Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian

The thing about becoming a pop culture blogger, and excited fandom tracker and frequent Comic Con goer (I’m really missing cons this year. So much) is that you just accumilate junk knowledge, but it also can suck the magic out of stuff, because a part of this kind of work, which I love doing, is figuring out how to see the strings.

So I decided to let the magic of The Mandalorian linger for a bit and not watch the behind the scenes Disney Gallery specials about the show. But as I realized that I’d maybe watched The Imagineering Story too many times, I decided to check it out.

First of all, I loved the format of the show, which reminded me of Jon Favreau’s delightful Dinner For Five. (I’ve heard The Chef Show does something similar, I might watch that too) Favreau used to host a show where he held a dinner party for five people and rolled cameras. It’s an intensely fun way to have a talk show. On Disney Gallery he takes a similar approach, doing roundtable interviews with different people involved in The Mandalorian, talking about their experience with Star Wars in general, this show in particular, and laughing a lot.

Some really cool stories come out, and there’s interesting behind the scenes talk about the technical and writing processes, tons of info dumping from Dave Filoni, and Bryce Dallas Howard telling an incredible story about a childhood trip to Japan. (This is in the “how did you find Star Wars” section. She starts with, “so when I was six, my dad,” and everyone just groans. She laughs, “I know, OK! But I promise this is cool!”)

The stuff about Baby Yoda is cool, but I was really fascinated with the way Favreau talked through building new tech as he moved from Iron Man to Jungle Book to The Lion King and now in The Mandalorian. And not for nothing, it’s always a joy to watch someone talk about something passionately, and if there is anything I know from following his career for most of my life, Jon Favreau loves movies and loves artists and loves film history, so talking about how special effects have grown to be able to create something as special as The Mandalorian is a real treat.

I’m also completely in love with Gina Carrano. My God, that woman is beautiful and funny and charismatic as hell.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars Comics: Darth Vader By Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca & Edgar Delgado

Darth Vader is cool.

Like, he’s a very cool villain. There’s no getting around it. Dude’s awesome.

Darth Vader the comics series from 2015-2016 takes huge advantage of the fact that Darth Vader is really cool. Also, magically, Kieron Gillen manages to make this Vader, purely Vader at this point, the series takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, feel of a piece with the Anakin Skywalker we’ve come to know from the prequels and The Clone Wars, without betraying how cool and scary Darth Vader is.

Gillen’s Vader is impulsive, single minded (he wants Luke Skywalker. That’s it.), cruel and charismatic. He’s also, oddly compassionate, in his totally and completely evil way. Like, I don’t know how to quite describe it, this is just a wonderfully written series and I was glad to have read it. (Even if I got it my mistake thinking it was Darth Vader: Lord Of The Sith, which we’ll do soon.) There are fun new characters too. The mercenary Doctor Aphra, a sassy rogue archeologist (There’s a particularly fun moment where she fights Han and they are foiled by some snakes…), two evil murderbots, 000 and B2, and a host of cyborgs who have been trained in the Jedi Arts, including two twins who make Vader want to Force Choke things even more (The Force is mysterious that way.)

I was genuinely overwhelmed with glee reading this series. Seriously, it’s a must do for a Star Wars fan digging deeper, if only because it balances fun and adventure in a way that the series does not always do well, and is always a joy to see.

Next time we’re going to take on Resistance Season 2, and I MEAN IT THIS TIME.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Bloodlines by Claudia Gray

Princess Leia Organa doesn’t know what her legacy to the Galaxy will be and that’s so very complicated for her and also it turns out the New Republic is a big wet fart (which she suspected allllll the way back after The Battle Of Jakku) so that’s not helping things, also it turns out there’s a bunch of young people who don’t remember the Empire and think it was super rad like AESTHETICALLY MAN and she’s tearing her hair out trying to explain that NO THE EMPIRE WAS BAD ACTUALLY, and she misses Han and hasn’t talked to Luke and Ben in a while, and she’s having kind of a rough time.

This is largely the emotional tenor of Bloodlines which I liked quite a bit. As I said after Aftermath, I’m so alienated by the “Third Person Present Tense” convention of these books that I don’t know that I’ll ever love any of them, I really really dislike it. That’s neither Claudia Gray nor Chuck Wendig’s fault though and I manage to enjoy some of the writing despite my real serious dislike of this stylistic mandate. (I’m less annoyed by First Person Present Tense, though I still don’t love it.)

Anyway, Leia’s at the end of her political career here, sure she’s just too burnt out and cynical to make a difference anymore, and due to some rising First Order shenanigans, her decision to retire is expedited when her lineage as the Daughter of Darth Vader is revealed.

Like I said, Leia is having a bit of a time in this book. She’s got a fun crew of younger pilots, mercenaries and interns on her side, and also, Ransolm Casterfo, a young senator who is one of said Empire Obsessives. He hates Vader and Palpatine though…just likes order? I don’t know, he and Leia eventually become friends but he was very, “I just like Lynyrd Skynyrd MAAAAANNNNN,” on the will wear a Confederate Flag shirt scale, but he still kind of sucks. Also, he dies, so who gives a shit. Anyway, they solve a mystery that reveals bits about the way the First Order rose, where their money and power came from.

I very much enjoyed the book, which among other things gives us some real warm feels Han/Leia content, they are adorable in this book, and very on point, you can hear Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher’s inflections in their dialog. I also appreciated a bit of insight into the rise of The First Order from those Imperial Remnants of Aftermath, the two factions of the New Republic and Leia running around being a badass. It’s a fun book.

Obviously, on Tuesday we continue with Clone Wars and our next book is Resistance Rising which I’m very excited about because Jess tells me it’s got Stormpilot GALORE. (You know, no smooching because everyone are a bunch of COWARDS but otherwise.) Looking forward to that one.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 7 Episode 2 “A Distant Echo”

The forking show man.

After returning to base, with no proof of Echo’s actually being alive, Rex is more determined than ever to figure out what’s going on here. He pleads with Anakin to continue the mission, and Anakin is like, “OK bud, sure, but first, I gotta call me wife…I mean Senator Amidala, for REASONS, that have nothing to do with us being in love or married. This is definitely a secret and no one knows about it at all.”

Of course everyone knows, including Obi-Wan who is basically catches Anakin in the Holo-call act, and calls him out on it.

This strengthens my very strong belief that LITERALLY EVERYONE KNEW about Anakin and Padme it’s just with all the war and fascist regime rising and Anakin being the chosen one, decided it wasn’t worth the confrontation.

Moving on from the not a secret love of Anakin and Padme, we get to Rex and The Bad Batch hunting for Echo. They track the signal they found, beat the crap out of some droids. (I am not doing the action of these episodes justice because I am bad about writing and talking about action sequences, but they are very very good.)

Eventually, Rex does indeed find Echo, who is alive, but barely. His brain has been hacked and it’s really bad and he dies in Rex’s arms. It is rough, but Ooh, boy, it’s good stuff.

I think the Bad Batch might be the most interesting invention of these shows for a while. They’re incredibly designed a fun concept and great for complicated the Clone narrative. Remember, when we first meet them, Yoda is the one tells the clones themselves that they are individuals, not a collective, that this is a good a true thing. This takes that even further, and it rules, it’s so good.

I’m so happy this show is back.

Still no Ahsoka, but Ashley’s been instagramming some interesting shit.

I’m hoping this week.

We’ll see.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Poe Dameron (Comics) by Charles Soule, Phil Noto & Angel Unzueta

Um, I don’t know if you know this or not, readers, but I really am fond of the character Poe Dameron.

That might be an understatement…

What’s the word for a character who’s life story you’ve dived into, who you’ve written tons of secret fanfiction about, who you’ve spend hundreds of dollars to create cosplay for, and who’s actor you’ve decided you must watch his entire filmography?

OH! Is the word, obsessed? Yes, I think that’s the word.

Never forget the tagline of this blog is “Saving The World One Obsession At A Time!”

And while my obsessions wax and wane and sometimes go away entirely. (I no longer feel the need to purchase every Billy Joel album, for example! And I never even got The Nylon Curtain or Cold Spring Harbor.) But ever since that night watching The Force Awakens five years ago, Poe Dameron and by extension Oscar Isaac’s have been pretty steady.

Poe Dameron the Comic series was written by Charles Soule who is very good at writing comics. (READ SHE-HULK! He made her comic into a David E. Kelley show and it was great and perfect) He was also very nice to me once at ACBC, so you know, there’s that.

Poe Dameron covers the time before and between movies. First we get the lead up to The Force Awakens where he is trying to find Lor San Tekka (Remember how Kylo Ren killed Max Von Sydow? That guy) because Leia said so.

Seriously, one of the best things about Poe, which is preserved here is that when Leia says jump, his answer is, “How high? Also can I do a barrel roll?” Anyway, our self proclaimed best pilot in the galaxy is not alone, he’s got a great group of friends in his Black Squadron. Snap Wexley (there’s a moment where Snap’s childhood droid friend, Mr. Bones from Aftermath makes a comeback and I said, “Oooh YAY!”),  Jessika Pava, Kare Kun and Suralinda Jones. They’re a good team, and also Snap and Kare are in love and great and now I am even more sad about how Snap died. (This is not even getting into the great tragedy of him being shot down right before his step dad Wedge Antilles showed up on Exagol. My friend Jess warned me of this, but it is ROUGH y’all.) There’s also a bunch of stuff about C-3P0’s spy network, which is BADASS, and BB-8 rolling around being the best.

The art is good. There’s something a little off putting about photo realistic art of characters who’s actors I know well, but the likenesses are quite good, and once I was used to it it got easier.

But mostly it’s a lot of piloting and character building which is cool. It makes Poe’s disposition in The Rise Of Skywalker make a lot more sense. He’s given up everything for this fight, he’s lost friends and he’s kind of done.

Anyway, I’m glad to have picked up this one. Our next visit to a galaxy far far away will be the novel Bloodline. First I’m going to be hanging out where no one has gone before…because y’all Picard starts tomorrow! New Clone Wars not far behind btw. Lot going on at the moment.

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig

This is my first dive into the Star Wars extended universe. (OK, I read a few comics) and I figured this direct sequel to Return Of The Jedi which is meant to bridge that time with the new era of The Force Awakens and beyond seemed like a good enough place to begin.

Also Chuck Wendig is fun on twitter. So there’s that.

The Aftermath trilogy tells the story of Norra Wexley (mother of Greg Grunberg’s Snap! He’s in the books too!) a pilot with the Rebellion, now the New Republic and the waning months of the Galactic Civil War against the Empire. Norra finds herself in the general orbit of Princess Leia and Han Solo, as they prepare for the birth of their son. (Watch out for onion ninjas when all conversations around Ben ensue. But also RED FLAGS all over the damn place regarding the kind of parents Leia and Han turned out to be) She also puts together a rag tag crew of a bounty hunter, an ex imperial torture officer, a clone descended rebel soldier (COOL) and her kid. Her kid Temmin Wexley, who is nicknamed by the one and only Wedge Antilles (who Norra falls in love with) Snap.

On the Imperial side there are various people vying for power though we follow, mainly Grand Admira Rae Sloane. Sloane’s a pretty great villain and I like that we’ve got women as our main antagonist and protagonist.

The book took some getting used to. The use of third person present tense is a lot for someone who does as much reading as I do. I understand this is a hallmark of the EU and does create a sort of propulsive immediacy, but it’s also, a lot. First person present tense is tough enough to take, but third person…oof.

Anyway, the books were fun, from a Star Wars perspective, seeing how the hold the Rebellion had on the Galaxy was shaky from the start, as well as the political differences between Leia and Mon Mothma, really does help solidify the shaky ground that is the New Republic and Resistance schism. They work in concert, but they’re not the same. It makes some sense. Or more sense. It’s still not great.

Also, Sloane ends her journey travelling on The Emperor’s ship towards the unkown reaches. So we know what that’s all about now. Again, kind of.

Overall, I think this was a good place to start. If only for sweet little Temmin, who I continually pictured as Greg Grunberg but small. Not young. (Was Grunberg ever young? He came off middle aged even on Felicity!) Just small. Shrunk down. This was an extremely amusing visual and if you decide to read these books you are welcome to it. He also has a droid friend named Mr. Bones who is also great. Seriously, Disney Era, kicking it out of the park with the droids. from BB-8 on they’ve each been all time.

The rest of the team didn’t quite do it for me. I like Sinjin, the ex imperial, but his narrative of finding his conscience was interesting if a little slow compared to everything else. Wendig writes a damn good Han and a not as good Leia. The visions that Leia gets during her pregnancy are incredible, (including her own birth, though she doesn’t realize it’s that) as well as her connection to Ben in utero and beyond. I liked that.

Up next we’re reading Charles Soule’s Poe Dameron comics series, I mean, not right next, a few things in between, but next for this feature.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandolorian“Chapter 8: Redemption”

I’m assuming that Mando is off to find Luke Skywalker (although the ending of this episode is something else)

Let’s go back. After learning that Moff Gideon’s Storm Troopers Jason Sudekis and Adam Pally (!) are guarding Baby Yoda, Mando, Cara, Griff and IG-85 go to get the baby. Moff Gideon knows who they all are, and it’s really creepy, also, Cara notes that he was supposed to have been executed for war crimes so what’s happening there?

Anyway, they fight him and flee, Mando is wounded and IG-85 heals him which is the work around we get for him to remove his helmet. He can’t remove it in front of a living being, IG reminds him that he’s not a living being. So he gets healed, and we see Pedro Pascal’s beautiful wonderful face. HOORAY!

After looking for the Mandolorians, and learning they were slaughtered by the client, Mando has a conversation with the armorer, who tells him that Baby Yoda needs to be returned to his people. Mando is skeptical before being told that this is the way, he agrees.

I present a hypothetical scene that happened in my head:

Me: So I guess they’re going to be looking for Luke’s new Jedi academy. If we learn that Kylo Ren killed Baby Yoda I will find Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau and slap them across the face.

The Mandolorian: Reenie, you seem to have forgotten something, there are other Jedi at this point in history besides Luke and Leia.

*Moff Gideon Emerges from his ship with The Dark Saber*

Me: AHSOKA AND EZRA! FILONI YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN YOU BEAUTIFUL BASTARD.

End Scene

Look, I’m all for finding the home planet of the Yodas. I will be very into that, if that’s where we’re going. But I think, by adding such a specific detail from Mandalore, as the Dark Saber, which was so important to Clone Wars and Rebels and the stories of this culture, when you’re looking for Jedi in order to surrender the baby, perhaps it could be to a young Jedi who disappeared into the unknown regions on a Space Whale, and one Not A Jedi who has reached Force Nirvana via time travel and confronting her evil former master.

What I’m saying is, I think Mando should hand Baby Yoda over to Ahsoka and Ezra and then he and Sabine can argue Mandolorian code adhearance like a couple of Rabbis.

I’m still not sure about the overall storytelling of The Mandolorian, I appreciated almost everything it did, but I don’t know that 8 episodes works for what they were doing. Twelve would have been better. My two favorite episodes, Episode 2 & Episode 7 were both directed by Deborah Chow, which I think is pretty important for me personally, since she’s going to be running Obi-Wan and I like what she does. Hooray!

That said, we won’t know this for over a year. We know season 2 is coming next fall, in the meantime, I’m not leaving this world behind. The past six months have given me so much and I’m not ready to move along. The next Fangirl Loves Star Wars will be in a few weeks, where we’ll talk about The Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig.

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

All creators have preoccupations, certain themes that most of their work circles back to. In reading reviews and thoughts on The Rise Of Skywalker people kept talking about nostalgia as JJ Abrams’s particular niche.

As I watched it for a third time on Saturday, I tried to see that, and I understand why people think of that for Abrams, if you look only at his film work.

But that would be ignoring a pretty big and important piece of his creative output, and frankly one that I think informs what he was going for with The Rise of Skywalker and Rey’s story in particular much more than anything he’s done on the big screen.

It’s ignoring Alias.

Sidney Bristow’s story, as convoluted as it got, was always thematically about having to untangle herself from the web of lies and violence left as a legacy from her parents and mentors, and standing on her own two feet as her own person at the end of that.

I don’t like the decision to make Rey a Palpatine. I think it’s hugely unnecessary, and creates more questions than it answers. But I get it, as a story decision, especially, when I had the realization about Abrams, Alias and the theme of building your own identity both within and without a legacy.

Rey’s moment of triumph comes when she embraces the Jedi way, the “thousand generations” that live in her, and the voices of the Jedi come to her. It is my favorite moment in the film, not just because it’s movie acknowledgement of Ahsoka, but because it’s the moment that to me provides the most context for Rey’s journey. She’s already rejected her Grandfather’s path for her, she’s already provided Ben Solo his path to redemption, she is choosing in that moment which legacy she wants to continue, the path of the light.

There are plenty of things wrong with The Rise Of Skywalker. I mentioned not loving Rey’s heritage reveal, the retcon of Poe Dameron’s past to make him a smuggler, no real role for Rose Tico and no confirmation of Finn’s force sensitivity (Plus, all those ships in the Hidden Regions and no Ezra riding in on a Space Whale? What gives?) are all writing choices I’m not crazy about.

But Rey’s story is good at the core, the fight against a destiny chosen for her by others to carve her own way is great and fits with a pattern of JJ Abrams’s work. Felicity though a very different genre is also about young people figuring out who they are, rather than who everyone expects them to be. It’s even a little bit there in Star Trek, where he basically says, “this is not the story you know, these characters are making their own way,” Lost was always more Lindeloff’s than his, but it still has themes of identity over destiny deeply embedded in it.

And I think this is the part that got to me. I like stories about family and legacy and finding your place in the world, so I liked this story for Rey and for Kylo Ren, they both carved out a place on a path that had been trod before, but it wasn’t the place prepared for them. I think that’s good.

Next week is the finale of The Mandolorian, and as I said a few weeks ago, Fangirl Loves Star Wars isn’t going anywhere. Next year we’ll have season 2 of Resistance the return of Clone Wars and I’m going to do some EU reading. I love our Galaxy Far Far Away, and I don’t ever want to leave it.

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandolorian: Chapter 6: “The Prisoner”

“The Prisoner” is what I personally wanted The Mandolorian to be from the beginning, because as I’ve noted a thousand times, I love a heist. I love getting a crew together, I love the conflicting goals, I love the way they tend to twist and turn. And also, this had some fun cameos. Bill Burr! Natalia Tea! (Tonks/Asha) Clancy Brown! Matt Lantner (The Voice of Anakin from Clone Wars!) Mark Boone (Bobby Elvis from Sons Of Anarchy!) Dave Filoni himself!

Mando goes to get the Razor Crest repaired and finds himself sucked in when old friend Ran recruits him with a bunch of other scum to break a prisoner out of a new republic prison cruiser, one of them X’ian and Mando have clearly fucked and it’s awesome. Anyway, the team gets aboard the chip they break in and things go sideways. They betray Mando. (SHOCKED, Shocked I tell you!) and he strikes back. (Your winnings, sir?)

Shocked.gif

It’s a Casablanca joke. Watch a movie

Anyway, after returning to base with the titular prisoner, Mando also leaves his tracking fob with those who would have seen him blown up and a crew of X-Wings show up and blow up the place and Mando and Baby Yoda fly away home.

Seriously, it’s all pretty rote. The show in general had been pretty rote but well executed. I’d rather well executed rote-ness than poorly executed vision. (I mean I’d rather both, but I’ve got Watchmen so I can’t ask too much of genre TV at moment.) (Speaking of HOLY CRAP Y’ALL! HOW GOOD WAS WATCHMEN?) I’m sure on rewatch I’ll have more to say. But I wish that things would have congealed a bit by now. I know we’re getting a season two, and while I love that we’re also getting a good episodic Sci-Fi show with a premiere budget, I’d like a bit more of an arc. When Arrow has more thematic cohesion in it’s eighth and final than your $15 million per episode, billion dollar IP, I don’t see all being well.

While we were getting dressed for Mary’s wedding, Cha, Joanna and I discussed the show and what we’re looking for from Star Wars. We landed on a Rogue One/The Last Jedi, Solo/The Force Awakens divide, and we all land squarely on the Solo/TFA side. The Mandolorian, for as great as it is, and it’s very good, is much  more on the Rogue One/The Last Jedi side. With the exception of LBY it’s done very little that touches my heart. In case the past six months haven’t made it clear, I want Star Wars to be in my heart.

On Friday, we’ll talk about the end of the Skywalker Saga with The Rise Of Skywalker. I’m hopeful and excited for the movie, it looks spectacular and I’ll take spectacle in heaps from my Star Wars. I have tickets for Thursday Night and Saturday afternoon, so one Friday we’ll do the Movie Season review and Monday’s Fangirl Loves Star Wars will cover both Mandolorian and The Rise Of Skywalker.

May The Force Be With You.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandolorian “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger”

Oh sure, set me up for failure episode. That is failure at ever being able to offer analysis this time around.

It’s called “The Gunslinger,” takes place on Tatooine, centers around Mando and Bobby Canavale’s son (who looks just like his dad) hunting for a dangerous sniper played by Ming-Na Wen, while Amy Sedaris and a bunch of pit droids baby sit LBY.

Of course that title just got me meditating, is Mando a Gunslinger? I don’t think he is. Ming-Na’s character is the gunslinger in question, but she’s not A Gunslinger in the Dark Tower way. And as I go back and for Mando, after all, “This is the way,” is not too far off from, “I shoot with my heart.”

This is not a sane line of thought to go down, and yet here we are. Turtles, all the way down. (Fuck that turtle though)

I love this episode. I have no other way to explain it. I thought it was wonderful, the changes in Mos Eisley since A New Hope (it’s been a decade and the ruling Mob family was blown up after all!) were fun to see. Mando’s familiarity with the planet was also neat.

And Amy Sedaris! And Ming-Na! OMG! It’s just too much goodness. The Canavale kid is good too. In terms of development, this episode didn’t do much, but it did provide us with a fun side adventure. I’m cool with this being an adventure of the week type show. We don’t get enough of them that are this good in the current landscape.

I know this post is relatively short for how these have been going, but this was a straightforward episode that I liked a lot and I doubt you all want to hear me ramble about unrelated Stephen King content, since that’s all I can think about when I think about the episode.

Also Amy Sedaris.

And pit droids.

And Ming-Na Wen.

We’re drawing closer and closer to opening weekend of The Rise Of Skywalker and I’m deeply ready for it. I’ve also decided to continue with Fangirl Loves Star Wars in some capacity as we move forwared. Season 2 of Resistance, whatever’s going on on Disney+, (New Clone Wars! I haven’t forgotten!) I’m going to do some reading of the novels. It won’t be a regular thing, but like Nerd Homework, I’ll check in occasionally!