The Mandalorian: Season One Rewatch

In preparation for diving into Season Two, I’ve been rewatching The Mandalorian’s first season. And there’s a lot of things I’m noticing, good and bad, about the series that I didn’t pick up on before.

Warning: Slight spoilers for Season One below.

The Good

I still love the decision they made to set it just after the original films. Both aesthetically, because it lets them recreate the look of those movies (which I’m still a sucker for), and story-wise, because it gives them a lot of room to play, with the Empire crumbling (but not gone) and the New Republic still finding its feet (along with everyone else). Lots of possibilities.

And seeing characters that got short shift in the originals, like the IG unit and the Ugnaught, finally get their due as fully realized people, warms the heart of this old fanboy.

The special effects are simply spectacular. You can tell they poured a lot of money and time into them. And it’s not just The Child, either; the ships, the creatures, everything looks as good as (or better) than anything made for the movies.

Ditto the music. I love the theme: So sparse but memorable, really sets the Western tone for the series. They keep the music low-key or gone for most of the show, which I appreciate. It’s there to heighten some moments, but otherwise they know they don’t need it.

And sometimes — not often enough, but sometimes — the dialog crackles. I think the scene between the two speeder troopers at the open of Episode Eight is one of the funniest, most re-watchable scenes in a modern Star Wars production.

The Bad

Far too often, though, the dialog is clunky. There’s too many times where characters point out something completely obvious, like when they reach the lava river in Episode Eight and someone actually says “That’s a river of lava.”

Or the dialog simply makes no sense at all. Like when The Child approaches Greef, hand out, intending to heal him, and Greef cries out “It’s going to eat me!” Which is laughably bad. Nothing Greef’s seen in his time with The Child could make him think that tiny thing was going to try to eat him. It’s just ridiculous.

Often they recap something that the audience has heard already, sometimes twice. And I don’t mean the whole “I don’t take off my mask thing,” which they obsess over for some reason. I mean actual plot recaps they have two characters give each other after we (the audience) have just seen it happen in that same episode. There’s a scene in Episode Seven where Cara and The Mandalorian recap not just the situation he’s in (which we know because we saw him get it in) but also why he brought her along (which we know because we saw him recruit her).

It’s not just the fact that these recaps don’t make any sense in-story (because they’re often between characters that know the things they’re rehashing). They’re also wasted time, in a show that doesn’t have time to waste (only 8 episodes for season one, each only about 30 minutes long).

Setting aside the dialog, I also wonder if The Mandalorian changes at all over the course of the season? His circumstances change, sure, but he starts out a pragmatically ruthless, honor-among-thieves type, and ends the season as…a pragmatically ruthless, honor-among-thieves type. There’s no grand moment when he realizes something about himself that he wants to change, and makes a conscious decision to change it. The droid IG-11 has more of a character arc then he does!

The Ugly

There’s so many parts of this season that make me cringe.

Basically all of Episode Six (“The Prisoner”). For that episode to work at all, we need the other crew members to look and feel like a tight-knit group, moving and working like a well-oiled machine. That way, when they betray Mando, we’ll actually be worried about him being able to take them down. As it is, he’s the only member of the crew to display any competence at all, so it’s no surprise when he comes out on top.

The less said about Xi’an’s “I’m a bad girl and I’m into you, Mando” shtick, the better.

They really obsess over his helmet wearing. Too much. In a galaxy filled with all kinds of intelligent creatures, from Calamari to Tusken to Jawas, is it really so odd for someone to always wear a helmet? Re-watching it, I was struck by how much I really don’t care what Mando’s face looks like. I care about other things, like “Why did you leave The Child alone in an empty ship in the middle of Mos Eisley?”

And the whole sequence with Moff Gideon…Ooof. Where to begin.

Let’s start with why he doesn’t already know the troopers have The Child? The speeder guards obviously know The Child’s important. They have working comms. Why don’t they just tell Gideon? Because that’d eliminate the need for his “I’ll keep them alive to drag out this episode” speech.

Then he commits the sin of actually saying they know what the e-web thingy is, and then goes on to explain it to them anyway.

Gives them “till nightfall” to talk things over, as if he cares about their lives…When, if he did care about them, he wouldn’t have sprayed blaster shots into the bar in the first place.

It’s all such mustache-twirling villain stuff, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Which is a shame, because the actor, and the character, is fantastic. An Imperial Moff, clinging to some semblance of control in his corner of space, defying the fall of the Empire. Great stuff.

I just wish they gave him something to do other than posture and bluster. Oh, and pilot a Tie-Fighter, something an administrator who came up in the intelligence services has no business doing. It’s kind of like if the Governor of Montana used to be in the CIA in the 1970’s but then decided to hop into an F-22 for funsies. Just…why??

Conclusion

On first watch, I felt The Mandalorian was a solid B-movie in TV show form, a nice little Western story told on the edges of the Star Wars universe.

After re-watching it, I still think that, but I’m more frustrated than before at the mistakes the series makes.

It’s hard not to compare it to Firefly, another Western-in-Space story that had a pulpy feel. The Mandalorian doesn’t come off well in that comparison: It stumbles out of the gate, with clunky dialog and “villains” that don’t act in ways that make sense.

Here’s hoping Season Two is better!

Writing Goals for 2021

Feels a little silly to be setting any goals for 2021, to be honest. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that plans can become meaningless fairly quickly.

But I live in hope, and so I want to enter the year, like I always try to, with some goals in mind for my writing.

Goals from 2020: How did I do?

First, a look back at how I did on 2020’s writing goals:

Write four short stories

Hahaha, nope. Not even close.

The story I started just after setting that goal? The one I’d been chewing on for a while, and wanted to just get started on? That’s the novel I’m currently writing.

It didn’t take long for me to look at the outline I’d produced for the “short story” and realize it was really a novel. And since, at the time, I was already working on one novel, I shelved it. Came back to it only this November, for NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been chugging along ever since.

I did start a new short story, that will actually be short, but hit delays because I tried to follow the advice of Story Genius, which ran me right into a wall of writer’s block. Had to hit pause that one, too, so I could start working on the current novel.

I did get one story edited, and by edited I mean “wrote an entirely new back half of the story, doubling its word count.” Said story is now so long it’s too long for many of the markets I’d like to sell it to. So maybe I can get credit for that one?

Finish the current novel

This one I did do, sort of.

“Current novel” here meant Prison Fall, the book I was working on most of this year (before the new novel). The official goal was to have it done, completely, ready to go to agents, etc. And it is done, in the sense that I’ve done multiple drafts now, one of which involved basically rewriting most of it, and I’ve done multiple editing passes since then to clean up the prose and eliminate inconsistencies.

The feedback I’ve gotten from beta readers, though, has revealed some things I want to fix before sending it out. So it’s not all done, in that sense. But close enough.

Post more to the blog

This one’s also a mixed bag. I started out well, conducting interviews with local writers and posting them here on the blog. I think I got three months in before the pandemic crashed down on me, wiping out the mental headroom I had to work on those.

Ditto my book and movie reviews. I had a good run of keeping up with them, but eventually ran out of steam, over the summer this time. Began to interfere with my enjoyment of the books, where I felt I had to keep notes on every little thing as I went through. Not to mention my motivation for writing them up fell away. So I stopped.

So this one’s a partial success.

Goals for 2021

Oof, here we go. Is it okay if I just call a do-over on 2020, and copy those goals? No? Fine, whatever.

Finish first draft of The Last Dragon

Slow and steady. I want to keep working on the novel I started back in NaNoWriMo, and finish its first draft before the end of the year. It’ll be an ugly draft. It’ll have mistakes and inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies everywhere. But I can’t fix it if it doesn’t exist, so I want to finish it out.

Finish edits to Prison Fall

One last pass to do the touch-ups from my beta readers.

Finish The Harvest

This is the short story I was working on in October. I like the story, and I want to finish it. By finished, I mean, drafted, edited, beta read, the whole shebang.

For once, I’d like to do the full cycle of drafts on a short story before sending it anywhere. In the past, I’ve gone through a few drafts, then started sending it out, sometimes before beta readers get to it. As a result, the story I submit to later markets is always stronger (and very different) from previous ones.

I’d like to have submit the strongest version from the start, this time. If that means it doesn’t get submitted anywhere this year, I’ll have to live with that.

Post three times a week

Yes, fine, I’m copying this one over from last year. It’s still a good goal.

Stretch Goal: Submit Prison Fall to agents

If I don’t finish the edits till the end of the year, this’ll have to wait till 2022. But it’d be nice to have this actually out the door, accumulating rejection slips, before the year’s out.

Wrap-Up

So there they are: my 2021 goals.

I’m setting the bar lower this time around, because I think the pandemic is not going away in the US anytime soon. Even with the vaccine, we’re seeing folks — medical front-line workers, even! — refuse to take it, all while hospitals are full and mask-wearing is maybe at 50%. It’s going to be a long hard road to herd immunity.

What about you? What writing goals are you setting for the new year?

Keeping Score: January 1, 2021

We made it to a new year!

In the past, I’ve taken that for granted. One year rolled into the next, I got older, and the world kept turning.

Not this year. This year, reaching January feels like an escape, like ducking under a closing door just before it seals itself shut.

So a sincere Happy New Year to us all!

Novel’s at 19,864 words. I’m still butt in chair every morning, forcing myself to stay there until I hit my word count goal. Some mornings it’s easier, some it’s harder, but…I’m always making progress.

I’m actually starting to run out of runway on the research I’ve already done about the setting. Which means I’m having to make more things up out of thin air, and thus getting more things wrong. I’ve already had to revise a few scenes based on new reading I’ve done. That’ll happen more and more, I expect, until I can catch up.

I know that ultimately, I’ll need to do some heavy editing of this draft, once it’s complete. Not just to fix some inconsistencies, but also to ensure the things that are consistent are historically accurate. Or at least, as accurate as a non-specialist like me can get them in a fictional tale.

But since I know I’ll need to do it, it doesn’t scare me to get things wrong now. What’s important now, I think, is to get the emotional beats of the story right. If I can nail down the characters, and how they react to the things that happen to them, I can fix the details later. Even if those details mean I need changes to the events of the plot, that’s fine. So long as the emotional arc of things is right.

That’s my theory, at least.

I want to thank those of those you who’ve been reading me regularly through this hell year. You give me hope that someday, these novels I grind away at will see the light of publication.

And for my fellow writers, I offer a hope and a blessing: May your writing be a joy and comfort to you. May your inner editor take a vacation when you’re drafting. And may all your tales be true.

Onward to 2021!