The Mandalorian is firmly on the side of Rogue One in terms of being an exciting, open canvas that looks to fully take advantage of its premise in a post George Lucas Star Wars world. That’s the highest compliment I can give a Disney take on Star Wars, which hasn’t always been the version I’ve been looking for since purchasing the license from Lucas.
For the record, I enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story, but besides one unexpected cameo it all played out close enough to what fans expected when it was announced. Like Rogue One, The Mandalorian is wide open. There’s not even a mention of the Rebel Alliance let alone some desperate attempt to attach itself to the Skywalker Saga, which for my fandom officially ended with Revenge of the Sith or Return of the Jedi per your viewing order.
Anything can happen in The Mandalorian. Characters that seem poised to be significant players can be taken out at any moment and there’s a freedom that comes with being far enough away from the established continuity that everything is fair game.
The show explores the life of The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal, Game of Thrones), a simple bounty hunter trying to make his way across the universe. After the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, Imperial credits don’t have much value making life a little harder for a bounty hunter. Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), the head of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, tips him off to a potential big score with a client desperate to avoid any attention.
This sends The Mandalorian to a new planet where he meets Kuill, an ugnaught like the species who were playing keep away with C3-P0’s head in Empire Strikes Back. Nick Nolte provides Kuill’s voice and in little time, Nolte makes Kuill one of the standout new characters since The Force Awakens. Kuill tips The Mandalorian to the location where he can capture his bounty and warns him that no one has proven successful so far. Good thing there’s a guild member IG-11 (Taika Waititi) willing to split the bounty and help him out.
One of the smarter things creator/writer Jon Favreau did was not make The Mandalorian in the mold of earlier bad-a$$ Mandalorians Boba and Jango Fett. The son and father bounty hunters were our first live action glimpse of the Mandalorian world and both just exuded coolness. The Mandalorian isn’t trying to be cool and is instead just trying to do his job. Naturally the side effect of his calm demeanor means he comes off amazingly cool just in a different way.
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There’s some nicely subtle nods to previous Star Wars films that are done in a way just to show some connectivity between the film and TV universe. It’s not a sense of “oh you loved this in the movies, let’s just do the exact same thing in the snow.” Favreau understands how to inject humor without making it forced or corny and there’s some several funny moments in the premiere.
Getting Dave Filoni to direct the first episode was a smart move. From Clone Wars to Rebels and Resistance, no one has been more integral in establishing the post-prequel direction of Star Wars than Filoni. His fingerprints are easy to spot throughout the episode and he establishes a fun outlaw Western tone.
It’s not looking all that likely that we’ll ever actually see Pascal’s face over the course of the series. Pascal has a rugged leading man’s face so it’s interesting that it will be covered under a helmet challenging him to convey emotions and expressions with body language and posture. The early returns are more than positive and taps into the imagination every longtime Star Wars’ fan has when they attempted to translate what Chewbacca or R2-D2 were saying in the Original Trilogy.
The Mandalorian is both a Star Wars show and one of the first original program efforts on Disney+ so you knew there was no chance Disney was going to bring a wack effort here. The production values are strong with this one and the show doesn’t look like a watered down TV version of the Star Wars universe. With just this initial episode, The Mandalorian travels to an ice planet with giant creatures underneath the water to the Mandalorian HQ and to an arid planet that proves Tattooine didn’t have a monopoly on desert realms.
Although the episode is just 39 minutes — a genuine surprise as Netflix original shows typically go the commercial-free run time of 58 minutes — there’s a lot packed into it so I didn’t feel shortchanged. And the action sequence really felt like a big budget Star Wars fight scene. Shame about IG-11 as he seemed like a fun droid sidekick that could have continued to provide some dry humor moments. But the bounty definitely is interesting with the reveal of a baby of Yoda’s species. Why does the Empire want this baby dead or alive?
Much like I’m experiencing with DC Universe’s Titans series, the weekly nature of the episode rollout is going to prove frustrating instead of the binge it all in one setup from Netflix. It’s going to require a little patience, but given the limited amount of original content for Star Wars and Marvel fans, the weekly release schedule is a smarter way to go.
The Mandalorian captures the Star Wars feel of Rogue One while introducing an intriguing new character and an already captivating new corner of the universe.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney+