We’re entering a post-theatrical world. A world where home entertainment is king. Where sitting in a darkened room surrounded by strangers becomes as alien as the characters in Disney’s flagship TV show.
To call The Mandalorian a TV show most certainly does it a disservice. As the multiplex dies, Disney find themselves in a position to take over the TV world. But unlike their rivals for the small screen, Amazon and Netflix, Disney have the kind of IP every movie studio envies.
Still, in the case of Star Wars, it’s absolutely essential they broaden horizons. That they get away from the Skywalker saga, and branch out into the wider galaxy to tell stories that occur alongside (even if they intersect) with the franchise’s roots.
And what John Favreau and co. are achieving with The Mandalorian is exactly what Star Wars needs.
Chapter 9 reminds us of why the world instantly fell in love with the show; Mando and The Child head to an underworld fight in a secretive bar to meet a contact, who predictably attempts to kill our hero for his armour. Moments later Mando’s assailants are dead, his target hanging by his feet, and the set-up – in this case, a trip to Tatooine to locate another Mandalorian – clearly laid out.
It’s typically tight storytelling, sprinkled with fan service (the crowd are watching two lean Gamorreans, whose kind were last seen in live action guarding Jaba’s Palace, battle to the death while the promise of a journey to Tatooine is hard to resist, even now).
And so we’re back on the familiar sands of Luke’s home planet, where Mando soon tracks down a man he believes to be from his home world. It turns out the man is actually Cobb Vanth, a chancer-turned-marshal, who bought his Mandalorian armour from a bunch of Jawas (now where did they get such armour from on a planet like Tatooine?), before becoming the marshal in a lawless town. It’s inspired casting, not least because it’s basically the role Olyphant played in Deadwood to similar effect.
As is often the case in The Mandalorian, with its Seven Samurai/ Quantum Leap/ The Littles Hobo approach, the small town needs help, this time to defeat a Krayt Dragon (a giant Tremors-like worm that has only previously cropped up in video games, concept art, and a skeleton in A New Hope) that feeds on the locals. Teaming up with Marshal Cobb and a bunch of Tusken Raiders, Mando has a mission on his hands.
That the plot and outcome is utterly predictable is of no consequence here. Where the show excels is in shining a light on unseen elements of the Star Wars universe – particularly in this case, the life of the Sand People, and the lawlessness that pervaded after the destruction of Death Star II (locals are seen watching the explosion as if it were on the news).
Not only is the storytelling deft, but the special effects would be astounding for the biggest of big budget movies, let alone a 30-minute TV show. But that’s the kicker – Disney are blurring the lines. The difference between what they’re putting out on TV and what they (would at least like to) put in cinemas is now negligible. Favreau’s direction of a tight script and quality cast, against the backdrop of incredible effects and a ton of east eggs creates a compelling, classy product that works on any screen, big or small.
And when it comes to Easter eggs, the final shot of Chapter 9 has arguably the biggest of them all…
Sure, the season premiere repeats much of what we’ve previously seen, but in the world of The Mandalorian, it is, indeed, the way forward.