Disney finally gave us the Star Wars side story that we secretly always wanted and I’m pretty happy about it.
SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free if you have the internet)
It’s 5 years after Return of the Jedi and most of the Galaxy’s collective sh*t is pretty broken. A lot of soldiers are now working as private armies, a lot of formerly powerful Imperials are trying to resist the new Republic, and bounty hunting is a viable business model.
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a bounty hunter who operates alone and tends to be fairly brutal in combat. His bounty hunting guild leader Greef Karga (Carl “Apollo” Weathers) informs him that there is a client (Werner “Holy sh*t, Werner Herzog” Herzog) with a special bounty request. When the bounty price is revealed to be a cache of Beskar steel, sacred to Mandalorians, the Mandalorian agrees. After gaining the assistance of a vapor farmer named Kuill (Nick Nolte) and a robot bounty hunter IG-11 (Taika “What Waititi Do in the Shadows” Waititi), he succeeds in finding the target, but discovers that it is a child from the same species as Yoda. Having a change of heart, the Mandalorian goes on the run with The Child, earning enemies everywhere.
Let’s get it out of the way: Baby Yoda is about the cutest damned thing out there. It’s what happens when someone looks at baby Groot and goes “I’ll top this.” Is it bad writing to have a character whose main trait is just that he’s adorable? Maybe, but also HE’S SO ADORABLE YOU GUYS. Also, I think they’re going to name the child Yoda just so that, in retrospect, everyone isn’t wrong about what they call him.
Star Wars has had a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap over the years, but mostly it’s created an amazing world that manages to combine the possibilities of almost every frontier. Any scene can take place, justifiably, in almost any environment. You can have a representation of a futuristic armada intercut with a sequence of desert survival and nothing about that is inconsistent with the Star Wars universe. That means that, in Star Wars, you can imagine almost any background for a character or culture and it will still fit. Star Wars doesn’t stifle the imagination, it feeds it. That’s why it’s so great to get a show like this, where we just see a completely different story playing out parallel to the rest of the series.
While Star Wars was based on the old Buck Rogers serials and their sci-fi action/adventure roots mixed with Japanese jidaigeki films (mostly The Hidden Fortress), The Mandalorian is its own melting pot of genres. The main character is based on the Man with No Name figure typically associated with Clint Eastwood, a taciturn gunslinger who travels alone and has his own code of ethics. However, once he becomes attached to The Child, the series shifts slightly to be more like Lone Wolf and Cub, the famous Samurai manga and film series about a father doing horrible killings to protect his son. By blending the Western and Eastern influences with the sci-fi and fantasy setting, the show can justify making episode-specific genre shifts. This means that rather than having to focus on maintaining a consistent tone, the series allowed the writers and directors to explore more when they had control while still being true to the characters. For example, we have a heist episode that ends up also playing out a number of horror tropes and it still works.
The action sequences in the show are among the best in the Star Wars universe, partially because there are more people with guns and fewer space wizards. Not that I don’t love a good lightsaber battle as much as the next guy, but that’s been the majority of sustained action sequences in the franchise. Instead, we get to watch a bounty hunter use a combination of fantastic weaponry, tactical planning, and training to take out small armies of enemies. Hell, we get to see a single person fight a TIE fighter and, well, it’s everything that Star Wars videogames told me it would be.
Overall, this is just a great show. Does it have a huge character arc for the main character? Not really. Does it have a ton of lines that are profoundly quotable and meaningful? Nope. Does it teach me things about myself that I would never have found otherwise? Not at all. BUT IT’S JUST SO FUN. It’s got a space cowboy kicking ass to protect the cutest creature in TV history, a phrase that also describes Firefly, and that’s all I wanted out of it.
Rick tracks down a crappy thief, Jerry develops an app, Morty tries to save the Earth from Jerry, Summer tries to find love, and Beth tries to parent Summer.
Rick (Justin Roiland) has a new intern named Glootie (Taika “What We Do In Ragnarok” Waititi) who is obsessed with developing an app. To keep people from agreeing to help him, Rick has actually tattooed “do not develop my app” on his face. Despite this, when Rick goes to use his private toilet, Jerry (Chris Parnell) agrees to help Glootie. The rest is split by plotline.
Rick arrives on his private planet dedicated to his private toilet, only to find out that someone else broke in and pooped on it. Rick goes to elaborate lengths, including single-handedly winning a war, to find the culprit, a man named Tony (Jeffrey Wright). Rick threatens to kill Tony, but ultimately chooses to just shove a portable farting, pooping butt in his office. Tony then comes back to poop again, so Rick puts him in a Matrix-like simulation of paradise which he ends up rejecting. Rick declines again to kill him, which Tony takes as a sign of friendship, though Rick denies this. Finally, Rick comes to give Tony permission to use his toilet, only to find out that Tony died from trying to live life to the fullest, having been empowered by using Rick’s crapper. Rick, seemingly sad about this, still denies being Tony’s friend, then goes and sits on his toilet, revealing that he’d booby-trapped it to mock Tony mercilessly. Rick sits in the rain being mocked by his own voice about how pathetic and lonely he is.
Jerry develops his app with Glootie, revealed to be a dating app which Jerry names Lovefinderrz. Morty (Roiland), upon finding out about it, realizes that the app has to be dangerous because of Rick’s precautions. He orders Glootie to take it down, but Glootie says he can’t, because the server’s on the mothership. Morty and Jerry then threaten their way onto the mothership and meet Glootie’s leader (Sam Neill) and his wife (Kathleen Turner). It turns out that Glootie’s people have used up all their water and are using the app to drive everyone into a frenzy to help lower Earth’s defenses. Presumably everyone will either be too distracted to notice the water theft, or will be too exhausted from loving to stop it. Rick and Jerry escape and try to destroy the server, but are recaptured due to Jerry’s idiocy. When Glootie is sent to kill them, Jerry points out that, despite his species’ claim to have perfected relationships, Glootie is alone. The app has failed him. Glootie frees them and destroys the app by adding a paywall.
Summer (Spencer Grammer) downloads the app and starts a sequence of intense flings. Beth (Sarah Chalke) keeps tracking her down, trying to stop her. Eventually, with Summer on her fourth “soul mate,” Beth manages to confront her, telling her that she’s going to parent her no matter what. Summer fights back, but Beth is winning the fight until the app goes down, and everything goes back to normal.
Okay, cards on the table, I didn’t think this was a spectacular episode of Rick and Morty. Not that it was bad, but I honestly think they pitched this as “I bet we can make an entire episode of poop jokes lead to a poignant moment of revelation.” The problem is that most of the jokes in the Rick plotline just didn’t land for me. I mean, there are some that are funny, but they’re not as funny as I would usually expect from the show. Maybe it’s just a personal preference thing. I will say that a lot of the other jokes in the other plotlines worked for me, even the ones that were kind of repeats or predictable. For example, when Morty tells Jerry “I started today disgusted and embarrassed to be your son. Then, later, I thought we were gonna die because you’re a loser,” the obvious joke there is that Morty doesn’t follow it up with a “but.” However, Jerry, now somewhat genre-savvier, predicts it, leading Morty to just say “quit f*cking up.” It’s pretty great that this is like a 3rd-level subversion of a tired joke. Eventually, the humorous thing may be to play it straight again. Then there’s the Fly mob boss who just lampshades the fact that Rick is asking about a sandwich, something that does nothing to explore the boss’s potential backstory. That’s such an unexpected and hilarious joke, because it basically tells the audience that they came up with this character completely for a throw-away gag. So, there were decent jokes, but there weren’t as many bust-a-gut moments as I’m used to.
As usual, the team behind the show remind us that they are masters at structuring the episode around A, B, and even C plots. The events of this episode take place over the course of roughly a week, which makes sense, but by cutting between them, it feels like a much tighter story. The storylines in this episode all seem to be based around demonstrating how the characters have changed since the first season. The Rick story is about Rick demonstrating how much he wants to isolate himself from others, to the point of pooping on his own planet, before realizing that he is just avoiding being close to others. He also realizes that one of the only people who tried to understand him on a deeper level is now dead, meaning Rick is even more alone than before. In the B-Plot, Morty is starting to be more assertive and honest with Jerry, while Jerry actually goes along with Morty on an adventure without being a coward. In the C-Plot, Beth actually tries to be a functioning parent to Summer, while Summer… well, Summer hasn’t changed that much, except that she’s moved from crushes to active sexual relationships, I guess. I just think it’s interesting that there’s an episode that basically shows off the character growth.
This episode also seems to suggest that there are two competing themes for this season. The first, which the last episode pointed out directly, is that this season is about balance and compromise in the storytelling. Sometimes they’ll be experimental, like the way the shots accompany Rick pooping are vast and beautiful landscapes, and sometimes they’ll be more traditional, like having a story-arc based around Jerry screwing up and Morty having to bail him out. However, the second theme appears to be that of human connection. In the first episode, the only thing that saves Rick and Morty is Wasp Rick having empathy towards Rick’s situation, something that’s abnormal for Ricks. Morty’s obsession with Jessica, similarly, causes him to distance himself from others, including a skinny-dipping Jessica. In this episode, we see Rick constantly reject connection only for him to realize at the end that it’s the reason he’s so alone and sad. We see Jerry and Morty only being saved by Jerry making an emotional connection with Glootie. We see Summer only being kept repeatedly from making a terrible mistake because Beth cares enough for her to keep trying to stop her. We also see that the form of connection that Glootie’s people seem to think is “optimized” is in fact completely false, as even their leaders end up getting divorced at the end of the episode. The thing is that Glootie’s people seem to value shallow notions like “soul mates” or empty platitudes more than actual work on relationships or empathy towards each other. I know two episodes don’t show a pattern, but I’m interested to see how this plays out.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
So, I didn’t have a big theory, so here are three mini-theories.
First, why does Rick have Glootie? I think originally Rick got it him because he knew that Jerry would agree to help him create a dating app which would likely lead Beth to find someone better. However, after the last season finale, Rick appears to have realized that he can’t get rid of Jerry, and therefore went ahead and tattooed a warning for Jerry on Glootie’s forehead. Sure, it’s not the biggest precaution, but Rick wanted the free labor and he still doesn’t care for Jerry THAT much.
Second, how does the dating app work? Well, it’s pretty straightforward: The minute you’re no longer interested in the person you have, it finds you a new one. It’s based entirely around infatuation, but once you have anything about your partner that you don’t want or someone better is nearby, then it just supplies you a new infatuation, apparently making you unnaturally attracted to someone else. This doesn’t really optimize relationships, only hookups and flings.
Third, at the end of the episode we see Jerry drink the Globaflyn and hallucinate a dream of being a water delivery man that makes him so happy he tries to lick up the rest of the substance. Why is that what Jerry fantasizes about? Well, earlier Rick says that Globaflyn connects the what-you-have part of your brain with the what-you-want part of your brain. It’s why we see Tony fantasize about an eternity with his wife (what he wants) based around sitting on a toilet (what he has when Rick knocks him out). Jerry has just dealt with a conflict over water, meaning he knows that he has it. What Jerry wants is to be important and loved. Therefore, he is shown using water, what he has, to get respect and admiration, what he wants.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Still a pretty good episode of television, even if it’s not top-tier Rick and Morty.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
The amazing film by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement has been adapted into a TV series, but the question remains: Can it hold up against its predecessor?
Shot in the same Mockumentary format of the film, this show is about three vampires who live together in Staten Island: Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Nastasia Demetriou), and her boyfriend Laszlo (Matt Berry), along with Nandor’s familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Prosch). While the group maintains a relatively low profile, after a higher-ranking vampire Baron named Afanas (Doug Jones) comes to America to see them, they are told to work on expanding the power of the American vampires so that they can rule the world. If they don’t conquer America before he wakes up again, he’s going to kill them.
Alright, it might not be entirely fair to gauge the series by its pilot, since pilots often are subject to a lot of changes before the show gets picked up, but this show needs to avoid that. This pilot was excellent. It basically sets the tone for the series, and that tone is hilarious. Since it was made by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, it has almost all of the feel of the film, but at the same time expands upon the vampire lore and the world that the film created.
One of the things that made the film What We Do in the Shadows work was that all of the characters were so quirky and interesting, reflecting the fact that they are humans who have far outlived the worlds they were born in. This show picks that up directly, such as giving Nandor a backstory built around being an Ottoman Turk named Nandor the Relentless (a little derivative of Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), but not much). However, they also expand on it a bit by adding in the dynamics of having two of the characters in a relationship and having Colin, who no one likes, living in the house. Additionally, while Jackie (Jackie van Beek) played a relatively small role in the film as a familiar, Guillermo gets as much focus as the other characters, giving us a human to vicariously experience some of the eccentricities from an outsider perspective.
The writing in the pilot is extremely funny, particularly some of the interviews when they’re contrasted to the normal filming. The actors, particularly Matt Berry, are all excellent at comic delivery. I think one of my favorite moments is that, before turning into a bat, Laszlo just loudly shouts “BAT!” It’s so perfectly absurd that I just laughed out loud.
Overall, this show has a lot of promise. I think they’ve set up a lot of great plotlines that could be very funny and the idea of these incompetent vampires trying to take over the world is just inherently hilarious.