The Mandalorian is the very first live-action Star Wars show, courtesy of the recently launched Disney+ streaming service. Produced by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, this is a gritty, dirty and cantina inspired trek in a galaxy far, far away starring a faceless and silent anti-hero as the lead. So, how does that work on the screen and how does it work? Since Chapters 1 and 2 debuted on the same week and Chapter 1 ended with a plot twist, I decided to combine the two episodes to see how one impacts the other.
That’s because I thought episode 1, on it’s own, was just good. It was visually stunning, full of practical effects, lots of classic creatures and droids and great costumes. Pedro Pascale stars as The Mandalorian with no Name, and I use that reference intentionally as the tone the episode sets up is very Sergio Leone. The Mando barely speaks and the music, done by Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther) feels very much like the work of Enrico Morricone, only with a bit more synth.
Most of the first episode feels very much like “a day in the life of”. The Mandalorian collects a bounty, redeems the bounty and embarks on a new job. He doesn’t say much and doesn’t do much overall aside from his job. He’s hired by a former Imperial known only as the client to collect or terminate a target, which is what will be the crutch of the rest of the season. So while chapter 1 didn’t explore things too much-much of its storytelling was visual and tailored towards Star Wars fans, chiefly the whole revelation about his armour-it did open the door wide open by the time he shoots a fellow Bounty Guild member to protect a baby at the end of the episode. And not just any baby-a baby of Yoda’s species. Questions indeed.
Chapter 2, titled The Child, clocks in at 33 minutes and doesn’t push the plot forward that much. In fact, episodes 1 and 2 could have been attached together to make one big premiere episode. After obtaining the baby, the Mando’s spaceship is stripped of parts by the Jawa scavengers. To get them back, he trades his parts for hard labour in the form of obtaining an egg for them from a hideous monster. It’s during this conflict we learn that baby Yoda (as I’m calling him for now) is very strong with the Force. Mando, on the other hand, still doesn’t say too much but is left with the question as to what to do with said child.
The Mandalorian doesn’t say much and after watching each episode, my immediate reaction was “man, not much happened this episode”. But upon reflecting, I realized quite a bit was happening, just it’s being told in an unconventional delivery method. I think we’re used to exposition-heavy shows or shows with lots of action, twists and turns. The Mandalorian, so far, is not that show. It’s a slow burn, showing you only the essentials while establishing tone and mood. It’s wearing it’s spaghetti western influences on its sleeve while tidbits of information, such as the Mandalorian Foundlings, who the other bounty hunters are, are brought up in passing and left for you to deduce for yourself. Despite costing over $100 million to produce, this feels like a very niche show, made for a very particular fanbase. It’s ballsy that the show isn’t so accessible; it relies heavily on appreciation and knowledge of Star Wars and the Western genre as a whole.
I found the opening of the first episode felt a little rough visually as if it was a pricey fan film. But that feeling was completely gone by the end of the first episode and entirely absent during the second, which featured a large Sand Crawler that the Jawas used. It’s great to see miniatures being used again and how real the places and aliens feel. The Trandoshans look a little off to me, but they’re still not CGI. Likewise, the Jawas sport red eyes in this series but still, seeing them again brings one back. In fact, the show feels so much like the first half of A New Hope while also, being so different from anything we’ve seen before in the franchise. Also-the end credit art bits are so great.
Where will the Mando go now? Will he turn the baby in for Beskar Steel or hide him from the Empire? How does Cara Dune come into the plot and Moff Gideon? Who is sending the Trandosians and IG-11 after Baby Yoda as well if our Mando already claimed the bounty? There are a lot of questions up in the air right now and we’ll have to see where things go from there. It’s a unique show that may not be for everyone and the show does have a lot of weight to pull up by the end of the series to make us care about our faceless protagonist. But there is an air of intrigue and mystery, the show just has to deliver on those promises. Now that the introduction is over with, I hope to see the Mandalorian interact with more characters and ponder some difficult choices about identity and morality.