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The Righteous Gemstones Season One Episode 9 Review: “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning”

With a strike of lightning and a bee’s sting, The Righteous Gemstones’ first season comes to a magnificently satisfying close.

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The Righteous Gemstones Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning

For a series with a story spanning four decades of a family’s life, it’s surprising how neat and tidy “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning,” The Righteous Gemstones‘ season finale, really feels. Whether Aimee Leigh’s legacy, Jesse’s comeuppance, or Judy’s complicated journey through adult emotions, The Righteous Gemstones is an hour of judgment, retribution, forgiveness – and ultimately hope, a long emotional journey “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” pulls off with unexpected grace.

“Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” parts the seas of drama and violence, for pointed observations on the art of forgiveness.

It helps it is easily the most emotional episode of the series; opening on the Gemstone family falling apart literally twenty seconds after Aimee Leigh’s passing, “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” is a master class in tone, using a bee – a Biblical symbol of community and shared purpose – as a catalyst to jolt so many of its characters into their reality (which in Baby Billy’s case, is a very literal turn of phrase). The ability of a family to come together and fall apart gets condensed into the minutes-long cold open, a fantastic appetizer for the emotional roller coaster ride to follow.

The Righteous Gemstones Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning

In the wake of Scotty’s fortunate passing, the Gemstone siblings are all facing exile from their homes; fired by their father, and deservedly abandoned by the ones they love, Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin seek out redemption in the usual, complicated Gemstone way. Kelvin, after briefly embracing the darkest voices in his mind, abandons his eye makeup and brings back the one person in his life he doesn’t share a last name with; Keefe, who immediately reintegrated himself with the strange Satanist clan of his younger life (which includes him in a latex suit that covers everything but his dick, submerged in a pool of liquid while getting high on nitrous).

It’s a bit of a stunted arc, one played more for comedy than anything emotionally evocative; but it works, mostly as an amuse bouche for the episode’s ruminations on identity, and the uncanny ability of each Gemstone to make everything about themselves, in their own special ways. For the most part, though, Kelvin’s been given the short stick in every episode, so his relative lack of soul searching in “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” doesn’t feel off balance, simply a matter of The Righteous Gemstones‘ allotting its time to two larger, more resonant stories of his siblings. There’s clearly more story to be told with Kelvin – on his sexuality, his ridiculous sense of self righteousness – but it’s obviously a story for another day, one Gemstones smartly nods towards, instead of diving head first into.

The biggest story of the finale is Judy trying to get back her man – in the process, turning The Righteous Gemstones into a one-woman highlight show. Though Jesse is ostensibly the center of the series, Judy’s become the easy MVP of the series, delivering heartfelt lines about unrequited love in the same breadth as describing the “snail trails” she left on her classroom seat. Patterson gives Judy so many dimensions, mixing her middle-child syndrome and rampant narcissism while giving equal weight to her emotionally stunted, spoiled upbringing. In a series full of vibrant characters, Judy is a step above the rest, straddling the line between disgusting and tragic in the single best comedic performance HBO’s featured since… well, probably McBride’s protagonist on Eastbound and Down.

The Righteous Gemstones Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning

It also gives BJ a moment to shine in the light, giving a bit more shape to some of the show’s easiest punch lines; it is the un-emasculating of BJ, in a way, and it’s extremely satisfying to watch. If there’s a universal truth to the arcs of the finale, it’s the idea that honesty and happiness don’t occur simultaneously; the truth is a difficult thing to face, whether admitting failures to another, realizing one’s sense of self-worth (or lack thereof), or coming clean about mistakes. Judy does all three in front of BJ, but he’s still not ready to let her off the hook: we can seek redemption, from our loved ones and from the Lord, but those acts often only solve our own selfish needs of closure.

BJ, like Amber, isn’t satisfied with an apology, and the nepotistic justifications of their lovers’ actions; some pages just can’t be unturned, something Judy and Jesse both have to contend with. “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” places them at both ends of the spectrum, to great effect: BJ finally takes Judy back (with some of the most disgusting romantic lines I’ve ever heard; “You save that piss for my chest”), and Jesse gets kicked out of his home after he fails to bring Gideon home from Haiti; honesty is a two-edged sword, able to be soul cleansing and crushing in the same breath.

Seeing Jesse contend with that gives the finale a surprisingly strong back bone; his first and second trips to Haiti circumferencing a powerful emotional journey to acceptance Jesse has to face. Like Jesus when he saw his end coming, Jesse eventually stops resisting the inevitable, losing his job, family, and wife in one fell swoop, punishment served for all the lies he told around his night of gambling and cocaine in Atlanta.

The Righteous Gemstones Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning

For Eli, the person he needs to forgive him isn’t around anymore; and if there’s an unexpected truth tucked away in “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning,” it’s Eli revealing himself as the biggest hypocrite of them all. He banishes his children until they find his missing money, he cuts a deal with Johnny Seasons (telling him he works “with” the family, not “for” them; we’ll see how long that lasts), and he only escapes Baby Billy’s ultimate judgment of him when a bolt of lightning strikes his brother-in-law. While the Gemstone children face their inner demons, Eli continues to ignore his, nodding through Baby Billy’s frustrations and dismissing his children’s conflicts, in his attempts to re-secure his legacy, and financial standing, in the wake of the unmitigated disaster caused by Jesse’s behavior – and ultimately, his and Aimee Leigh’s parenting.

Some, of course, are the product of miracles: Baby Billy, ever the gambling man, continues to hold off his own cosmic debts, avoiding death and finding his newest con during his climactic fight with the Gemstone family. He may not have walked away with millions of dollars in tax-free money, but he got something even more meaningful to him: relevance, power, and the ability to see his sister one last time (or at least, imagine it long enough to turn it into something profitable for him). Some people seemingly escape judgment and bad luck through their entire lives; though Baby Billy’s won and lost his share of fortunes, his ability to be honest about who he is (a grifter living off the reputation of his beloved sibling) allows him to exist in a space between the Gemstones’ hypocritical morality and absolute capitalist anarchy – like Eli, he knows how to turn his family’s story into money, but he does it without lying to himself along the way about what a cheater and snitch he really is.

The Righteous Gemstones Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning

For such a lengthy finale, none of “Better is the End of a Thing Than Its Beginning” feels bloated or unnecessary: it is a rather tight script leaving just enough room for its lead performers to chew on scenery – and in Edi Patterson’s case, deliver some truly hilarious bits of dialogue along the way (her asking Jesse if all her future boyfriends would “go down on her butthole” had me in tears, and you can see the cast barely holding it together). More importantly, it parts the seas of drama and violence for pointed observations on the art of forgiveness: its value, its shortcomings, and its inherent selfishness, in a powerful, emotionally potent season finale of HBO’s next great comedy.

Other thoughts/observations:

If there’s one story The Righteous Gemstones doesn’t really deliver on, it’s Dot’s story. Her presence in the finale feels so random, and disconnected from everything else going on. Maybe more in season two?

Danny McBride dressing full Casablanca to go to Haiti and talk to his son is just perfect costume design.

While praying for Baby Billy, a bee appears and stings Baby Billy’s head; rather than be distracted into self destruction, Eli tells his family to pay it no mind, and it ends up bringing Baby Billy back to them. Maybe it is Aimee Leigh reincarnated, or maybe it is God giving the family a second chance, a metaphor for pain leading to salvation and clarity.

I love the montage of the Gemstone family gluing the plastic Jesus back together: it encapsulates their views on faith, family, and their business in such a beautiful, wordless way.

The wordless final scene is so perfect, such an understated way to finish out the season.

That’s it for The Righteous Gemstones‘ first season! Lord willing, I’ll be back whenever this fantastic comedy’s second season makes it to air (2020? 2021? All we can do is pray). Thanks for reading!

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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A Brief History of Survivor Series: A Cornerstone of WWE

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History of Survivor Series

Relive Some of the Biggest Moments in Survivor Series history

There are a few pay-per-views that are mainstays of WWE’s annual slate of offerings. SummerSlam. Royal Rumble. WrestleMania. Kids grow up dreaming of wrestling at these shows, and Survivor Series is one of them. The classic Survivor Series match is a five-on-five elimination bout, featuring a variety of top stars as well as up and coming wrestlers. It provides an important showcase for WWE’s talent, some of which don’t always get pay-per-view time.

Survivor Series
Hulk Hogan’s Best Survivor Series Team

Besides that, it’s a lot of fun for fans to watch.

Over the years, Survivor Series has produced a number of career-defining moments for the talent involved and those moments can mean everything. This is the pay-per-view that kicks of the build up to WrestleMania, the ultimate goal for all WWE wrestlers.

The 2019 event is even more interesting than past iterations because of it’s incorporation of talent from NXT for the first time ever, pitting their champions against Raw and SmackDown. If fans were looking for a statement as to how seriously WWE is taking NXT as its own brand, matching NXT against their long-standing brands accomplishes that.

Survivor Series NXT
Triple H with his NXT Champions

Bret Hart’s Survivor Series History

Many of the biggest moments in Survivor Series history happened outside of the actual namesake match. One of the most infamous moments in WWE history, The Montreal Screwjob, happened at Survivor Series 1997. Knowing Bret Hart was leaving WWE and wanting to make sure he didn’t take the belt to WCW, Vince McMahon ordered a fast count during Hart’s match with Shawn Michaels.

Hart’s response was infamous and understandable, his long feud with both McMahon and Michaels only coming to a relatively recent end.

Hart had a part in another big moment, this time at Survivor Series 1996. One year before The Montreal Screwjob, Bret Hart faced off against a young wrestler name Stone Cold Steve Austin who was looking to make a name for himself. Thanks to this match, he would do it. While it’s not often recognized as such, this match was the start of Austin taking the wrestling world by storm and building a legendary career fans still talk about.

Notable Survivor Series Debuts

A WWE franchise player, The Undertaker himself debuted at Survivor Series 1990, starting arguably the most legendary run for any gimmick in wrestling history. The next year at Survivor Series 1991, The Undertaker would go on to defeat Hulk Hogan for the World Championship and cement his legacy as ‘The Phenom.’

Royal Rumble
The Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991

The Undertaker wasn’t the only wrestler to debut at the venerable pay-per-view. The Shield, a faction that would go one to produce three major singles champions, made their first main roster appearance at Survivor Series 2012. They came through the crowd and destroyed both John Cena and Ryback on behalf of CM Punk. The legendary Sting made his first WWE appearance at Survivor Series 2014, attacking Triple H and setting up a WrestleMania match between them.

WrestleMania
Sting vs. Triple H at WrestleMania

Sole Survivors

Asuka also achieved glory at Survivor Series 2017 as part of her build-up to WrestleMania. She was a member of the Raw Women’s Team, putting in a typically dominant performance. Asuka was the sole survivor, winning the match for her brand and eventually going on to win the first Women’s Royal Rumble match.

Survivor Series WrestleMania
Asuka Victorious at Survivor Series

Unfortunately, she didn’t win her match at WrestleMania, a loss that took months and months to recover from. Now, it seems like she’s finally back on track alongside Kairi Sane as the Women’s Tag Team Champions.

Many big names have been sole survivors, as well. Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, Andre the Giant, and Lex Luger have all held that distinction. The likes of Ric Flair, The Rock, and Dolph Ziggler have been sole survivors on two separate occasions each. Randy Orton holds the unique distinction of being a three-time sole survivor, though that’s no surprise for ‘The Viper.’ He is nothing if not a survivor.

Now. Then. Forever.

The big four pay-per-views will always have a special place in the hearts of WWE fans, and Survivor Series is no exception. While every moment on screen plays a role in building a successful wrestler, showing up and showing out in big moments like this set the tone for the rest of the year.

Some of the biggest names in WWE history have made their names at Survivor Series, possibly even more so than WrestleMania. Survivor Series was created to play off the success of Andre the Giant versus Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Both men led their own teams at the inaugural event, featuring some of the biggest talents of their time.

That continues today as modern talent use this traditional pay-per-view event as a means of launching careers. It’s one of those events young wrestlers grow up dreaming about.

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‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ is a Quirky and Oddly Engrossing Worldview of Modern Culture

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Disney Plus launched on November 12th to the general public and with it came ten new pilot episodes for upcoming original shows including Star Wars: The Mandalorian and Pixar In Real Life. Out of all the original television series to debut on opening day, one strikingly stands out from the rest: a quirky National Geographic docuseries featuring Jurassic Park and Thor: Ragnarok actor Jeff Goldblum that was initially going to air on the television channel before switching over to the digital streaming service.

In the mouse’s newest selection of shows for their Netflix Competitor, variety can be the key to the foundation of building something successful and The World According to Jeff Goldblum might just hit the sweet spot for what this service needs, but it is still notably something that would never be labeled as a reason to buy into Disney Plus. With that being said, viewing a regular conversation with Jeff Goldblum has never been so engrossing before than in this odd gem of a series.

Goldblum Versus The World

The pilot episode of the series turns Goldblum into a comedic ethnographer who indulges himself in the culture of shoe collectors and creators. Goldblum slowly dives into his worldview of the purpose and significance of the common day footwear, while looking into how the business operates and the passion behind those who proclaim shoes to the highest extent. The pilot episode focuses on a theme of revelation while jumping from different specialists within the culture such as basketball teams, business owners, creators, and even YouTube personalities.

If you are a fan of the actor then you should already except what you are about to watch. Goldblum has his typical quirky and childish mannerisms that make him iconic, while he goes around interacting with a vast selection of people who are widely educated about the subject matter that each half-hour episode focuses on. Despite seeming like a show that can easily become a bore to watch, it never loses steam and becomes an exceptionally well-executed documentary with a flair of humor and spice of knowledge thanks to Goldblum’s mesmerizing appearance.

From the perspective of becoming an ethnographer, Goldblum surprisingly does a good job interacting with an audience he typically would never engage with. He never misses a beat as he proceeds to ask serious questions and of course, make humor out of certain situations when appropriate. Never once does he provocatively attempt to embarrass a group of people for mindless entertainment or make fools out of them like other docuseries on specific cultures have.

In fact, Goldblum goes the extra mile to participate in sneaker conventions, recreational basketball games, and even professional science laboratory visits- taking on the tasks that a legitimate ethnographer would have to engage in. All of his crazy yet conventional doings ultimately pays off into what ends up building a captivating show that may even attract audiences who do not care about anything that is being discussed. Goldblum’s personality will miraculously keep you hooked on his wild journeys through everyday life as he attempts to explain his stance on common objects while plunging into a perspective of life he has never once stepped into.

Science, Psychology, and Style

This is a National Geographic production though, after all. It is no surprise that this series would be injected with a relentless amount of historical knowledge that is slowly seeping into the core of the show. In the pilot episode, Goldblum combines science, psychology, and of course eccentric style to form a captivating presentation that is quite unlike any other docuseries. For example, in the pilot episode alone Goldblum covers how shoes work, why the category of clothing is so popular among shoe collectors, and the different art styles of footwear found throughout shoe brands.

That being said, for a series revolving around such a simple concept, there is a substantial amount of content to actually talk about and the production value here is unnecessarily high- hitting that Disney expected production value to the point where its astonishingly remarkable how much passion was actually put into this series. From the editing to the cinematography, this is certainly something that was not made without passion. On-screen graphics are always welcomely flashy, lighting is constantly up to pristine quality, and the focus always remains on the title actor.

Goldblum’s consistent upbeat pazazz and high energy makes this series not only entertaining and relaxing to watch for his comedic appearance, but for an enjoyable source of overall education- something that most other docuseries tend to struggle with when multitasking multiple genres.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Is The World According to Jeff Goldblum worthy of being called a reason to purchase Disney Plus? Absolutely not. Is it worth watching on an empty afternoon though? Unsurprisingly yes. This is a fun family series that is not only educational regarding subject-matter but educational to learn more about Jeff Goldblum himself. Without the big-name actor though it would be hard to imagine why anyone would ever want to watch this series.

Goldblum’s presence allows this series to become a notable piece of content available on the streaming service, however, without him, it would be nothing but another typical documentary series with no real focus. It is entertaining until the very end and is keen on ending off on a positive punchline to keep you coming back next time. Simply put, it is another great addition to Disney Plus’s colossal lineup that will seemingly never stop producing high-quality content.

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The Mandalorian’s First Episode is an Impressively Lush, Spaghetti Western-inspired Introduction to its World

The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode One Review: “Chapter One”

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The Mandalorian Chapter One

George Lucas famously took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress when first writing his treatment of what was then titled The Star Wars; it’s pretty much why we spend the first twenty minutes of A New Hope with R2-D2 and C3-PO. He also used many of its shot compositions, but ultimately reconstituted the pastiche through a unique, worn science fantasy style into what we collectively recognise as Star Wars: A New Hope. In the ensuing four decades, the Star Wars franchise has looked well beyond Kurosawa for its cinematic language, channeling everything from gangster movies to political thrillers to survival horror to wuxia through its peculiar galactic design.

Now, to the delight of everyone who has ever wanted Star Wars to be a Western since seeing gunslinger Boba Fett, The Mandalorian is here to satisfy under auspices of director Dave Filoni.

That “Chapter One” is a meditative and deliberate character study where nothing extraordinary happens, and yet is still riveting, suggests that The Mandalorian will be a complex and thoughtful offering.

The first episode, titled “Chapter One,” is a tale of two halves, and within those halves are two different Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. As with that genre, the exposition is minimal; yet, accepting the basic conceit as one does with a Western — in this case, the eponymous Mandalorian (forever the ‘Mando’ with No Name, played by Pedro Pascal) is a gun-toting bounty hunter who goes around chasing renegades — the rest is parsed out. Given the series is so stylistically steeped in that heritage, it is fruitful to analyse The Mandalorian in the context of its spaghetti western influences.

The Mandalorian strides toward town amid a flurry of snow

The opening moments find the Mandalorian checking a transponder on some icy planet amidst a sleet storm, then ambling towards some podunk outpost framed by a wide shot, in much the way Stony the gunman did in the beginning of Once Upon A Time In The West. The subsequent scene, in a bar, reflects Once Upon A Time In The West’s saloon confrontation as well — if not for the actual exchanges, then for the chiaroscuro contrast in the set lighting, the cutting to the other patrons’ reaction to accentuate unease, and the close-ups of all involved. Composer Ludwig Göransson even tries for something akin to the famous aching harmonica, but lower-pitched with woodwinds.

Unlike Cheyenne and Harmonica in Leone’s masterpiece, “Chapter One” sees the Mandalorian break the tension by breaking a few heads, as he quickly comes to collect his target fugitive: a blue-gilled alien named Mythrol (Horatio Sanz), who immediately tries to talk his way out of it. This is one of many naturally-lit, seated conversations that frame the episode, with each successively coaxing a little more emotion from the initially silent Mandalorian. It’s a simple but effective technique, providing expositional context for the uninitiated, introducing the other starring actors, and it ultimately suggests a nuanced character beneath that blank helmet.

The affable-yet-blubbering Mythrol’s juxtaposing role in “Chapter One” efficiently emphasises how imposing the bounty hunter is. For example, Mythrol is a terrified wreck as the Mandalorian clinically dispatches a giant, scaly walrus called Ravinak. His nervous yammering in the face of the Mandalorian’s austere silence aboard the starship makes his request to “evacuate a thorax” far more intimidating. And when Mythrol inevitably tries to plan his escape, the Mandalorian appears like a phantom, mercilessly freezing him in carbonite (but not before Mythrol laments that he won’t be seeing his family by “Life Day”…The Star Wars Holiday Remake, coming to Disney+ this December). To his enemies, this Mandalorian is as much of a frigid void as carbonite.

Werner Herzog talks to The Mandalorian

To his employers, however, he is marginally more talkative. Carl Weathers as Greef Carga, a bounty hunter guild-master and form of bail bondsman, along with Werner Herzog (presumably as “Werner Herzog”), have sparse, largely expositional dialogue, but both immediately create an engaging dynamic with the Mandalorian on the strength of their acting. Weathers especially makes the most of deviously trying to pass off Imperial Credits in the aftermath of the defunct Galactic Empire; the mixture of indignation and exasperation when exclaiming, “They still spend!” is perfect. Werner Herzog essentially just has to intone in his distinctive German accent, but clad in black and surrounded by ex-Stormtrooper bodyguards, it’s no wonder that the Mandalorian is unsettled by his new client’s dubious proposition.

However, the fortune he will be paid in Beskar — the metal alloy used in Mandalorian armour that was ostensibly robbed by the Empire from the Mandalorian homeworld — allows him to ignore the obliquely threatening idea that it is “good to restore the natural order of things after a period of such disarray.”

These conversations are interspersed with brief vignettes of the Mandalorian walking about town ignoring roasted and caged Kowakian monkey-lizards, or through dark alleyways and halls, observed by other mute bounty hunters, which serves to distance him from the liveliness of the society. One gets the feeling that he is less troubled in the desolate plains of foreign planets, or in the cold steel of his spaceship.

Leone’s spaghetti westerns were enriched by a masterful, atmospheric craftsmanship that complemented the profoundly beautiful composition of the cinematography; in that vein, “Chapter One” is very much a pensive tonal piece over anything else, happy to leave much to situational subtext while lingering on that inscrutable helmet.

Only once does the episode pierce through the mask to the man behind it, with disorientating flashbacks to the childhood trauma punctuated by the triggering anvil strikes of a newly minted shoulder plate from the Beskar ingot he received as down-payment.

The Mandalorian walks through to the blacksmith

Each interaction — with his victims, his superiors, his equals — makes the Mandalorian slightly more forthcoming, more human, and less robotic, like the droids he so detests. Credit should be given to Pedro Pascal and his doubles’ physical acting. As the Mandalorian’s emotions come increasingly to the fore, Pascal’s physical demeanour and movements become less constricted, and instead grow more loping and loose. Now that his shoulder plate signet is ceremonially fitted onto his ensemble, it will be interesting to see how the rest of this season explores the broken man occupying the armour, and whether it is a protective halo to suppress his nightmares, or a cage for reawakening humanity.

With humanity comes fallibility, and while the second half of “Chapter One” mirrors the beginning of the first — with a transponder held aloft — here The Mandalorian transitions to its second Leone work, A Fistful of Dollars. Almost immediately after he steps onto the planet’s surface, the Mandalorian nearly has his arm ripped off by a bipedal fish-headed monster called a “Blurrg.” He genuinely becomes “The Mando with No Name,” because Clint Eastwood’s “Stranger” in the Dollars Trilogy couldn’t take a punch either, despite being a fantastic gunman. It’s also possibly the first time a feted, cool, masked Star Wars character anticlimactically getting knocked about hasn’t infinitely diminished the allure; rather, it acts as a reminder of the tenuousness of their line of work. It only took thirty-six years, but Star Wars has finally cracked the “Boba Fett Syndrome.”

The Mandalorian is rescued by Nick Nolte’s pig-faced Kuiil, whose facial hair is alike José Calvo’s helpful innkeeper, Silvanito, in A Fistful of Dollars. Kuiil plays a similar role to Silvanito, feeding and resting the Mandalorian, then guiding him to where the bandits are hiding. There is a shot of the two looking down over a ridge to observe the bandits that echoes Eastwood and Calvo watching the massacre of Mexican soldiers.  

Mando and Kuiil talk about the situation

The closing act of “Chapter One,” as one would expect for a Western, is a shootout (heavily promoted in the previews). Things are complicated, however, by the presence of the unintentionally deadpanning bounty hunter murder-bot, IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), who shoots before he asks questions like whether the Mandalorian is also part of the bounty hunter’s guild. However, the two team up in order to try to kill the bandits and split the reward. In a true sign of growth, the Mandalorian goes from dismissing droid landspeeder taxi drivers at the start of the episode to repeatedly stopping IG-11 from initiating self-destruction. It’s a darkly funny scene, and like most of the episode, is tonally on point amidst gunfire.

In general, the comedic style in “Chapter One” is comparable to the Original Trilogy in its understated and wry sensibility. The comedy is indicative of larger reassuring qualities that the episode possesses: it is atmospherically, thematically, and tonally cogent. This returns us to the discussion at the start of the review, and poses a question: with the variety of genres Star Wars has subsumed, one can reasonably ask, what is Star Wars “supposed” to be? And therefore, does The Mandalorian feel like Star Wars?

Lest this be mistaken for some covert screed about agendas and ruined childhoods, it is an important question, because it is one that Star Wars has been asking itself since at least 1999, when The Phantom Menace first arrived with its diplomatic negotiations and midichlorians. During Dave Filoni’s show-running and development of The Clone Wars and later Rebels, physical and mystical manifestations of The Force were introduced. Rebels even had time-travel! Rogue One had moral turpitude and bleakness.

Relating to comedy, Lawrence Kasdan’s script made The Force Awakens probably the most overtly comical Star Wars film to date. Meanwhile, one of the frequent criticisms levied at the divisive The Last Jedi was that the so-called “gag humour” pushed things too far for Star Wars. So The Mandalorian and “Chapter One” arrives at a crucial, but not unusual moment in helping to set standards for what Star Wars is — or more accurately, illustrating what it could be.

The Mandalorian Chapter One

For that reason, having Dave Filoni direct the first episode of this venture into live-action television was a smart decision. Some shot compositions are deceptively beautiful in their clarity, the mark of a masterful animator who appreciates the importance of artistic staging and creating coherent lines of focus. Furthermore, at this point, Filoni may have contributed more hours to Star Wars canon than George Lucas himself. As Lucas’ padawan, he has a firm grasp of navigating the tonal and shifts within the realm of Star Wars, while still having learnt the core tenets of the series directly from the source.

However, he has frankly executed those ideas with more panache than Lucas managed post-1999. At a time when legions of people are imposing upon the franchise some decades-worth of expectations of what they believe a galaxy far far away should be and represent, The Mandalorian is a nexus of both traditional Star Wars adventure and pushing it towards what fans always imagined the imperfect films to be. That “Chapter One” is a meditative and deliberate character study where nothing extraordinary happens, and yet is still riveting, suggests that The Mandalorian will be a complex and thoughtful offering.

That was a lie about nothing extraordinary happening. There is one revelation at the very end that serves as a brilliant hook for the next episode and has ramifications for Star Wars as a whole. Suffice to say, it brings the Mandalorian’s arc in “Chapter One” to a thematically interesting place that is consistent with his burgeoning humanity. The consequences will surely propel the conflicts for the rest of the season, and it’s the sort of momentous event that gives renewed hope the tumultuous times Star Wars finds itself in won’t be the death of its potential inventiveness as a galaxy-wide lens for exploring compelling concepts.

Other Thoughts/Observations:

The Mandalorian and Greef Carga’s conversation references Star Wars: Underworld, the unproduced live-action series George Lucas had proposed and commissioned purportedly fifty scripts for, and the main reason why he made Clone Wars in the first place — to see if Star Wars was viable on a television budget.

Armourer (Emily Swallow) has an interesting Mandalorian costume that mixes a Viking fur cloak and a cross between a Corinthian and Trojan helmet. Also, watching two Mandalorians sit across from each other, barely speaking with neither removing their helmets, is the sort of awkward visual comedy I hope we see more of amongst these reserved bounty hunters.

Kuiil witheringly chastising the Mandalorian that his ancestors rode “Mythosaurs” and he can barely mount a Blurrg was funny.

Similarly, Brian Posehn’s taxi driver showing up in a spluttering, barely functioning landspeeder was a good joke. They also got a wide-shot landspeeder and screen-wipe in! It’s like poetry!

The CGI for the Blurrgs was generally good, but the combination of the bright daylight and their smooth skin texture made the effect much more obvious than others. Still, we’ve come a long way from staccato creatures incongruously inserted into the Original Trilogy. Also, IG-11 looks so photorealistic!

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