As The Mandalorian continues, the eponymous gunslinger has at last tracked down Ahsoka Tano – and lost Baby Grogu. But, as intriguing as a Jedi returning to train the Child is, and as incredible as the action-packed set pieces are, the real genius of The Mandalorian is in its quiet moments. Though these scenes and episodes are often called “filler,” meaning they have little to do with the story, they’re very important to deepening characterisation and expanding on world building.
This is shown especially in The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1, which does very little to advance the overall plot. Back on Tatooine, we meet Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth, and learn plenty about the native Tusken Raiders. Nothing more than shadowy brutes in the Star Wars movies, The Mandalorian shows them to have their own language, their own society, and a willingness to work with their enemies for the greater good. Then there’s the Krayt dragon – a background pile of bones in Star Wars: A New Hope, but Chapter 9 brings it to the foreground. All of these details could be considered unnecessary, but they go a huge way to filling out a believable world.
Similarly, episodes in The Mandalorian season 1 that don’t particularly move the plot forwards accomplish so much more than just plugging the gap between premiere and finale. The prison break episode, Chapter 6, introduces us to a range of colourful characters – and succinctly shades in some of our main character’s mysterious past at the same time. Then there’s Chapter 5, which brings in Fennec Shand for 30 minutes and arguably does little else. However, in truth, the episode deepens our understanding of the Guild and reminds us why Mando is not to be messed with. As for the episode set on the quiet planet of Sorgan, Chapter 4, which sees Mando work with Cara Dune for the first time, this isn’t so much a break from the storyline as an insight into why the gunslinger can’t allow himself to live a quiet life: the moment he considers it, another bounty hunter almost takes out Baby Yoda. Likewise, Chapter 10, in which Mando couriers a Frog Lady, does so much more than merely reveal Grogu’s fondness for eggs – the entire runtime is dedicated to revealing how excellent of an adoptive parent Mando is becoming.
Then there are those quiet moments scattered throughout the more hectic episodes – moments that often turn out to be our favourite scenes. In Chapter 12, Mando and Baby Yoda drink their soup in sync before helping Cara and Greef attack an Imperial base. It’s another reminder of how attached the central pair are becoming – as is the gunslinger’s breathless relief when Bo-Katan and the gang rescue Grogu in Chapter 11. We also get a glimpse into how Nevarro is thriving in Chapter 12 after the Empire’s presence was removed, and in Chapter 10 we meet Dr. Mandible – a giant ant-like character who adds nothing at all to the plot, but is a great bit of funny world building nonetheless. These moments don’t take Mando any closer to reuniting Grogu with the Jedi, nor are they pure comic relief like Baby Yoda stealing the macaroons – but they do develop the characters we’re going on this journey with, and the world we’re travelling through. Would anyone really want to watch an action-packed series, but with flat characters we don’t care about travelling across a barely explored galaxy?
Tracking down the Jedi and the mystery of how the Darksaber came to be in Moff Gideon’s possession are both fascinating storylines in the overarching Star Wars mythology, but what makes The Mandalorian so special is that it’s never afraid to take a breather and slow down for a moment or an episode. This is far from filler: in fact it’s essential to creating a rounded show filled with characters we’re happy to spend time with each and every week. To make sure you don’t miss the next instalment, check out our The Mandalorian season 2 release schedule.