The Mandalorian continues to exceed expectations with its most recent episode, “The Heiress.” Written by series creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) and under the guidance of returning director Bryce Dallas Howard (Black Mirror, Jurassic World), the third episode of the second season is just plain outstanding. It pushes the plot forward, hints at thrilling things to come, and delivers some of the best action sequences in the series yet. Even more exciting, it seamlessly transitions a popular character from Filioni’s animated Star Wars series fully into the live-action medium with impressive results. Let’s just be honest; some fans are going to be coming out of the other side of this episode with a new favorite Star Wars character.
After last week’s season premiere of The Mandalorian exceeded most viewers' incredibly high expectations, the second episode of season two certainly had an uphill battle ahead of it. While it’s near certain that some fans will be chomping at the bit to get to that next glance at a certain someone, this second episode sees Payton Reed (Ant-Man and The Wasp, Bring It On) in the director’s seat. It might not feature the infamous bounty hunter some are looking for, we do get a visually beautiful chapter that further explores the clash between the untamed Outer Rim and the encroaching establishment of the still youthful New Republic.
Expectations are high for the second season of The Mandalorian, especially in a year that's seen almost every notable feature film release delayed indefinitely. The Disney+ series was fortunate enough to complete the filming of its sophomore season before the global pandemic shut down production across the board in Hollywood, and now it seems it may be 2020's most anticipated release that actually, well, released. Series creator Jon Favreau takes on double duties in this premiere, both writing and directing the first chapter of Season 2, and if the rest of the season is anything like this first episode, it seems like we're all in for an even bigger and badder Outer Rim adventure than our last time out in the Razor Crest.
Growing up in the 1980s, I was raised with strong, female role models. Girls had their pick of strong women in movies, TV, music, and books. It was a time that we were proud to be young women, and we couldn’t wait to grow up. As a tomboy, I still looked to some incredible women to find strength in my own life, and front and center of those heroes was Wonder Women.
End of the road. Last episode of the season. Yes, there will be a season four, but it is as likely to be radically different from season three as season three was from season two, not the least of which because Dolores is now gone. Sorry – should have started by telling you, “Spoiler alert.” But if you’re here reading this, I have to believe you have seen the episode.
Well, that escalated quickly. Even after the excitement of Alien Day, (and if’d ya didn’t read those pieces, go check them out – especially Bryant’s piece on corporate dystopia in the Alien films, cuz let’s be honest, Delos and Incite are taking pages straight out of the Weyland-Yutani group of companies. In the future, all corporations will have secret androids out to end humanity!), “Passed Pawn” is a big, ol’ slugfest that reveals as much as it conceals for the finale (and we finally got to see Dolores and Maeve go at it! Yay!).
Westworld just has the most evocative, meaningful titles. I fancy myself an educated, erudite fanboy/total geek. But when I googled the title of this week’s episode to ensure I knew what I was talking about, I went down a ninety-five minute rabbit hole because all the connections became so interesting. It’s not the first time that’s happened. (Mind you, it happens a lot anyway with us writer types – I go to look up if a certain kind of wagon was made in the 1880s and two hours later, I’m pouring over early twentieth century Italian crop yields, because research, right?)
Okay, so I go to watch this episode on TiVo again on Monday in order to write this review. The description of the episode: “Just say no.” That. Is. Brilliant. See, the title “genre” carries with it two meanings. “Genre” is a category of artistic composition, be it music, film, literature, drama, etc. The definition of individual genres tend to be circular and self-defining: All movies with superheroes are superhero movies, and superhero movies are the ones with superheroes in them. Horror is the genre that consists of scary movies, so if a movie is scary, it’s horror. Yet in this episode, “genre” also refers to a new kind of drug that allows you to experience life within a genre of film and/or music.
The Statue of Liberty. That is the reference in this week’s title. Well, it is in a roundabout way with more than one meaning, of course. Everyone remembers the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, even if they do not know the title of the poem (“The New Colossus”) or the poet (Emma Lazarus). But this week’s Westworld episode title also comes from that same poem: “her name / Mother of Exiles…” (Not true, her actual name is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” which we call “The Statue of Liberty,” just like we call Lesane Crooks “Tupac Shakur” or we call Marion Morrison “The Duke” or “John Wayne” – nothing in America is called by its actual name.) So, the Mother of Exiles is the Statue of Liberty, the celebration of liberty and immigration.
Like much of quarantined America, I have binge watched and obsessed over Tiger King. While the craziness and over-the-top characters are fun (and sad), I admire the well-crafted narrative. The people are allowed to slowly reveal things about themselves. Sometimes, they reveal things about themselves that they themselves are not aware of. The story seems to unfold effortlessly. Where the remarkable craftsmanship is, however, is in a narrative structure that, untelegraphed and without fanfare, suddenly upends everything you think you knew about this story so far. (Tiger King spoilers ahead.)