The man inside The Mandalorian’s suit

….is generally Brendan Wayne, grandson of the John Wayne. The impression I get from this Vulture interview is that a lot of the character’s physicality is much more him and less Pedro Pascal–which is an impression I also got from the way Pascal’s voicework is kind of disconnected from much of his onscreen body language. Give it a click, he’s got some interesting things to say about how he helped design the character and why he plays it the way he does.

How I view The Mandalorian: It’s a Star Wars story told by someone who really likes Star Wars…but that person is a dumb person who doesn’t understand any of the deeper context to the story he’s trying to tell. So while he’s telling a story that looks almost right, and feels just about right, it’s a dumb story, because it doesn’t understand how the tropes it’s using actually work, or why.

A New Hope was, famously, based on Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but it cribs from absolutely everyone and everything–from Dune to The Searchers. It has as an underpinning to its character’s actions, the martial philosophy of the samurai (or at least, a Hollywoodized version of it), the self-sufficient, independent, individualism of old-west cowboys on a frontier where the government comes rarely and, depending on your race (species?) is untrustworthy to actively malicious.–or maybe you just want it to stay out of your Planets’ Rights. It has an old-fashioned notion that a hero would respect even go out of his way to help the innocent, women and children, even if he is a wandering lonesome man–not because he’s thirsty or a pushover, but because innocent iterant farmers have a complex and highly important role in Westerns: they are symbolic of a civilization and a hope for the future that might be different from the life that hero has, but one which he can understand and one that he can admire.

The series is at its strongest when it draws on its Western roots. The much-maligned Chapter 4, for instance, is a “Training The Peaceful Villagers” episode. In context as a semi-episodic western TV series, it makes perfect sense that The Mando would both first accept a contract to do good for some folks who needed help and still be bound to mosey on out of town (off planet) afterwards. Chapter 5, with its Arrogant Young Gun, likewise is perfectly unobjectionable in theory.

The problem comes when the showrunners aren’t capable of blending “we are now following Old West Logic” together with “space logic.” The genre shift is too abrupt and they can’t reconcile things like: Mando wistfully hoping to leave The Child in a peaceful village to grow up with other children (and mosey on alone), with the fact that there is a tracking fob on The Child that will draw other bounty hunters to it. Could this issue be solved by adding a couple lines of justification? Sure.

The first episode encapsulates this. Mando has to learn to ride the walking toothy-tadpole things because the screenwriters really wanted their Corinthian-helmed space cowboy samurai to ride through the desert, because that’s what a space cowboy does. In-universe, is there a good reason? No, because the only reason given is the native guide says, “I have spoken.” So the scene is amusing…but unfulfilling, because the audience knows they are only getting to watch a space cowboy samurai ride a walking tadpole for fanservice, and that takes all the intelligent enjoyment out of it. Could it have been fixed?

Yes, it could have, very simply.

“We don’t have a speeder. You will learn to ride blurrg. I have spoken.”

Anyhow, The Mandalorian isn’t half bad, Brendan Wayne has some interesting and insighful things to say, and hopefully they won’t screw up the second season.

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