Series Review: The Mandalorian
This is the way.
I’m a big fan of the Star Wars franchise. Spanning three trilogies since 1977, the new trilogy that started with The Force Awakens (2015) and ended with The Rise of Skywalker (2019), to two standalone films – Rogue One (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) (which I believe is largely underrated). The Mandalorian has become my favorite Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
The Mandalorian is Disney’s live-action Star Wars TV show airing on Disney+. It’s eight episodes long, each with a runtime of 30 – 40 minutes, which is much shorter than comparable shows on Netflix or HBO. The story is set after five years after The Return of the Jedi (1983) and long before The Force Awakens.
The Galactic Empire has fallen and warlords and bounty hunters run the show. The show also ties in with the animated TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Write-creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Lion King) and executive producer Dave Filoni (The Clone Wars) do a great job of creating nostalgia of the Original Trilogy and Prequels while treading new ground since there are no Skywalkers and Jedi.
Pedro Pascal stars as our helmeted protagonist, Mando, a lone, skilled, and mostly silent bounty hunter with a thin backstory and absolutely hates droids. He also never takes off his helmet, so the emotion and reaction have to be conveyed without facial expression, which I find quite extraordinary.
The first episode kicks off with Mando bringing in a bounty which then introduces the audience to his employer Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) leader of the bounty hunter guild and considers him his most valuable partner. He tells Mando there’s a wealthy client who needs a job done. The Client (Werner Herzog) hires Mando to retrieve “The Child” – colloquially known by fans as Baby Yoda – an infant that is the same species as Star Wars character Yoda. Mando instead chooses to go on the run and protect the infant. While on their quest to learn about The Child’s origin, they are pursued by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), a former Imperial Officer.
Other characters in the show include Cara Dune (Gina Carano) a former Rebel shock-trooper-turned-mercenary, Kuill (voiced by Nick Nolte), an Ugnaught who helps the Mandalorian, IG-11, a bounty hunter droid, voiced by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) who also directs the final episode, and The Armorer (Emily Swallow), a Mandalorian who forges armor from Beskar steel.
For the most part, The Mandalorian is a Space Western. Half of the first season unfolds like a procedural drama, with some adventures playing out in each episode, but then goes back to the serial format for the final two episodes. One of the themes explored in the show is parenting and fatherhood, particularly between The Mandalorian and The Child. This is unusual for Star Wars stories given past examples such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Pascal brings humanity and surprisingly, heart to the titular character.
The Mandalorian is an exciting, terrific adventure through the Star Wars universe and with excellent storytelling without the usual lightsaber duel. Knowing Jon Favreau’s past works, particularly in the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, the show also blends in comic relief subtly. Season 2 is set to premiere on October 30, 2020, with several characters to be introduced from previous Star Wars media, including Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), and Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant). Development work on a third season has begun.