Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Mandalorian
Disney+'s launch also came with the debut of Lucasfilm's first Star Wars live-action TV series, The Mandalorian. While the series is garnering fairly positive reviews, one thing seems to bug everyone about it thus far - the episodes are too short.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian takes place five years after the events of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi and focuses on Pedro Pascal's lone gunslinger, Dyn Jarren. The show has rolled out two out of its eight episodes for season 1 which primarily focused on the bounty hunter's ongoing mission. In the series' premiere titled "Chapter 1," directed by Dave Filoni, the Mandalorian was tasked to retrieve a mysterious asset, which we later learned to be an infant from the same species as Jedi Master Yoda. The show's second outing called "The Child" and helmed by Rick Famuyiwa continued their adventure as we discover more about the baby Yoda, including its ability to tap into the Force. Both episodes have been well-received, with fans optimistic that the series will live up to its expectations, but the episodes are deemed too short.
The Mandalorian premiere clocked in at 32 minutes, while its follow-up was a little bit shorter at 27 minutes. In a world where scripted series usually run for 40-50 minutes without ads, the public will obviously find these outings too short. Assuming this pattern continues, the total runtime of the show's first season will be around 4 to 4.5 hours - that's just an hour and a half longer than a three-hour full feature film.
However, it's worth noting The Mandalorian reportedly has a $100 million production cost - that means that each episode has an allotted $12.5 million. That's unusually high for small-screen projects, making the live-action project one of, if not the largest productions for Disney+ so far. Despite this, this budget can easily be swallowed up with big set-pieces and the high-profile actors involved, potentially limiting the runtime of every episode - at least from the ones we've seen thus far.
There's also the possibility that the runtime will gradually increase as we near The Mandalorian's finale. This can be similar to how Game of Thrones' final season was formatted - the creatives behind the HBO fantastical series had the first two outings of season 8 running for an hour each, while the remaining four all clocked in at 80 minutes. The decision to segment the Star Wars series this way may have ultimately something to do with the story they are telling. Despite being deemed too short by current standards, "Chapter 1" and "The Child" tackled two separate and finished narratives. They didn't feel whittled down at any point.
Whether or not this short runtime is set to change for the next coming episodes remains to be seen. Some have theorized since there's two episodes this week, Lucasfilm probably split what was supposed to be just one outing. Considering both episodes tell two complete stories, chances are that this may not be the case.
In terms of narrative or pacing, there's really nothing really wrong with The Mandalorian's shorter runtime. The show doesn't have an ensemble cast, so we get to spend almost the entirety of every episode with Dyn anyway, making it feel like the story is moving efficiently without any lull. If anything, some might see this as a positive about the show since it can be an indication that the storytelling is succinct and straight-to-the-point; it has also kept people wanting more which is a good sign for its future.