The Mandalorian Season 1 Review

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Old style western, set in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is the first big step for the franchise into the live action television world. When Disney announced their own streaming service Disney+, they also announced that the first ever live action Star Wars series would launch with the service. Kathleen Kennedy brought on Jon Favreau as the showrunner to lead this series into the right direction. He was also the writer and creator of the series and was able to get it greenlit after pitching an idea for the series that he’s had for years. He wasn’t going to direct the episodes, but he was going to work as the overseer of the whole project with a great collection of directors putting out their vision and his together. They brought on the likes of Dave Filoni, a first time live action director known for his work on the Star Wars animated shows and his vast knowledge of the whole franchise. They also brought on Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Deborah Chow, and Rick Famuyiwa. Some of these names you may not recognize, but their actual credits of work show just how amazing this group of directors is. Not only that, but they brought on an interesting collection of actors, most notably, Pedro Pascal as the Mandalorian aka Mando. Some of the actors brought on are Nick Nolte, Carl Weathers, Gina Carano, Werner Herzog, and many others. Everything was in place for this series to be fantastic and quickly became one of the most anticipated shows in recent memory. We were all ready for eight hours of Star Wars.

Well…It isn’t quite eight hours. Disney never came out and told us how long each episode would be, but it seemed like everyone had assumed it would be around an hour long for each episode. Interestingly enough, the episodes are quite shorter ranging anywhere from thirty minutes to forty-ish minutes. It was a little jarring at first and after seeing the first episode end quicker than I anticipated. This is a testament of a few things. Disney never lied to us and instead just subverted our expectations of how long we thought it was going to be. The show was such a good hook in the first episode, that we were caught off guard by it ending after only forty minutes. And they were definitely going to take their time in telling a story in each episode. That was another interesting point of realization when watching the first few episodes. At first I had assumed that the whole series would be more of a continuous story in the likes of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. It’s clear early on that it was actually taking the approach of being more of a serialized western where the stories do have connective threads, but for the most part spend time trying to tell a strong contained story with this main character. There are things that happen in each episode that later come into play and are important, but it isn’t the focus of the series until maybe the last two episodes. The last two episodes give us a conclusion of what was setup in the very first episode with the shocking reveal of “Baby Yoda”. These episodes also bring back characters that we had met in previous episodes as they have now become essential to Mando’s mission.

What I think this show does best is that it really tells individual stories that all have a purpose to complete a story that began from the very beginning. The other best part is that it completes the story of this season, but perfectly puts things in place for the second season. In episode one we were introduced to baby Yoda and continued to learn how Mando connected with the little foundling having been one himself. It adds a layer of depth to the character and gives us a hint at his backstory. The show also takes time to weave in Mandalorian history and lore without it being out of place or just there for the sake of being there. It’s essential to the story and comes back into play at the end of the series. That’s one thing that really satisfies, the payoff. There are many questions and many wants that I had when watching that eventually get paid off in a way that made it feel earned and worth it. Whether it be the question as to why Mando didn’t have a jetpack or if we were ever going to see what he looked like under the mask. We got those answers and they weren’t just there for the sake of answering, but rather they were placed and timed perfectly where it just felt right.

While it does leave some things open ended like where does baby Yoda come from, does he have a name, what’s the name of his species…etc. Those were all important questions, but the narrative was written in such a way that we didn’t feel like we really needed that information while watching. We were very much okay with not knowing that information, but still had those questions in the back of our minds. Instead, it answers the questions of who was behind the order against Mando to retrieve baby Yoda by introducing us to a new character who seems more mysterious in the last shot of the finale. We also get conclusions to certain arcs and set up of where everyone will be by the start of the next season. It was able to complete a narrative while also continuing the story without any flaws aside from one episode.

Episode 5 gave us a side story directed by Dave Filoni. Of all the episodes directed in this series, his were very clearly the weakest of them all. That could be due in part by the fact that he has only ever directed animated and not live action and some things that he chooses to do in those episodes feel very much like something you would only see in something animated. Unfortunately it doesn’t help him because many people were hoping he would get his own live action series or movie because of his knowledge of the franchise, but I think these episodes of his just showed how much further he has to go before even being ready for that kind of project. Episode 5 was the worst one because it had some of the worst writing, worst dialogue, and worst performance by actors of the whole series. All of this stems from the fact that Filoni wrote and directed the episode. If it wasn’t just the technical aspects that really hurt it, it’s the insignificance of the episode that really hurts. All of the episodes had at least something that was of importance to the overall story or narrative, but this one did nothing to further the story or make it even necessary to watch. The only thing I find becoming important is how the ending has a little tease of maybe a future revenge plot against a certain characters death, but even then I don’t think it helps the episode at all.

The visuals would be the last thing I could cover that really impacted this series. That and the music. The music is by Ludwig Göransson. He is someone that I had never really knew much about until I looked up his previous credits which include collaborations with Ryan Coogler on Creed and Black Panther among many others. He gives an absolutely different and unique take on Star Wars music that separates itself very well from any of the other shows or movies and yet still feels so perfect for the story they’re telling. I have to give him props for balancing this so well without making music that doesn’t feel like Star Wars, it’s a feat that is very underrated when it comes to the success of a Star Wars project without John Williams. The visuals are the other key aspect. They weren’t lying when they said they were going to be giving movie quality visuals and really spend the money to make something great. They understood that for fans, it meant a lot not to give them something that wasn’t up to the quality that Star Wars is worth and they follow through on that. There are some absolutely stunning visuals and some of the best sci-fi visuals to ever come from a television series. Not only that but it also feels a lot like Rogue One where the action and visuals are gritty and raw that feel like the most real and intense moments in any Star Wars project.

The Mandalorian was to set the stage for Star Wars live action on the television screen. It had a daunting task of needing to be successful with critics and viewers and to keep people wanting more content. It was so important to Disney and Disney+ that they launched the streaming service with this show as their staple project. There was a lot riding on this series and it absolutely met and exceeded expectations. Rather than dump the whole series at one time for people to binge like most Netflix series, they instead did a week to week release. This kept the series in the mainstream conversation for eight weeks and kept everyone anticipated for the next episode. It built a momentum and a following that continued to grow every week and helped gain the streaming service more subscribers. This show does everything you want it to and is unique enough to separate itself from the movies. It absolutely set the tone for how good these future Star Wars projects can be and how much of a pallet cleanser it can be with all of the toxicity with the movies. It also proves how good the franchise can be with the advantage of long term storytelling. Over the next several months before the release of season two, I can easily see this continuing to grow viewers and will not lose popularity. It’s a show that is easily rewatchable and an easy entry for anyone new to the Star Wars world. One of my favorite shows of the year and I can’t wait for where the story will go in season two.

Grade: A

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