Ah, Star Wars. As if society hadn’t had enough of this big-budget franchise, Disney created their own streaming service called Disney Plus to give us even more adventures in a galaxy far far away. Their debut show is The Mandalorian, a spinoff that takes place roughly five years after Return of the Jedi concluded. However, Skywalkers and Jedi are nowhere to be found in this eight-episode crowdpleaser. The show has an original story that follows a lone masked bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) and his adventures as he pursues various different bounties: sometimes to get paid and sometimes for more personal reasons. It is created by Jon Favreau (Chef, Iron Man), and this further solidifies his widespread popularity in the big-budget Disney machine. While he does do a great job with The Mandalorian, the show needs more consistency from a writing/directing perspective to totally soar.
What really lands about this debut season is the general tone the series carries; it feels as if the original Star Wars trilogy had a kid with Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, which is perfect for a show following a bounty hunter. The final set piece of the first episode is as close to an Eastwood spaghetti western as a show can get without just watching one, yet there are still blasters, droids, and all the other Star Wars trademarks. Even Ludwig Göransson’s fantastic score adds to the atmosphere, showing the audience that a Star Wars product doesn’t need to be scored by John Williams in order to sound amazing. From Black Panther to Childish Gambino’s fantastic musical catalog, Göransson is proving himself more and more as a musical talent to watch. The concept of making a Star Wars western is a great idea, and I cannot wait to see how Favreau expands upon it in future seasons.
However, the writing on his first season needed to be more consistent. The shining moments in this season are in the first three episodes and the last two. The season begins with The Mandalorian carrying out a high-paying job to bring an asset back alive from a remote planet. Once he finds the asset (“Baby Yoda”), he develops affection for it and questions his client’s desire to capture it. This development is interesting to watch, and the directors somehow make emotional growth for a character when his face is never seen. When this dilemma is explored throughout the first three episodes, The Mandalorian is a compelling and entertaining Star Wars show. However, episodes four through six are all filler, to the point where each episode feels completely pointless and boring.
“Chapter 4: Sanctuary” is just a cheap version of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai that doesn’t provide anything new or interesting to keep the audience engaged. Viewers could fall asleep during “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger” and miss nothing related to the story or the characters. “Chapter 6: The Prisoner” has some of the most cliché and cringeworthy characters imaginable, and there is still no progression for anything that matters. Luckily, Favreau regains control at “Chapter 7: The Reckoning,” in which the story left off at episode three finally continues. When the show is focused on the storylines that are emotionally engaging, the writing and directing thrives. The best episode by far is the season finale directed by the great Taika Waititi; there is more suspense and humor than the rest of the season combined, and the show ends on a perfect balance of finality and hints of content to come.
This is a strong show overall, but the middle dampens the entire experience. This season is eight episodes with each running at 35-45 minutes long, which is far too short for the amount of filler and pointless side plots it contains. Luckily, The Mandalorian sticks the landing and leaves viewers with a good taste in their mouths. The ending is the most important part of any movie or TV show, and the fantastic execution of this finale goes a long way. Hopefully, in the future the writers will find some interesting storylines and stick with them so each episode is compelling. For now, The Mandalorian is an average Disney show that provides a fun binge watch, but doesn’t quite deliver as much as the hype suggests.
I give The Mandalorian: Season One a B-.