Disney’s “The Mandalorian” is the star of the Disney+ streaming service at launch and could be responsible for most of the early subscribers to the platform. The expectations couldn’t be higher for the first Star Wars live-action series, but the first episode should appease even the most hardcore fan. It’s easy to say that the first episode is fantastic, but let’s jump into the premiere, without any spoilers.
While Boba Fett’s introduction in the Star Wars original trilogy was the first time that most fans saw the signature Mandalorian armor, subsequent novels, and “The Clone Wars” animated series, helped to carve out the history of Mandalore and its Mandalorians. The planet and race are some of the most exciting and mysterious offshoots in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorians have often switched sides during the establishment and reign of the Empire, and their legends, rituals, and culture are a seemingly endless well for the Star Wars universe as a whole. This is why they make such a great central focus for the first live-action series, and the show does a great job of establishing parts of this culture, while still keeping it open for further examination down the road.
One of the challenges in creating anything new in the Star Wars universe is deciding which previous events and lore to reestablish as canon, and which not to include. This is the same problem that longtime fans struggle with when watching a new Star Wars movie or show. While fans’ previous knowledge helps them to discover easter eggs, callbacks, and hints, the new show or movie can quickly change any of the facts and details that fans have previously learned. So far, “The Mandalorian” is staying true to most of the lore already established since “The Clone Wars: Animated Series,” but it hasn’t really started to dive in just yet. You have subtle hints at the animosity between the Empire and Mandalore, beskar iron, carbonite freezing, and familiar aliens.
Everyone will compare “The Mandalorian” to a traditional western, and rightly so, but only the westerns after “High Noon” in my opinion, and more on the lines of the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ in the late 1960s with a score similar to Ennio Morricone’s. The first episode establishes the masked Mandalorian as a bounty hunter and one that wants to simply get the job done and not fight when he doesn’t have to. Later events show that he isn’t a ruthless bounty hunter and that his own code is more important than the bounty hunter’s guild. “The Mandalorian” has the benefit of being a series and not a movie, and director Dave Filoni takes full advantage of the extra time with the shows pacing, and each scene plays out without ever feeling rushed. Filoni is a Star Wars installment himself, having worked on almost every Star Wars release on any platform since “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” You can see how his previous work on episodic series pays off in this live-action series, telling a straightforward story over an hour while opening the door to countless possible storylines.
The show’s first episode has a lot of responsibilities, none of them more important to the success of the show than being a hook for viewers. I would say “The Mandalorian” succeeds in all aspects, and that fans will be eager to see Episode 2 when the final credits role. I also expect fans to light-up social media with theories and ideas for future episodes, which is always a sign that a show is doing things right.
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