D4 is actually a hero of the Rebellion, deliberately sabotaging his own motivator in A New Hope so that R2-D2 could take his place. There’s even a canon story about R5-D4’s adventures, released as part of a charity book in 2017 celebrating the 40th anniversary of the franchise. It’s laughably silly to think that Pelli and her Tatooine junkyard are part of some grand conspiracy to drag the Mandalorians into helping remnants of the New Republic defend planets that didn’t sign the charter, but I guess the show wants to lean into this nonsense for whatever reason. Not everything needs to be connected!

The R5-D4 foolishness did serve a broader narrative purpose. The Mandalorians have looked a little aimless hanging out in their undeveloped rock fort. Defending Nevarro not only gave their tribe a chance to actually do something, building toward a future for their people instead of merely hanging on to relics of the past.

Chapter 21 contained multiple wins for religious zealotry. Paz Vizsla pulled an amusing bait-and-switch on Mando by pointing out the losses they’ve endured for his helmetless ward before urging the tribe to come to the aid of another man who tried to kill them all. The Armorer recognized the power of uniting their people regardless of who likes to feel some sunlight on their face every once in a while. Her sequence with Bo-Katan could have benefited from some additional build-up, something I mentioned last week, but it was still an effective way to move the Mandalore plot forward.

It’s also rather refreshing to see that the Armorer is taking Katan’s word on having seen the mythosaur, a rarity for a person in power to believe their own constituents. Between the mythosaur and the darksaber, Katan and Mando are clearly on a bit of a collision course, but for now it was rather touching to see the Mandalorians united, and accepted, on their new, likely temporary, home.

The action was very entertaining, if not a bit ridiculous. It’s hard to tell which group of pirates were more incompetent, the fools on the ground or the ones in the air, but the whole thing looked like a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and Swamp Thing. For a blockbuster movie, that might be a bad thing, but the absurdity mostly worked as a mid-season episode of television.

The return of Moff Gideon has seemed inevitable since last season’s finale, sucking a little air out of the episode’s final scene, reminding us all of how light this season of The Baby Yoda Show has been on Baby Yoda. “The Pirate” demonstrated all the things that make The Mandalorian great alongside troubling concerns that the show is trying too hard to tie too much of Star Wars together. Distance from the sequel trilogy was one of the show’s biggest selling points. Some fans would prefer to pretend Snoke never existed, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get that luxury. The Mandalorian is playing with fire at the risk of its own legacy, sacrificing its own self-contained beauty for a chance to redeem past failures.




March 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 20

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Much like its adorable breakout character, The Mandalorian is a show that’s caught between two worlds. The space Western largely produces its best work through self-contained adventures that manage to tell a complete story within a single episode. The show has never completely lost sight of the bigger picture, even if its narrative usually works better when it does. Chapter 20, “The Foundling,” managed to straddle the two in a quite effective fashion.

Grogu’s status within broader Mandalorian lore (resisting the “Manda-lore” pun at all costs), has been an awkward elephant in the room for the whole season. In a world where even Bo-Katan leaves her helmet on, Grogu’s cute face increasingly sticks out like a sore thumb. The reality is that the show will never cover their expensive, extremely cute puppet’s face for any length of time while the show is still on the air.

“The Foundling” finally addressed this dynamic, offering a passable explanation for why it’s okay for Grogu to leave his helmet off. The fifty-year-old baby still can’t talk. It’s a little ridiculous, but the Mandalorians are nothing without their fanatic traditions. Grogu’s acrobatics in his paintball fight with the raptor-fodder foundling Ragnar were absurd, harkening back to Yoda’s horrendous fight with Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones. We don’t like Grogu and Yoda’s species for their gymnastic abilities or their linguistic abominations. We like them because they are cute.

The foundling abduction gave the episode a serviceable A-plot, with the season’s best special effects. Paz Vizsla is not a particularly strong character and the episode suffered from having him on screen for so long without firing his cool minigun. The cinematography and lighting issues that have plagued the last few episodes were fixed here, with franchise mainstay Carl Weathers handling directing duties. The episode also effectively touched on Mandalorian culture without feeling bogged down by exposition, even if their creeds are getting a little tiresome three seasons in.

The main event of the episode surprisingly took place on Coruscant, a location last episode botched completely. After failing to riff off Andor last week, The Mandalorian crushed Obi-Wan Kenobi with its depiction of The Purge. The highlight of the episode was seeing Kelleran Beq, played by Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best, save Grogu, an immensely touching experience for those of us who feel that Best was unfairly scapegoated for the sins of the prequel trilogy. It seems likely that we’ll see more of Beq, originally introduced in the children’s game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, later in the season, giving Best an additional well-deserved victory lap. Maybe we’ll get lucky and be treated to the long-awaited return of Jar Jar himself.

The scene between Grogu and The Armorer was oddly touching, the latter showing off the sense of family that clearly keeps Mando coming back to the helmet weirdos. The Armorer repeated this same dynamic with Bo-Katan later in the episode, wisely endearing their people to the audience through interpersonal communication, not exposition dumps. The rather short episode could’ve benefitted from an additional scene with Katan, who’s easily had the best character development this season.

The Foundling addressed a few of the show’s longstanding questions alongside competent episodic storytelling and stellar effects, a healthy improvement over its early season sluggishness. We’re at the halfway point of a season that has largely felt like it’s going through the motions. This episode took a big step in the right direction, especially without the tedious comedic efforts by a certain red astromech droid.



March 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 19

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As a show, The Mandalorian is going through a television equivalent of puberty these days. What started as an episodic space western with an adorable breakout character is starting to embrace the idea of having an actual supporting cast, no longer content to treat Din Djarin as a Man with No Name-type stand-in. Whether a pivot toward serialization is a good idea remains to be seen, but Chapter 19, “The Convert” didn’t exactly present the best case for less Grogu in a world where many are perfectly fine with “The Baby Yoda Show.”

The episode started off with a bit of an unfortunate whiff. Mando takes his bath, completing his redemption arc without getting eaten by the Mythosaur, a win for any of us who were worried that the show might spend its entire season centered around helmet drama. Rather than build on actual narrative stakes between Mando and his reunited son, or Bo-Katan, the show throws us into a very rushed space battle with terrible CGI, unfunny R5-D4 antics, and plenty of plot holes. One could accept that Katan’s ship’s radars might not pick up a bunch of Tie Interceptors, but fans have known since the very first Star Wars that Ties can’t fly far without a carrier. The idea that Katan’s home is being bombed by a squadron with seemingly no warning or explanation for how they got there is clownish behavior for a franchise that does little else besides lean on nostalgia, the kind of stuff that can’t be covered up by Grogu rapidly opening and closing his pram, which isn’t as cute as anyone making the show thinks it is.

One can kind of see the logic in exploring a character like Dr. Pershing, who helped set up Team Mando’s Grogu rescue in the season two finale. Dedicating the majority of the longest episode of the series thus far to a tertiary villain is a tall order before anyone considers the Andor-sized elephant in the room. Right in the middle of The Mandalorian’s broader narrative identity crisis, the show made the inexplicable decision to start riffing off the only Star Wars show that could legitimately call itself a serious drama.

Andor is the only live-action Star Wars show that doesn’t deploy StageCraft, technology that’s often ruined The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and too many recent Marvel movies. While The Mandalorian is often one of the only Disney products to properly wield StageCraft, Andor, with its lavish practical sets, is one of the most beautiful shows on television. There is no world in which The Mandalorian’s Coruscant looks better than Andor’s. It’s unclear why the former even tried. Putting aside the differences in practical effects vs. StageCraft, it makes no sense for a series fresh off a two-plus year hiatus would bench its leads only to deliver its audience a cheaper version of a show many of them had undoubtedly recently seen.

The Mandalorian and Andor serve two very different audiences. The latter carries substantive, serious stakes, obviously intended for adults. The former is the standard bearer for an entire streaming service, a glorified live action cartoon. That’s not a bad thing either. Diversity of content is supposed to be a good thing, even if this episode reminded us that apparently Coruscant has “one trillion” permanent residents, even if the same handful of people keep showing up across this galaxy that can’t help feeling small as a result. This plotline had no business being in The Mandalorian, except maybe because The Mandalorian doesn’t know how to be The Mandalorian right now.

Some of this awkward Coruscant dynamic might have been averted if Dr. Pershing’s adventures with Elia Kane, who fans might justifiably mistake for a new character given how long it’s been since season two, had been broken up with a scene or two with Mando and friends in the middle of the episode. The end revelation sort of justifies this, as it might looked awkward for Katan to have a dialogue-heavy scene without removing her helmet, but the show didn’t exactly look great spending all that time on two characters plenty would have forgotten about. The sympathy the show wants its audience to feel for Pershing is totally undercut by the ease with which he instantly slipped back into his old cloning ways, a former villain violating the terms of his amnesty for seemingly no reason other than he thinks he knows better than people who didn’t try and perform lab experiments on the cutest character in television.

The episode almost redeemed itself at the end when Mando and Bo arrived at the Mandalorian hideout. There is clearly a darksaber-sized conflict brewing between the two, Bo keeping the mythosaur sighting to herself. Putting aside the silliness of the living waters of Mandalore, Vizsla delivered a compelling sequence on the nature of identity when she accepted Katan into their tribe, despite the latter belonging to a completely different sect of Mandalorian lore. Katan, who once sought the darksaber to lead her people to salvation, suddenly falls backwards into the same kind of found family dynamic she’s clearly been longing for during all of her throne sulks. As confusing as the rival Mandalorian factions are, and as clunky as the show dumps its exposition, this episode concludes with real narrative stakes established between two of its best characters, though the show may not be well-served by keeping Katee Sackoff under her helmet for too long.

Chapter 19 was an unfortunate dud that ended on a compelling note. The show started to take baby steps toward the plotline that consumed much its first two seasons, the value of Grogu’s DNA, but perhaps at the wrong moment. We don’t need a Dr. Pershing-centered episode before The Mandalorian has actually taken a moment to evaluate the nature of the relationship between Mando and Grogu, the latter of which will undoubtedly stick out like a sore thumb the longer his dad hangs out with his helmet clan. We certainly don’t need bargain bin Andor with StageCraft effects. We’re almost halfway through the season and things only start to feel like they’re headed in a cohesive direction.



March 2023



The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 18

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The Mandalorian used to be a show about found family, the bonds of love stretching beyond matters of blood. The show is still sort of about that, but now it’s mainly about a grown man trying to redeem himself from the heinous crime of taking off his helmet, first to rescue his son and then to say goodbye, a farewell that was scrubbed away on a completely different television show. Fans are not necessarily wrong to wonder why any of us should care beyond the basic reality that Grogu is still very adorable.

After a solid premiere that efficiently, if not awkwardly, set the stage for the rest of the season, episode two doubled down on a couple of utterly tired Star Wars tropes. As a company, Disney has always had an unhealthy love affair with nostalgia, something that essentially ruined the sequel series. I doubt many members of the audience watching the original film in 1977 ever thought that R5-D4 would become an important character more than forty years down the road, providing unnecessary comic relief on a show that already has too many characters capable of fulfilling that role, but here we are.

The Mandalorian can’t let Tatooine go. Production clearly enjoys the ease of filming on desert sets, but the overuse of Peli both last season and in The Book of Boba Fett exposes this show’s broader issue of its weak bench. Mando used to meet new characters every week. Now he just seems to travel in a circle visiting the same handful of people. Amy Sedaris is certainly fun, but no amount of comic relief can cover up the awkward narrative mess that was Peli throwing her astromech droid on Mando for no real reason. Why does she want to get rid of R5-D4 so badly? Does anyone actually care? R5-D4’s cowardly antics were tiresome and not amusing in the slightest.

Star Wars also loves its MacGuffins. The Force Awakens used a “map to Skywalker” as a major plot point, presumably because J.J. Abrams needed a substitute for the Death Star plans in his near shot-for-shot remake of A New Hope. No one seemed to notice that the whole quest to obtain the map was rendered moot by Luke’s apathy in The Last Jedi, a breathtakingly bad display of narrative plotting for a multibillion-dollar franchise. The whole quest to take a bath in Mandalore is essentially just as stupid, something for Mando to do because the show needs something to focus its attention on when Grogu isn’t eating something or being cute.

What happened to Grogu being in danger if he wasn’t properly trained by a Jedi? He’s clearly not as much of a baby anymore, a decent pilot, though Anakin already displayed that N-1 starfighters could be expertly flown by complete amateurs in The Phantom Menace. The most realistic part of the whole episode was Bo-Katan snapping out of her throne sulking upon sight of Grogu’s adorable face.

The ruins of Mandalore featured dull, lifeless special effects accompanied by static cinematography. Disney’s StageCraft technology supposedly costs tens of millions of dollars each episode, yet the cheap ugly CGI can’t even pull off a single wide shot with a character in it. It’s utterly pathetic how far the standards in science fiction have fallen. The Mandalorian has often deployed StageCraft better than most other Disney properties, but this episode, unfortunately, laid all its worst inclinations to bare. The shots were dark, frantic, and worst of all, boring. Give me Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks any day over the hideous abomination in the eyes of man that is StageCraft practically every time it’s been deployed in recent memory.

“The Mines of Mandalore” tried to address the elephant in the room which is the nature of Mando’s quest when Bo-Katan called out his ridiculous escapade. Mando wasn’t necessarily wrong to point out that ceremonies and traditions are what define our cultures and communities. The trouble is, his place as a Mandalorian is ill-defined and out of place with the show’s style as a space Western. Just as Grogu doesn’t belong with the Jedi, Mando doesn’t really belong with his people either. Maybe the show will head in that direction, but for now, it’s a bit tedious to spend this time on this confusing mess of a plotline.

Dave Filoni’s outsized influence continues to be felt with the Mandalore exposition, completely missing why a general audience enjoys watching the show. The beauty of a western is that anyone can follow. It’s unclear how many casual fans could follow along with the last five or so minutes of this episode, dumping tons of dialogue that are bound to confuse anyone who hasn’t seen The Clone Wars or Rebels, two animated series that originally aired on Cartoon Network and Disney XD respectively, channels almost entirely aimed at children. Star Wars is certainly family-friendly entertainment, a reality that riles plenty of adult viewers, but it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that a general audience made the time to watch the animated spinoffs explicitly written for kids.

Episode two was ugly, convoluted, and worst of all, boring. This show makes no emotional investments in its characters, coasting entirely on cute antics and nostalgia. The episodic format does give the show plenty of space to turn things around, but this season’s broader arc is an absolute dud. The sooner the show can find a new narrative to focus on than redemption for Mando’s helmet, the better.




February 2022



The Book of Boba Fett never makes the leap from product to art

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Science fiction often carries its greatest impact through the genre’s ability to invoke a sense of awe and wonder. The cantina scene in the original Star Wars practically changed cinema all its own, a dazzling display of creativity and world-building. Throughout his time at the helm of the franchise, George Lucas placed a heavy emphasis on world-building, to take his audience to places they’ve never seen before.

Disney loves its piles of rocks and sand. As if Tatooine wasn’t enough of a remote desert wasteland, Star Wars threw cheap knockoffs Jakku and Navarro at the audience to switch things up. There’s a certain obvious joke to be made at how Boba Fett saw the show that bears his name co-opted by The Mandalorian, but it was never really his show in the first place. The Book of Boba Fett was always The Book of Tatooine.

Why go to another planet when you can film a whole season using only a sandbox and a green screen? Seven episodes is hardly a long season, but Disney struggled to come up with enough plot for even that amount for its empty shell of a show, choosing instead to give up halfway through in favor of The Mandalorian season 2.5. Apparently that’s life in the streaming era. When things aren’t working, just make episodes of a different show and pretend it’s still The Book of Boba Fett. The whole mess is certainly fitting for a character who had four lines in the original trilogy.

Temuera Morrison can hardly be faulted for an occasionally wooden performance. The Book of Boba Fett never laid out any clear vision for what it wanted Fett to be, a menacing bounty hunter turned morally righteous crime lord. Ming-Na Wen gets even less to work with as Fennec Shand, an alliance seemingly born solely out of the idea that she might be fun for the spin-off.

It’s easy to see the logic. Morrison and Wen have a natural, easy chemistry that was pretty apparent from their first pairing. The premise of the show should have followed suit, staying out of its own way to let two bounty hunters do what they do best. Instead, the gang plot often played second fiddle to Fett’s silly Sarlacc and Tusken Raider flashbacks, dragging down a narrative that never seemed to find its footing. The show even managed to botch introducing a character like Black Krrsantan, popularized in Kieron Gillen’s excellent Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comics, neutering the wookie in service to absurdly silly Mos Espa politics.

There was something oddly depressing about watching Fett and Mando stand in a wide-open street being shot at during the finale, a fitting metaphor for the state of Star Wars under the Disney regime. Both men could easily use their jet packs to seek more advantageous tactical positions, but they don’t, for no reason at all. Too often, The Book of Boba Fett comes across as the product of a brainstorming session that lasted five minutes, with no critical thought or pushback applied to a single decision.

Disney left its content farm out in Tatooine’s suns for far too long, a wilted mess of a commodity masquerading as a television show. What a sad showing, not just for Star Wars, but for art itself. There is no reason on the planet why this show needed to be this bad.

Boba Fett is not the most interesting character in the world. He barely qualifies as an actual character in the original trilogy, an enigma that lent itself well to stories children play with their action figures. That kind of dynamic could have worked well for The Book of Boba Fett, especially with the Nikto gang and their ridiculous speeder bikes that look like toys from a different playset. You could probably make better Boba Fett stories in a local playground sandbox, which just needs a green screen to complete the Tatooine look.

All blockbuster franchises are products, even the ones that are crafted with love. That’s the problem with The Book of Boba Fett. It never looks like something anyone enjoyed making. Star Wars doesn’t need an artistic mandate, but maybe a little effort would be nice. It’s hard not to feel sad that this abomination exists.



February 2022



Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Grab your porgs and your blue milk! The Last Jedi is a bit of a polarizing film, to say the least. Rian Johnson brought plenty of fascinating ideas to the sequel trilogy’s middle entry, its best by a mile. Ian talks about what she liked about the film, what she would have changed, and the characterization of Luke Skywalker, diving a bit into Luke’s appearances in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

Ian’s original 2017 review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2017/12/the-last-jedi-offers-aimless-entertainment/

Ian’s write up of The Phantom Menace that is mentioned in the episode: https://fansided.com/2019/12/16/star-wars-phantom-menace-best-prequel/




March 2021



Adrienne Wilkinson

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast, Star Wars

We delighted to welcome Adrienne Wilkinson to the show for a wide-ranging interview including her new film Dreamcatcher. Fans of Estradiol Illusions may know Adrienne best for her roles as Eve on Xena: Warrior Princess, Daughter in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Maris Brood in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and as Captain Lexxa Singh in Star Trek: Renegades. Adrienne shares many fascinating insights from her career throughout so many iconic franchises.


Dreamcatcher is available March 5th, on demand and digital, on Amazon, Apple, Redbox, and other major VOD services.






Ian’s review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/03/dreamcatcher-subverts-slasher-norms-in-an-intriguing-horror-narrative/


Headshot courtesy of Adrienne Wilkinson. Photo by Damu Malik.


Poster and stills courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.



January 2021



WandaVision isn’t designed to meet expectations

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

WandaVision ushers in a new era for the MCU on the small screen. While Marvel Television only delivered peanuts on its promises of a shared continuity, Marvel Studios has brought the gravitas required to create a real sense of connectivity to its storytelling, largely in the form of its two leads. The Scarlet Witch and Vision hardly got much of a chance to shine across a handful of films that had many other heroes to entertain itself with.

The series largely succeeds on the chemistry of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, perpetually eager to act out WandaVision’s many tributes to classic American sitcoms. There are smiles to be had on everyone’s faces, though the audience knows the idyllic suburb is hardly what it seems. Sparking nodes of Marvel Comics, “House of M” and “Decimation” arcs, the show offers a slow burn that gradually hints at what lies ahead in the MCU’s post-Avengers: Endgame world.

WandaVision embraces MCU mastermind Kevin Feige’s key strategy of gradual plotting, having fun in the present while rarely losing sight of what’s eventually to come. Supporting players Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Harris and David Payton help paint the portrait of a world that sparks curiosity that its twenty-two minute episode runtimes can hardly satisfy.

To some extent, it’s a good thing that WandaVision leaves the audience wanting more by the time the credits roll. There is also the reality that this is the first meaningful new piece of MCU content since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home (not counting Marvel Television’s Helstrom, which served as an uninspired curtain call for the company), the longest stretch in franchise history. It’s a burden that shouldn’t be WandaVision’s to bear, the first glimpse of how the future will look for Marvel on Disney+.

The reliance on humor based in nostalgia for sitcoms that aired more than fifty years ago is bound to rub some people the wrong way. As a company, Disney has increasingly relied on nostalgia as a selling point for much of its cinematic portfolio, including their live action remakes and the Star Wars sequels, which often felt like remakes themselves. People are starved for new Marvel content, only to be presented with references to pieces of Americana that their grandparents grew up with.

Television is a medium that tends to save its biggest bangs for its premieres and finales. WandaVision is presented as event television, only to mostly spend its time mirroring more conventional entries in the form. This formula would almost certainly play better if the audience was treated to a traditional twenty-two episode season that used to be the norm. The fact that most of the audience has waited years to learn the fate of Vision after his Avengers: Infinity War demise doesn’t exactly do much to temper expectations.

WandaVision is solid television, albeit not the kind of fare that’s well designed to live up to unsustainable hype. The Mandalorian is really, really good at producing cinematic-quality storytelling in practically every episode. WandaVision sits in the same category as a standard-bearer for a top-tier streaming service, lacking the sense of mandate to be the MCU’s flagship television offering.

Whether that’s fair or not is kind of beside the point. Olsen and Bettany are fun to watch no matter the circumstances or the state of the MCU’s broader portfolio. There’s a natural sense of urgency to want something to happen, but it’s hard to dwell on that too long when the present put in front us manages to put a smile on one’s face each and every week. Maybe WandaVision will overstay its welcome down the road, but for now, the show is still a delight.