Culture Feature

Why Is This "Mandalorian" Sitcom Parody so Perfect?

Nerdist's "Grogu Pains" has cracked the code on what makes The Mandalorian so endearing.

Photo by Lukas Denier on Unsplash

With season 2 of The Mandalorian concluding nearly three weeks ago, fans may be starting to get desperate for more of that primo Baby Yoda content, but there's good news!

It turns out that The Mandalorian originally started as a family-friendly show called Grogu Pains back in the early 1990s, and Nerdist has just recovered the show's classic, sax-heavy intro. According to the video description, Nerdist, "dug into [their] VHS tapes and found an old episode of Grogu Pains, a wholesome '90s sitcom about a single dad and his son's hijinks, as well as all the friends they made along the way."

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TV Features

Is Anyone Else Sick of Gus Fring in "Better Call Saul"?

The younger version of the iconic villain in the "Breaking Bad" prequel doesn't quite live up to expectations.

Gustavo Fring in 'Better Call Saul.'

Photo via AMC Networks

Breaking Bad''s Walter White and Jesse Pinkman literally didn't know who they were dealing with the first time they met Gustavo Fring.

Vince Gilligan's iconic drug-dealing duo originally tried to meet Gus in season two's "Mandala," hoping to strike a deal to sell the remainder of their crystal meth supply. But they leave the meeting without a deal in place, believing they had not even met their potential business partner.

Make no mistake, though: Gus Fring was watching. From then on out, Gus lingered with a calm, professional demeanor—a facade that effectively hid a revenge-driven, sociopathic meth distributor's true colors and made actor Giancarlo Esposito one of television's most-loved villains—until Gilligan killed him off in 2010.

However, Albuquerque wasn't quite done with the character when Walter's pipe bomb blew half his face off in 2010. Gus's much-hyped return in prequel series, Better Call Saul, helps to connect the dots as to just how he, Saul Goodman, and Mike Erhmantraut established their tenuous connection before Walter or Jesse entered the picture.

But for all the skilled filmmaking that goes into Saul's production, this chronologically younger version of Gus appears more like a typical television baddie than the ruthless villain we loved in Breaking Bad. Where is the disconnect? It's simple: We already know everything there is to know about Albuquerque's drug kingpin.

Breaking Bad viewers don't really see how violent Gus can be until the opening episode of season four when he slices open his employee's throat just to show Walt and Jesse what happens to those who disobey him. Before that, he's depicted as massively cunning in his facade as the benevolent, DEA-boosting owner of Los Pollos Hermanos. He is quickly shown to be a formidable adversary in the drug trade, skillfully navigating his relationship with the Salamanca crime family and the Juarez-Michoacan drug cartel.

Gus's grisly and elaborate murders—whether it was of poor Victor or by poisoning the remaining cartel leaders—are what the character is primarily remembered for, but Esposito and the writing staff's earlier work establishing his business-like approach to the drug trade and his part-tragic, part-mysterious backstory helped Gus stand out in his flashier moments.

Better Call Saul avoided bringing the methamphetamine dealer in until the very end of season two when he prevented Mike Erhmantraut from murdering Hector Salamanca. Series co-creators Gilligan and Peter Gould even hid an anagram that spelled out "FRINGSBACK" in each episode's title—his return marked a momentous occasion for the show's producers and fans.

But when Mike reluctantly begins working with Gus, Saul started diving deep back into the drug world and largely revisits the same story viewers already saw play out with Gus on Breaking Bad. For every exciting zip tie murder Gus commits, Saul treats viewers to yet another rehashing of how he wants revenge on the Salamancas — which at one point takes the form of a five-minute-long monologue about how Gus will keep a hospitalized Hector Salamanca captive until he sees fit to end the man's life. That scene does not bear the mark of an intelligent and complex character; behind Esposito's stellar performance lurks a stereotypical supervillain detailing his evil plot just minutes before the hero escapes and saves the day.

In the greater Breaking Bad universe, though, there aren't really any heroes—and the closest ones we have in Better Call Saul don't quite hold a candle to how effectively Walter and Jesse captivated audiences. Gus initially considers them new pawns in his elaborate game of chess, but they outsmart him when it matters most—even when it forces Jesse to murder replacement chemist Gale Boetticher in cold blood. Walter is the most intelligent and persuasive character in the greater Albuquerque television universe, able to talk Gus into striking a deal in the first place. Jesse serves as the emotional center of the whole series—fans wanted the best for him even when he fell to his lowest points. The main characters of Saul graduated from side character status in the original series, and their character arcs are marked by the fact that viewers already know where they're headed.

In Saul, Mike knows exactly what kind of monster Gus is, but we already know the ex-cop winds up dutifully working for the man anyway. When Mike and Gus do trade verbal blows—most recently in "Dedicado a Max"—it's just to give another reminder of Gus's need for revenge. While Gus waxes poetic about his desire for Mike's help, Mike's dialogue is saddled with keeping even the most aloof viewers up to speed with lines like: "So I'm gonna work for one drug dealer killing other drug dealers. That's your idea of a choice."

Perhaps Nacho Varga emotionally centers Saul's Gus Fring plotline. Nacho's arc isn't too dissimilar from Jesse's, after all—both participate in the drug-dealing world until they're in too deep to escape without causing harm to their loved ones—but his forced partnership with Mike and Gus has brought exciting returns in recent episodes. "JMM" showed the pair working together to burn down a Los Pollos Hermanos location, a sacrifice Gus must make to his restaurant in order to keep Nacho in place with the Salamancas as Gus's double agent. Gus adds a clever touch to the arson while Nacho vandalizes the building by using a frozen chicken and hot fryer to fan the flames, causing the arson to look like an accident.

Gus's hold over Nacho will keep their relationship and Nacho's (presumably) tragic ending intriguing as the show moves forward. It will serve both characters' interests to keep working together to undermine the cartel's control of Gus's territory. Nacho doesn't

want to work with Gus — but he knows that neither side will hesitate to kill him and his father. How he attempts to escape both Gus and Lalo Salamanca's grasp in future episodes might give Gustavo Fring the adversary he needs to re-assume the intensity he oozed throughout his run in Breaking Bad.

Baby Yoda Choked a B*tch & Storm Troopers Vape

"The Mandalorian" Episode 7 Review

Let's get right to it. Baby Yoda is a sadistic little sexist.

14 minutes deep in Episode 7 of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, the show's protagonist arm wrestles Cara Dune (Gina Carano), a female ally, onboard his starship.

Seeing this, Baby Yoda reaches out and uses the Force to choke Cara. She immediately pulls back from the match, clenching her throat, desperately trying to free herself from the attack. But Baby Yoda tightens his grasp to finish the job.

This is a dark moment for any series airing on the family friendly Disney+ service. Only when Mando (Pedro Pascal) intervenes, reprimanding Baby Yoda, does the tiny monster release his Force hold on the powerful warrior Cara Dune, suddenly rendered helpless.

Many will make useless attempts to defend B.Y., claiming he was just trying to protect the Mandalorian. But let's be real. Force choking is established in the Star Wars universe as a DARK SIDE technique.

Previously we've seen Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader use this power to abuse his underlings and to accidentally kill off Padmé. It doesn't come from a wellspring of loyalty or heroism. It bubbles up from a dark abyss of rage and perversion.

It's clear that if uninterrupted, The Child would have choked Cara to death, and he probably would have liked it.

And if just thinking about that scene was as good for you as it was for me, it's time for a reflective and satisfying smoke break. Luckily, Storm Troopers (or more specifically, Scout Troopers) brought the vape.

Some ignorant fools will claim the smoke there is actually just exhaust coming from a building in the background. But those of us who live in reality know vape clouds when we see them.

This dude is about to start blowing smoke rings. And if you're a true fan, you know that there is precedence for this sort of thing in the Galaxy.

In Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) Obi-Wan is offered "death sticks" while clubbing, an illegal product which defines as a "highly addictive substance, delivered inside luminescent sticks [which] was a favorite among desperate addicts and foolish thrill-seekers." Sounds like some real bomb ass loud dank to me.

Of course these instances of drug use and misogynist violence are not the only highlights of the episode. For instance, Baby Yoda uses his Force abilities to heal Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) after Karga is attacked by a poisonous, flying bat monster.

Just when things are starting to look grim, Baby Yoda breaks out a never-before-seen force ability to save the life of a man who was planning to betray them to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), and had previously tried to kill the Mandalorian to deliver Baby Yoda to "The Client" (Werner Herzog).

So, just to clarify, when it's a woman who has shown herself to be a strong, independent, upstanding warrior, the little creeper (who, don't forget, is in his 50s) tries to choke her out. But, then, when it comes to Greef Karga, a man, presented until now as an enemy, he tenderly erases all wounds with his devil magic.

And this is The Child we're all supposed to adore and worry about? This demonic little creature is the one we're supposed to be rooting for while the Mandalorian kills dozens of people whose only crime is trying to deliver this scourge into a secure facility?

Why shouldn't we want Werner Herzog to suck out all of Baby Yoda's evil goo to sell for a profit? Mando always says "this is the way" to justify saving The Child, but maybe "the way" needs to be revisited to add some exceptions for Sith demon spawn.

Anyway, it's a great episode and probably my favorite so far. 9/10.


Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend of April 19

Are people singing on the subway ever not insane? Find out this weekend.

Photo by Hoach Le Dinh on Unsplash

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This week we have more generic horror and the dumbest musical concept in human history.


The Curse of La Llorona

The Curse of La Llorona - Official Trailer [HD]

Based on an old Mexican folktale about the wailing ghost of a woman who drowned her children, The Curse of La Llorona follows a family...cursed by La Llorona. It's produced by horror icon James Wan, and while marketed as a standalone film, it takes place within the same universe as The Conjuring. Honestly, the trailer doesn't really set it apart from any of the other "spooky ghosts jumping out" horror fare of the last decade. Moreover, The Conjuring was fantastic, but the follow-up movies not actually directed by James Wan have been middling. Go in with low expectations and maybe it'll be fun.


Under the Silver Lake

Under the Silver Lake | Official Trailer HD |

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell's previous film, It Follows, was genuinely one of my favorite movies of the past couple years. As such, Under the Silver Lake is a personal must-see, even if it hasn't been getting the same across-the-board praise as its predecessor. Andrew Garfield plays a lovestruck young man trying to solve the mystery of his missing neighbor, convinced that a vast conspiracy of strange codes and hidden messages across LA will lead to answers. It looks weird and unlike anything I've seen before, so even if it falls short of expectations it should be an interesting ride.


STUCK Official Trailer #1 (2017) | Ashanti, Amy Madigan | Musical Film HD

Imagine being stuck on the subway in NYC and then a bunch of assholes start singing about their most intimate problems. That's the premise of this mind-blowingly stupid concept for a musical starring Ashanti, Arden Cho (Teen Wolf), and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad) for some reason. Maybe the music is good, I don't know. But as a New Yorker who encounters singing subway lunatics on my daily commute, I can think of better ways to waste my weekend.


GRASS (official trailer)

An artsy South Korean drama from director Hong Sang-soo (Right Now, Wrong Then), Grass is an unconventional narrative in which a writer eavesdrops on three different couples in a cafe. Their simultaneously unfolding stories influence the writer's work. The trailer itself is very interesting, playing an intimate, wordless moment out during a single shot. Your reaction to the trailer should be a good barometer for whether or not you'll appreciate Hong Sang-soo's directorial style.

Hail Satan?

Hail Satan? - Official

What if people's notions about "Satanism" are entirely wrong? Those misconceptions are exactly what the comedic documentary Hail Satan? sets out to rectify. Featuring exploits and interviews with actual, self-proclaimed Satanists, director Penny Lane highlights what amounts to an activist movement ironically posing as a religion. For anyone even mildly interested in the intersection between theology and politics, this documentary should be high on your list.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at

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