The Mandalorian Season 1 (Review)
Season 1, Episodes 1-8
Star Wars first foray into live action television was The Mandalorian. Because of the talent involved, it was a very strong and entertaining story. Jon Favreau is very good at what he does, and if he there was a natural heir to the Star Wars brand, it is Dave Filoni. Both being involved meaning only good things could come from the show.
The show “broke the internet” as the kids say, with the reveal of “The Child” – an adorable baby version of Master Yoda’s species. The show explores the Mandalorians (the Manda-LORE?) by giving us a mysterious bounty hunter protagonist. It was a different feel for a Star Wars property, but still gave us everything that we loved. There was legit action, heartfelt emotion, a good moral center, and a lot of humor. Regardless of what era of Star Wars you are a fan of, The Mandalorian has something for everybody.
Pedro Pascal anchors a cast that includes Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Taika Waititi, and Better Call Saul‘s Giancarlo Esposito. The talent behind the camera is even more impressive, which also includes Waititi, along with Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and future Kenobi showrunner Deborah Chow. It is by far the most diverse group to work on a live action Star Wars property. Their styles are as diverse as they are. You could really feel what each person brought to the show. Their sensibilities were able to shine bright, while still coloring in the lines of a cohesive television show.
At times, The Mandalorian felt like an old western. The “lone gunslinger” trope has been done a lot, but when it is done well, it really shines on screen. Logan was the same way. Wolverine’s last outing has many similarities to The Mandalorian. Both protagonists have a certain lifestyle, both of them get their lives turned upside down by a child. Both of them come to care for the child, and upend their own lives for the good of said child. It is a formula that works. It is a formula that resonates with people. It is tried and true, and a great choice by Favreau to adapt it for a Star Wars story.
Where the show stumbled, was near the middle. It laid out this big long form, serialized, cohesive story. This was about this feared bounty hunter throwing everything away to protect this child that some bad people wanted. In the middle, it transformed into a “mission of the week” procedural instead.
Here is a description of episode 2:
Now, here is a description of episode 5:
The Mandalorian’s ship needs repairs, so he must complete a mission on the nearest planet in order to get the parts that he needs to leave.
Both are good episodes. Both are perfectly entertaining. But if you were in the bag for the long form story that they originally sold, then episode 5 and 6 are both superfluous. Yes, they have seeds that are planted for payoffs in later season, but they are definitely just procedural episodes. If the series was always going to be just “a bounty hunter makes money doing jobs in the tough Star Wars universe”, then fine. There is a market for Star Wars shows that are like Law & Order or CSI. But to be sold as essentially one cohesive 8 hour story, then have some filler in the middle was a disappointment. Those episodes were empty calories. Empty calories can taste delicious. Empty calories can get the job done in a pinch. But they are nowhere near as satisfying as a nutritious meal.
The nutritious meal that we got at the end was the best we had eaten all season. Episodes 7 and 8 were some of the best live action Star Wars that Disney has been responsible for. It brought (nearly) everything together with a nice tight bow. It was a satisfactory conclusion that also left enough open for a very intriguing second season.
While people new to Star Wars can enjoy The Mandalorian with no prior knowledge of anything else, there are lots of easter eggs and references for the die hard fans to sink their teeth into. Some, like in episode 5 had a bit too much of it though. While it didn’t hurt the episode to list every Tatooine location known to fans, it certainly didn’t help either. But for the most part, it towed the line “story first, fan service second”, and was better for it.
Star Wars can have the bad habit of making itself feel smaller and smaller. With everyone related to each other, or everyone knowing each other, it makes the “universe” feel like a family picnic. The Mandalorian helps truly expand the brand, without making it feel too foreign and out of place. It is gorgeously shot, intelligently written, and masterfully acted. The first season of Favreau’s The Mandalorian is what every other Disney+ original Star Wars series will rest its laurels on. Just like how the MCU rests its laurels on Favreau’s Iron Man. The dude knows how to make compelling stories, and both franchises are better because of him.
If you are even a fringe Star Wars fan, The Mandalorian is worth checking out. All 8 episodes of the first season are now streaming exclusively on Disney+.