Hey all, Geekfather here, coming to you with some more geek-centric musings. I want to talk about the show that maybe kept 2020 from being the absolute worst, The Mandalorian. The season finale gifted all of us with perhaps its greatest and most emotional episode. I will give a spoiler warning now in case you haven’t seen the season finale. If you haven’t, why not?! It’s been months!! Well, it’s way past the spoiler embargo so you are just out of luck. Here we go! We all took a gargantuan hit to the center of our feels with the revelation that none other than Luke Effing Skywalker made a wonderful, action-filled, tear jerking appearance to save the day and whisk Grogu away to continue his Jedi training! Why did this moment, the bonus of seeing R2-D2, and Mando revealing his face to Grogu as they shared a tender goodbye reduce grown men and women to uncontrollable blubbering wrecks? Good question! I will explain why the Mandalorian is working wonders to restore the good image of Star Wars where the sequel trilogy failed.
Give people what they ask for, not what you think they want.
Too many times, studios hire a bunch of suits to brainstorm and synergize potential ideas, especially when it comes to Star Wars. Instead, sometimes it’s good to listen to the fans. The sequels gave us an old, bitter, battle-weary Luke Skywalker that had given up on the Jedi order he’d given his entire life to. While I understood what Rian Johnson may have been trying to say, it didn’t land with many, many fans. Why? Because we didn’t get to see the WHY. WHY WAS LUKE THIS WAY? WHAT HAPPENED TO MAKE HIM HAVE THESE FEELINGS? Seeing only a few glimpses of his Jedi temple on fire with some minutes of hasty exposition and a couple of short scenes to get us there wasn’t enough. What happened in the intervening 30 years? Fans felt cheated out of seeing Master Skywalker at his ass-kicking Jedi best. As much as I love Star Wars, the people that handle it, whether George or Disney, don’t always do the best job in filling in some obvious blanks. So when we got to see primetime, grade A, Jedi badass Luke decimate dark troopers and fight in a hallway stuntin’ like his daddy to save little Grogu we WEPT. We wept in joy. We wept for that 10 or 15 minutes that took us back to those happy moments from our childhood. We recognized that what we were seeing was everything we had been begging for since the end credits rolled on Return of the Jedi in 1983. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have almost a supernatural understanding of fan service and where and when to employ its use.
Know the lore and use it.
Star Wars has 44 years worth of stories that span across more than just the 9 movies. You have dozens of books with interesting, complex, beloved characters, tv cartoons, and comics. Kathleen Kennedy famously said, when asked about the difficulties of making a Star Wars film, “Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. we don’t have 800-page novels, we don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be. We go through a really normal development process that everybody else does.” EXCUSE ME?! WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING RUNNING LUCASFILM IF SHE DOESN’T KNOW THE LORE?! This is a failure in leadership that leads to nothing but trouble. Perhaps if she had consulted someone who knew something about the expanded universe, Disney could have crafted a sequel trilogy that had an interwoven narrative that didn’t rehash concepts from 30 years ago.
Recruit great talent that is emotionally invested.
We are all fans of something. We all have ideas of how we could do it better than whoever a studio hired to do it. Well, most of us didn’t go to school for script writing, filmmaking, directing, etc. Being just a fanboy isn’t enough. You have to have the talent to take your fan side and your understanding of how and why something works and translate it so others see what you see and feel the same emotions that you do when you watch Star Wars at its best. The Mandalorian, under the production, writing, and directing touches of Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Taika Waititi, Rick Famuyiwa, and Bryce Dallas Howard have struck that perfect balance between their emotional ties to Star Wars and their abilities to tell a cohesive, interwoven story. The show has great levels of fan service and it dives deeply into the dark corners of the SW universe where it has always worked best at telling engrossing stories.
Keep studio interference at an absolute minimum.
This seems self explanatory, but studio executives, or suits as I like to call them, can and will gum up the works of a production with their intrusions. Notes on what they think would be a good story, forcing actors or directors onto a production that no one wants or that don’t mesh well with the overall vibe, forcing the creation and shoehorning in of characters that just don’t work, or just generally being a really obnoxious, uninformed fly in the ointment. Remember earlier when I quoted Kathleen Kennedy about her lack of any awareness of Star Wars history? Well, she’s infamous for having issues with directors after she’s hired them. There is usually some type of friction and she ends up firing them. Colin Trevorrow from Episode 9 and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from Solo are examples. The latter after 80% of the movie was completed. Sometimes it’s hiring directors for a trilogy whose styles are so noticeably different that the end product suffers greatly(J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson anyone?). Someone who has done their due diligence and research shouldn’t have these kinds of issues with the talent they hire. Sure, you don’t always hit on your choices, but there shouldn’t always be headaches either. The Mandalorian has been free from this because it’s believed that Kennedy has been directed by the heads of Disney to keep her nose out of Favreau and Filoni’s business when it comes to that show. The results of that decision are obvious. There are many who feel that Jon Favreau needs to be the next head of Lucasfilm and Dave Filoni their version of Kevin Feige. I am one of those many.
Have a damn plan!
Like, write an outline with major plot points and characters. Write a beginning, a middle, and an endpoint. Don’t just have one guy write one movie, another guy write the second, then for the third have the 1st guy go back and try to fix all the shit the second guy broke from the first dude’s movie. Doesn’t that sound messed up? Well, that is what we got for the sequel trilogy. That is why the three movies don’t fit together like they should. They never achieved the coherence of the original trilogy. They never reached the competence of The Mandalorian. That show, with every story turn, every reveal, every adventure of Mando & Grogu, feels like it’s all structured and planned. Like it is leading to something. Leaving clues all along the way to future reveals. It feels like nothing is shown or done by accident(except Blue Jeans Guy). The sequel trilogy never reached that level and as fans we felt it. Rey is someone important!!! Wait, she’s nobody!!! No, wait, she’s a Palpatine!!! The Emperor is dead!!! Long live Snoke!!! Wait, Snoke is dead, long live the Emperor!!! Wait.. You see? We were jerked back and forth. Disney’s indecision and desire to rush to play with their brand spanking new toy lead to very uneven, mixed results and an unhappy fanbase. It took them 5 years to demoralize and fragment the fans. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni healed us with 2 seasons of greatness, and more specifically 10 minutes of heaven.
Thank you so much for coming to my geek Ted Talk! What do you think? Did you feel all the feels watching the season finale of The Mandalorian? Am I dead wrong? Let me know in the comments down below! If you want to hear more of my musings and stories, then you can tune in to The Blurred Nerds Podcast, catch us on YouTube at The Blurred Nerds, follow us on Twitter @Theblurrednerds, and Instagram at The Blurred Nerds.