Ever since the first trailer dropped for The Mandalorian, I, like many like-minded, jaded, burned out 40-somethings, couldn’t wait for this show to start. I hoped it would be better than what the Skywalker Trilogy offered. I was not disappointed.
Major spoilers below, obviously. Don’t read if you haven’t watched it yet.
The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1, titled as Chapter 1 (which isn’t very Star Warsy but this is the pattern for naming episodes going forward if IMDB is to be believed; it’s probably intentional to prevent any speculation as to what happens in any given episode), opens with the Mandalorian walking into a bar on some remote planet. He disrupts a couple of bullies from killing his target. After dispatching said bullies rather easily, The Mando takes his bounty along with several others to Greef Karga, played by Carl Weathers, who I’ll refer to as the Bondsman going forward because it’s not exactly clear what he does or who he works for. He tries to pay the reward in Imperial credits but The Mando refuses because “the Empire is no more”. The Bondsman replies with “they still spend” but The Mando is unrelenting. Remember, this series is supposed to take place right after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Bondsman then offers Calamari Flan, which isn’t a seafood-based dessert, but, I’m assuming, the currency of the Mon Calamari race. The Mando accepts.
But being a bounty hunter and low on funds, he inquires about more jobs. None are offering that much in terms of reward and the Bondsman can’t let him take all the jobs because “there are other guild members”. The Bondsman does tell him about a job that’s about as off the books as bounty hunting jobs can get. He travels to some other part of town and enters a building with The Client, played by Werner Herzog, and some Stormtroopers that have seen better days. The little meeting is interrupted by the appearance of Dr. Pershing played by Omid Abtahi. It startles The Mando enough to draw his weapons and start pointing them at people. The Stormtroopers respond accordingly and demand that he lowers his weapons. Now, if the opening fight scene between The Mando and the bullies didn’t give you the impression that we are following a certifiable badass, then his response to Stormtrooper #2 should:
Stormtrooper #2: We have you four to one.
The Mando: I like those odds.
Nobody does anything except stare at each other. The Stormtroopers were probably thinking “is this guy for real?” while The Mando was probably just glad his voice didn’t crack at a high pitch. The Client calms everyone down enough to explain the job. Bring the bounty back alive or, if need be, bring back proof of termination. Pershing objects but he can’t really say much since he’s not doing the actual hunting. There’s no data on the actual bounty, no “puck”, just a tracking fob, the last four digits of a chain code that apparently reveals the age of the bounty, and the last known location.
The client offers Beskar Steel as a down payment and claims there’s a lot more where that came from. The opening scene with the bullies had one of them ask The Mando, “is that real Beskar Steel?”. So there’s something up with this Beskar Steel. He then says, “The Beskar belongs back into the hands of a Mandalorian. It is good to restore the natural order of things after a period of such disarray. Don’t you agree?” The next scene shows The Mando taking that payment to a building full of other Boba Fett wannabes and has a shoulder pauldron made out of it at the in-house smithy. The armorer remarks “This was gathered in the Great Purge. It is good it is back with the tribe.”
All of this focus on the Beskar Steel and the seeming plight of the Mandolarian people is probably stemming from the events of The Clone Wars, specifically the Siege of Mandalor. I wasn’t sure what the big deal was with the Steel, or what happened with the Mandalorian people, but apparently I have to go watch the Clone Wars to fully understand. Not a big deal because I have an abundance of free time. Some more comments are made by the smith and The Mando about him being a Foundling and then a flashback ensues. The Mando was apparently a child of war whose parents hid him to protect him from certain death.
A pauldron is made and is super shiny compared to the rest of his armor and matches his helmet in terms of shininess. He’s then on his ship and goes to the next planet to get his bounty. He almost gets eaten by some ugly creatures known as blurrgs until Kuill, played by Nick Nolte) comes to his rescue. He figures out The Mando is a bounty hunter and says he’ll help him. He has his own motives for helping him, demanding no payment. Kuill just wants peace back in his land and the only way to do that is to get rid of this little encampment and he sees The Mando as the best chance of that happening.
After some blurrg-riding lessons The Mando and Kuill are on their way. After reaching the encampment, Kuill and The Mando part ways and just as he begins reconnaissance, he spots IG-11, a bounty droid, making its way in demanding the guards, who happen to all be Nikto, turn over the bounty. He dashes in and they team up to take down all the Nikto. The heroes blast their way to victory and make their way inside the building. They find the bounty who happens to be a baby of Yoda. IG-11’s directive is to kill the bounty but The Mando ain’t having any of that. Given that flashback we had of The Mando’s past, he saw this baby Yoda as a Foundling and saved his life from IG-11 and headshots him straight away. He reaches out with one finger and you see the baby Yoda reach up. Roll credits.
Why in God’s name did we not get a LEGO set of The Mando’s ship? Mythrol, the blue-faced bounty at the beginning of the episode, referred to it as Razor Crest, so I’m going with that as the name. No Razor Crest set but we get a retrofitted AT-ST that wasn’t even in the first episode? That’s just plain stupid. I mean come on. The LEGO Star Wars line is riddled with rehashes and that AT-ST set is no exception. Why not offer something new that’s tied to a new show and renew some interest back in the line? I don’t know what idiot made that decision, be it at Lucasfilm Licensing or LEGO, but it is just the dumbest thing.
Razor Crest looks like a cross between Serenity and a Republic Gunship. Mythrol describes it as “pre-empire” which is the Star Wars equivalent of “vintage”, so its resemblance to an RGS is probably not an accident. Murph from our discord channel pointed out the Wookiee Gunship as a possible source model. He may have hit the nail on the head with that one.
Up until a few minutes, the only thing I know about Yoda is that he is the one and only Yoda. The entry for Yoda’s species at the Star Wars Databank just says “unknown”. Wookieepedia lists his species as “Yoda’s species” which is another way to say “it is whatever that thing is”. Then I found out there was also Yaddle, whose name is just dumb. But I’m going to go with Yoda and refer to the baby as such because, like I said, Yaddle is a dumb name. So seeing a baby Yoda at the end of this episode brings up tons of questions. Where did the baby Yoda come from? Are there parents? Does the baby’s name also start with a Y? Why were the all the guards Nikto? So. Many. Questions.
Does everyone from Mandalor wear a helmet? The armorer, the children, what’s up with that?
The Mando’s armor looked like hand-me-downs and cobbled together from other pieces picked up at the local Goodwill. Only the helmet and the newly-forged pauldron matched and looked shiney and new. There was also mention of his signet being revealed. Lots of hints to a bigger backstory so I expect Mandalorian culture and lore to be a focus in a future episode.
The Mando collecting the Beskar Steel, his signet not being revealed yet, it all feels kinda video game-ish. You have a main character that basic armor that can be upgraded by finding mats (Beskar steel bars), level up (signet), go on side quests (bounty hunting), get rewarded (credits), and try and save the world (baby Yoda). It’s like Gutter gamified The Mandalorian into a live-action RPG and we’re just watching someone play through it.
The part when IG-11 and The Mando team up provided some of the more enjoyable moments in the show. The banter between the two provided a bit of comic relief in what was so far an oh-so-very-serious-Star-Warsy show. Even though IG-11 suffered a head shot, he is featured rather prominently in one of the promotional shots. Whether that’s the same bounty droid or not is a question, but I wouldn’t mind if they became partners and did more of that.
This series pretty much cements the idea that Boba Fett was, in fact, like, the worst bounty hunter, like, ever. If they bring him back for this show because he somehow escaped the Saarlac Pit, I’m gonna be so pissed.
I think one of the reasons why I like The Mando so much is that he’s not a cliché. You don’t quite know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. He’s not a hero, he’s not a villain. So far he seems like just a guy trying to make ends meet and if he needs to dispatch a few dudes along the way to get a job done he will. Do you remember a long time ago, before George Lucas mucked with the Original Trilogy and Han shot Greedo before Greedo knew what was happening? He straight up shot him in cold blood then stood up, tipped Wuher for the mess, and walked out like a boss. Han was a legend for doing that. He wasn’t the typical hero trying to save the day. He had debts to pay and was just trying to make ends meet but got wrapped up in something bigger before he realized it. He just about peaced out at the end too. I don’t know if Jon Favreau intended to have The Mando’s story follow a similar story arc but intentional or not, the similarity and familiarity is not lost on me.
The Mandalorian also feels very Star Warsy, and it feels oh so right. That might seem like a weird statement given that it is a Star Wars show but not all things with the Star Wars label are created equally. The Mandalorian easily ranks among one of the best productions under that label. The many bars filled with scum and villainy, the homages to familiar scenes from A New Hope, the little hints here and there of the greater Star Wars universe, all of these elements are woven together so expertly that none of it feels very forced or cringe-y. It feels like you’re on the fringes of what is familiar and you can choose whether or not to make these connections to the established canon. Because doing so or not doesn’t change what’s happened in the past, or what’s happening in the future of what we know (not yet anyway). Even non-nerds, like my wife, enjoyed it. It’s meant to be a stand-alone series with all new characters. But there’s just enough there to make the new feel familiar.
It’s off to a great start and I can’t wait for next week!
All screen caps taken from Disney+. Disney own the content and copyright of all images.