About six hours before it was supposed to go live, Disney+ opened up to US users. This included the series premiere of The Mandalorian. The first-ever live-action television series set in the Star Wars universe, it simultaneously offers up an entirely new story but lots of familiar imagery. The larger arc of The Mandalorian gets set up in the final moments of the series premiere. And it will address a part of Star Wars lore that fans and even some Star Wars storytellers themselves have wondered about for nearly 40 years. We will get into spoiler territory, but not right away. If you are still on-the-fence about signing up for Disney+ to see The Mandalorian, we can help you sort out that problem.
The series itself may be new, but the people behind the scenes have a deep connection to Star Wars. This may be the first time Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and the Lion King remake, worked behind the scenes. Yet, he did some voice-acting for The Clone Wars, playing Pre Vizla, a Mandalorian warrior. Dave Filoni, a Pittsburgh native who worked first on Avatar: The Last Airbender and then became George Lucas’s padawan also executive produces the series and directed the first episode. Along with contributions from Lucasfilm legends like Doug Chiang and Carrie Beck, the result is a product that quintessentially feel like Star Wars. This is a lived-in universe, full of harsh, desolate landscapes and sci-fi poverty.
The Mandalorian Series Premiere Establishes the Tone of the Show Immediately
Image via screengrab
The first thing you notice about The Mandalorian throughout the series premiere is how it looks. They wasted not a single dollar of their $100 million budget (for 10 episodes). The sets, the costume design, the make-up, the practical and computer-generated effects all look worthy of a blockbuster feature. They get away with a little by setting the scenes in deserts, both cold and hot. They don’t need elaborate locations or pristine sets. Rather, we get a grimy and far-off-the-beaten-path feel right away. Still, we don’t feel like that actors are just hanging around on the same few set pieces. We visit three planets in the first episode and while they may not be all that visually distinct, it feels like a whole universe opened up for our characters.
Similarly, the tone of the series premiere shows us that the Mandalorian lives in a corner of the Star Wars universe we understand. It’s a hard life, and people are mostly sinister and awful to one another. Interactions are all transactional, and someone is always trying to cheat someone. The Mandalorian is as unforgiving as the harsh environments he visits. Yet, this means that when he shows even the smallest gesture of mercy, he’s a unique figure in this world. Like the westerns that inspired it, The Mandalorian is quiet, takes its time, and then explodes with action. What’s remarkable is that the storytellers were able to anchor this strange, spectacular tale to a character whose face we’ll likely never see.
If you don’t want to discover any spoilers now is the time to bookmark this review and return after you’ve watched it. Because, whether you like Star Wars or not, you should definitely watch it.
The Mandalorian Series Premiere Features a Lot of Familiar Faces, Well Voices
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Pedro Pascal, and his doubles Brendan Wayne, Lateef Crowder, and Stephen Jackson, all deserve high praise. They are able to imbue the character with emotions, intention, and personality. All while his face is covered by a helmet. The series premiere opens with the Mandalorian tracking a bounty, a blue-skinned alien whose voice you recognize. (It’s Horatio Sanz of SNL fame.) The character is nothing but threatening, from the moment we first get a look at him.
Later, he meets with Carl Weathers Greef Carga and Werner Herzog’s character, called only “the client.” Pascal (or his doubles) play the Mandalorian in such a way that we can tell when he’s confused or hesitant. When we meet the tallest ugnaught ever, Kuiil voiced by Nick Nolte, we even get a glimpse of the Mandalorian out of his depth. We also see that he’s actually a little funny. Making us care about this character we never actually see is the greatest magic trick the series pulls off.
It also shows that while this is a newer sort of story for the Star Wars universe, it will still feature plenty of familiar themes. The Mandalorian is a morally gray person, we assume. Bounty hunters, in real life or fiction, are shady characters. Oddly, it is through Kuiil that we get our first glimpse of another kind of person living in these Outer Rim backwaters. He helps the Mandalorian not for reward, but because he wants peace. The people that the Mandalorian hunts are not peaceful, and Kuiil wants them off his world. In the final moments of the series premiere, however, we learn that the Mandalorian is not so morally gray after all. We also get a mind-blowing reveal.
Holy Poodoo, That’s a Baby Yoda
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As per usual, production on The Mandalorian remained shrouded in secrecy. Yet, two leaks hit social media that stuck. The first was that Dave Filoni brought his old mentor to the set. George Lucas consulted on a particular story element for the series. Specifically, Lucas came in to help them nail down the specifics of Yoda’s species. The unnamed creatures are very long-lived, and outside of Yoda and Yaddle, we’ve never seen any other of their kind. At least, until now. The second leak suggested that the plot of The Mandalorian would see the titular hero breaking his contract. The bounty is an infant. Rather than turning it over to the Client, he decides to help it. He has no love for Yoda, but since Herzog’s character is an ex-Imperial and the Empire killed his family, he has no love for them, either.
If the rumors are to be believed, and it seems they are, the baby Yoda will be a big part of the show. We will see more of this species and perhaps even learn their race’s name. Either way, it’s clear that the Imperial remnants will be the villains of the series. The Mandalorian will fight them to keep this child safe and, probably, return it to its family. This is a concept just brimming with potential. Especially if the new canon adheres to Star Wars Legends. In the old EU, members of Yoda’s species are all powerful in the Force. Also, worth noting, the words “the Force” were not mentioned once in the series premiere of The Mandalorian. However, with Filoni at the helm of the series, there’s no question there will be some deep discussion of the mystical power in this galaxy.
What did you think of The Mandalorian series premiere? Tell us your thoughts, theories, and reactions in the comments below.
Featured image via screengrab.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.