The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Six – “Chapter Six: The Prisoner”
Written by Christopher L. Yost & Rick Famuyiwa
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
The first three episodes of The Mandalorian now reveal themselves as a 90 minute pilot for what the actual series will be. The show is nothing but a formulaic procedural set in the Star Wars universe. We are three episodes away from the “pilot,” and it’s clear that we will be getting nothing but one-offs where Dyn Jarren moves on to a new location, worries about getting caught with Baby Yoda, gets involved in a problem in the area, then moves on. This is the same plot used by several television Westerns, The Incredible Hulk, Highway to Heaven, wash rinse repeat. There will be some moderately well-known faces along the way, but this is just a guest appearance.
The episode has Jarren reuniting with a crew he worked with in the past. This time they are attempting a prison break from a droid-run New Republic ship. Things play out pretty much how you would expect, it’s a lazily written heist story that ends with Jarren getting away and the bad guys being punished. There really isn’t moral ambiguity about Jarren; despite being a tough brooding bounty hunter, he is a traditional heroic figure every single time. We know the other scoundrels will be worse than Jarren and that he will choose the good path without question.
The writing here is very poor, the dialogue is clunky and over expository. Any character voice feels cliche, and each type says precisely what you would expect them to. I was reminded of crappy roleplaying game sessions where people wanted to play as a edgelords, not being quick-witted enough and just using things they’d heard in other shows & movies. Everyone is so snarky and biting without being smart, so they become violent dumb people. There’s never a single clever twist, and they fall into the trap Jarren lays for them.
There is a gun-toting wiseass, a brute meathead, an above it all min-maxing droid, and a knife-licking crazy lady. Not once do any of these characters do anything that goes against the archetype they are first introduced as. The droid spends the whole episode in the ship unlocking the vessel and shutting off security systems and only does anything right before he gets shot. The brute uses his strength once and not in a planned way and then stomps around. Damn, the more I unpack this, the more it really does sound like the stuff I hated when I played tabletop roleplay games.
I think the problem comes from the fact that the producer on this show started with Star Wars on the animated shows. I’ve seen some of them, and they are perfectly fine, but they are written for children and therefore rely on very static archetypes. But it also seems that the showrunners want to push those boundaries yet are still scared to go too far. As a result, you get a show that feels overly simplistic and predictable. This episode was a chore to get through because I could see each plot beat as it was coming. I hope the next chapter provides us with something fresh or new, but at this point, I am highly doubting that’s happening.