In another one of those “late because it didn’t come to the UK until later” reviews (though thankfully the last in terms of Disney +) it’s time to look at the first season of The Mandalorian. A live action Star Wars show where the lead character wears cool Mandalorian armour? I was sold immediately! Did the show live up to or even surpass the rather vein promise? Let’s find out!
In the time after the fall of the Empire, the man only known as “The Mandalorian” (or “Mando” in certain circles) is earning his money by collecting bounties, using the money to buy new armour pieces to continue his way up the tiered system of Mandalor…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“*Sigh* … How did this end up being “The Way” ?”
The main thing I want to praise the show for is the humour. It could have easily been overly “gritty” or violent the show manages to keep a thin-line of comedy throughout in order to keep the tone still feeling very much Star Wars-y. Now I’m sure you’ve all heard about “Baby Yoda”, or rather the currently nameless child of the same species as Yoda, and that does provide a lot of humour in the show, but Mando himself is good at some dry straight-man humour, and there are plenty of weird aliens and killer droids to keep things on the “right path”, so speak. A scene in the final episode where two Stormtroopers have a chat about their leader killing their own fellow troops again with a sigh, followed by trying to shoot a piece of metal on the floor out of boredom but missing every shot, had me literally laughing out loud.
That being said, there are plenty of great moments and characters as well. The Mandalorian, or Din Djarin, as his real name apparently is, has an interesting backstory. He was left in a shelter when a Separatist droid army attacked his settlement during the Clone Wars, and he was saved by a band of Mandalorians (specifically the “Death Watch”, for those who follow the Clone Wars cartoon!) This led to not only his joining their ranks, but also a hatred and distrust of all droids. So his first task in Episode 1 sees him having to team up with assassin and bounty droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), which led to some great lines and some funny moments where IG-11 was all too keen to self-destruct. Fast forward to the two-part finale and IG-11 has been reprogrammed to protect “The Child” and ends up saving Djarin’s life, including removing his helmet which is a big no-no in the current Mandalorian clan (but clearly not in the Clone Wars or pre-original trilogy periods, given the sheer amount of shots of Mandalorians with their helmets under their arms!) In the end Din is legitimately sad when IG-11 actually self-destructs to save them all.
Always lovely scenery. I’m still amazed at the digital stage thingy they used for most of the shots.
So throw in the rather predictable but enjoyable story of “Baby Yoda” being the bounty Din brings in, but he grows attached to it so leaves the hunters guild and takes it back from the client and flees, and you’ve got quite a bit of development for a character that spends 99% of the screen time under a helmet (and therefore is harder to show emotion). Some of the other characters he comes across are fine too, though don’t get the same time to develop. Cara Dune (Gina Carano) appears in a few episodes, including the two-part finale, and is a former Rebel Shock Trooper who is now a mercenary since the Empire’s fall, but while she’s a fun character, her only “development” was us finding out that she was originally from Alderaan as a reason as to why she joined the Rebels back during the war (and what a reason!). Greef Karga is the leader of the Bounty Hunters guild and starts off as an ally, then ends up an enemy, then an ally again, but beyond giving off serious Lando vibes, his character doesn’t go far, but also again, he’s a fun character. The finale with Mando, Cara and Greef as a central trio was really good, I do hope they come back together in Season 2.
As for villains, really the main two were the mysterious Client (Werner Herzog) who wanted the equally mysterious Child for experimental purposes, and the man he served before getting killed by him, which is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) a former Imperial Security Bureau officer who now uses a large detachment of Stormtroopers still loyal to him to get what he wants. Both are good in their roles, especially Esposito, who bring a real air of dangerous arrogance to the role. He tries attacking Din and his allies in a TIE fighter during the finale, but is stopped by the Mandalorian using his newly earned jetpack. Gideon survives the crash though, and cuts his way out of the fallen machine with the Dark Sabre, the biggest direct-link to the Clone Wars / Rebels cartoons series seen yet, as well as a symbol of leadership in the Mandalorian culture. Interesting twist!
In between the opening episodes focusing on Djarin finding, returning, and then rescuing “The Child”, and the two-part finale already discussed, there were three stand-alone episodes. Two were perfect little slices of Star Wars. An episode where the titular Mandalorian and Cara (who he’d just met) had to protect a settlement from raiders who have, among other things, an AT-ST in their possession, I really liked, and your basic “we’ve assembled a team to break this person out of a highly guarded prison” story, which was fine (although the robot voiced by Richard Ayoade was a bit distracting due to my love of The IT Crowd…)
Not the most “Post Empire” screenshot I’ve ever seen…
Episode 5 is the only episode I didn’t really enjoy. It has Djarin arrive on Tatooine and while his ship is being repaired he’s hired to track and kill elite mercenary and assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), but the man who hired him (aspiring bounty hunter Toro Calican, played by Jake Cannavale) betrays him to take The Child instead… and then is killed. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but after being hyped up and shown to be a great sniper, Shand was too easily captured and then never really seen again. It was a flat episode, not bad, but stood out amongst the other seven for not being as fun.
Also, I get it, “Baby Yoda” is cute, but thanks to the world of Internet memes I was already tired of him by the time the series started here in the UK. Hopefully they don’t go too mad in Season 2…
IG-11, showing IG-88 how to get it done! (Why didn’t they just use 88? Didn’t want the old continuity getting in the way, maybe?)
The Mandalorian was everything I wanted it to be and more. Full of great action, well timed humour and a high budget, plus some good plot threads weaved in. Season 2 promises a story based around Djarin having to find the homeworld of the Yoda species, but even if that doesn’t pay-off, so long as they keep the momentum going, I’ll be happy!