Great War of the West
The first season of the Disney Plus Star Wars show is a great showcase of the episodic and grandiose nature that the franchise was initially renowned for. It does a great job of navigating away from the Skywalker Saga and implementing new elements into an already lived in world. The show can falter in terms of its pacing from the main narrative, but it uses it to its advantage to give us some entertaining side quests. Needless to say, The Mandalorian had a lot to live up to and rose to the challenge in almost every angle.
Set in the events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the show picks up in the events after the fall of the Empire and follows bounty hunter “Mando” on his mission to deliver a package. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this package is none other than Baby Yoda. The tightly packed 8 episodes follows their unusual adventures and the bond that forms between them.
Right out of the gate, it is clear that this is a different style of the Star Wars universe that we have not seen before. It is tailing on the underworld pickings from the end of the Empire and all of the under the table dealings and conniving that comes with it. That was an interesting layer that piques the intrigue of the show. It is showcasing something different than we have seen allowing anyone to come in with fresh eyes and mind.
The show also benefits from showing us Star Wars from a different angle in terms of its action sequences. We are so used to seeing a group of 10 droids being taken out in less than a minute by a couple of Jedi, but Mando does not possess that invincibility or those skills making action scenes all the more tense. Action is hemmed from the perspective of an underdog taking on an army, with numerous moments where we fear for Mando and other character’s lives. It is tense and exciting to see the true peril of our characters.
Pedro Pascal portrays the Mandolarian from behind a mask for the entire show which could make it incredibly hard for us to connect with him given that we can’t see his emotions. But Pascal is able to imbue a depth to his character through simple body movements and grizzled voice acting. It is commendable how much we can learn about his emotional state or inner psyche just from the way he holds himself and that emotion greatly strengthens the bond he shares with Baby Yoda.
Baby Yoda is by far the cutest and most adorable thing 2019 could have given us. He has become a cultural icon and it isn’t hard to see why. He is a character in his own right and particularly he is the driving force for Mando’s mission and character arc. Where the show takes these two leads to exciting new territories albeit sometimes getting lost in the middle.
The first three episodes were spectacular and well paced, giving us gripping action sequences paired with little bread crumbs of story bits to keep us intrigued. It seemed like the show knew what it was and wasn’t afraid to keep momentum going. However, the middle three episodes turn more into a “problem of the week” element rather than advancing the overall conflict. That was a fine turn for me as it lead to some small character moments and the ability to see the vulnerability of our character in comparison to the rest of the Star Wars universe. This middle section can falter in terms of being too fan servicey and slow, and that does hurt the show’s overall momentum.
From this, it is clear that the show is meant to be binge watched so that you can overlook those middle missteps it encounters in exchange for its bookended excellent narrative. Watching this show from a week to week basis can feel like a slog with all of this filler, which is why I find it a flaw that the show released in a week to week format. Granted, if they can fix up the pacing and filler for the next season, I’m sure that this format can stick around and give the jolt of excitement that shows like Game of Thrones was able to accomplish in its prime.
The final two episodes were spectacular, featuring all the right amount of tension and setup for season 2 that was needed to deliver a fantastic conclusion. The emotions were raw, the stakes were high, and the action was engaging, which is what every concluding chapter needs in order to succeed. The bread crumbs left for season 2 easily excite me for where the show can go next, and I am teeming with excitement to see where the show goes next.
Overall, the show succeeds in bringing Star Wars to a new generation while also retaining the elements that made it popular in the first place. That’s something the movies have only partially been able to achieve, but this show exemplifies the maybe the streaming service can be an excellent avenue to continue to tell these stories.
The Mandalorian’s first season is a great introduction to the television side of the Star Wars universe. It expands upon the mythology we have come to know and gives us a world that feels lived in and alive. Its excellent characters and action keep you engaged for most of the 8 episode format, and deliver a binge worthy experience. The show can falter sometimes in its pacing and direction but it brings its way back around for a strong conclusion. I would highly recommend getting the free trial of Disney Plus for this show, as it is surely something for both fans and newcomers to the Star Wars Universe.
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