I’m sitting here on my couch having just watched a live-action Star Wars TV series and I still can’t believe it.
This was George Lucas’ dream. A Star Wars TV show that could stand up to the quality of his movies. But, in the past, it simply couldn’t be done. It was too expensive an idea. Now though, with the release of Disney+, not only can it be done, it has been done and Star Wars as we know it will never be the same.
Onto the show itself. Episode one of season one The Mandalorian.
Written and created by Jon Favreau and directed by Star Wars guru Dave Filoni in his first foray into live-action, the episode is not just our introduction to a new time period in Star Wars and a bunch of new characters, it’s a glimpse into what a live-action Star Wars TV show can be. And right off the bat it simply feels right. A little familiar. A little different. Unique, but still Star Wars. There’s no crawl. No big, boisterous musical piece to get things going. Instead, The Mandalorian just drops us off on a planet, with a character, and in about three minutes a giant water slug is biting on a spaceship.
You know. Star Wars shit.
Overall, I think that’s what I liked most about the show. There doesn’t seem to be any rush about it. We’re going to be spending a lot of time with these characters over the years. So here, in the beginning, we just meet this Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) looking for a bounty, and there’s no need for any big explanation or backstory. The first scene simply sets up that he’s very good at his job as well as the tone for the show. The bounty he takes in, played by Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz, is funny. You kind of like him. And yet, the Mandalorian shows no mercy. He straight up freezes him in carbonite without hesitation. Also, the fact the show references going to the bathroom almost immediately (in a back tube?) is another hint that this show is going to be as Star Wars as you want, but seen from a different perspective. It feels like Favreau and Filoni made a list of all the cool shit they love in Star Wars, or questions you always had about Star Wars, and put them all in one show.
You get examples of that on the planet the Mandalorian visits to meet up with Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) and gets a mysterious bounty from a character called The Client, played by none other than Werner Herzog. In a matter of moments we see Kowakian monkey-lizard being fried, a gatekeeper droid, a gonk droid, and stormtroopers. This is Star Wars heaven.
Plus, there are also lots and lots of little asides and phrases that fans are going to be curious about peppered throughout. Like when the Mandalorian goes into almost a Mandalorian hangout (perhaps a Mando-Cave?) and uses his newly acquired beskar to melt down and make a piece of armour. What is that place? We need more of it. He’s also told, by an as-yet-unnamed Mandalorian, that the leftover metal will be used to sponsor foundlings, which he once was. And that’s the one time the episode gave us just a little bit of backstory as we saw what we can only assume is the Mandalorian as kid, in the middle of a huge battle, being protected by his parents. Of course though, this is episode one, so that’s all the tease we’ll get for now, but more is sure to come.
After accepting a mysterious bounty from the Client, the Mandalorian goes off to a new planet and meets Kuiil, voiced by Nick Nolte. Kuiil gives us, and the Mandalorian, a ton of information. He says many others have come to this planet looking for this particular bounty. He explains he’s willing to help the Mandalorian free of charge because he wants to bring peace to the planet. And he says to get there, he’s going to have to learn to ride a blurrg. Again, like the alien at the beginning of the episode, the blurrg riding sequence is where the show reveals an unexpected bit of humour and personality. The Mandalorian is a killer for sure, but he’s a person too and we get to see that come out as he slowly befriends the creature, just like his people did with the mythosaurs. (Another one of those cool little tidbits dropped into the show that flies by.)
On the way to the bounty, Filoni really lets composer Ludwig Göransson shine. His music, at least in this pilot, is gorgeous. Rousing, lyrical, and both very befitting of Star Wars with its huge scope, but without using but a hint of the classic John Williams themes. While lots of what you’re seeing on screen is familiar, the music makes the show feel fresh and new.
Finally, we get to the finale. And it’s a classic western showdown done Star Wars style. The Mandalorian meets IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi) who is also on the planet to acquire the mysterious bounty. However, instead of fighting each other, the two team up in an attempt to break through the considerable defences of a fortress. This scene was The Mandalorian at its full power, mixing incredible action beats with humour and stakes. One example is the moment the Mandalorian uses the big gun to wipe out the remaining bad guys. It simply gave me chills. That, coupled with IG-11 continually saying he’s going to self-destruct, really hit a nice tonal balance.
After all that, though, there was one big reveal left. Who was this bounty? What could possibly be so important that so many many people had tried and died to capture it before? Well, it’s small. It’s in what looks like an incubator so it’s probably young and….holy fuck.
It’s a baby Yoda.
That isn’t what the species is called but Star Wars has never given Yoda or Yaddle (the other member of the species we’d seen before) a name. All we know is, considering the other two we’ve seen were both on the Jedi Council before the Jedi were destroyed, they are important and strong with the Force.
So, let’s go from recap to speculation. Obviously, people want this baby dead because of its potential. It’s got to be Force-sensitive. That’s why IG-11 almost kills it and why the Mandalorian kills IG-11 to save it. (I hope IG-11 comes back by the way. He was great and the two of them made a great team.) Is it an Imperial remnant who want this child dead? (Remember the timeline we’re working with here.) Some other evil group? How would they even know it existed? Whoever it is, I think it’s fair to assume they are going to end up being the evil villain (singular or plural) of the series. And one can only hope the story of this little Yodo continues to grow and be explored. I think it will be.
Wow. There’s a live-action Star Wars TV show, everybody. And it ended with a Mandalorian killing an IG bounty hunter droid to save a baby Yoda. Like, seriously. That’s a real thing in our lives that we just watched. And, we get to see the next episode later this week, and the rest of the first season all before the end of the year. Talk about a gift from the Star Wars gods.
What was up with that “Star Wars” pre-episode montage of helmets? Weird branding stuff, I guess.
I loved the Star Wars taxi service run by a Kubaz. Too cool.
Why doesn’t the Mandalorian like droids?
How beautiful and poetic is that art during the end credits?