The Mandalorian

"Chapter 1: The Mandalorian"

3 stars

Air date: 11/12/2019
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Dave Filoni

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Mandalorian drops us into the galaxy's Outer Rim five years after the second Death Star blew up in Return of the Jedi (the New Republic has begun to restore order, but on these outskirts, a frontier lawlessness remains) and begins to show us what Star Wars might look like when freed of all the Skywalker baggage. Which is to say: Here's something that looks and feels every bit like the original Star Wars trilogy as a piece of aesthetic cinema, and can tie into those many connections, but can also break free and tell its own story without having to bridge old and new audiences like the sequel trilogy.

At the center of it is, well, the Mandalorian (frequently referred to as "Mando"), a bounty hunter who operates under the strict Mandalorian code of "the Way," and is out here in his ship, the Razor Crest, scraping together a living by freezing his bounties in carbonite and bringing them back to collect payment from his bounty guild agent, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers). (For the time being, the Mandalorian is a Man With No Name, which only adds to the Sergio Leone spaghetti western vibe.) Karga refers Mando to a new client who has a very urgent and off-the-record job. This client, played with a memorably icy verve by Werner Herzog (!), assures us this new mysterious bounty is a Big Deal, but that no questions should be asked. So off we go.

This initial outing of The Mandalorian is not notable for its originality. Indeed, it's downright conventional in its story beats and adherence to cinema archetypes, right down to the storming of the impregnable fortress and the big western-templated shootout at the end.

What is notable is the lived-in feel of the universe and the episode's amazing efficiency. This clocks in at a surprisingly svelte 39 minutes (including credits), and yet the story is able to squeeze in not only the opening introductory adventure and then the central mission and action scenes, but also some detours that add scope and breadth with just a few minutes of screen time. We see a Mandalorian enclave in the bowels of the city, where we witness Mando getting a new piece of armor forged from his payment of beskar steel.

And then we get a whole other mini-episode when Mando arrives on his destination planet and is guided by Kuiil (voiced with the endless gravel of Nick Nolte, whose catchphrase "I have spoken" is something I now frequently use on my kids), who teaches him how to ride a blurrg, giving us a mini-montage within the mini-episode. These excursions give a nice episodic flow to the plot that expands the world.

The music by Ludwig Göransson is an effective mix of percussive electro-industrial-metal and more traditional orchestrations that merge the samurai and gunslinger genres. The bold and deliberate departure from past Star Wars scores helps keep us from constantly thinking about John Williams. It's really pretty great, and I love the theme song.

The bounty at the end, despite being 50 years old, is a tiny child of the same species as Yoda, whose cuteness set the internet on fire. What will our lone gunslinger with a code do when he's to deliver a defenseless child to men whose motives are clearly ominous?

Next episode: Chapter 2: The Child

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20 comments on this post

Jammer
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
Reviews for Chapters 1 through 4 now posted.
Bob (a different one)
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
I gave the show 5 episodes before giving up on it. It's derivative and predictable.
Booming
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
No, it is not. It is uninventive and formulaic.
But Baby Yoda dragged me through two seasons, Corona might have also played a role. I'm not sure that I can stand another season of this. The action gets reeeeeeeeaaaaally pointless later on and then there are the parts that give glimpses of the rest of the galaxy, of the bigger picture and that is where the narrative really starts to fall apart. More and more old star wars creeps in. It is also often unintentionally silly.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelA7KRLINA&ab_channel=Gabriel
Bob (a different one)
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Booming said "No, it is not. It is uninventive and formulaic."



i couldn't disagree more. It is unoriginal and clichéd.
James
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
@Bob & Booming

Are we watching the same show? The Mandalorian is none of those things. It’s trite and prosaic.
Dave in MN
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
I want to defend The Mandalorian and say it's also "escapist" and "fun", but recent behind-the-scenes events with the production have ruined any goodwill the show had built up with me.

Have at it.
Booming
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 2:34am (UTC -5)
The Mandalorian seemed to be better than it actually is. There is this avalanche of mediocre shows right now because every streaming platform needs original content. In comes the Mandalorian which combines Marvel movies and Italo Western with great visuals and everybody thinks that they are watching the greatest thing ever. But in the end it is just very jejune and pabulum. Bromidic or even bathetic... ok now I'm just picking words from the thesaurus I have never seen before.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 4:55am (UTC -5)
I always love it when people come in and say they don't like something that millions of of people do.

Go you lot, I hope you all have hard ons!
Booming
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 6:08am (UTC -5)
I love it even more when people feel the need to defend millions of people from people who don't like what they like.

"Go you lot, I hope you all have hard ons!"
No.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 6:21am (UTC -5)
That's a shame. You deserve one. A big veiny throbber.

Some day maybe.
Booming
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 6:37am (UTC -5)
Sure, and someday yours might finally go away. Forever... :)
William B
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 10:46am (UTC -5)
No, it's ___ and ___.

In all seriousness (very vague spoilers up to the end of s2), I watched the show and liked it. The acting and stunts are good. I really like the creatures -- the blurrgs and banthas and such -- some of which we've seen in previous SW media, some of which I understand are from the extended universe books. I think what people are responding to, in part, is that the creators set themselves reasonable goals and achieve them (like its title character), which *is* harder than it sounds; the temptation to go really big and get points for "ambition" is easily succumbed to. Arguably the show starts to slide down this in season two, though I think I like it better than season one overall.

In terms of my overall enjoyment, I'd probably dock about a half star per episode from Jammer's ratings, on average. I get why Jammer rates up (he's always done the Roger Ebert thing of rating according to expectation), but the simplicity of the show's leaves things a bit pat. Sometimes the show still surprises.
CaptainMercer
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 10:52am (UTC -5)
I just like the show as an action serial. ....serials inspire the original film and now SW goes back to that. The stakes are always clear.. and even more personal than many of the films. A kid can get as much enjoyment as an adult can.

Maybe everyone is trying too hard to hate it. Believe me, I HATE the SW sequel trilogy, but I think this series feels both nostalgic and a welcome return to the Galaxy.
Booming
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
It is not a bad show by any measure. Nobody really hates it here, I think. It is a one trick pony. That is the main problem.
CaptainMercer
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 2:52am (UTC -5)
@Booming
why is that a problem? Not every show needs to be clever and try to outsmart its audience
Booming
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 5:46am (UTC -5)
@Captain Mercer
It becomes repetitive pretty quickly which may be comforting for some but is a turn off for many. Another problem of the show is the boiler plate bad guy.

---spoiler--- (I think, could be misremembering it:)

He is just evil and wants to pump baby Yoda's essence into robots?? He also has the magic Mandalorian sword which our hero wants/needs more than anything just by coincidence?! Do I remember that correctly??

---spoiler---

There is also the "Stormtrooper" problem.
Jason R.
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 7:44am (UTC -5)
I think Booming et al. are not wrong in describing this show's weaknesses, but I do think it's still greater than the sum of its parts.

It's the Wing Commander Privateer of the Star Wars universe. For those unfamiliar it was a PC game, not a tv show. And it became a cult hit because it permitted players to inhabit and enjoy a small slice of the Wing Commander universe playing a Han Solo-ish rogue flying a rust bucket ship. This was in contrast to other games in the series which were grand operatic dramas (also starring Mark Hamill, incidentally). The fact that you were this relatively petty character engaged in small drama was part of the charm, as was the world building fun.

Getting back to the Mandalorian, after three sickeningly over the top soulless monstrosities (the Abrams sequels) it's fun to just enjoy some small stories set in the Star Trek universe.

And heck, I kind of like the Mandolorian cultural schtick. There is even an emotional payoff at the end of season 2 that exceeds in one moment the sum total of every flying fuck I ever gave about Rey, Finn, Rose and that whole band of nothingburgers.

My other big compliment to the Mandalorian is how properly planned and thought out the action is (minus the stormtroopers). Some shows are meticulous in their attention to detail so that nothing seems perfunctory. Breaking Bad was like that too.

This is a show that sets up rules and honours them . That makes the universe more believable and in turn, males the action more compelling.
Greg M
Fri, Mar 12, 2021, 10:56am (UTC -5)
@Dave in MN

Agreed. I may not even be back for Season 3 because all the great things that I liked about the show from mid season 2 to the end was pretty much shot in the last couple of months. It is a shame too because for me The Mandalorian represented Star Wars going back to what made it great, the fun, the mythos, and just being entertained.
Yanks
Fri, Mar 12, 2021, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
@Dave in MN

"I want to defend The Mandalorian and say it's also "escapist" and "fun", but recent behind-the-scenes events with the production have ruined any goodwill the show had built up with me."

I LOVED watching this thing and I'm not even a Star Wars nut. "Escapist" and "fun" fit the bill perfectly. Plenty of SW Easter eggs that I didn't know about while watching the episodes that I had to learn about afterward. It made me feel the same way I felt watching old trek on TV.

I was already scratching my head as to what season 3 was going to offer now that the biggest draw is gone and BF is off to another series, but now that another cast member has been scrapped for all the wrong reasons I'm done.

I'll still listen to the theme though, just love it.
Bob (a different one)
Fri, Mar 12, 2021, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
My main problem with The Mandalorian is that all the plots (that I watched) are very familiar to me.

SPOILERS:

In five episodes you have:

- Hired gunman turns against his employer plot
- Killer becomes protector of the defenseless.(Lonewolf & Cub redux)
- Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven save the village plot
- Inevitable betrayal by younger partner plot

"Oh my God, somebody is about to shoot Baby Yoda - wait - no - somebody from offscreen shot the assassin in the nick of time!"

^

Not only did they they use this tired cliché, they did it TWICE in the span of three episodes! Even if you are a newborn and this was the first tv show you had ever watched you should still find the second instance predictable.


I do think this is the best SW product (outside of KOTOR) since the mid 80s. the production values are fantastic. The eclectic guest stars are interesting. But if you grew up on a diet of westerns, both traditional and spaghetti, have seen the half-dozen Lone Wolf and Cub movies, The Mechanic (1976) and assorted Kurosawa flicks it's hard to not find the show a little predictable.


P.S. They should have had Werner Herzog direct an episode instead of being a guest star. You let him direct "Mandalor, the Wrath of God" featuring a cgi Klaus Kinski squeezing the shit out of Baby Yoda and I'll sign up for Disney+ in a heartbeat.

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