WARNING: Very Minor Spoilers for Season 1 of The Mandalorian Ahead
In a galaxy of possibilities far, but not too far away, Disney’s ability to successfully innovate Star Wars contraptions through unconventional means instead of the archetypal structure of the franchise, lies real! The Mandalorian is proof that the smaller the scale, the smaller the budget, and the more fleshed-out or personal the story, the grander the quality and the closer we get to differentiating Star Wars—rather than letting itself repeat. The Mandalorian plays out like the coolest fan-made Star Wars property yet, but in its defense, the homemade craft is what makes the experience much crisper than anything Disney has made in of the franchise previously.
In Jon Favreau’s TV show about a lone gunfighter who runs into an unexpected task, we get to progressively learn and attach ourselves to a moderate handful of our lead characters—something that is a rare entity to find in this overrated climate of sci-fi pop culture. The Mandalorian wisely decides to market its influences off of classic Spaghetti Westerns, unlike Disney and Prequel Star Wars movies which are ironically influenced almost entirely by the original Star Wars trilogy—which were movies based off of many different pop culture roots.
The comedy in The Mandalorian doesn’t appear cringy nor forced. Ludwig Göransson’s score is holy original and dissimilar to any musical properties held previously in the Star Wars universe. The visuals are superior and evidently more creatively implemented when compared to any other Star Wars property besides maybe Empire and A New Hope. The writing isn’t mind-boggling; everything is fairly formulaic. Yet, the simplicity of The Mandalorian isn’t something to completely fault it for. It’s nice to see a Star Wars property that doesn’t over-complicate itself and try to make itself seem like this epic extravaganza. It’s prioritization on focusing on fewer characters and intimate interests are what makes the show thrive more memorably than anything in of this overcooked fantasy saga. Our characters have clear creeds, aspirations, motives, and backstories. They aren’t vaguely examined or desperately looked over; they’re appropriately employed and easy to grasp.
There’s a savagery to the action sequences in The Mandalorian that feels energetically fresh. The action in this show never involves something like hundreds of CGI tie fighters fighting hundreds of CGI x-wings; it’s primarily hand-to-hand, combat orientated—and of the brutalist that TV-14 can possibly deliver. People are one-by-one getting burned alive, smashed with sledgehammers, and combusted alive; you get to actually focus on a physical conflict one at a time instead of watching 100 things happen all at once like in most of Disney’s recent cinematic affairs—yay!
The settings or production designs harken to both original Star Wars mock-ups but also from Clint Eastwood and even Akira Kurosawa feature-lengths. The creatures are wide-ranging and practically put together. From dangerous monsters with reptilian builds, to prehistoric dinosaur assets, to goofy Jawas who love to eat larger than life eggs, and even to a mysteriously complex Baby Yoda—a sufficient example of how to implement cuteness without mainly feeling like a marketing ploy. The lore and society that connects to forced servitude and the battle for freedom adds a lot to the show’s merit. Scenes like when we listen in on two speeder troopers casually converse like normal human beings and attempt to miserably fail at shooting a target are refreshing as hell. Like, these are actual quote on quote “scenes” that take their time and allow the viewers to become immersed in the atmosphere of what is being presented, unlike a lot of turbo-paced action shows that we see nowadays. Remember when you could just breathe, watch characters interact for more than 15 seconds, and get to bond with beings from all across the galaxy like in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy? Well, it’s back!
In spite of this though, The Mandalorian didn’t start off as this appropriately paced delicacy. The series is a little glossy on storytelling at the beginning of the season—and what I mean by that is that it initiated itself as this show that always seemed like it was in a hurry. I understand that this program is supposed to appeal to kids and you need the faster pace but, c’mon. Take your time with the presentation; keep it mature. Let the audience have time to sink into the events, get to know the surrounding characters a little better, and just become absorbed practically. Nonetheless, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are immersive starter teasers into what the show seems to be all about—and very engrossing ones at that. Plus, the pace does, as I said before, begin to come around as something more admirable in its second half.
Chapter 4 is an unfortunate misfire; not only is it unnecessary as well as shabbily and predictably written, but the new characters are inserted so randomly in such a hasty manner. The whole ordeal surrounding this particular episode feels like some video game side quest that was put into the mix so that the producers could complete their 8-episode-long runtime. Chapter 5 is a weakly written filler as well. Plus, while it does seem less spontaneous or less absurd as Chapter 4 did, it doesn’t have the character development of Mando which Chapter 4 at the very least featured. So that’s something to take into consideration.
Chapter 6, however, luckily picked my and most likely most viewers’ attention up real quick. In an arguably endlessly fun episode, we witness a very amusing prison break that has buoyant new side characters including a Bill Burr who packs more jokes in this than even in some of his comedy specials. Chapter 7 and 8 is when the show starts to make a full, imposing circle, fortunately. Where my main worry that originated from episodes 4 and 5 (being that the show wouldn’t follow a particular storyline and would just be a series of random episodes) chapters 7 and 8 seem to put those concerns at ease. The show engages an epic amount of stakes and tension in these finale pieces—where you begin to feel as if nobody is safe. There are some unexpected twists and turns and a fair share of solid execution. Plus, Gus from Breaking Bad is in these episodes. C’mon. Us fans are spoiled.
Ultimately, The Mandalorian doesn’t necessarily break cinematic ground—it is heavy on its banal story influences—but it damn well breaks Star Wars ground, and frankly, it doesn’t need to break anymore than just that for now. This was a very intelligent move on Disney’s part, and all though, it isn’t anything too complex or outstanding, it is great; more importantly, however, it is investing. Believe me, I’m intrigued to see Season 2 this Fall.
The Mandalorian Math:
Chapter 1 = B
Chapter 2 = B
Chapter 3 = B
Chapter 4 = C
Chapter 5 = C
Chapter 6 = B
Chapter 7 = B+
Chapter 8 = B+
Final Verdict: B
“The Mandalorian” is now available to stream on Disney+.