Category Archives: Television Reviews

IR TV Review: THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 8 ("Redemption") [Disney+]

The building of “The Mandalorian,” taking into effect expectation but also traversing the character beats, is an interesting quandary. The continuation of what Jon Favreau and crew are trying to create takes into account each director and certain writers capabilities within each episode. In having Taika Waititi direct the final episode of the season, there is a different balance in comparison to earlier episodes. Episode 8 is meant to resolve a lot of the questions of the season. And while it does and gives firmer focus, it does open up the door to more ideas but it gives the coming season a very specific trajectory. What works in this specific episode is the fact that it has more stakes than perhaps was there before.

Without giving too much away, it strives for a sense of meaning within what the characters want and what drives them. Giancarlo Esposito’s character in particular does this well while speaking to a connection to Mandalore lore with the use of a single item. Strategy also plays a significant part. Whether this is in the visual texture of Waititi or just the general bent of the narrative, it closes the loop with much greater agility. The audience gets to see briefly into The Mandalorian’s psyche and a bit of where he comes from. Another interesting dichotomy is that the show continues to show the connection between the film world and the impact of the animated series (specifically “Rebels”) which is directly referenced here. There are many iconic images and perhaps some humor that was a bit too dry earlier in the season that has found its groove here, helped in part by Waititi’s sensibilities. All in all, a very fitting end to the season while both managing expectations but also not overextending its possibilities or production expenditure.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 7 ("The Reckoning") [Disney+]

The path of redemption always comes with a price. There cannot be victory without sacrifice. The question becomes what is being fought for. In “The Reckoning,” Episode 7 of “The Mandalorian”, the series has built its house of cards and, at least, for this progression of the narrative, it needs to be reconciled. Mando can only be on the run for so long. What is interesting in this episode, is not so much about sides taken but in the draw of what discerns good and evil and the gray in between. Carl Weathers as Greef, Mando’s would be employer has his own skin to think about. That is why the instinct of The Child is interestingly polarized. His actions bely a darker progression, like all those with the Force. A healing trajectory shows a different possibility.

As a form of the Imperial Guard seems to close in, a greater pressure seems to be building up. Because of actions taken by those who set these events in motion, a larger pressure seems to be building, as if The Child is a certain catalyst either for genetic manipulation or action to be taken. Mando, never one to trust, begins to take a chance on people, whether or not that might place his allies in danger. But no journey is without risks. The question with the series has been the detailing out of information but the key here is establishing a world which sometimes takes standing still. Character, unlike plot, cannot move at the speed of light but there needs to be enough crumbs to make the journey memorable. “The Mandalorian” still, at its heart, is a Western where the gunfight always builds to a pinnacle and the victor lives to fight another day.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR TREK – SHORT TREKS ("The Girl Who Made The Stars" & "Ephraim & Dot") [CBS All Access]

The aspect of animation has started to become an interesting progression in terms of mythology creation. While a certain other space franchise has been expanding its structure for years in this regard, “Star Trek” has not ventured into that realm since 1973 in the still infinitely watchable and relatable “Original Animated Series”. While a new fully animated series “Below Decks” is happening, there is the texture of where balance in tone will be. “Star Trek” has always been about relating life lessons. The two upcoming animated shorts “The Girl Who Made The Stars” & “Ephraim & Dot” couldn’t be more different.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is a metaphorical story that follows Michael Burnham before she came to be with her Vulcan family. She is still full of emotion and on the edge of star, afraid of the dark. Her father offers her calm while relaying what is more of a parable that is a mix say of “The Lion King” and “First Contact” where a young curious girl in Africa doesn’t take superstitions at face value but still wants to understand the world. She is pursued by a large snake which is more a perspective of fear in her mind than reality. When an alien craft crash lands on the planet (which might or might not be Earth), it changes her fear to strength. The animation gives a good corrolation to the scenario but we don’t sense the darkness of space versus the light that family brings. While it has a good core, it doesn’t bring the intensity or heart it could have.

“Ephraim & Dot” is a slightly different animal, specifically a tardigrade. This short has the frenetic energy of a Road Runner cartoon but using different gifts. It takes place over the life span of the first Enterprise 1701. Using only audio from the original series and a robot that never existed, it finds the said “heart” but in a blur of mania. While extremely musical in context which seems apt
since the short was directed by composer extraordinaire Michael Giacchino, the sense of it even with the tradigrade moving through the micro network that fuels the original spore drive is weak at best. That doesn’t really abate any of the great nostagic elements including a different perspective from original series episodes “Space Seed,” Naked Time,”  and “Doomsday Machine” as well as “Star Trek II & III”. Granted it doesn’t get into real detail, but just enough to give a sense, and the fluidity of the progression is never in doubt. Ultimately though, there is a sense of “Wall E” in that the universe rights itself just enough to show that everything is fine.

Stars: C

Ephraim: B+

By Tim Wassberg

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