Disney Plus has seen the release of new exclusive shows, but none as anticipated as the first live-action “Star Wars” show entitled “The Mandalorian.” Although the “Star Wars” fan base has seen a divide with the new films, especially “Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi,” “The Mandalorian” shows promise of a fulfilling show, with the first half of its first season delivering a compelling story that fits snugly into the “Star Wars” universe and feels inspired by the original trilogy of “Star Wars” films in style and writing.
The show takes place a few years after “Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi.” The show centers around a nameless man, a Mandalorian bounty hunter (let’s call him Mando for short) portrayed by Pedro Pascal, who takes on jobs from bounty hunter guild leader Greef Karga, portrayed by Carl Weathers, around the lawless rim of the galaxy. One such job leads him to an ex-Imperial, The Client, portrayed by Werner Herzog, to go and retrieve a mysterious but valuable bounty. Minor spoilers for the first four episodes ahead.
The first half of season one is comprised of four episodes: “Chapter 1”; “Chapter 2: The Child”; “Chapter 3: The Sin” and “Chapter 4: Sanctuary.” The first episode was released with the launch of Disney Plus on Nov. 12 and each consecutive episode releasing every Friday thereafter. The first three episodes fit into a coherent story, which lead into “Chapter 4” which introduces Gina Carano’s character, Cara Dune, and seems to start the next act of a seemingly three-act structured television season.
At the end of the first episode, Mando encounters a child who appears to be the same species as the iconic Jedi Master Yoda. Since the species’ name is unknown to the universe, the internet has dubbed this child “Baby Yoda;” they are undoubtedly the cutest creature the “Star Wars” universe has ever seen and have spawned many memes. But it’s not only the internet that has developed this connection with “Baby Yoda,” the series is contingent on the relationship of Mando and Baby Yoda. Being what the Mandalorians dub as a “foundling” or orphan found and adopted by the clan, Mando comes to see an echo of his former orphaned self in Baby Yoda, deepening their connection.
The production is full of top-notch Hollywood talent. The series was created and executively produced by “The Lion King” (2019) Director Jon Favreau, “Star Wars: Rebels” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” veteran Dave Filoni, alongside Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson. The first four episodes are directed by Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard respectively. Although I won’t be touching on the individual episodes on this review, all of these directors, accompanied by music from Ludwig Göransson, capture the spaghetti-western mixed with space opera feeling that the series harnesses. It’s directed with a distinctly “Star Wars” style reminiscent of the original trilogy.
The series, although tackling darker themes of loyalty and death, has a light-hearted tone sprinkled in. Most of the humor hits throughout the show, with the natural integration that “Star Wars” fans expect sprinkled into the action and soap-operatic drama.
The Mandalorians, for anyone who isn’t aware, is a race of people in “Star Wars” originating from the planet Mandalore. The culture of the Mandalorians is part of their identity; they value power, leadership and pride in their clans, who fight to rule their planet. You don’t necessarily need to know all this to enjoy the show, but what you do need to know is that the specific clan that Mando belongs to does not remove their helmets as a sign of commitment to their lifestyle, which makes for an interesting character for Pascal to interpret. Pascal is not able to show facial emotion, the only way for him to show the audience is through his voice and his body language, this is where the direction excels throughout this show. Pascal is able to portray deep seated emotion without you having to even see his face and develop connections with the other characters through his tone of voice alone. The stand out performances of supporting characters so far are Weathers, Herzog and also Nick Nolte as Kuiil, an Ugnaught who helps Mando on his journey.
The action in these first few episodes is fueled by top-notch melee fight scenes and spectacularly shot laser weapon battles. Although Mando is definitely skilled in the art of combat and blaster fire, he never feels too powerful and can often be realistically overwhelmed by his enemies throughout the action. The direction for the action feels like the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” television show, appropriately so, since Filoni has jumped from the supervising director of that series (which there were also Mandalorians) to the same type of role in this production.
The visual effects look spectacular, with the laser fire and more computer-generated imaging segments looking realistic enough to fit in with the show’s natural environments, nothing seems too out of place. The practical effects, makeup and costumes in this show are also top-notch; all the aliens feel realistic when they are on the screen. Although Baby Yoda is mostly computer-generated, he looks like a high quality alien doll you would see at a toy store.
“The Mandalorian” seems to join the rank of high quality “Star Wars” storytelling. I will eagerly await the second half of the season with unbridled anticipation, as I can’t wait to see what the rest of the story has in store and see the fate of our hero’s journey. I highly recommend “The Mandalorian” to anybody who owns Disney Plus and is a fan of “Star Wars.” If you don’t own Disney Plus and you are looking for a streaming service to spend a few bucks a month on, I would recommend giving the first half of “The Mandalorian” a watch with your week free trial and then decide if the streaming service is right for you.
With the direction “The Mandalorian” seems to be headed, the show’s quality only looks to get better from here, wrapping up a coherent and compelling “Star Wars” story that has already been confirmed to be getting a second season.