The Mandalorian – Chapter 1

Woah, so that was pretty different. 

 

Star Wars has, as a franchise, been in a rough spot the last couple of years. Much as I might have enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi it didn’t land with a lot of fans, their desire for something that DIDN’T call them out on a lot of their nonsense ruining the box office of the next film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, despite how much fun it was. I’m really curious to see how the responses (and box office numbers) are for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker next month. In the meantime, Disney launched their streaming service and further complicated all of our lives with Disney+ hitting at midnight last night. The show I was the most excited for, The Mandalorian, was a day one launch and I’m delighted to report that it’s just as awesome as I hoped it would be.

 

So there’s this Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), no name because he’s that cool, is a massive badass. He’s the most efficient and terrifying bounty hunter in the galaxy but he’s far from perfect, making mistakes and taking damage. He’s been doing jobs for Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), but the money isn’t so good. When the former Imperial offers him a link to someone known only as “The Client” (Werner Herzog), he’s caught up in something more than he can understand. 

 

Right off the bat we get how brutal this guy is. The Mandalorian isn’t a good person, he’s a gun for hire that is willing to murder half a bar in front of the owner to pick up one bounty. He’s too efficient and no one wants to pay Guild wages so times are tough. He runs into other hunters, most notably IG-11 (Taika Waititi), but for the most part he’s on his own. There are other Mandalorians and they want to be paid in Beskar, the metal their armour is made from that is both blaster and lightsaber resistant, and we see some of them as they discuss the tribe they are struggling to bring back to prominence. 

 

I’m frankly surprised at some of the directions this took. Several highly advertised performers seem to only fill small roles that I don’t think will carry much further than this episode. It’s a strange way to proceed but it works because now we can focus on the man himself. Most of the appearances are vocal ones, but I found them to be fun and then they were gone. The distraction of them is something we won’t have to deal with too much, which is perfect because this series is a different animal from Star Wars proper. We won’t be dealing in nostalgia, won’t be looking to see familiar faces, and won’t even be touched by familiar music cues. This is a new type of thing that we haven’t seen in the universe before, a full-on Western that takes cues from old Eastwood films and Sergio Leone imagery. Be overjoyed, be at peace, for a new era of visual flair has arisen in the series and we’re lucky to have it. 

 

Ludwig Göransson is scoring here and he steps so far away from Star Wars that it might as well sound like a new universe. None of the original themes are there, nothing that even sounds remotely like Star Wars, and it’s a marvelous revelation that is perfect for scratching that itch I’ve had since Disney acquired the franchise. Göransson was a wonderful choice for this and his new sounds have mixed old Westerns with modern operatic boldness to plant a spark in the firepit of this series. It’s one of the driving forces, standing on its own as a bold piece of art like the music of John Williams.
Folks, the main takeaway here has to be that The Mandalorian is wonderful. It’s strange, new, bold, and absolutely fantastic to watch. I think the pilot could have been longer but given the weekly turnout and guaranteed episodes I’ll take what we got. I’m just happy that something like this exists and that it’s available for everyone to see. Your Disney+ subscription is worth this alone, so take the hit to pay for it.

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