REVIEW: The Mandalorian – Chapter 1 and 2

The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars television series, has finally arrived. Does the series help expand the Star Wars Universe? Is this the series fans have been waiting for?

November 12th was the launch date for Disney+ in North America and with it meant the premiere of The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated big-budget live-action Star Wars series. They aired a second episode on November 15th to get audiences further hooked. Unlike Netflix, Disney+ has decided to premiere each episode one at a time on a weekly basis (sometimes two a week).

The series is created by Jon Favreau, who is no stranger to Star Wars, having contributed voice work to Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Solo: A Star Wars Story. The style and writing of the show feels like a kid playing with his Star Wars toys to make his own little adventure, without the access to the big players. Making adventures out of the faded Boba Fett toy, or an IG droid and renaming it an Ugnaught (voiced by Nick Nolte…what a world we live in) being a major character. Getting to play with all the weird fun things in the most expansive toy box and they are letting loose. If anything, the very nature of it feeling like kids playing with Star Wars toys but can’t have access to the big guns can feel frustrating a bit. One thing that makes The Mandalorian feel fresh is its style of storytelling, in filmmaking techniques. But it feels familiar because it is iconography that we know pretty well. It may not be IG-88 and Boba Fett, but it is meant to remind you of it (makes you wonder if this was a scrapped scene from the Boba Fett spin-off film Disney had planned a few years back).

Chapter 1, directed by Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels creator Dave Filoni, sets the vibe of a spaghetti western in space from the opening scene. It sets the plot in motion that the Mandalorian is a bounty hunter who takes a job from a former Imperial officer simply known as ‘the Client’ – played by Warner Herzog – (seriously that is insane!) to capture a mysterious target. Simple and to the point. The episode sets up the world, the central plot, and the characters.

The entire episode lets you know how big of a deal it is that this is the first live-action exploration of the time frame between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Most of the Star Wars material released in the Disney era has taken place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (Solo, Rogue One, Star Wars Rebels, Jedi Fallen Order), with the aftermath of Return of the Jedi mainly explored in the novels. So this is the general audience’s first time viewing a post-Empire world. We get insight into how the galaxy is struggling with the transition after the Empire has fallen – how it affects currency, and what happened to the remains of the Imperial power structure. By the end of the first episode, the entire Star Wars universe has taken a massive shift and the implications for the mythology and what is going on behind the scenes is major.

Chapter 2, directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), is a character piece that is very much a side quest episode. The Mandalorian returns to find his ship has been stripped by Jawa’s and has to find a way to recover the parts. He can either try and attack them or strike a deal with them to retrieve an item. The episode very much feels like a tabletop RPG come to life where the character must make decisions and barter, taking on a mission away just to get back on his original quest. It also goes to further explore the relationship between the Mandalorian and his newly acquired asset.

The Mandalorian, played by Pedro Pascal, is a fascinating character. The armor and faceless nature of his character make him an interesting presence on the screen. Much like Boba Fett, his mysterious nature makes him a badass in the minds of the viewers. But what the creators do is infuse him with an element of Indiana Jones. He is competent and can handle himself in a fight, but he does get in over his head and screws up. He may not be as awesome as he, and by proxy, the audience, think he is. Making him cool had the risk of including a Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon type character in Star Wars, which has never really existed. Most of the protagonists in the Star Wars universe have been subversions of the typical sci-fi hero. While the Mandalorian is close to that, the creators still know they have to knock him down a bit to make him relatable.

The series is filled with references to the bigger Star Wars universe, and one of the biggest surprises are the references to the Star Wars Holiday Special. Within the first five minutes, a character references Life Day. The Mandalorian’s armor even has vibes of Boba Fett’s armor from the original animated sequence of the special, including his main weapon of choice: the Amban phase pulse blaster (which also gives audiences an idea by what Darth Vader meant when he said “no disintegration”). The Mandalorian freezes his bounties in carbonite. Though I am left wondering why, because it is established in Empire Strikes Back that this is not a common practice, and it appears to only be here because it is a familiar visual signifier for the audience.

The two biggest points of contention among fans appear to be the runtime and the fact that the episodes are being released one at a time instead of all at once.

For runtime, I would say the episodes are the right length. They aren’t too long or bloated like some series on Netflix appear to be, just trying to fill up a runtime to 55 minutes even if the episodes don’t require it. The two episodes we’ve seen of The Mandalorian are tight with no fluff. They tell the stories they want and get them done in an efficient matter. If that is 39 minutes, that shouldn’t be a problem. If anything the desire for episodes to be longer stems from the fact that audiences want to keep watching and can’t, but I think one episode at a time is the best for the series.

Binging television has become the new normal since Netflix started making content in 2013, but for the rest of television history, the idea of watching a new episode every week was just how it went. It still happens like that for shows on networks. Game of Thrones was weekly, Watchmen is currently weekly, The Walking Dead is weekly. Those are networks and it is a given. But because The Mandalorian is on a streaming service people expect it to be on all at once. Yet the problem with dropping them all at once is you consume it in a weekend and then two weeks later you forget about it and move onto the next thing. The Mandalorian being weekly allows it to become part of the discussion every week it airs a new episode and becomes an appointment television that people watch together once a week. A show that can be discussed together the next day. Game of Thrones became a phenomenon because audiences waited week to week for a new episode, yet Stranger Things season 3 dropped in July and by the end of the month, people moved on to the next show.

Overall, The Mandalorian is a fun exciting entry to the Star Wars universe that feels unique but also classically Star Wars. I look forward to more episodes and seeing how the story unfolds and what secrets about the Star Wars universe we will discover.

What did you think of the first two episodes of The Mandalorian? What was your favorite moment? Any theories? Share your thoughts down below.