I’m sure we all have our hot takes on the Disney era of Star Wars. I’m not a fan of it myself and that’s putting it kindly. Despite that, I knew I’d check out The Mandalorian. We all have those fandoms that die hard and Star Wars is one of them for me. Even in a low point (and I grew up watching prequels so I know low), it’ll still be a part of the nerdy side of my life. Besides, The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars TV show and that is kind of a noteworthy development in and of itself. Just a few years ago, such a production such as this seemed impractical. If you had told me when I was little that we’d get something like this, I’d have been excited beyond compare.
And to the credit of showrunner Jon Favreu and his crew, The Mandalorian is an admirable feat from a technical perspective. If anything is going to show how far production values for television has gone, this is most certainly a prime example. The practical effects, the costumes, and the sets really do feel like they could’ve been made for the movies. The only weak spot is the CGI, you can tell that some things were obviously rendered with a computer, but that kind of effects is fortunately (and surprisingly) used sparsely.
The plot for The Mandalorian is a simple one, even for Star Wars. Set five years after Return of the Jedi, the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) flies around the Outer Rim bounty hunting…and that sums it up, actually. The first episode shows glimpses of an overarching plot involving the Mandalorian’s most recent bounty (more on that in a bit) but the gist is very much the classic western tale. A lone wolf on a series of adventures and shooting anything that gets in his way. It’s a far cry from the grandiose of the movies which could underwhelm some but I dig it. We’ve seen the Rebels vs. Empire set up enough times so it’s refreshing see the criminal underworld of the galaxy instead (and see it be done well unlike with Solo).
I do find it a little strange that this show stars a new character and not Boba Fett. You could’ve easily had this story feature the latter and nothing essential would change. I believe the current canon is that Fett isn’t a Mandalorian but the average viewer wouldn’t necessarily know that. Odds are, they don’t even know what a Mandalorian is. You look at that suit or armor and the first character that comes to mind is Boba Fett. And before you say Fett is technically dead at this point, remember that nothing stopped the Legends canon from bringing him back anyway.
Maybe the choice of character is to allow the writers to better explore the Mandalorians themselves. I’ll admit that they are an interesting part of Star Wars mythology; a rare instance where humans are provided a distinct culture in the galaxy. You definitely hear some snippets here and there during the premiere. The titular Mandalorian was apparently once a “Foundling” and currently, his tribe is living in hiding. You also learn that some type of metal called Beskar is what’s used in making Mandalorian armor. All this might bear some significance in the narrative but it could also just be a bunch of throwaway lines that only the most hardcore fans will eat up and add to Wookiepedia. So long as it doesn’t interfere with keeping the story digestible and accessible though, I see no harm being done.
Obviously, what’s going to matter more is the Mandalorian himself. Being a lone wolf and a man of few words as well, it’ll be hard to separate the character from Boba Fett but the execution for said character is nevertheless working favorably. The smart thing the writing and Pascal’s performance does is call out different sides of the Mandalorian’s personality through his interactions with others. When around his bounties and his clients, he’s a full-on bounty hunter who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. Other instances however reveal a warmer side to his personality. In particular, his scenes with Kuill (Nick Nolte), a moisture farmer who helps him reach his bounty, reveals that he can express gratitude to those who help him. The Mandalorian is even a bit funny at times. His interactions with IG-11 (Taika Waititi), a no-nonsense assassin droid he teams up with, was full of some amusing banter created by the clashing of the two’s personalities.
Now, about that ending. Even though the Mandalorian is told that his bounty is 50 years old, he discovers at the end of the episode that his bounty is a baby whose part of the same species as Yoda. I’ll admit, it was a very surreal sight to behold. Not only are we seeing a member of this species besides Yoda (and Yaddle), we also get to see what this species looks like as an infant. Past the shock, it is a clever use of the lore to create a twist. You wouldn’t have considered Yoda’s species as a possibility and instead assume that the bounty is an adult like the Mandalorian did. This also creates a interesting dilemma. IG-11 tries to kill the baby but the Mandalorian blasts the droid since he has orders to keep the baby alive if possible. Even though he is technically doing his job, one has to wonder if he’ll be okay with handing over an infant over to his clients, especially since one of them is apparently a scientist.
Whatever unfolds, I hope the writers won’t go too far in elaborating on the baby’s origins. Part of what made Yoda and his species work is that you know very little about them. With how detailed the Star Wars mythos, that kind of mysteriousness carries a lot of weight. Even George Lucas chose not to elaborate on the species any further. I worry what The Mandalorian will do then. It could very easily center the story around the mystery of Baby Yoda and reveal details that were better off being left to the imagination of the fans.
Regardless of if The Mandalorian jumps the shark or not, I can at least say that I enjoyed its premiere. There’s admittedly a lot of novelty going for it. It is the first live-action Star Wars show after all and it’s also refreshing to see something other than “Rebels got to fight the Empire because Empire is bad”. Even so, the technical aspects of the production are impressive and the execution of the tone and the protagonist is solid so far. I haven’t been too pleased with Disney’s run with Star Wars but for once, I hope they’ll stick the landing with this project.
Thanks for reading!