Disney + has arrived and The Mandalorian episode 1 has dropped. I couldn’t be happier! While I expected a full season to land at once and my productivity would be awful as I powered through an entire first season in a day, I did fully enjoy Chapter One.
The pacing of the show is a relief. Often Star Wars movies seem to try to jam as much as they can into a single movie, it appears that show runner Jon Favreau knows that we’re in it for the long haul and the show has a calm dramatic pace that allows us to enjoy the world on the whole. Visually, the universe is attractive and there are marked differences from planet to planet. I was hoping that a title card would indicate what planet the characters are visiting. However, this does little to detract from the great settings this show takes place in.
The CGI and graphics are perhaps a touch underwhelming but the show runners do less with darkness and shadows than we’ve seen on Game of Thrones (as an example). The result is something that feels uniquely “Star Wars”. This is perhaps my faverouite aspect of this show. It keeps the lore and history intact and it appears to not be beholden to the characters of the original trilogy (or so it seems…more on this later).
Nothing makes me happier than irate baby boomers, crying on the internet about the authenticity of a show or movie that depicts a war we scarcely see on planets that don’t exist during a fictional period of intergalactic history. It’s star wars! There’s fucking blasters and light sabers; shut up and have some fun. JERKS!
So, in some ways the show will alienate the ardent fans who hate anything that isn’t Episodes 4-6. The show is action packed while being quirky and fun. The action is seen immediately as the main character (known at this point simply as: The Mandalorian) enters a bar and makes short work of some throw away characters whilst capturing a bounty. The goofy is represented in the robot character named IG-11. The character makes quippy comments while engaged in combat alongside the main protagonist. Similarly, there is a character who ends every interaction with the statement: “I have spoken”. It adds a level of fun that I have always looked for in Star Wars.
There is some fan service as well in the episode. Those who are longtime fans of the series will enjoy it while the aforementioned purists can just abandon the series already and make us all happy! Mythrol (the original bounty claimed in the show portrayed by SNL’s Horatio Sands) mentions the oft mocked Christmas Special: Life Day. The Blurrgs have returned from the Clone Wars animated series and so much more. However, my favorite Easter egg on the episode is a cheeky joke slipped in by Favreau and writer Dave Filoni (writer of Clone Wars and Rebels animated series). At one point, the Mandalorian finds himself surrounded by four Storm Troopers who are quite confident in reminding him as such. The Mandalorian answers that he likes his chances. While it is meant on the surface to sound badass (and it does), it also references a common inside joke among Star Wars fans: Storm Troopers are horrendously ineffective soldiers. I giggled!
The music creates an atmosphere that is at times space western and then iconically Star Wars. I love this choice. This is particularly fitting when IG-11 and the Mandalorian enter a shootout akin to the O.K. Corral. It is very immersive and really reflects well on the imagery set by the characters, and the settings presented.
The concern I have is as follows. The Star Wars universe desperately needs to break from the Skywalker centric timeline. The movies are handling that timeline with mixed results. This is an opportunity for it to truly feel like a universe that is sparse and wide. While the events of the movies are hugely iconic to worlds that comprise the universe, the world of Star Wars has comparatively felt small. Dave Filioni did a good job of mitigating that on the animated shows despite being beholden to the Skywalker Saga. So there is hope.
However, the show ends with the Mandalorian going after a bounty around which there is much mystery. The bounty is revealed to be a baby Yoda. It isn’t the character but rather one of the same species (oddly never named in the Star Wars Universe). My hope here is that while the character is of some importance it isn’t a gateway to the original movies. Thereis already a fan theory that Bob Fett was seen in the background in the episode (again, hoping he stayed in the Sarlacc Pit0. If this turns out to be a relative of Yoda’s I will be extremely let down.
So far, I do have my guard up but I thoroughly enjoyed the 39 minute intro into this new series. My hope is that we will begin to see some of the non or less canonical stories be represented in limited series. Let’s hope we get an Old Republic show and a show about Revan and so on. I will say that for fans who enjoy Star Wars and want to see the property grow into something new, The Mandalorian represents a new hope!