Friday, November 29, 2019

The Mandalorian Season 1, Episode 3: The Sin

This week on The Mandalorian, Manny makes a decision that threatens his position in the Bounty Hunter's Guild, there's more world-building concerning his race and of course there's more Baby Yoda. Oh, and after decades, we FINALLY get to see Mandalorians fighting in jet packs! What more could you ask for?

I've got to say, this series is definitely not going in the direction I thought it would. I was expecting the titular character to get into scrapes and situations on different planets each week by himself. I definitely did not foresee him teeming up with a baby!

And you know what? I think that's great! At this point I have absolutely no idea where the show's going, which I love. Kudos to the producers for doing something I didn't expect. See, Rian Johnson? It's possible to "subvert our expectations" and still turn out a great product, not one that should be buried behind the garage.

As of this episode, The Mandalorian has become my new favorite TV show. As I said a couple weeks ago, this series has rekindled my long-dormant interest in Star Wars. So far each episode has been great, which I have to admit is making me nervous. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for them to lay a big egg with a terrible episode. I hope that doesn't happen though.

There is one thing I don't like about the series, and that's its length. Eight measly episodes? What is this, the BBC? On the other hand, if smaller seasons allows them to make the show look more expensive, and prevents the scourge of filler episodes, then it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. 

So far each of the three episodes has been an homage to a specific corner in the action genre. The first episode was much like a Spaghetti Western, while the second was an definite nod to Lone Wolf And Cub. This week we get a sci-fi remake of the John Wick franchise, as the Guild members turn on Manny and begin hunting him.

Eh, that's OK now and then, but I'd like to see fewer homages please. I don't want the show to turn into "Spot The Influence" each week.

Lastly, hats off to the evil geniuses at Disney +, who figured out a way to use The Mandalorian to generate as many subscriptions as possible. Most streaming service, like your Netflixes and your Hulus, drop an entire season of a series all at once, so viewers can binge every episode in one day if they so desire.

Not Disney +, though! They're releasing one episode of The Mandalorian each week, doling them out like they're precious gems. They also have a free one week trial of their streaming service. But then you'd only get to see ONE free episode of the series. If you want to see the entire season, you'll have to subscribe. I'm sure all that's just a coincidence, and wasn't planned from the start by Disney.


The Plot:

The Razor Crest flies through hyperspace. Inside, the Mandalorian pilots the ship while Baby Yoda toddles around the cockpit. He pulls the cap off a lever, and Manny tells him it's not a toy and puts it back (PLOT POINT!).

Manny returns to The Client's planet (best I can do, as none of these worlds are ever identified). He enters The Client's compound and hands over the child. The Client compliments him on his bounty hunting skills, and gives him an impressive amount of Beskar steel as payment. As we learned in Chapter One, Beskar is invaluable to Mandalorians, as they make their armor from the rare and nigh-indestructible metal.

Doctor Pershing runs a scanner over Baby Yoda and says he's in perfect condition. Manny asks what they plan to do with the child. The Client says Manny fulfilled his contract and was paid, and icily reminds him it's against the Bounty Hunter Guild's rules to ask questions. Manny takes the metal and leaves. Baby Yoda looks mournfully at Manny as Doctor Pershing takes him away.

Manny goes directly to the Mandalorian HQ (which I guess is called the "Covert"), where he meets again with the Armorer. He hands her his payment, and she's shocked by the amount of Beskar inside it. She says it's enough to make him a full cuirass and more. She asks how his old armor was damaged, and he tells her a Mudhorn did it in the previous episode. She says his signet will be a Mudhorn then, but he declines, saying it wasn't a "noble kill."

The Armorer s
ays in lieu of a signet, she can give Manny's armor "whistling birds," (ANOTHER PLOT POINT!) which are tiny heat-seeking rockets built into his gauntlets. She finishes by warning him that his new armor will attract unwanted attention.

Right on cue, several other Mandalorians enter, curious about Manny's haul. One of them— Paz Vizla— examines the Beskar and sees the Imperial seal on it. He calls Manny a coward for dealing with the Empire. Manny tells him the Empire's gone and the Beskar's returned, so piss off.

The two then have a brief scuffle. The Armorer smooths things over by pointing out that Mandalorians are both hunter and prey, and says no one who chooses their life can be a coward. The Mandalorians all chant "This Is The Way," and that's the end of it. 

Manny tells the Armorer to give any excess Beskar to the Foundlings, since he used to be one. The Foundlings are the future of their race, so his generosity impresses the others and wins them over to his side.

Cut to Manny exiting the Covert with a bright, shiny suit of Beskar armor. He enters the Cantina and meets again with Greef Karga, who's happy to see him. Karga says he got a cut of the Beskar for himself, and shows Manny a couple bars hidden inside his coat (YET ANOTHER PLOT POINT!).

Karga says that pretty much every bounty hunter in town was contracted to find Baby Yoda, and they're all angry and bitter than Manny got to him first. He offers to take Manny out to celebrate, but he says no and asks for his next job. Karga sighs and offers him a bounty on a Mon Calamari bail-skipper. He asks Karga if he knows what they plan to do with Baby Yoda. Karga echoes The Client and tells him that as members of the Guild, it's none of their business.

Manny returns to his ship and prepares to blast off. He stares long and hard at the knob that Baby Yoda was playing with. Suddenly he powers down the ship and exits.

He returns to The Client's compound, where he disables the droid sentry. A couple Stormtroopers rush out to check on the commotion, and he blasts them away. We then get a thrilling action sequence as Manny moves through the compound, taking out a seemingly endless supply of Stormtroopers.

He makes it to the lab, where he sees Baby Yoda hooked up to a medical monitor. Doctor Pershing cowers nearby, and Manny raises his gun to shoot him. Pershing pleads for his life, saying it's only because of him that the baby's still alive. Manny pauses a moment, then grabs the baby and lets Pershing live.

Manny hurries toward the exit, when suddenly he's surrounded by more Stormtroopers. They demand he surrender and hand over the baby. He carefully sets Baby Yoda down, then activates his "whistling birds." They fly around the room as they seek out their targets and eliminate them.

Back in the Cantina, every bounty hunter's tracking fob lights up. It's not hard to figure out who the subject is!

Manny exits the compound and walks down the street. As he does so, more and more Guild members begin following him, ready to take him out for violating their rules. He shoots several fellow bounty hunters, but is eventually surrounded again.

Karga steps forward and tells Manny to hand over the baby and all will be forgotten. Of course Manny refuses, and there's another intense shootout between him and the Guild. The bounty hunters begin closing in on him. Realizing there's no way out, he takes a final look at Baby Yoda.

Suddenly there's a commotion, and a bunch of Iron Man's suits er, I mean several Manadolorians in jet packs show up and start blasting away at the bounty hunters. Paz Vizla's even there with some sort of laser Gatling gun. He nods to Manny, and he runs back to his ship while his brothers hold off the Guild members.

Manny makes it back to his ship, where he's confronted by Karga. He tells him he broke the Guild code, and he's not letting him get away. Suddenly Manny whips around and shoots Karza in the chest. He blasts off and flies into space.

Predictably, Karza comes to a few minutes later. He sits up and takes the Beskar ingot out of his jacket, and realizes it stopped Manny's blaster hit.

Manny flies off for parts unknown, with Baby Yoda at his side. The baby reaches for the lever knob again, and this time Manny unscrews it and gives it to him.


• As Manny approaches The Client's planet, Karga contacts him and welcomes him back, saying, "Upon your return, deliver the quarry directly to the client. I have no idea if he wants to eat it or hang it on his wall."

I assume that last part is a reference to Jabba the Hutt, who indeed hung the carbonate-incased Han Solo on his wall.

• As they fly along, Baby Yoda sees a shiny knob on the control panel. He climbs out of his floating crib, toddles over to the dashboard and pulls the knob off a lever.

Why didn't he just use the Force to levitate the knob over to him?

By the way, if you didn't realize this knob scene was going to be echoed at the end, then you've never seen an episode of any TV show before.

• I loved the scene in which Baby Yoda stared wide-eyed at the incoming ships in the docking port and all the activity in the street market. Best part was seeing the wind blowing his giant ears around!

By the way, I naturally assumed that throughout the series, Baby Yoda was a very well-done CGI creation. Imagine my surprise when I found out he's actually a real, on-set puppet! 

According to an article in Vanity Fair, series creator Jon Favreau and producer Dave Filoni filmed the puppet onset. They then removed it in order to shoot a clean plate, in case they decided to replace the puppet with a CGI version later.

Insane actor & director Werner Herzog (who plays The Client) found out what they were doing, and predictably flipped out. He called them both "cowards," and demanded they use the puppet in the series. As the two were terrified of upsetting their unpredictable star, they agreed.

I have a feeling the baby's not a puppet in every scene, especially ones in which we see him toddling around on two feet. And I suspect the puppet may be augmented with a bit of CGI, especially when it blinks. 

Still, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was real. Practical effects almost always look better than CGI.

• As payment for delivering Baby Yoda to him, The Client gives Manny his reward— a container filled with Beskar steel. According to him, the high-tech canister is called a "camtono."

Of course as everyone's figured out by now, the camtono is a reference to The Empire Strikes Back. In the film, Cloud City resident Wilrow Hood carries one under his arm as he flees from approaching Imperial forces!

And as all good Star Wars fans know, Hood's camtono was actually a 1970s ice cream maker!

• Baby Yoda looks plaintively at Manny as he's hauled away to Doctor Pershing's lab. If you weren't affected by this heartrending scene, you're already dead.

• When Manny walked through the street fair in Chapter One, we saw a vendor selling roasted Kowakian Monkey-Lizard on a spit. 

Apparently in this episode Manny's walking down the exact same street, because we see the vendor's still hawking barbecued Monkey-Lizard!

• The Mandalorian HQ on this planet is apparently called the "Covert."

• Manny's fellow Mandalorian Paz Vizla was voiced (but not physically played) by series creator Jon Favreau.

I'm told his name is similar to that of Pre Vizsla, a Mandalorian character from The Clone Wars animated series. No idea if there's any connection between the two characters or not. By the way, the name "Pre Vizsla" has to be an in-joke. In movie making, "pre-vis," or previsualization, is the process of creating animated storyboards.

• Lovin' the various Mandalorian helmet designs we see this week. They're all similar and yet completely distinct. Which helps a lot when so many characters are wearing full helmets!

• More world building this week: Inside the Covert, the Armorer and Manny have the following conversation:

Armorer: "How can one be a coward if one chooses this way of life? Have you ever removed your helmet?"

Manny: "No."
Armorer: "Has it ever been removed by others?"
Manny: "Never."
Armorer: "This is the Way."

In Chapter One we found out that Mandalorians never remove their helmets (apparently not even in public). Now we know that having them forcibly removed by another is the greatest indignity they can ever experience.

Knowing this, I hope the show never has Manny remove his helmet. I have a feeling it'll eventually happen though— especially since they've hired a reasonably well-known actor to play him. I'm afraid the temptation to show his face will be too great for them.

• At one point Manny & Vizla have a confrontation in the Covert. Something about this scene seemed familiar to me, but I couldn't quite figure out where I'd seen it before.

Then it hit me— it's similar to this concept art of the Cantina from A New Hope by famed Star Wars production artist Ralph McQuarrie! Not a perfect match, but very similar in framing and mood.

• This week I learned what a "cuirass" is. It's a breastplate/backplate combo in a suit of armor.

• During Manny's flashback to his childhood, we see his village (I guess) was attacked by Super Battle Droids. See, George Lucas? Battle Droids can be scary and menacing when they're not being played for cheap laughs!

• After seeing Chapter One, I assumed Manny would slowly replace his armor over the course of the season, until he had a full Beskar suit in the season finale. Nope! Looks like he replaced most of it in this episode! The lower pieces still look mismatched, but from the waist up it's all brand new.

• In The Empire Strikes Back, C-3PO and his pals get a tour of Cloud City from Lando Calrissian. At one point 3PO wanders away from the group and encounters a similar-looking silver droid. When 3PO greets him, the other droid replies with a curt "E chu ta."

In this episode Manny enters the Cantina, fresh off his success in locating The Client's asset. The Dust Breather, clearly angry and bitter with Manny, also utters "E chu ta" before turning away in disgust.

The phrase is never translated, but it's not hard to figure out that it's likely the Star Wars Universe equivalent of "F you."

• Karga says as a result of Manny's successful mission, he earned a cut of Beskar steel for himself. A couple things here:

First of all, as Karga brags to Manny, he pulls a couple ingots of steel out of his jacket and proudly displays them. Subtle! This was some pretty blatant foreshadowing, as there was no reason to show it to the audience unless it was going to come into play later.

Secondly, after seeing it, why would Manny allow Karga to keep the Beskar? Remember, it isn't just everyday currency to him— it's a sacred relic of his religion! It was supposedly taken from his people by the Empire, and the Mandalorians have devoted their lives to recovering it all.

Imagine if Manny was a priest, and Karga showed him he'd been paid in pages of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Think he'd let him keep 'em?

Seems to me like Manny would offer to buy the ingots from Karga at any price.

• The alien-looking alphabet seen in all Star Wars properties is called Aurebesh. You can see a sample of it when Manny activates the bounty puck in the cantina. I was curious as to what it actually said, so I found an Aurebesh site and translated it. I figured it was probably the name of the quarry, but it just says "WANTED."

• When Manny goes back for the baby, he finds its floating crib in the trash behind The Client's compound. Dayum, The Client! That was cold! 

This was the moment I knew that sh*t was about to go down. And I wasn't disappointed! It was very satisfying watching Manny eliminate all the Stormtroopers!

• Manny enters a lab at the rear of the compound, where he finds Doctor Pershing and Baby Yoda. Manny threatens to kill Pershing, but he begs for his life, saying the baby would be dead by now if not for him. Manny takes the baby and lets Pershing live. I have many questions about this scene...

First of all, is Pershing really as innocent as he seems? Earlier Manny overhears him arguing with The Client about the baby, so his story checks out. I still don't completely trust him though, and have a feeling he'll return later in the series and somehow cause trouble for Manny.

One reason I don't completely trust Pershing— there's a goddamned torture droid floating next to him in the lab! The exact same one Darth Vader used against Princess Leia way back in A New Hope! If Pershing is on the level, then what's that droid doing there?

Lastly, when Manny enters the lab, Pershing pleads "No. Please, please don't hurt him. It's just a child." This implies that he doesn't recognize Manny. But he just saw him an hour ago! How the hell does he not realize he's the same guy? 

I'm assuming Pershing doesn't recognize Manny because of his shiny new armor. But it's not THAT different! Other than the color and texture, it looks exactly the same as his old gear.

• So, about those Whistling Birds. Stupid name, awesome weapon!

• When Manny was surrounded by Karga and the other bounty hunters at the end, I was honestly wondering how he was gonna get out of this one. I half expected Baby Yoda to wake & save him with the Force!

• This Greedo did definitely NOT shoot first!

• One of the bounty hunters threatening Manny has a distinctive series of horns on his head. I wonder if he's from the same species as Darth Maul?

• "Jarvis, activate House Party Protocol!"

• I was sorely dismayed by Boba Fett's poor showing way back in The Return Of The Jedi. After his brief introduction in Empire, I naturally assumed we'd get a spectacular action setpiece featuring Fett flying around in Jedi, as he kicked ass and took names. 

Imagine my disappointment when he turned out to be a bumbling idiot who was taken out by a blind Han Solo— and by accident yet!

So I was thrilled that at long last, after forty years, I FINALLY got to see a flying Mandalorian in a glorious action scene. It's about time!

• What could be more badass than an oversized Mandalorian with a jetpack, wielding a laser Gatling gun? Nothing, that's what!

• Best thing about the shootout at the end? At one point Manny fires at a bounty hunter on a roof. He topples and falls off, and amazingly doesn't utter the annoyingly overused Wilhelm Scream!

• In the final minutes of the episode, Manny returns to his ship, where he's confronted by Karga. Manny whips around and fires, hitting Karga square in the chest and seemingly killing him.

If you were worried about Karga's fate here, then you weren't paying attention. His survival was heavily foreshadowed in the Cantina, when he showed Manny he had a couple bars of Beskar steel tucked under his jacket. It was patently obvious the metal would end up saving his life, else why would they have gone to the trouble to establish it?

I'm assuming Manny didn't actually want to kill Karga, so he deliberately shot him in the ingots (that sounded dirty), knowing they were there and that they'd protect him. You can even hear Manny's shot "plink" off the metal as it hits it!

• OK, I could have reeeeeally done without Manny's brother-in-arms throwing him a salute at the end. Talk about cheesy! How about a subtle nod instead? Mandalorians tend to move as little as possible, as if they're constantly conserving their energy. A slight nod would have made more sense and been far less cringeworthy.

• As they fly off toward an uncertain future, Manny takes the knob from the lever and gives it to Baby Yoda to play with. As I said above, if you didn't see this end scene coming, then you've never watched a second of any TV show before.

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