Explaining How Time Works in the Series

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Mandalorian, Season 2, Episode 4, “The Siege.”]

This week’s installment of The Mandalorian, “The Siege,” was another rip-roaring little adventure featuring TIE Fighters, speeder bikes, and radioactive blue Oreos. And the episode’s quickness, the sheer velocity of its storytelling, did much to cover up a number of the episode’s more egregious elements, chiefly the leaps in logic, befuddling dialogue, and plot holes so massive you could fly the Razor Crest through them. And among the biggest questions we had by the time “The Siege,” directed by series costar Carl Weathers, concluded, was: How does time work, exactly, in The Mandalorian?

And we should start by saying that there is nothing to suggest that time, in quantum physics terms, moves any different in the Star Wars universe. In other words, if you were going from Endor to Tatooine (or whatever), there aren’t going to be vastly different forces at work that could, say, prematurely age you or leave you suspended, out of time, like Matthew McConaughey and his magical bookshelf in Interstellar. As far as we have been led to believe, time in the Star Wars universe (for the most part) is a straight line and that traveling from planet to planet is a lot like taking an extended road trip. In the immortal words of exasperated fathers everywhere: “We’ll get there when we get there.”

There is also nothing in the editorial language of Star Wars to suggest that certain stylistic flourishes carry more weight than they actually do. The most steadfast transition has been the wipe, and it often does carry us through time or connect vast distances with a single old school dissolve. But one wipe doesn’t equal a certain amount of time, nor does it convey an established amount of mileage. If, for some bizarre reason, they had established that every time there’s a transitional wipe, five hours had passed, that would be one thing. But that has never been an explicit part of the Star Wars vocabulary, either.

Image via Disney+

Which is to say, the genuinely puzzling climax of “The Siege” made us think of these things because the timing of the extended break-in sequence had us wondering about all of this.

For one thing, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal, who we’re pretty sure was in the suit this week for at least a little while because his chin looked so familiar) drops off the Child at a weird Montessori school for wayward Navarro youth. The teacher is a fussy protocol droid like C-3PO (Mando has apparently buried that hatchet for good, given his willingness to put his charge in the hands of a non-human) and the kids are eating gross cookies. And while a plan to destroy an enriched Imperial stronghold is something that would seemingly take days to plan, strategize, and execute, Greef Karga (Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) are like, “Yo here are the plans are you free this afternoon?” And with that, the Mandalorian embarks on a go-for-broke suicide mission while leaving his small child to be watched over and taught space history. (Also worth noting that they bring along Horatio Sanz’s unhelpful fish-man, last seen in the series’ very first episode, who is now saddled with a foggy backstory.)

So they get to this Imperial stronghold and a few things are established, including that old Fishy McGee shouldn’t stay with the speeder because there is a lava flood that comes in every day … a lava flood that we never actually see and doesn’t factor into the plot at all. Also, with that impending lava flood scenario, how were they supposed to get back to town (and the Child?) Then there is an elaborate heist sequence with numerous Stormtroopers getting blasted, an essential switch on a calamitous outpost (keeping with Star Wars’ rich history of essential switches on calamitous outposts, see also: the entire third act of Rogue One) and a daring hijacking of some kind of small Imperial ship. (It looks like the troop transport in Season 1 that was inspired by the Kenner toy, but it’s not.) All of this culminates in a speeder chase through the molten valleys surrounding the outpost, and in the very nick of time our hero The Mandalorian shows up with his newly remodeled Razorcrest (he dropped it off to a pair of bumbling mechanics at the very beginning of the episode) and the child in the copilot seat, where he always belongs.

Image via Disney+

But that is a lot that happens. It seems, from the time the Mandalorian arrives in Navarro to the time of the speeder bike chase, it’s only been a few hours. There are multiple wipes in the titular siege, but nothing to suggest that those wipes are accounting for any specific amount of time. And since we hear the bumbling mechanics say something like, “It’ll be a week” (or something), there are no clues in that regard. Also, would the Mandalorian really leave the Child in that damn classroom for longer than a few hours? Those kids aren’t even sharing their Oreos with America’s sweetheart, Baby Yoda!

Additionally, there’s a moment early in the episode where Cara is mapping out the planet and the Imperial fortress seemed way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, far from the town. So it must have taken a while to get there, especially since they were in a rickety speeder that looks worse for wear than Luke’s in the first Star Wars. The chase at the end goes on for a while too. But we’re to believe that the Mandalorian flew away from the fort on his jetpack, got the Child out of his classroom, haggled with the mechanics (one of whom is an Imperial spy!), got the ship, and saved the say. The Razor Crest was in such bad shape that it’s incredible that they were able to salvage it at all, but this appeared to be just a few hours. Anybody who has had a rattling tailpipe knows it takes at least that long to even figure out whether or not the guy has the right part, let alone fix the problem. And this was a major repair caused by several weeks of giant ice spider attacks and shoddy Mon Calamari craftsmanship.

Image via Disney+

The fact that the timing of the episode isn’t established, either in the episode’s narrative or in the way that it is put together, makes it even more bewildering. The Mandalorian is laudably straightforward, free of any real messiness or complication, but when time is treated so haphazardly it can leave you, the viewer, feeling unmoored and emotionally adrift.

Part of this could be solved by just letting these episodes breathe a little bit more. The first episode of Season 2, the longest episode of the series by far in terms of running time, allowed for the Mandalorian to hang out with the Marshall (Timothy Olyphant); they traded stories and hung out. And there was even time for a flashback, which neatly established timeframes in ways that subsequent episodes haven’t. But in “The Siege,” The Mandalorian is in such a hurry to get to the good stuff that it doesn’t bother to tell you when that cool stuff is happening.

The Mandalorian Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Disney+. New episodes of The Mandalorian Season 2 are released every Friday. Get even more Disney+ updates here.

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