The Mandalorian has so many different episode lengths … why? Is this the way?
Every week I look forward to curling up in my baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – onesie, and seeing a new episode of The Mandalorian. It's a really fun show that takes us across galaxies in search of Jedi, peace and a home for our little green friend.
In my opinion, it's the best Star Wars item since the original films.
But here is my weekly fight. The episode lengths vary between 47 minutes and 25 minutes. It's hard to know what you will get with Mando week after week. Sure, some missions are genre mashups with raids or western showdowns or even bottle episodes. But you never know how long, in terms of the length of the story, you will be with the characters.
This is in direct contradiction to everything we know about television. We typically categorize dramas in 60 minutes (or 45 minutes on network TV) and comedies in 30 minutes (22 minutes on network TV).
Sure, some things work as a 30-minute drama and some comedies that last 60 years, but we're used to episodes with standard running times. Enter the Mandalorian, which provides seemingly completely random episode lengths.
Why should Disney program them that way?
Recognition: Disney +
Peter Csathy, founder and chairman of digital media consultancy CreaTV Media, told CNBC that he had a theory for why and said, "A lot of the people who see it will be on their mobile devices, so it makes sense that they program it differently. "
He said that Star Wars appeals to adults and is intended for a younger population group. This is why they may prefer episodes that don't last too long.
The Wrap traced the length back to the old Flash Gordon show that inspired Lucas to make Star Wars, which ran for just half an hour each week.
Another theory is that the show should be almost like a novel, with all episode titles described as chapters. This means that we see Mando in serialized adventures week after week. These adventures are all varied and require different amounts of time to tell the story.
What I find so exciting about it is that the episodes are all moving towards a season and really giving each writer and director the opportunity to work independently and tell a little story to the end.
This also affects the expectations of the audience. If you expect each episode to last an hour, you can settle in and not be careful or think that the life-or-death stakes don't matter in twenty minute. Without knowing when each Mando episode ends, everything matters.
Streaming is fun too. While we see how streaming changed television on other platforms, with Netflix dumping seasons for binging and the rise in adult topics in entertainment, you also have a lot more wiggle room with episode length. Your shows no longer have to fit into a format planned for the night. You don't need two comedies from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and then two-hour dramas that run from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Recognition: Disney +
Platforms like Disney + and even Netflix have a lot of freedom without having to put specific advertisers in place. You can mess with the length of the episode because people just sit to watch the show no matter what is delivered week after week. You're selling a world and characters, not the time per week.
While we don't have a specific answer as to why the show has different episode lengths, we can think of any theories. Put yours in the comments and let's have a little discussion!
I can't wait to hear your thoughts.