TV Review: The Mandalorian, Season 1

I was told (begged, pleaded) to watch the Mandalorian before watching Witcher, so being the rebellions little snark angel I am, I watched them both and alternated the episodes.

Yeah … on second thought that wasn’t the greatest idea. Give me some credit though, I was working with a complicated situation. I could only watch Mandalorian when the kiddos were around because, silly me, they wanted to watch it as well (two words: Baby Yoda). And because some of us struggle with sharing spoilers, we had to watch it all as a family. Fair enough.

The Witcher had to wait for when the kiddos were in bed and well and truly asleep, for … reasons.

Fans of Witcher know the reasons.

This review is totally about The Mandolorian, and not the Witcher, which I’ll tackle next week. Priorities, they get me every time.

The story

Let’s start with explaining the basic idea of the Mandalorian. Oh, and let’s avoid sharing any major spoilers as well (conscience, calm down, it wasn’t your fault). And let’s do all of this while remembering that there are uber fans of Star Wars out there that are so ready to debate over all the micro details of the history and culture. No pressure at all.

<cracks knuckles>

Mandalorians are people associated with the planet Mandalore and are typified by their armor and “supercommando” reputation. One of the big “no-no’s”, at least in this series, is for a Mandolorian to allow anyone to see them without their helmet. Remember Boba Fett? Yep, he was one of them.

In The Mandolorian, our noble main character, who they largely refer to as “Mando” is a bounty hunter and part of the bounty hunter’s guild, which (surprise, surprise) has it’s own set of codes and creeds that it’s members must follow.

Mando gets a job where he’s supposed to recover “the child” which all viewers refer to as baby Yoda. (Note, it’s not actually baby Yoda. But it is the same species.) Mando is to then turn “the child” over to Imperials. Because the Imperials are E.V.I.L., Mando can’t allow the adorable baby Yoda to fall victim to what might be something nefarious and terrible. He rescues “the child” and proceeds to protect him through all manner of trials for the remainder of the series.

OhMyGosh OhMyGosh OhMyGosh ….Squuuuueeeeeeee! I want one.

My review

I’ll give Disney+ credit, the production details and artistry in all the different settings, costuming, and musical scores were absolutely amazing. They stayed faithful to the locations we’d come to know and love over the course of the films and gave viewers an expanded look at the Star Wars universe. Win.

Possibly the best part of the entire watching experience was baby Yoda himself. While it is totally a marketing grab and the licensed products of just him are going to be LITERALLY EVERYWHERE, (you’ve been warned) he creates a perfect balance against Mando himself. His cuteness offsets Mando’s cold beskar exterior, his darling baby noises make up for Mando’s limited and to-the-point dialogue.

[I want one. Send me a Funko pop or make me an amigurumi one and I’ll be very pleased (thanks in advance).]

Compared to baby Yoda, Mando, with all his broodiness and macho armor and diligence to his creed, is kinda forgettable. He also bugged me, like a lot. Here’s this guy who’s supposed to be a super soldier and amazing at being a bounty hunter and the best of the best. What does he do? He gets thrashed in nearly every scenario. Thank heavens he’s got Beskar armor or he’d be toast.

Is it a solid story? Yes. It’s textbook hero’s journey for those following along. There are trials and failures and successes and cute baby yoda. All the elements are there and done well. But … it didn’t touch me. I couldn’t relate to Mando or the conflict he was working to solve. It might have had something to do with the helmet. Seeing a face is really important to be able to connect.

Recommendations

Star Wars fans – yes, you – if you generally like most of the Star Wars movies, then you will probably like this one. The acting is good, the dialogue isn’t cringey, and the story is solid. There’s more than plenty of action and fighting for those who like that, and enough human connection and emotional content for those looking for something more than just an action flick. Is it better than the prequel movies, absolutely. I’d place it as equal to The Last Jedi, with more hand-to-hand fighty shooty bits.

If you struggled with any of the latest generation of Star Wars movies, then you might struggle with this one. There are none of the characters that you’ve grown to love to anchor the story. For the characters in the Mandalorian, the viewer never is given the clues to how and where they connect to the rest of the universe. If you were looking for something super emotionally fulfilling, you might find this falling short.

I give The Mandalorian 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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The Dragon Prince, Season 3

I solemnly swear to not post spoilers, which makes writing about a third season of any show complicated. I hope you appreciate the verbal gymnastics required to do this dear reader, because when I woke up this morning, I swear my head wasn’t screwed on correctly. I’ve had perma-fog of the brain all morning.

Being super heroic is just the beginning

The story so far…

As we left season two, Ezran, upon learning of his father’s death, makes the difficult decision to return to Katolis and assume the duties as king. Callum and Rayla continue in their quest to take adorable baby dragon Zym back to his mother in the magical land of Xadia only to encounter the ancient dragon Sol Regem blocking their path. Viren, who has been consorting with the mysterious elf Aaravos, uses his dark magic to scare the other kingdoms into forming an alliance with him to go to war against Xadia and finally rid the world of the hatred and evils he believes are found there.

Up to this point, both sides of the world feel wronged by the other. The world of the elves is furious with that of the humans because they killed the ruling dragon king and supposedly destroyed the egg that was to be his heir. The human world is furious with the elves world because they are a threat that isn’t fully understand.

Entering season three there were lots of expectations, some of which were met, and several that will be left for a future season. Perhaps the biggest question was if Zym would be reunited with his mother, and what that would change in the world.

If Zym, the dragon prince, is reunited with his mother, the queen dragon of Xadia, it should resolve in part the largest complaint that the elves have against the humans. Part of my expectation going into season three was to see some of this happen. However, this is the primary conflict on which the entire show rests, solve it and the show would have to end or risk dwindling on into irrelevance.

These two are so cute together. Best brothers ever.

Season Three thoughts

In season three, there were several good steps toward a greater understanding between elves and humans. It had to happen, as both people and elves are starting to rally to a cause greater than just basic anger and hatred. The conflict is now elevating to a greater fight between good and evil and the stakes are getting higher.

How’s that for being vague? Yeah, I promised no serious spoilers. I meant it.

There is also several new and fascinating settings introduced in season three that I thought were awesome. We get to see Rayla’s village and the magic there, a black desert, and the home of the dragon queen, all of which have their own special traits and points of interest that made the world builder in me squee a little.

As the story continues, the relationships between characters continues to change and grow. Some of this earned an eye roll from me, any problem that is solved by the power of love tends to do that. But, I can’t watch Hallmark movies either, so that’s a personal failing on my part. The rest of you might find it charming. There are several surprises here as well between characters where I never thought the dynamic would change.

Did Zym get reunited with his mom? You better go watch it.

All in all, season three is filled with great storytelling with just enough tidbits of well-timed backstory to make the new conflicts not only hugely entertaining, but powerful as well.

Really Claudia? Put the adoraburr down!

Recommendations

For those of you who love a story with a deep history, complex characters, and beautiful art, Dragon Prince is a perfect choice. It continues to amaze and delight my whole family. I’m personally impressed at the effort taken to ensure that every detail of the story is well thought out and calculated for maximum emotional payout. It’s totally my kind of story.

I would warn viewers that while on the outside this show just looks like any other cartoon, it’s actually pretty complicated. Some people might be turned off at the learning curve required to understand what is going on and what the stakes are. The first few episodes of season one are slower because of the time spent catching the viewer up on the history of the world and its characters and why that matters.

After Rayla, General Amaya is the coolest character ever.

A request

If you have a show or movie that you’d think I’d love to watch and review, let me know in the comments! I love finding new wonderful universes to explore.

Are you watching Dragon Prince? What are your thoughts so far?


Psst, Jodi here – Big news!

The re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal is well under way and scheduled for the first week in January, with the exciting sequel set to release in March. Stay tuned for a fresh new cover reveal and more!


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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Growing up a nerd in the 80s was a unique experience. Of everything weird and wonderful, there were two movies that stood out and still tickle my imagination every time I see any related artwork. Those two movies were Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

I’m sure you’re all suitably shocked.

When they announced they were taking the rest of the Dark Crystal story and making a Netflix series, I was both excited and concerned. The art of the original movie is what captured it’s fans, and not necessarily the story. In fact, while I loved the art and the mystic other-worldliness of the original film, I never paid any attention to the story until I became an author. How were they going to recapture that magic and balance it out with such a complicated story?

The verdict – with amazing artistic talent and skill. The Age of Resistance is exactly what it needs to be for those who loved the art of the original movie. The producers resisted the temptation to use CGI and opted for traditional puppeting, a decision that was both more costly and challenging, and it resulted in a series that looked and felt as if it stepped out of the original movie.

My other concern was how were they going to stretch the source material into ten hours of film? This is where many new comers to the franchise might start losing interest. Because the world of the Dark Crystal, Thra, is complicated with lots of different cultures and influences, both from within the seven distinct populations of gelflings, and also from the alien Skeksis who have taken up the responsibility of ruling the world, there are parts of the series that have to slow down and explain all of this.

No amount of amazing sets and beautiful creatures can make up for the material being slow and boring at times. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy deep worldbuilding and love examining examples of when it’s been done well. For everyone else, the pace of several episodes is slower than what a standard viewer is used to.

I finished watching the series earlier this week and was very impressed at how good it all turned out to be. For me, it’s a lovely reminder of that magical world that captured my imagination as a child.

Also, the music is incredible. I pulled up the soundtrack to listen to as I worked the other day and was swept away. Managed to write 20% faster than usual to boot!

Recommendations:

I recommend The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to anyone who liked the original Dark Crystal, or who has a love for epic fantasy story telling styles. This will both amaze and delight you. Also, if you love fantasy art and puppetry, this will rock your world.

I don’t recommend this for those who really haven’t gotten into fantasy as it requires the viewer to take a rather large leap of faith on a premise they might not understand. It’s a bit slow and the payout of the story is long in coming. That said, it is beautifully made.


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