The Mandalorian Season 2 is a Main Quest, not a Side Quest
Since the BGS team’s “Chapter 13: The Jedi” podcast quoted my thoughts on main quests vs. side quests in The Mandalorian, I figured I might expand a little on that thought. While I would agree side quests dominated Season 1, I argue most of Season 2, specifically Chapters 10 – Chapter 13, has been a single main quest.
First, let’s establish definitions of main quests and side quests. A main quest is an adventure the main character goes on to directly advance the plot of a story, often in a video game. In contrast, side quests do not advance the main storyline. They provide additional content, adding depth and breadth to the world by expanding the plot outward, not moving it forward or back.
Main quests are often a series of adventures leading to a major plot point. This point might be a change in objective, a change in location, or a new revelation about the overarching story. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, a video game about a Viking raider in late-9th Century Britain, organizes quests by geographic regions. Each region has a saga associated with it. This saga then consists of different chapters, and each chapter tends to be a single quest with multiple objectives within that quest. A quest with multiple objectives is still one main quest, even if the goal set at the beginning of the saga is not reached at the end of the quest.
Imagine a speedboat, racing down a river. The river and its banks limit the pathway to the destination. The quickest route from our starting point to our conclusion forms the main quest. There may be twists and turns in the river, so the boat must occasionally divert or stop. Nevertheless, these stops and turns are in direct service to reaching our destination. Each chunk of river covered, each twist, turn, or obstacle overcome, can also be its own main quest, but it still serves to get the boat to the ultimate destination. If the crew stops to visit a friend, have a picnic, or play in the river and those activities are not in direct service of the main story, they are side quests.
So how does this relate to The Mandalorian? As Sara, that Queen of Queries, mentioned in the podcast, this episode marked the end of one main quest (find a Jedi) and the beginning of an updated main quest (find a Jedi willing to train Grogu). The main story, and hence first main quest, of Season 2 started with the Armorer’s charge to Din Djarin in Season 1’s Chapter 8: return The Child (Grogu, we learn) to his own people. In service of this objective, Din decides to find other Mandalorians, whom he believes may help him find a Jedi. This is how Frog Lady gets involved. Frog Lady offers Din information on other Mandalorians, but only if he transports her at sublight speed to another planet. Once there, she, or more accurately her partner, will provide the information. This is typical video game quest behavior. The reward, finding other Mandalorians, directly advances Din’s goal of finding a Jedi, so transporting Frog Lady directly advances the main plot and hence is a main quest.
I do concede that not all of The Mandalorian Season 2 is main quest material. While finding Cobb Vanth starts as main quest behavior, once Din learns Vanth is not a Mandalorian, Din’s actions cease to have an obvious relationship to the main story. Din agrees to destroy the Krayt dragon because he wants to secure Boba Fett’s armor. Still, securing the armor does not advance the main story, so it is side quest behavior.
“Chapter 13: The Jedi” is the culmination of a main quest, not a side quest, despite Grogu not ending with a Jedi trainer. Din’s goal has been to find a Jedi and get them to train Grogu. While the Force user Din finds (Ahsoka Tano) will not train Grogu, the main story advances in this chapter, making the chapter part of the main quest. But the objective changed, so it is the end of one main quest and the beginning of another. Rather than hunting for a Jedi, Din and Grogu must travel to the ancient Jedi planet Tython and see if Grogu will be able to reach out to a Jedi. Traveling to Tython will be the next main quest. Both arcs serve the main story of Season 2: finding a Jedi to train Grogu.
What if, as most believe likely, Din and Grogu don’t reach Tython in Chapter 14? There are plenty of potential obstacles on the way from Corvus to Tython. For one, does Din know how to reach Tython? Will he need assistance reaching it? Both could be main quest storylines. Other plot points could include acquiring additional equipment to survive on the planet or knowledge of what to expect once there. And since Chekhov’s tracking device is still on the Razor Crest, an Imperial ambush seems likely. All of that has main quest potential. If Din gets a call from an old friend needing his help, with no benefit to reaching Tython or securing Grogu’s future trainer, then that is a side quest.
This is why Season 2 has been almost exclusively about the main quest, whereas Season 1 was more about side quests. There is no fault with either format. Well written side quests add spice to games (and other media) that otherwise might feel stale or repetitive. Main quests keep the story moving and give weight to each episode. Dave Filoni, director of Chapter 13 and Executive Producer, once said about so-called “filler episodes” in Rebels, “I think they all have unique stories, even episodes people on [the] team tell me fans call ‘filler episodes.’ They’ll be surprised how important those episodes are later, I’ll say that.” So perhaps, given the final shots of Chapters 5 and 9, even the side quest to recover armor will advance the main plot before the series ends.
For fun, I tried to think of main vs. side quest examples from other popular narratives, especially since BGS Ambassador to Naboo and Princess of Prequels Flo hasn’t seen Rebels, or much Star Wars outside the movies, yet. In Harry Potter, flying lessons with Madam Hooch are a main quest activity, while House Cup Quidditch matches are side quests. Another example would be that attending the Yule Ball is a main quest but chasing Cho Chang before coming to his senses about Ginny is a great side quest. Finding examples in A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones proved difficult because George R.R. Martin’s ending remains unknown, and it is near impossible to guess what is necessary and what is superfluous in his writing, so I’ll stick to the TV series. Daenerys ruling Mereen is a main quest (albeit a boring one) while her romance with Daario is a (hot) side quest. Lest anyone think all romance is a side quest, Jon Snow loving Ygritte is a main quest, because it teaches him the humanity of the Free Folk. Staying in the True North, Bran’s journey is a main quest but collecting Valyrian Steel weapons and the mining of dragonglass are side quests. The latter tasks seem to make the heroes’ battle more likely to end in victory, but even without these weapons the heroes have to fight the battle at Winterfell. Last, because I might need to run for cover after saying this, discovering Jon’s parentage is a side quest. Tying these points back to The Mandalorian, it can be tough to separate side quests from the main quest, but there are subtle differences that show us how. And there can also be multiple main quests within a story. This is the way of video games and questing.
Main quest or side quest, both are good. I would never want a game, or show, that has just one. Main quest-only games end too quickly, while overwhelming side quests make me lose track of the story. I enjoy the side quests for expanding the world of The Mandalorian and Star Wars but love that we’ve focused on main-questing this season.
Check out the Bohemian Geek Studies episode on “Chapter 13: The Jedi” here
**Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the release of Chapter 14, and obviously some of the events depicted in that episode change the interpretations of previous chapters.