Friday, December 04, 2020

El Mandalorian

Can we all hold hands and thank God for the miracle that is Robert Rodriguez? Last night's new Mandalorian showed what it means to have a master direct an episode. Rodriguez knows how to direct an action sequence like no other director on the series--and like few other directors living to-day. Of all the directors who've worked on the series, he also has the best grasp of the psychology of a Spaghetti Western.

It's a very simple story with very few characters and locations. We start in the cockpit of Din's (Pedro Pascal) ship, then the bulk of the episode is set outdoors amid rocky hillsides that look a lot like California.

While Grogu is communing with the Force, Din has a confrontation with Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and a returning Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand from season one. Which was good to see--Wen definitely deserved more screentime and she's much better in this episode.

They're interrupted when some Imperial troops arrive and then Rodriguez delivers one of the best action sequences in Star Wars history.

That gaffi stick Fett's carrying around in lieu of his famous firearms becomes much more than an interesting prop. Thanks to razor sharp compositions and editing, we feel the kinetic force of this thing as Fett smashes one helmet after another. Any director can show someone pretending to take out a dozen armed troops single handed, it takes a great director to make you appreciate it as though you're seeing something extraordinary really happening. I guess that's a good job description for a fantasy director--he makes you buy in to the impossible.

It's not just the action sequences Rodriguez excels at, though. That cockpit scene, in that same location from so many episodes, having Din and Grogu playing with the metal ball like in so many episodes, feels unique largely just because of Rodriguez's instincts for composition and editing. It helps really build a sense of emotional weight. Din's earnest desire to protect the child has a bittersweetness to it, instead of being frustrating, when he seems to have trouble figuring out what to do.

The episode's called "The Tragedy" and I thought at first the tragedy was going to be that Din gives his life trying to protect Boba Fett's armour when he should have immediately traded it in the interest of the kid's safety. There was a moment where his devotion to what even Bo-Katan called zealotry was about to be in direct conflict with his concern for the child. Circumstances spare him that choice but there's enough of it remaining to create tension.

Many episodes this season feel like backdoor pilots. The idea of a Boba Fett series run by Robert Rodriguez is definitely the most appealing so far. Though an Ahsoka Tano series showrun by Rodriguez and written by George Lucas would be even better. But I feel like Boba Fett's had a very good arc now, beginning with Attack of the Clones, through his memorably Spaghetti Western-ish Clone Wars episodes, to this.

The Mandalorian is available on Disney+.

Twitter Sonnet #1420

Removing birds has never lifted books.
The never raised would lower lamps for debt.
There's fewer things to trade on better looks.
And here the ends of brittle rope were met.
Revisions thwart the brass report to steel.
Rebounding shots reflect the stated goal.
Another day and rockets slowly heal.
The bundled bread could save a wayward foal.
Rocky climbs reward the grizzled hand.
An extra scoop exhumes the icy cream.
Assuming coats, the sleeves were slightly bland.
Another thread revealed the mended seam.
Returning arms dismantle plastic skulls.
A bile blimp received a thousand holes.

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