Spoilers Ahead! Read at your own risk!
Since the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm back in 2012, the best Star Wars stories are the ones that take this galaxy that we all love so much and show us something completely new, all while retaining the Star Wars magic that makes us feel like a kid again. It’s the feeling you get when you see Rey finally taking the lightsaber on the Starkiller Base, it’s Luke confronting his nephew lightyears away while giving the galaxy a spark of hope, and it’s a young Han Solo seeing the Falcon for the first time. It’s these moments that will keep Star Wars going for years to come and it appears as though we can add The Mandalorian to that list because what Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and company have created here is pure magic.
The first chapter finds our Mandalorian protagonist collecting a bounty on a snowy and grimy planet complete with large ship-eating walrus creatures and the underworld’s worst. The show immediately sets a more adult tone with a bar fight, and it becomes clear this bounty hunter will do anything it takes to collect his reward. Throwing drinks and glasses into the faces of his enemies, ending the fight when an unlucky Quarren finds himself in two pieces. When the Mandalorian goes to collect his meager bounty, Greef Carga gives him an off the books offer from a mysterious figure (Werner Herzog) with connections to the remnants of the Empire. He gives him an age, location, and little else to help find his prey, so he sets off to find this surprising and seemingly priceless bounty. Meeting an ugnaught named Kuiil (Nick Nolte) who shows him the way and with the help of a bounty droid named IG-11(Taika Waititi) the Mandalorian finds his surprising bounty.
Right away I was blown away with how badass and awesome the Mandalorian is. The first fight in the cantina is one we’ve seen before but the ending of cutting that last Quarren in half was an “Oh snap” moment that I haven't seen in Star Wars ever. This is all while still feeling like a Star Wars property with subtle nods to the greater galaxy, including an excellent "Life Day" mention that made me laugh a little more than I anticipated.
Obi-Wan Kenobi once called Mos Eisley a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” and never has the underworld looked scummier and more villainy-ey than in The Mandalorian. So much in fact, that you really feel a strong sense of lawlessness like never before, this is indeed our version of the wild west. Things are very bad for everyone at this point in the galaxy, reaching the point where Imperial credits have no real value anymore and every day is a slog for most bounty hunters. Sure, the Empire is basically gone, but as Werner Herzog has mentioned in every trailer, is the galaxy any better after this revolution?
At least so far, for the parts not in the New Republic, the answer is a resounding no. I think that’s such an interesting new wrinkle in the universe considering we just assumed since the good guys won, everything was all good everywhere.
This first episode shows us what most Star Wars fans have known for almost a decade, Dave Filoni is a fantastic director, and it doesn’t matter if it’s live-action or animated, the man knows Star Wars. In fact, one of the things I was most excited to see in this first episode were his fingerprints and voice in this episode and it’s apparent how big of a role he had in this show’s production because they are everywhere.
The allusions to what happened to the Mandalorians after the events of Star Wars: Rebels as well as the interactions between Nick Nolte’s character and Pedro Pascal's. Those scenes with the Mandalorian and Kuiil felt like the training sequences between Kanan and Sabine in Rebels and it feels like he’ll be the Mandalorian’s version of Yoda. He even has his own unique way of speaking, ending every conversation with “I have spoken”, basically telling someone to "shut up" in the nicest way possible.
Speaking of Nolte, his character, Kuiil was such an unexpected treat to watch and I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him. He brings an added dimension to the show, that of a stubborn, but lovable wise man, and I loved his humor playing opposite to the Mandalorian’s honor.
I was also really surprised at how much I enjoyed the music of The Mandalorian as well. Composed by Ludwig Göransson, the show’s score mixes the sprawling epic scope of the traditional John Williams scores, with a classic western flair that fits and changes on each planet that our hero visits. I had heard a lot about how awesome it really was, but after hearing it I was just blown away, and it’s only the first episode!
Finally, we need to talk about the last 15 minutes of the show because not only were they an action-packed thrill ride, but it also manages to leave us on one of the most unexpected endings I could have imagined.
First off Taika Waititi is great as the bounty droid IG-11. I was a little worried it would be a copy of Korg from Thor:Ragnarok, but it’s something new and interesting and still has Waiti’s characteristic humor. The banter between him and the Mandalorian felt like classic Star Wars humor and when you add that with the awesome turret maneuver, it would have been a fantastic way to end the first episode, but then they took it to another level when they revealed what exactly the bounty was that these Imperials wanted.
MAJOR SPOILERS! DON’T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW YET!
It’s a baby Yoda! Or as my co-host Trey Mitchell and I call him, Yiddle. I could have guessed the ending 50 times and I never would have gotten that the show would explore something that had been a question in the Star Wars community for so long. It’s such a great inclusion and I’m stunned that something that big would stay hidden until now.
It certainly begs the question, why the remnants of the Empire would want a Yiddle so much? Is it for experiments? Are they looking for some kind of explanation for the Force? Is this the show that finally gives a name to the species? It’s moments like these where I wish I could just binge the series because I want to know what happens next!
Overall, I think this was a strong way to open the series. It feels like Star Wars to its core and takes the franchise into some new and exciting places. All while giving us exciting, memorable characters, and beginning to answer a question we’ve all wondered for a long time. Thankfully we only have three days to wait!
Rating: 9.1/ 10
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5/16 - Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999)
5/19 - Peter Mayhew
5/19 - Claudia Karvan
5/21 - Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
5/23 - Barrie Holland
5/23 - Star Wars 10th Anniversary Convention (1987)
5/24 - Star Wars Celebration IV (2007)
5/25 - Frank Oz
5/25 - Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977)
5/25 - Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi (1983)