Escaping Expectations: The Mandalorian 1.3

[Note: spoilers for the first couple episodes follow.]

The story that this series is telling has become increasingly satisfying. In the first episode, we meet the Mandalorian, who takes on a dangerous job and successfully secures a vital target, which turns out to be a baby of an unknown species (or known–it’s not really clear to me how much people know about the species of Yoda and Yaddle in-universe). In the second episode, he must go through trials to get off-world, in so doing forming a bond with the youngling and learning that it possesses special powers; in the timeframe we’re in, it appears that most of the galaxy isn’t familiar with the Force and may not believe that the Jedi were ever real, so the Mandalorian does not appear to understand what he’s observed. In the third episode, he delivers the bounty–and then retrieves it. It feels like a complete story with a three-act structure over these past few episodes.

Now the story feels free to do…just about anything. Much like with the end of The Last Jedi, I can’t anticipate where the story might go; it feels complete in and of itself, even though there are plenty of threads to continue pursuing. I am sure we will learn more about the Mandalorians and what happened to them. I imagine that the story’s central Mandalorian will have more opportunities to advance within his culture, and it looks like we’re starting to get more and more details about his past. And we might have big answers about that Yodaling, or we might not.

This is turning into a great show! At the same time, I recognize the response from fans who note the lack of on-screen women, especially in speaking roles. It’s true that there aren’t many speaking characters at all, but it is also a little bizarre that all but one character with lines of dialogue so far is a man. When we see the Mandalorians together in this episode, for instance, it’s disconcerting that their apparent leader is a woman but all of her followers speak in deep masculine voices. Perhaps we’ll find that the Mandalorians we’ve seen are just a fraction of them all, that there are more offscreen, or that some of the ones we’ve seen are women and we just haven’t heard them speak. And it’s my understanding that there are more female characters coming soon. But this absence in representation is noticeable, especially given the franchise’s movement to better incorporate diversity overall and increase the number of prominent female characters within its stories in particular. Still, while this is disappointing and something that I certainly hope is corrected in future episodes, it’s an otherwise strong episodic narrative.

I’m happy that this show exists, and I want to see where it goes (and hope it fixes its representation issues), but more generally The Mandalorian has given me hope that we can see more live-action Star Wars stories in the future, and that they can continue to deliver quality story-telling while truly embracing the diversity of the human experience.