THE MANDALORIAN delivers an epic debut season, displaying the strength of Star Wars on TV

This review will contain SPOILERS for the first episode of The Mandalorian

The first Star Wars live action series has come and gone, but it hasn’t left without making a statement about the future of Star Wars on TV. The Mandalorian follows the travels of a lone bounty hunter as he tracks down an elusive bounty that will drastically alter the course of his journey.

The details of The Mandalorian’s story remained a complete mystery right up until the final moments of episode one where it’s revealed this is going to be an escort mission with Mando seemingly protecting The Child from constant danger. From here on out that’s the focus of the series, simply Mando protecting The Child from danger across a number of planets, meeting a number of characters and getting into a whole lot of trouble. The season creates narrative through-lines that extend beyond one, two, maybe even three episodes and also brings in characters and subplots that are isolated to a single episode. The moments focused on furthering the story as a whole are more engaging but I enjoyed both forms of storytelling overall.

Jon Favreau has crafted a story that flows brilliantly and connects characters and arcs between episodes that would make rewatching the entire season in one sitting so worthwhile. He makes sure that (almost) every episode has some connection to the wider story to ensure it can’t be considered as just filler. The episodes are filled with a balance of great action, emotion and character development that makes even the weaker episodes enjoyable to watch. In the middle of the season, through episodes five and six, it feels like the series sits on the border of possibly being considered filler as the episodes didn’t grab me as much. One of the two grabbed me with nostalgia, but as far as furthering the overall story goes, it didn’t do much. But there’s enough in each of those two episodes to ensure you can’t really skip them and miss nothing.

I spoke about character development and this is where the benefit of Star Wars as a series really shines. Having eight episodes gives the writers more time to flesh out characters, giving you more of their backstories and more time to watch them grow as oppose to the two hours you get in a single movie. The growth of Mando over the course of the season is extensive and his experiences across pretty much every episode develop him further and further to the point where you can see a distinct difference in who he is at the beginning and the end of the season. Even some of the supporting characters have their own moments of growth throughout the season.

Having a stellar main character is great and all that but without compelling supporting characters, the world just seems empty. Thankfully, The Mandalorian peppers in a number of supporting characters, most of whom make a lasting impact on the season through interesting backstories and the top notch performances behind them. I’ll start with Carl Weathers (Greef Carga) who delivers an imposing performance over a number of great scenes with Mando. How their relationship changes over the course of their interactions is fantastic, and the chemistry they share makes their scenes some of the best. Gina Carano quite possibly makes the largest presence of all the supporting cast as Cara Dune. Not only does she kick ass, but she gets into the more emotional character-centric moments well and is probably the best character of the season behind Mando.

Nick Nolte is another one who makes a positive impression right off the bat as the Ugnaught, Kuill. Being one of the first characters we meet, he sets the tone for the series as a whole and the contrast between his character and the rest of the cast is a refreshing part of the series. Some supporting characters I won’t go into to preserve the mystery surrounding them, such as Giancarlo Esposito’s mysterious Moff Gideon, but I will go into the performance I haven’t touched on yet… Pedro Pascal. It’s not hard to forget he’s in this show as his face is hidden by a mask the entire time, but it’s his voice we hear guiding us through the entire season. Who knows how much of the season he was actually in the Mandalorian armour, but his performance nonetheless is the driving force of the season and what gets us so invested in him as a character.

The music is another element of the show that is absolutely incredible. It still has that star wars feel but brings with it a distinct Western vibe that is evident not only through the score, but in the visuals too. The main theme for the show is one of the best pieces of music in the Star Wars universe and gets the spine tingling every time it kicks in. The cinematography is utterly beautiful and makes for a number of iconic scenes that are just fantastic to look at, regardless of what’s happening in the story.

With a different director helming each episode, all of which were written by Jon Favreau, that shows how having a plan from the very beginning and keeping one writer across every episode is beneficial to crafting a coherent story… that’s definitely not a jab at the new trilogy of films… no way. The Mandalorian is a fun and thrilling ride from beginning to end and takes the story in directions I didn’t see coming. The payoff is grand and the way (almost) everything in the season begins and is wrapped up nicely, leading into a second season, is fantastic. For anyone who is a fan of Star Wars, or even just a fan of what the internet refers to as “baby Yoda”, this is a very worthwhile watch and worth the price of a Disney+ subscription alone.

8.3/10

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