Set five years after the conclusion of the ‘Original Trilogy’, ‘Star Wars: The Mandalorian’, is a live-action television series streaming on ‘Disney+’ that depicts the aftermath of the ‘Galactic Empire’, through the adventures of a ‘Mandalorian’ bounty hunter.
Known to the audience as an ambiguous Mandalorian with the revered status of being and effective hired gun, or as his nickname ‘Mando’ (Pedro Pascal) given by the head of an undescribed bounty hunter guild Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), the show’s protagonist especially within the introductory episodes has the difficult role of warming audiences to both his style of lead character and this mostly new world of Star Wars. Thankfully, under the amazing project leadership and writing of Jon Favreau, coupled with terrific directing talent such as Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard (chapters one to four respectively), Mando evolves from a space-trotting hitman to become an empathic protector following his encounter with a rare bounty, an infant deriving from the same species as ‘Grand Master Yoda’.
It is perhaps this relationship between Mandalorian and ‘Baby Yoda’ (as the internet is calling him after his cute looks produced him as a viral sensation online), that really standouts this show on the Disney+ platform. Through a series of near-death moments for both of these characters (with them even saving one-another in certain episodes), Mando quickly develops a strong paternal bond with the baby, being unable to associate it as just another bounty. Likewise, the little creature develops a clear love for his masked guardian, as he bursts with personality on screen when admiring and needing the attention of Mando, an impressive achievement for a character that is a puppet like his Original Trilogy predecessor. Gina Carano’s performance as a veteran shock trooper of the ‘Rebel Alliance’, turned badass mercenary Cara Dune in the fourth chapter, has also been a highlight of the first half of the season.
The second half of The Mandalorian’s first season is marked by Chapter Five, directed and written by Dave Filoni. This chapter and its ensuing story in Chapter Six (directed by Rick Famuyiwa), provide a brilliant detour from the main narrative of protecting ‘Baby Yoda’ and return ‘Mando’ (revealed to be ‘Din Djarin’ in Chapter Eight), to his core nature as an adept bounty hunter.
Filoni incredibly adds to the characterisation of Mando as resourceful, resilient and intelligent, in his crafting of Chapter Five as a story of recovery. The protagonist quickly embarks on a high paying bounty to fund the repair of his ship, the ‘Razor Crest’, which was damaged in a space dogfight, depicted in the early minutes of the episode. What results is an interesting illustration of deception, as rookie bounty hunter ‘Toro Calican’ (Jake Cannavale), turns on his partner Mando after the bounty ‘Fennec Shand’ (Ming-Na Wen) attempts to paint the Mandalorian a more valuable target. The detriment to this episode however, is the clear, yet awkward attempt at fan-service in the set-up of Jake Cannavale’s character. Although he is given an interesting story-arc throughout the episode, his introduction as a Harrison Ford doppelganger is likened to that of a fan-made recreation of the original Star Wars film, with the character even being found in ‘Mos Eisley Cantina’ in the exact booth and pose as ‘Han Solo’.
Chapter Six then, titled ‘The Prisoner’ as mentioned also depicts Mando chasing a bounty, this time joining a crew orchestrated by the shady criminal ‘Ranzar Malk’ (Mark Boone Jr.). Through combining the heist genre with elements from a horror/suspense thriller, Famuyiwa wonderfully captures the audience’s whole attention and showcases the will and aptitude of Mando as he is again subjected to an unpredicted circumstance. Bill Burr, who plays the crew’s leader ‘Mayfield’, along with Clancy Brown as the brute-like ‘Burg’ and Richard Ayoade as the voice of mercenary robot ‘Zero’, all greatly add to the enjoyment of this episode with their unique and memorable performances.
The final two chapters of the season, are however, the standout episodes in this closing half of the season, in which the show seamlessly returns to the core narrative, the protection of Baby Yoda. After being offered clemency by the ‘Bounty Hunters’ Guild’ leader ‘Greef Karga’ (Carl Weathers), Mando reappears to the planet ‘Nevarro’ in Chapter Seven to assist him with a job and in-turn the ‘Client’ and ‘Myriad Hunters’ will no longer threaten Baby Yoda. This episode fantastically raises tension toward the backend of this season, as we are introduced to the menacing ‘Moff Gideon’ (exceptionally played by Giancarlo Esposito). Gideon, traps Mando and his crew including Chapter Four’s Cara Dune, with a display of ‘Imperial’ might that strikingly harken back to situations of hopelessness for heroes in the films. Chapter Eight then, wonderfully capitalises on this feeling, by delivering one of the greatest live-action Star Wars pay-offs since the ‘Darth Vader’ hallway scene in ‘Rogue One’. This season’s finale also does an incredible set-up for the next season, littering clues as to the direction Season Two will take and what threats lie ahead for Mando and his adopted child.
Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and the additional talent involved in The Mandalorian have faithfully built upon the Star Wars story by reinventing the western genre, establishing new worlds, vehicles and groups, as well as carefully constructing a fascinating lead character that echoes back to the creation of the original Mandalorian Boba Fett. The Mandalorian Season One is an example of a show that knows what an audience has been demanding in a live-action format, from a franchise that has in more recent times struggled to capture the magic that made the original films (as well as some other Star Wars entertainment) so special. The Mandalorian earns the title as the best piece of Star Wars content this year and potentially this decade.
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