'Somehow Grogu returned': Maybe resolving a major 'Mandalorian' story in a different show wasn't the best idea
Sloppy storytelling or just how cinematic universes work? PLUS: 'The Last of Us' is fantastic, Streep joins 'Only Murders,' and who's the Green Ranger in the 'Power Rangers' anniversary special?
A new trailer for The Mandalorian’s third season debuted during Monday’s NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the shots of Coruscant, an Order 66 flashback and Grogu using the Force captured my attention, other people quickly began pointing out a tiny issue with the upcoming season of The Mandalorian …
So tucking the resolution of Grogu leaving Din Djarin to train with Luke Skywalker into an episode of The Book of Boba Fett was a bad idea? Should this major plot point have been saved for, I dunno, an episode of The Mandalorian? Huh.
Let’s jump back to December 2020. The finale of The Mandalorian’s second season has just aired. Luke Skywalker has returned to Star Wars (as a CGI version of 1980s Mark Hamill, not a new actor) and after rescuing the Mando gang, has taken custody of Grogu, our tiny Yoda-esque toddler, to resume his Jedi training.
After a touching farewell between Din and Grogu, we were left to assume that this would be the last we’d see of Grogu for awhile. The show wouldn’t separate the duo only to immediately reunite them the following season, right? Din would now focus on his effort to restore Mandalore to glory, right? Right?
It turns out there was another option: Dropping what was basically the two-episode Season 3 premiere of The Mandalorian as part of The Book of Boba Fett.
“Return of the Mandalorian” aired on Jan. 26, 2022, and it followed Din as he learned to wield the Darksaber and got a new ship that conveniently had a secondary cockpit small enough for Grogu. (It’s actually a fantastic episode, probably the strongest episode of Book of Boba Fett’s entire run. Bryce Dallas Howard directed the crap out of it, and it looks like an actual film compared to the rest of the show.)
The next episode, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” then has Din journeying to Luke’s new Jedi school. After a quick chat with Ahsoka Tano, Din passed along an adorable bit of beskar armor for his adoptive son. Luke then presented Grogu with a choice: Take the armor but return to his dad or take Yoda’s lightsaber (surprise!) and continue his Jedi training. (This is either a bizarre lesson from Luke or Luke forgetting everything that he supposedly learned from the Jedi Order’s failures involving attachments and relationships.)
Grogu conveniently shows up in the finale an episode later and uses his Force abilities to put Boba Fett’s young rancor to sleep. (There’s a lot going on in these episodes.)
So, um, yeah. If you skipped The Book of Boba Fett, you missed all of this. You stopped watching The Mandalorian in December 2020 knowing that Grogu was gone. And now you’re watching a trailer for the new season of The Mandalorian and Grogu is back like nothing ever happened?
You’re correct to be confused.
It’s easy to blame the concept of a cinematic universe for this confusion. Lucasfilm wants these stories (at least the live-action ones on Disney+) to weave together. But there’s a difference between telling a story across multiple movies and TV shows like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is doing and burying a major plot point like Star Wars has done with The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett.
This isn’t introducing a character in one show to have them pop up in another show. The Mandalorian was building toward one moment: Din finding a Jedi to train Grogu. Whether you agree with Grogu abandoning his training so quickly, having him do so in someone else’s show was always going to introduce confusion.
Everyone knows how the MCU works. We’re all in on deal. Lucasfilm, though, has never made that clear with The Mandalorian, especially not after decades of the movies operating as nondependent on the TV shows, books and video games, whether we’re talking about the old canon or the current Disney canon. With the exception of Maul showing up at the end of Solo, there’s never been a “waitaminute, did I miss something moment?” in any of the major Star Wars properties.
Maybe The Mandalorian will kick off its Season 3 premiere with a lengthy recap of what viewers missed while they weren’t watching The Book of Boba Fett. Or maybe we’ll just get the same level of detail that went into explaining how Palpatine came back from the dead …
Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. If you do, please subscribe. It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter. Now let’s get to the news.
James Gunn is reading All-Star Superman
If I had to pick one fairly recent Superman story to recommend, it would be All-Star Superman. The limited series from Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant tells the story of a dying Superman and how he plans to carry out his final days. In a November edition of Popculturology, I highlighted this book as the story James Gunn should be building toward as he plots out a path for Superman under the new DC Studios.
On Tuesday, Gunn tweeted a photo of himself reading All-Star Superman. (The fancy hardcover collection too!)
“I’ve read it many, many times,” Gunn replied to someone questioning if this was the writer/director’s first time reading All-Star Superman.
This isn’t the first time Gunn has posted what he’s reading on social media. His followers often read those posts as clues of the stories that Gunn is adapting. (Hey, it’s me!) If I had to guess, Gunn is just rereading a Superman story that he enjoys. We know that his in-the-works Superman movie will focus on a younger version of the character, and All-Star Superman doesn’t work without the weight carried by an aged Superman.
Gunn also hinted in a new Empire interview that we could see some of his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stars appear in his future DC Studios projects.
“This cast are like my family. I cannot tell you how close I am to Chris Pratt and [Pom Klementieff] and [Dave Bautista] and [Zoe Saldaña] and [Karen Gillan],” Gunn told Empire. “But I also know I will work again with all those people individually again. Probably at my other job.”
Allison Williams and Riz Ahmed will announce Oscar nominations
We’re just a few days away from Oscar nominations. The Academy announced on Wednesday that M3GAN star Allison Williams and Sound of Metal Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed will host the nominations livestream.
I love being on the East Coast for events like this. My condolences to anyone in California who has to cover Oscar nominations at 5:30 in the morning.
Speaking of coverage, a special edition of Popculturology will go out on Tuesday after Oscar nominations have been revealed.
Meryl Streep joins Only Murders in the Building
Thanks to its Season 2 finale, we knew that Paul Rudd had signed on for the next season of Only Murders in the Building. Turns out the show had one more casting twist in store for us: Meryl Streep.
Selena Gomez revealed Streep’s participation on TikTok on Tuesday. (I think? The Only Murders Twitter account posted the TikTok, so I’m going to assume that’s how it worked. I dunno. I’m 37 years old. I’m not learning a new social media platform.)
Is Streep playing a major character in Season 3? Or is she just a fun cameo?
‘What if Ant-Man is accidentally in an Avengers movie by himself?’
It’s been quite the journey for the Ant-Man franchise. The first film predates the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, with Edgar Wright originally guiding the film. By the time Wright had departed due to creative differences and Peyton Reed had stepped into the director’s chair, the MCU was in full swing.
“We wanted to kick off Phase Five with Ant-Man because he’d earned that position,” Kevin Feige told Empire. “To not simply be the back-up or the comic relief, but to take his position at the front of the podium of the MCU.”
After facing off against lower-tier villains, Rudd’s Ant-Man will now find himself against the villain of the Multiverse Saga, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania bringing Jonathan Majors’ Kang to the big screen.
“The first discussion we had was, ‘What if Ant-Man is accidentally in an Avengers movie by himself?” writer Jeff Loveness told Empire.
Empire also gave us our first look at William Jackson Harper’s Quantumania character. Despite Harper being a popular fancast for Reed Richards in the upcoming Fantastic Four film, the Good Place actor is supposedly playing Quaz, a character Empire says is being kept under wraps.
New look at Will Poulter as Adam Warlock
Speaking of upcoming MCU movies, Empire also revealed a new look at Will Poulter as Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
“I wanted somebody who was youthful, and I wanted the person who had the dramatic chops and the comedic chops, not only for this movie but for what Marvel will use Adam Warlock for in the future,” Guardians Vol. 3 director Gunn told Empire. “He could become this really important character.”
Empire also writes that “the gold-hued Sovereign leader Ayesha created [Adam Warlock] (in a different cocoon, the previous one no longer canon) to take down our favourite group of intergalactic A-holes, the Guardians themselves, after they double-crossed her.”
Hmm, “in a different cocoon”? Sounds like Vol. 3 is going to ignore the specifics of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 credits scene, kind of like how Avengers: Infinity War ignored pretty much every appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in the MCU.
CNN wants to get into comedy — and Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Arsenio Hall and Jon Stewart are on their wishlist
CNN wants to get into the late-night comedy game, and CNN president Chris Licht has a wishlist of hosts that includes Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Arsenio Hall and Jon Stewart.
Semafor quickly dismantled that list as they reported on Licht’s hopes to turn his network’s 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. programming block into “news entertainment,” noting that Stewart is under contract with Apple and Hall is “not a serious prospect.” I can’t see Noah looking to take on the job after choosing to walk away from The Daily Show.
Maher is a potentially more realistic prospect: The host of HBO’s long-running weekly show that bears his name is already in-house at Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company (Puck’s Matt Belloni reported this week that CNN is in talks to begin airing some of Maher’s weekly extra HBO segments).
Semafor also rightfully points out that CNN could find itself in an awkward spot if news breaks while a potential late-night comedy host is on air. Could you imagine someone like Jay Leno having to cover real news? “Hey, have you heard about this anthrax thing? Have ya?”
Power Rangers 30th Anniversary Special reveal
A few veteran Power Rangers are returning to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. Entertainment Weekly revealed on Tuesday that David Yost (Billy, the original Blue Ranger), Walter Emanuel Jones (Zack, the original Black Ranger), Catherine Sutherland (Kat, the second Pink Ranger), Steve Cardenas (Rocky, the second Red Ranger), Karan Ashley (Aisha, the second Yellow Ranger) and Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam, the second Black Ranger) will return for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.
The special will be premiere on Netflix on April 19. In addition to the previously mentioned cast, Once & Always will also feature Charlie Kersh as Minh, the daughter of Trini, the original Yellow Ranger.
The official Power Rangers YouTube channel also released a trailer for the special — which now has people asking if the late Jason David Frank was involved with it.
While the trailer and the EW article make it clear that Yost, Jones, Sutherland and Cardenas are suiting up as Rangers again, there’s the question of which characters are under the helmets of the Green Ranger and Yellow Ranger featured in this trailer.
I saw some speculation that Adam, the former Black Ranger, might be wearing the Green Ranger armor, but from the looks of this trailer, Adam and Aisha aren’t wearing the traditional color-coordinated clothing that a Power Ranger wears.
My hunch is that Frank was involved with this special, but in light of his death, Hasbro isn’t sure how to market his role without seeming crass at the moment. (Oh, and that’s totally Trini’s daughter as the Yellow Ranger.)
Amy Jo Johnson, who played Kimberly, the original Pink Ranger, addressed her absence from the special on Twitter on Wednesday.
“For the record I never said no,” Johnson tweeted. “I just didn’t say yes to what was offered. But other fun stuff is in-store! Looking forward to watching my friends kick ass!”
John Wick’s Chad Stahelski to direct Michael B. Jordan
Folks, I forgot that Michael B. Jordan starred in a Tom Clancy film, much less one that was supposed to kick off a franchise for the Creed and Black Panther star. Without Remorse came out in 2021, but was sent to Prime Video by Paramount instead of releasing in theaters.
Rainbow Six, the sequel to Without Remorse, appears to be getting treated like a real movie, though. The film will not only head to theaters but will be helmed by John Wick director Chad Stahelski. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news earlier in the week.
Rian Johnson is ‘already working on [a Glass Onion sequel], but there’s no set time table’
Glass Onion could possibly score Netflix a Best Picture Oscar nomination next week, and after the rave reception the film received from audiences, it’s no surprise that the streaming service is eager for Rian Johnson to get the third film in his Benoit Blanc franchise going.
“Rian Johnson is already working on the third one, but there’s no set time table,” Ori Marmur, one of Netflix’s vice presidents of original studio film, told Variety. “We’d love to have it sooner rather than later given the response to the last one.”
There was a three-year gap between Knives Out and Glass Onion, so maybe we can expect Johnson’s next film in the series in 2025?
Apple reveals first look at Ted Lasso’s final season
No trailer yet, but Apple released the first image from the third and allegedly final season of Ted Lasso on Wednesday.
We don’t have a specific date yet, but Ted Lasso will return this spring.
A Michael Jackson biopic is in the works
Michael Jackson is getting the biopic treatment. Antoine Fuqua will direct from a script by John Logan, with Jackson’s estate participating.
“According to Lionsgate, the film will address all aspects of Jackson’s life, though it is unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children,” The Hollywood Reporter noted in their story.
The Jackson estate and Lionsgate have assembled quite the team for this film. Fuqua is best known for directing Training Day, which won Denzel Washington an Oscar for Best Actor. Logan has previously been nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Gladiator and Avatar and Best Adapted Screenplay for Hugo.
Good luck casting this one and navigating the reality of Jackson’s life while still needing to please his estate. Critic and writer Drew McWeeny summed this one up pretty well:
It pays to get fired by Disney
Or at least it pays if you’re Bob Chapek. The former Disney CEO “received a pay package worth $24.18 million for 2022 and is set to receive severance payments worth more than $20 million,” Variety reported on Tuesday.
Chapek was shockingly fired by Disney in late November, with the company replacing him with former CEO Bob Iger.
Wanna send me your comments, questions or recommendations? Write to Popculturology at email@example.com, and I might run your mail in a future edition of the newsletter.
Gonna be honest here: Up until I saw this trailer for Shrinking, I for some reason had assumed the upcoming Jason Segel television series was about a man, you know, actually shrinking.
I guess Segel playing a therapist makes more sense, but he did play a Lilliputian in Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels movie.
My confusion over the premise aside, Shrinking looks good. Segel is in Forgetting Sarah Marshall mode. (The grieving part. Not the full-frontal nudity part. Not to my knowledge, at least.) Segel created the show with Ted Lasso’s Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence. Harrison Ford and Jessica Williams play major roles in the show too.
Shrinking premieres on Jan. 27.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us was just what I needed to break out of my TV rut. While I’ve never played the video games the show is based on (my video game abilities don’t go past playing the Spider-Man PlayStation game and Jedi: Fallen Order on whatever mode keeps you from constantly dying), I knew the basics of the story. The question was could I get Caitlin on board for a new dystopian zombie show.
Based on both of our desires to immediately watch a second episode despite it being like 10 p.m., I think The Last of Us was a success.
We’re not the only ones who were immediately sucked into the show. HBO announced that The Last of Us was its second biggest premiere since Boardwalk Empire debuted back in 2010, behind only House of the Dragon.
I loved the The Last of Us never felt like a video game adaption. Sure, there were Easter eggs for people who have played the games, but I never got the feeling that the show was trying to evoke the feelings of playing a video game.
How creepy was the old neighbor starting to succumb to the infection in the background of a scene? When you can deliver a scare with that kind of simplicity, the restraint the premiere showed in not revealing people fully infected with the fungus makes sense. (I did get some serious Annihilation vibes from the shot of dead zombie that had merged with the wall.)
Pedro Pascal is once again fantastic. (We actually watched the new Mandalorian trailer right after finishing The Last of Us.) I’ll let it slide that the 47-year-old actor is somehow playing both a 36-year-old and a 56-year-old in this …
My only real complaint about The Last of Us? It begins at 9 p.m. and runs for … 85 minutes? The rumored runtimes for future episodes appear to dip below an hour, but yeesh, I’m too old for movie-length episodes that late at night.
Andrew Santino: Cheeseburger
I can’t remember why I opened up Netflix on Wednesday night, but we wound up watching Andrew Santino’s latest standup special. You might know Santino from his role on Dave, or from seeing him as the guy who’s supposed to transport Andy Bernard’s dad’s boat on reruns of The Office.
Throw up your hands and raise your voice! Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! (Alan Siegel, The Ringer)
You don’t know how bad the pizza box is (Saahil Desai, The Atlantic)
Do any of Netflix’s 2023 movies know when a movie feels like a movie? (Rebecca Alter, Vulture)
SBF, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and the spectacular hangover after the art world’s NFT gold rush (Nate Freeman, Vanity Fair)
Extremely hardcore: Twitter’s staff spent years trying to protect the platform against impulsive ranting billionaires — then one made himself the CEO ( Zoë Schiffer, Casey Newton and Alex Heath, Intelligencer)
CNET's article-writing AI is already publishing very dumb errors (Jon Christian, Futurism)
Spread the news! Share a free Popculturology subscription with your friends.
Aubrey Plaza hosts SNL
Fresh off her buzzworthy performance in The White Lotus, Aubrey Plaza hosts Saturday Night Live for the first time this weekend. In the promo video for her episode, Plaza shows off some obscure impressions before revealing to Chloe Fineman that she’s “been waiting to do this show since I was 12 years old.”
Plaza also recently talked with Jimmy Fallon about her failed SNL audition. Turns out her audition characters weren’t enough to advance to the Lorne Michaels round.
“I remember one character I did was like a Puerto Rican news reporter that was always trying to make all of the news stories sexy, even if they were horrific news stories. I was just trying to like, sex up the news or something,” Plaza told Fallon while on The Tonight Show. “The other one was, I was like a pill-popping housewife that had my own talk show called Celebri-Tails, where I would just name celebrities and name what kind of tail they would have if they had a tail. Like I would say, ‘Lindsay Lohan would have a bushy squirrel’s tail.’ Or, like, ‘Bill Clinton would have a polar bear’s nub.’”
That’s the end of this issue of Popculturology. Thanks for reading. If you don’t already subscribe, please hit the “Subscribe now” button. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter.