March 24, 2023

The aerial dogfight with Din’s Naboo Starfighter and Bo-Katan’s Gauntlet taking on the squadron of TIE Interceptors was chef’s-kiss phenomenal. As an aerial fight scene it’s got everything you’d want: a crackling sense of speed, thrilling mid-air maneuvers, huge explosions. And what makes Star Wars so great in this particular arena is that each spacecraft has its own personality to it. From the way the Gauntlet flips its wings to drift and get the drop on the Interceptors, to the modded N-1’s nimbleness and breakneck speed, to the iconic, almost animalistic screech of the TIEs, this scene was nerdy as hell, and gloriously so.

But there’s even more to it than that. As The Mandalorian does so well, the aerial display isn’t just in there for show, as it ended with TIE Bombers laying waste to Bo-Katan’s home. There’s a pull in the episode’s final act for her to return to the religion she was baptized into as a child, and again, however inadvertently, as an adult. She and Din are accepted back into the Tribe, but she’s keeping the Mythosaur-sized secret close to her chest for now. It leaves a lingering question for us to discuss in the coming weeks: will Bo-Katan use the Tribe’s invitation to further her own plans to rule Mandalore, or is she starting to actually believe in The Way after her encounter with the Mythosaur? She doesn’t take off her helmet after witnessing the Mythosaur, after all. This aspect of the narrative is developing nicely and propels the story forward in a way that’s more character-driven and personal, which counter-balances all of the action and world-building perfectly.

And speaking of world-building, the touristic element of the show is as impressive now as it’s ever been. Spending time on Coruscant with Dr. Penn Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) is interesting on several levels, but one nuanced benefit of this side story is that visually, the mostly nocturnal Coruscant serves as an appealing contrast to the diurnal dogfight we just watched on Kalevala. But truthfully, it’s just freakin’ great to explore the streets of Coruscant from the ground level and spend time in one of the most beloved locales in the entire Star Wars universe. 

Following Dr. Pershing as he navigates the New Republic’s Amnesty Program and gets close to Elia Kane is compelling at times, although a few of the dialogue driven scenes sort of fall flat due to some uninspired writing and uneven performances. The ideas in play here are worthwhile, though. Elia and Pershing (or G68 and L52, respectively) connecting over their refusal to just be cogs in whatever oppressive, proverbial machine they’re ensnared by gives their stories a bit of thematic heft, and Elia’s deception at the end is a nice twist that points to some dark days ahead for Pershing and perhaps the reintroduction of Moff Gideon, who is clearly pulling the strings, especially after it’s hinted he’s already escaped captivity.

One of the best things about Pershing and Elia’s mission to get equipment from the junked Star Destroyer is the train scene, which has, of course, been done countless times before, but is welcome here in that it adds a bit of tension and danger to what had been a bit of a drag to that point. Abtahi is a great performer, but the office work malaise scenes and the interactions with Elia and the other New Republic converts mostly come off as stilted and forgettable, so the train and creaky Imperial Cruiser scenes are like breaths of fresh air. Also, the physical sets of the Star Destroyer interiors are just sublime. In a time when seemingly every scene in every Disney production is shot on some kind of sound stage wrapped in digitally-implemented scenery, tactile sets like these make all the difference. Overall, it feels like The Mandalorian took a page from Andor for this Coruscant section — in a good way.

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