The Mandalorian is owned by Disney
Directed by Dave Filoni
Since Disney+ is the new hotness and so are the shows that Disney will be producing for it, I figured I’d check out the Star Wars show (which is set about five years after Return of the Jedi) and let you know if it’s worth your time and attention! It’s being made by Jon Faverau which is a good sign as even the movies I’m not too fond of like The Jungle Book and The Lion King are still notable for their technical achievements, and the amount of money Disney is putting into this show is absolutely ludicrous which means at least the visual side of things will be interesting to see unfold. Heck, if nothing else a production of THIS scale, if it’s destined to fail, can only fail in the most SPECTACULAR of ways, and I want a front row seat if it’s going to be one big hot mess! Does Disney’s latest venture into the Star Wars universe provide an intriguing introduction into a part of the universe we’ve yet to see on screen, or is this an underwhelming attempt to further cash in on their very expensive license? Let’s find out!!
I knew nothing about this series going into it, and by the end of the first episode it was kind of exactly what I never knew I wanted out of a Star Wars series. It’s almost childish in just how much it appeals to the basest of my tastes, and yet it never sinks into being crude or garish with it. It’s a fan film made by professionals; not wanting to subvert the source material to their own ends but to give us a glimpse at something we haven’t seen in this world before.
If there’s anything it reminds of specifically it’s Solo which has a similar stylistic bent to it as both of these draw from cowboy stories, old fashioned machismo, and plenty of gun play to satisfy your action cravings. Where this one differs though is that where Solo was about charm and wit, this is much more about stoicism and grit which is a valid approach to take as long as its handled well, and I think they do a fine job of it here. The opening scene of the episode where THE MANDALORIAN (Pedro Pascal) silently walks into a bar, immediately gets the heat from local tough guys, and then cleans house with barely any effort, is taken whole cloth from any number of cheesy B-movies or old school action anime, but seeing it in the Star Wars universe and done with a decent enough budget is definitely novel if nothing else. So why is it that THE MANDALORIAN is in this bar in the middle of nowhere in the first place? Well the tough guys were hassling this blue guy (Horatio Sanz) and after THE MANDALORIAN tears them to pieces, we find out that said blue guy is actually his target. He drags him back to wherever it is bounty hunters take their captives. This return trip includes a cameo from none other than Brian Posehn who drives them from the bar to their ship, and during this scene we learn that THE MANDALORIAN has a problem with droids that we’ll no doubt get further into in later episodes.
Anyway, THE MANDALORIAN (seriously, does he have a name like Rick or Jimmy, or do we just have to call him by his full title each time?) has done a good job as always, but it’s clear that after the fall of the empire the bounties have gotten smaller and smaller to the point that it’s not really worth his time and effort to go after such small fry, but as luck would have it his contact at… I don’t know, the Guild of Bounty Hunters (Carl Weathers) has a job on the hush-hush for him. If he wants to do something… off the books, he just needs to go to the address on this little ol’ card. What he finds there is what seems to be a holdout faction of The Empire led by some dude played by Warner Herzog who’s flanked by half a dozen or so Stormtroopers in dirty armor. After a cheesy standoff where The Mandalorian points his blaster at a hapless scientist who bumbles into the room which leads to the Stormtroopers branding theirs (more full on macho nonsense and I love it!), Werner Herzog explains what it is they want him to do. With only the barest of information, they want him to go to this remote planet, find the target, and take them back alive. Since everything is under the table, they can’t give him an EXACT location (apparently everyone in the Star Wars universe has built in GPS trackers?) but can confirm the target is fifty years old and can be identified with a beeping stick thingy. Seems like a simple enough task, though given the secrecy of everything there’s certainly more going on than what Herzog is telling him, but what can you do in this economy? NOT take the shady jobs!?
Now here’s where things get a bit more into the lore and where I started to have some questions. He goes from this secret building in town to… what I can only describe as Mandalorian Alley where other Mandalorians are just hanging out; standing off to the side with their guns, playing Space Chess, even a few kids with those helmets running around. So from what I understand, Mandalorians is either a race or a tribe of some sort that can be identified by their distinctive helmets, but if there’s CLEARLY more than one and I’m pretty sure they’re ALL bounty hunters (you wouldn’t exactly expect one of these armored up dudes to be running a bakery), so why is THIS guy THE Mandalorian and not just A Mandalorian? I mean I GUESS we’ll get more into that as the series goes along, but that’s such a basic question to ask right off the bat that I really wish they’d answer it as soon as possible instead of letting it just hang over this otherwise really solid episode. Also, the masks indicate that Bobba Fett was a Mandalorian, which means that Jango Fett was a Mandalorian, and therefore CLONES are Mandalorians, but then clones were ALSO Stormtroopers… you know what, let’s just move on for now. This is starting to give me a headache. So why is he going to MANDALORIAN ALLEY in the first place? Well Werner Herzog gave him a down payment in the form of some sort of rare metal and it appears to have some cultural significance for him as he takes it to a Mandalorian Armorer or fashions him a spiffy new shoulder piece out of the chunk of metal. While the armorer does this, we get brief snippets of THE MANDALORIAN’s backstory where I guess his family was murdered in an attack of some kind and he was left alone; presumably to be found and adopted by the Mandalorians.
After getting the armor piece, he heads to the planet which leads to the only comedic scene of the episode which sadly is the least engaging part of the episode. He gets attacked RIGHT AWAY by a bunch of giant faced tadpole looking creatures, but gets saved by one of the planet’s natives (Nick Nolte) who promises to help him on his quest. See, the group who are “protecting” THE MANDALORIAN’s target have been causing trouble and so someone getting them the heck out of there would be a huge help to the native population. In order to get to where the “bad guys” are hiding out though, he has to learn how to RIDE one of these tadpole monster things, and wackiness ensues as the stern talking and emotionally cold mask wearing murder fails over and over again to mount one of these creatures. It’s… fine I guess as the humor doesn’t grate, but it feels a bit out of place in such an otherwise seriously minded episode. The humor we’ve seen up to this point have been in fits and spurts mostly through sardonic quips, so going for OOPS, I FELL OVER jokes isn’t quite keeping with the tone, nor do I feel it particularly humanizes this character.
In any case, he eventually gets the hang of it and rides to the outpost where the “bad guys” are stationed at. Oddly enough he gets there at the same time that an IG Bounty Droid (though I guess not the IG-88 Bounty Droid from The Empire Strikes Back) shows up on behalf of the Bounty Hunters Guild after the same target. Um… wasn’t the whole point of him taking on this particular request is that it was UNDER THE TABLE? If this bounty was available through official channels, then why didn’t Carl Weathers give it to him in the first place!? Despite that issue, this scene is actually the highlight of the entire episode as the droid (Taika Waititi) goes in guns a blazing which ruins THE MANDALORIAN’s chance at a surprise attack, and so he basically has to form a fast alliance with the robot so they can at least wing this together. The action scene is quite excellent with the creators doing a great job of realizing Taika Waititi’s droid character as an effective if still somewhat silly looking combat droid, and THE MANDALORIAN’s resourcefulness is on full display as he manages to scrape his way past an entire fleet of gun toting “bad guys” on his wits and steads aim alone!
Eventually the two of them have a clear path to the target they’re after, and what they find is… A BABY YODA!! Yeah, so I guess I never thought about this, but does Yoda have a defined species within the Star Wars canon? If not, then I guess this is the show’s first bold step towards redefining the lore and I’m glad that Disney is letting them take the risk here. Now THE MANDALORIAN was definitely not ready for this eventually since the Werner Herzog told him the age of the target was fifty years old but cheekily forgot to mention that fifty years to this species means they’re still wearing diapers. Oddly enough the Guild’s mission (the one that the IG droid is following) is to terminate the baby instead of take it in alive, so The Mandalorian has no choice but to shoot his erstwhile ally in the head; leaving him alone with this young creature to contemplate his next move as the credits begin to roll.
I really liked this initial episode and I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt in a lot of places since it is the very first one. I do want to know who THE MANDALORIAN is and if he has a real name I can use instead, and I really hope the next episode will explain why there was an IG droid on the scene which hopefully wasn’t just one big plot hole, but the initial impressions are good if a tad simplistic. It’s gritty and PEAK TV in not a particularly unique way, but it’s fun to see that kind of story being told in the Star Wars universe; especially since Disney+ seems to be where all those planned Star Wars spin-off movies are going to end up instead, and this seems to be a good indication that they know what they’re doing even if there are a few growing pains to work through.