The Mandalorian: An excellent execution of a fresh concept in Star Wars

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The Mandalorian: An excellent execution of a fresh concept in Star Wars

The Mandalorian reaches into the Infant’s floating crib after fighting through his captors. Photo courtesy of Disney+

The Mandalorian reaches into the Infant’s floating crib after fighting through his captors. Photo courtesy of Disney+

Courtesy of Disney+

The Mandalorian reaches into the Infant’s floating crib after fighting through his captors. Photo courtesy of Disney+

Courtesy of Disney+

Courtesy of Disney+

The Mandalorian reaches into the Infant’s floating crib after fighting through his captors. Photo courtesy of Disney+

By Gabe Gibert, Grand Center Arts Academy

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Warning: This review contains major spoilers for the first episode of The Mandalorian and minor spoilers for the next four episodes of The Mandalorian. Read at your own risk. For the sake of clarity, the show The Mandalorian will be referred to as The Mandalorian, and the character will be referred to as “Mando” or “the Mando.”

The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars show, set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. It follows the Mandalorian, known to most as “Mando,” a bounty hunter who rarely speaks and never takes off his helmet. The Mando is infamous for being effective, ruthless, and professional. 

As the name suggests, he is a member of the Mandalorians: a warrior tribe, currently in hiding, dedicated to protecting their own and regathering Beskar, a rare and durable metal that, in the previous canon, has deflected direct hits from a lightsaber and makes up the Mando’s armor. He was taken in by the tribe after his family was killed and has not taken off his helmet in front of anyone since.

The Mando, as previously mentioned, doesn’t talk much (I watched and counted 352 words in the first episode, not counting grunts, screams, or other wordless utterings) nor does he take off his armor, a full-body suit of heavy plates which covers every single inch of skin. 

As the show opens, he’s tracking down his quarry, a chatty alien who is in the process of being accosted by two characters who can only be appropriately described as goons. He enters the crowded bar and within a minute has killed the two goons: one is stabbed with his own knife, the other is cut in half by the door to the bar. The crowd falls silent and he walks over to his bounty, who tries to bribe him. Here, three minutes into the episode, his first line is spoken: “I can take you in warm… or I can take you in cold,” he says, moving his hand to his blaster.

Courtesy Disney+
The Mandalorian flies with the Infant to collect his next bounty. Photo courtesy of Disney+

This should give you an appropriate idea of the show right from the beginning. This is a Star Wars-themed space western. The (sparsely) quipping, gunslinging protagonist is honorable, cool under pressure, and is involved in several shootouts per episode. 

Thudding percussion, horns, alien-sounding wind instruments, synthesizers, and an electric guitar and bass take the place of the soaring orchestral themes of previous Star Wars movies. There’s no hint of the Jedi or Sith, and a grand total of four stormtroopers appear in the first five episodes. These all give the same message: this isn’t your regular old Star Wars movie.

Some things, however, are delightfully familiar. Blasters, droids, spaceships, and even the wipe cuts of the original movies are still around. The Force is still very much present, and the galaxy is still enveloped in conflict from the end of the Galactic Empire. This may be a different side of Star Wars universe, but some things never change.

Following the opening scene, there’s a lapse in the action for a while as the main conflict of the episode is set up. A bounty from a mysterious figure representing a mysterious group with mysterious goals: track down a person (the only detail given is that the target is fifty – how mysterious) and bring them back alive to receive a reward of Beskar. He accepts, of course, and makes his way there. 

He crash-lands and meets a helpful yet annoying hermit who leads him to his goal. Before he can eliminate the guards from a distance and waltz in to collect his prize, an assassin droid beats him to it. The droid eliminates several of the apparently endless nameless alien guards before he is joined by Mando, and together they mow down the guards in a surprisingly well-lit and clear action scene. They force their way into the compound and the most adorable plot device ever created appears: Baby Yoda! The episode ends with the Mando silently reaching into the crib and, presumably, pondering his next move.

Courtesy of Disney+
The Infant spies his next chew toy on the dashboard of The Mandalorian’s ship. Photo courtesy of Disney+

All the episodes released up until this point give off a feeling of building up to something big. The scattered threats faced by the Mando show a hint of uniting or being eclipsed by one villain, the mysterious figure at the end of episode 5, but for now, there is no one specific antagonist. The real entertainment value of The Mandalorian lies in the relationship between the Mando and the universe around him. 

His protectiveness of Baby Yoda is cute, and the feeling of the show borders on “buddy cop movie” from time to time. The action scenes are thrilling, and Mando’s aloof demeanor and general dismissiveness of the people around him is hilarious. There are some subtle nods to the previous material which enhance the experience if you’re a Star Wars fan, but the show doesn’t feel overly self-referential, and even if you haven’t seen any other Star Wars movies, you can enjoy The Mandalorian.

When I first heard reviews of the show, I was skeptical. I began the first episode with a mindset of caution, but I was swiftly won over. The Mandalorian is a great addition to the Star Wars franchise and a strong stand-alone show. I’m excited to see where this fast-paced adventure will go next.

This story was originally published on GCAA Today on December 19, 2019.