Updated: Oct 19, 2020
With a new, highly anticipated season of Disney's "The Mandalorian" just days away from premiering on Disney Plus, what better time than now to reflect on the first season of the series and see why so many people are looking forward to the premiere of the second season. First things first, the show is good, many would call it great, and there is a community of Star Wars fans online calling this series the best thing to come from the Star Wars franchise since the original trilogy. Now, it would be unfair for me or anyone who wasn’t around when the original Star Wars trilogy premiered in theaters to make such a statement, but having watched the Mandalorian and the original trilogy I can understand the parallels being drawn between the two. Much like the original Star Wars film trilogy, the first season of the Mandalorian is a fun, exciting adventure with a masterful mixture of levity and gravitas that die-hard Star Wars fans and the average television viewer can enjoy in equal measure.
The cast of the Mandalorian is not a distinguished line-up of academy award-winning actors, and I couldn't care less. Pedro Pascal, whom many know from his roles as Oberyn “The Viper” Martell in HBO’s Game of Thrones or Javier Peña in Netflix’s Narcos, does another great job playing an independent rogue struggling to do the right thing. That is not to say that he carries the show, former MMA fighter Gina Carano as Cara Dune, a former rebel soldier turned mercenary, and veteran actor Carl Weathers as Greef Karga, the leader of a bounty hunter guild play these recurring roles in the series to perfection. Each casting choice in the Mandalorian serves to help with world-building and making the audience feel as though we are viewing a diverse, living universe without any glaring errors that I could find.
Ok, I'll try to keep this spoiler-free, but I won’t make any promises so proceed at your own risk. The parallels that the Mandalorian draws to the original Star Wars trilogy of the 1970s is understandable because at its core the Mandalorian is a fun adventure through space. Though, that is only what draws the audience in, what will keep you watching more than anything is the main character, Din Djarin, who is commonly referred to as “Mando”. Compelling, interesting, complex, and shrouded in enough mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat without distracting from the main overarching narrative of the series. Also, the relationships “Mando” has with the other characters both good and bad are always entertaining and interesting. This is especially true for one character that “Mando” encounters early in the series, the character that is with “Mando” most consistently. I am going to give a spoiler alert if you don’t want to know anything about the series at all before watching it. Now, the character I was referring to earlier, the one with “Mando” more than any other is one that I’m sure you’ve seen in countless memes and pictures all over the internet. Yup, I’m talking about the world-famous “Baby Yoda”. The internet fell in love with him because of how cute he looked but his inclusion in the Mandalorian is so much more than a cute face they put on toys (though I’m sure Disney isn’t too mad about that). I refuse to get into specifics because I really want people to experience this for themselves, but “Baby Yoda” serves as the moral center of The Mandalorian, while simultaneously adding something new to the lore of Star Wars. Without “Baby Yoda,” the character arc of “Mando” would not be nearly as interesting or satisfying as it would be without the little, cute, green guy in the series. But more than anything else, the story of The Mandalorian has something that words by themselves cannot do justice. It just feels like Star Wars, more than most Star Wars media has in a long time, that’s why I don’t want to give away any spoilers, it would be a disservice to those reading this because I want everyone who watches "The Mandalorian" to be as presently surprised as I was watching the series.
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I have mentioned multiple times The Mandalorian "feeling" like Star Wars, but the story is not the only reason, it cannot be the only reason. No, a big part of what makes the Star Wars universe unique is that it builds a fictional world that is fantastical and lore-filled that encourages exploration. The Mandalorian masterfully balances those elements while also managing to tell a compelling story. The Mandalorian is also a breath of fresh air because it is one of the few times on-screen that the galaxy's force-sensitive characters have not been the focus and it is one of the few times we have seen the lore of a faction that is not force-sensitive explored. This is not to say I hate the continuous duel between good and evil that the light-side and the dark side of the force are eternally locked in. However, it's interesting seeing how people without superpowers live in such a fantastical world. Also, seeing how these "regular" characters react to seeing the force being used by others makes the force feel fantastic and special. Also, the designs of the aliens and the practical effects that bring them to life are just fantastic. There is an unforgettable alien that "Mando" meets early in the season that adds both levity and intrigue to the story of that episode and the Star Wars universe. This alien we meet early on is just one of the new aliens introduced in the series that you'll be intrigued by, but The Mandalorian also shows us aliens seen before in Star Wars in a whole new light. But more than anything else the exploration of Mandalorian society and culture is something longtime fans of Star Wars have always wanted, while for newcomers to the universe it will give them a grounded introduction to such a fantastic universe.
What could be better
The Mandalorian is a great show for the whole family, but it is not perfect. The most consistent issue that I had with the series was that there were times where it could be very predictable. There are betrayals and double-crosses that are Scooby-Doo levels of obvious! These are treated like Chris Nolan level twists when all they'll really do is make you roll your eyes. There is also an issue with consistency with our main character "Mando' which may add to the eye-roll count. Portrayed from his first moment on screen as a no holds barred, suspicious, intelligent, loner, it seems odd to me how often in the series “Mando” is betrayed and/or tricked. Most of the time is fiercely resistant to change, trust, and extremely protective of "Baby Yoda" and his people but there are times where "Mando" may give “Baby Yoda” to a stranger, endanger his people, or trust someone who clearly has questionable morals at best. Again I’ll try not to get too specific to avoid spoilers. Also, there is an interesting idea that a character “Mando” speaks to at the beginning of the season that I wish was explored a bit more in the series. The idea that this character brings up is that the rebels toppling the Galactic Empire did not actually save the galaxy, but only served to destabilize the galaxy and made things worse for average people. It would have been interesting to see this idea explored further as I’m sure there were regular people in the galaxy whose lives were improved by the Galactic Empire and subsequently made worse by the fall of the Galactic Empire. For better or worse, The Mandalorian is a Disney series, which means they are going for mass appeal and unfortunately that means things will be made overly simple and obvious at times in an attempt to keep as many people watching as possible.
Watch it. Let me say it again, watch it. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or not, young or old, this show has something for everyone. Like I said before, The Mandalorian is not going to blow you away like Breaking Bad or The Wire but what it is, is one of the best pieces of Star Wars media produced in the past 20 years. The Mandalorian can also serve as a great introduction for anyone not familiar with the Star Wars universe (which I’m sure series runner and writer Jon Favreau was aiming for when penning the series). So, if you have not already seen The Mandalorian then I suggest you binge season one as soon as possible and then go watch season two when it comes out.
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