At last, Disney+ has arrived, and with it, comes their flagship series, The Mandalorian. Touted as the first live-action Star Wars series in franchise history, Jon Favreau’s ambitions sci-fi/western takes viewers on a journey into (mostly) uncharted territory in the Star Wars galaxy. A grimier, lawless era, The Mandalorian puts the spotlight on the inner-workings of bounty hunting, the criminal underworld, and the merciless operations that come with both. From the opening few minutes of the series’ first episode, it’s clear that viewers will are in for something unique and unlike anything ever seen in a Star Wars project. And yet, you never feel as if the series is trying to separate itself from the larger franchise. Everything about the first episode “feels like Star Wars,” but we’re moving past the familiarity of the franchise.
“Chapter One” of The Mandalorian wastes no time in launching viewers into this new part of the galaxy. Gone are the lush city lights of Bespin, Canto Bight, and Coruscant, as well as beautiful floral atmosphere of Endor and Yavin 4. In its place are foggy bar landscapes and desert areas filled with “scum and villainy.” The strongest aspect of the series is its neo-western approach, as The Mandalorian falls more in line as a sci-fi “Man with No Name” story set in the world of Star Wars.
Our lead character, the titular Mandalorian, played superbly by Pedro Pascal, is a man with little time for chit-chat, always ready to use his blaster and secure his bounty. He’s not interested in the ins and outs of why someone ended up on his collection list and demonstrates that he’s not above getting down and dirty to get the job done. Similar to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s masterful Dollars trilogy, The Mandalorian still lives by some sort of code, even in a time where you’re always on guard, and ready to kill at will.
While the series is not short on gun-totting action (see the final gun battle between Mando and IG-11 versus random guards), there is also an equal amount of quieter moments that allow the viewer to really empathize with our resident anti-hero. Through an extended flashback/memory sequence, it is clear that “Mando” has a tragic past, but the series, rather smartly in my opinion, does not dive any further into who he is.
Matter of fact, the series really does not delve too deep into any of the characters, and yet, the outer reaches of the universe feel so lived-in and well-known. A 5-minute conversation between Mando and his handler explaining their relationship is unnecessary fodder because, for now, it is clear how they operate with each other: one has the missions, and the other completes them. Sure, later on in the series we’ll probably learn a lot more about how each character ended up there, but for now, Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni have built up a cloud of mystery over each character and plot thread.
The Mandalorian may still be “Star Wars,” but its approach to the galaxy is far different than anything previously seen, and to fully cement this, Black Panther composer Ludwig Goransson was brought on to bring a fresh musical landscape to the series. Goransson astutely elected against using John Williams’ storied franchise themes, instead opting for a refreshing, and awe-inspiring soundtrack that will remind viewers of Ennio Morricone’s work on classic spaghetti westerns. However, that does not mean that there aren’t traces of that Star Wars touch in the music, as Goransson also utilized a 70 piece orchestra to give the music that added cherry on top to bring everything full circle.
Of all the original Disney+ projects being available at launch, The Mandalorian was arguably the streamer’s biggest risk, and yet, everything fell into place for its first episode. Pedro Pascal is terrific as the titular character, and has an excellent supporting cast surrounding him that only elevates the intrigue and mystery of the story. “Chapter One” is really just a teaser for what’s to come, but makes a compelling argument for why Star Wars has a bright future in live-action television.
Rating – 8.5/10