“The Mandalorian” edges closer to “Star Wars” normality

Craig Odenwald, Staff Writer



This week’s episode of “The Mandalorian,” entitled “The Jedi,” kicked off with a thrilling introduction to one of the “Star Wars” universe’s most beloved characters, Ahsoka Tano. Rosario Dawson imbues her portrayal of the beloved animated “Clone Wars” character with a sense of calm, youthful heroism. There’s a new maturity to her, too, which makes her interactions with the Mandalorian all the more gripping. Ahsoka’s arrival in “The Mandalorian” opens doors to cameos of other well-known characters — for better or for worse.

As an entertainment project for Lucasfilm, “The Mandalorian” aims to see whether the “Star Wars” universe can thrive in a live-action, episodic format. However, by continuing story threads from the animated shows, like “Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” showrunners Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni risk neglecting a major player: the Mandalorian himself.

In this episode, Pedro Pascal’s gruff gunfighter continues to develop as a father-figure to the Yoda-like creature, the Child. Since he’s fully costumed, Pascal relies on vocal inflections and awkward pauses to convey Din Djarin’s strained patience with his adopted son. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to lean further into what makes Djarin tick when the legacy of the Jedi Knights ensnares the main storyline. Djarin continues to grow as a hero, but when the episode reveals Ahsoka and the Child speaking through the Force in the deep, moonlit woods, it’s easy to tell where the show’s priorities lie, at least for this episode.

George Lucas’s original six-film saga revolves around the Skywalkers — and, by extension, the Force, the Jedi, and their mystical powers — but is there room for more unique and creative ideas in “The Mandalorian”? Djarin lives as an outcast bounty hunter, hopping from planet to planet in search of fresh bounties. The Child is his main connection to the world of the Force but this mystical relationship isn’t central to his character. There are other kinds of adventures within the realm of possibility for someone like Djarin completely separate from the existence of the Force.

One wonders if the “Star Wars” series will continue falling back on the Jedi to keep the story going. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” presented a swashbuckling space adventure with grounded heroes — until Darth Maul made a cameo at the end, that is. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” made audiences cheer for the war-weary Rebellion — until Darth Vader showed up to slaughter a bunch of them in a hallway. While these cameos remain natural for the story arcs of Force-sensitive characters, they steal the spotlight from the “Star Wars” universe’s more everyday characters. After 40+ years of storytelling, the conflicts between the Jedi and Sith still thrill, but they shouldn’t overshadow the gritty, groundbreaking approach of “The Mandalorian.”


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