Don't make me watch 'Boba Fett' to understand 'The Mandalorian' season three
I find the lack of audience consideration disturbing.
Spoilers for The Mandalorian seasons 1-3 and The Book of Boba Fett below.
Somehow, Grogu has returned. At least, that's what many people will assume when they tune into the first episode of The Mandalorian's third season. When last we left our lone bounty hunter and cub, Grogu was heading off to Jedi training with a creepy de-aged Luke Skywalker. Mando took off his helmet and braced for solitude. We all shed a tear. (How did a show manage to make us care so much for a monosyllabic man in armor and a green puppet? Bless you, executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.)
But at the start of this season, Mando (AKA Din Djarin) and Grogu are paired up once again, saving people from gigantic monsters, fighting space pirates and generally being adorable. To a casual viewer, it's like that dramatic season two finale was Jedi mind-tricked away. It turns out if you wanted to get the full story – which also explains why Din is flying a Phantom Menace-era ship, or why Grogu is becoming a more adept force user — you had to watch the final few episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.
If I wasn't already a hopeless Star Wars fan, I'd be pretty confused and annoyed. How are normal people supposed to know that The Book of Boba Fett basically served as a stop-gap between Mandalorian seasons? Disney didn't promote the connection between the shows much, so if you weren't reading geeky news sites, or talking to nerdy friends, it was easy to miss.
The first few episodes of Boba Fett made it seem like a far less ambitious series – did we really need to learn the specifics of how he survived the Sarlacc pit? And who cares about his future as Jabba the Hutt replacement? I've talked to several Star Wars fans who tapped out early on, only to catch up once they heard Mando and Grogu popped up. (Honestly, it almost seemed like Favreau and crew got tired of the Boba Fett story – so did we.)
It's not like I'm against the idea of narratives shifting between different shows and films. Everything Marvel's done since Iron Man has practically trained us to consume pop culture this way, with the rise of the Avengers initiative to the ultimate smackdown with Thanos in Endgame. The geeky side of me is overjoyed when I discover connections between films I love. (You should have seen me in the theater at the end of M. Night Shyamalan's Split.) But the idea that viewers have to keep tabs on everything is beginning to feel like homework, and it's particularly frustrating when one piece of media is inexplicably crucial to something that comes later.
It doesn't help that The Mandalorian barely referenced The Book of Boba Fett during its introductory episode. Even a bit of a nudge during the "previously on" opening section would help. Instead, the premiere episode just wants to get us back to normal, with Mando on a video game-like quest and Grogu having fun along the way. It's a shame, since the end of season 2 made it seem like The Mandalorian would actually change things up moving forward.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, creator and executive producer Favreau said he appreciated being able to check in on characters between shows. “I knew that I didn’t want to dedicate a lot of screen time within The Mandalorian to a period of time where there wasn’t a lot of character progression," he said. "Both [Din and Grogu] were kind of stuck, as far as character progression goes, until they were reunited. So, my feeling was that it would allow me to do both of those things and freed me up now two years later to have a whole new context for these two characters to have a relationship and move forward.”
But what Favreau saw as a problem, I see as an opportunity. In Book of Boba Fett, Din and Grogu's time apart is handled briskly. Neither can fully let each other go. That stalls Grogu's Jedi training, as that's mostly focused on detaching yourself from the world and emotional connections. (Did that really work so well for Anakin Skywalker? Come on, Luke.) Din, meanwhile, acts like an empty nester who's lost his life's purpose. This is all good material for drama, but Favreau cuts through it as quickly as possible on a spinoff show. What a waste.
I may be particularly annoyed by The Mandalorian's disjointed narrative after seeing how Marvel handled its latest big bad, Kang the Conqueror, in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In that film, Kang is introduced as a castaway, someone banished to the Quantum Realm because of his penchant for, well, conquering. But we never got a sense of his true motivation, his powers or what he's actually trying to accomplish.Perhaps that's because the folks behind Quantumania assumed you saw Kang's brief introduction at the end of the Loki streaming series, where he's presented as more of a trickster and vague threat.
If you didn't watch Loki and were confused by Quantumania, it's almost like Marvel is saying that's your own fault. To me, that's simply irresponsible storytelling.
Coming off of Andor, Tony Gilroy’s self-contained and trenchant exploration of the Star Wars universe, the simplistic and confusing nature of The Mandalorian feels like a letdown. The show was always a pulpy and almost video game-like romp. But after the end of season two, there was potential for something much greater. Instead, Favreau took the easy way out to deliver more of the same.