Today, Disney ushers in a new era with the launch of their Disney+ streaming service. Among the respectably-sizable library of existing content that the service offers, Disney has committed to creating a good chunk of new movies and TV series exclusively for their proprietary platform – and things kick off unarguably with the most anticipated of all the first-day releases, the Star Wars-centric series ‘The Mandalorian.’ Disney opted not to make the series available to anyone prior to launch, so critics and casual fans alike are getting their first look at the first episode today – and what an intriguing look it was. Let’s dive in.
WARNING: Minor spoilers for this episode of ‘The Mandalorian’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: The show undeniably has a full-cinematic feel to it, and really, one expects nothing less from The House of Mouse and their treatment of this franchise. They’ve pulled out all the stops, and the result is a gorgeous-looking tale from start to finish – even if it does feel a bit undersized at around 37 minutes long.
Set shortly after the “fall of the Empire,” this time frame puts ‘The Mandalorian’ squarely after ‘Return of the Jedi’ but sometime before the rise of the First Order and the events as shown in ‘The Force Awakens.’ The galaxy seems even more unruly and unsure of itself than normal, as evidenced by the title character’s refusal to take the Empire’s Galactic Credits as a valid form of payment for his series-opening job.
That’s right, our as-of-yet unnamed Mandalorian is your classic gun-for-hire bounty hunter, and the opening scene of the tale shows him (yes, you can definitely tell the character is male, at least) doing what he does best: apprehending a bounty and getting out of a few sticky situations on-planet in order to deliver the mark to Greef Carga, who appears to be some sort of higher-up in the chain of operations for the Bounty Hunter’s Guild.
After delivering the bounty – along with a few others at the same time, because why not be practical about your business, am I right? – the Mandolorian is offered a few other jobs, but none of them have enough payment to make the ends meet. It appears to be a pretty uncertain galactic economy in the wake of the Empire’s demise. One job, however, is a bit more “off the books” than the rest, and that one comes with a higher payout; naturally, this is the job that the Mandalorian elects to take.
Discovering that his clients are apparently now-former Empire higher-ups that are protected by a beleaguered cadre of Storm Troopers, the Mandalorian really has no choice but to accept the job – especially when his down payment comes in the form of beskar, the prized Mandalorian steel. After a brief stop at his Mandalorian “home forge,” the bounty hunter is off to the next planet that his tracker leads him.
He has a fortuitous run-in with Kuiil (portrayed with CGI aplomb by the fabulous Nick Nolte), who helps him reach his destination on the difficult-to-navigate planet surface. Travel by female Blurrg, a pudgy, stout version of an intergalactic T-Rex, is apparently the only way to go. “This is a female – the males are all eaten during mating,” Kuiil casually informs us. Neat!
Once arriving at his destination, the Mandalorian runs into IG-11, a fellow bounty hunter and droid in the “classic” vein of the IG-88 assassin droid as seen in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ Both are members of the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, but neither knew the other was on the job – and after comparing a few notes, it seems the two have been sent by differing factions and given different directions on what to do with the mark once apprehended…
- The Razor Crest is an interesting design, and I’m confident we’ll learn more about the vessel as the series progresses. It bears a striking resemblance to the Low Altitude Assault Transports used by the Republic during the Clone Wars, as shown in the prequel trilogy of films – but the series has yet to confirm if this is the ship’s origin. It stands to reason that the ship is old and outdated in-canon, as the Mythrol bounty captured in the opening scene expresses great disappointment with the ride, offering an exasperated “you’ve got to be kidding me” upon seeing the ship.
- Two scenes set in two different cantinas in the first 11 minutes of the show – executive producer Jon Favreau and company certainly want to hit you over the head with that classic Star Wars nostalgia, don’t they?
- Speaking of nostalgia, it really wouldn’t be a Star Wars tale without a sure-fire-marketable droid touting a unique personality and vaguely formally-foreign accept? That’s IG-11, voiced by ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ director and budding voice actor Taika Waititi – an entertaining addition to the episode, to be sure, but after the final scene given to us, his fate (and future appearances) remains largely clouded.
- The references to the “greater” Star Wars universe are plentiful, but subtle; they are presented in ways that are treats for die-hard fans but don’t detract from the overall story if you don’t catch them. Still, be on the lookout for both spoken and visual references such as the Wookiee celebration of Life Day, the species of Kowakian monkey-lizard made famous by Jabba the Hutt’s pet Salacious B. Crumb, the IG series bounty hunter droid, and speaking of droids, who can miss everyone’s favorite walking trash can, the Gonk Droid!
- The biggest reveal, of course, comes in the final minute of the episode, when the true nature of the “bounty” is revealed. When the Imperial Client mentioned that the bounty was 50 years old, one’s mind naturally starts wandering to perhaps a long-forgotten Jedi Master, perhaps isolated in the galactic wilds… but this is not exactly what we’re given with the surprising appearance of the Yoda-species “child,” and the reveal certainly sets things up for even more intrigue into the second episode.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: Despite being a condensed-feeling story, this is all in all a solid beginning for this series, and will surely hook many fans for the rest of the 8-episode season. The episode looks great from start to finish, and the musical score, brought to us by Ludwig Göransson, is an excellent addition to the overall feel of the series. I’m a sucker for a Star Wars story that doesn’t directly revolve around a Skywalker, so color me excited for what the rest of this series has to offer!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian
Nick Nolte as Kuiil
Carl Weathers as Greef Carga
Omid Abtahi as Dr. Pershing
Werner Herzog as The Client
Taika Waititi as the voice of IG-11
‘The Mandalorian’ features new episodes weekly via Disney+ in an 8-episode first season.