This review has been a long time coming and I am sure some people are surprised I have not commented on this series before. I wanted to take a little time to let my thoughts settle.
So, what are my thoughts on The Mandalorian?
For me, this has been the Star Wars I have been waiting for since Return of the Jedi. It is a near perfect series with depth, scope and heart. The show is a bold move, a live action TV series set post-ROTJ with new cast and removed from the main Skywalker Saga narrative.
The series follows the titular Mandalorian, a bounty hunter whose simple life is complicated when one job goes unexpectedly. It was brave to focus on a lead who keeps his helmet on the entire series. It takes a good actor to portray emotion from inside a suit where facial cues are all removed, Pedro Pascal manages this admirably, there were a few shots where the character seemed uncomfortable in his skin but these were few and far between. Pedro gave us a nuanced performance of a man driven by duty and doctrine in a world that has sunk to lawlessness in the wake of the fall of the empire.
Complimenting Pedro is the supporting cast of characters who were each portrayed with skill. Cara Dune played by Gina Carano embodied the bitter, emotionally scarred former Rebel Drop Trooper. Here was a strong woman evidently the equal of the Mandalorian struggling to survive in the new post war landscape. Greef Karga played by the rich voiced Carl Weathers was perfect as the hard-bitten wheeler dealer Bounty Guild leader. It was great to see that his role was expanded as Weathers brought a lot of gravitas to the show and gave us a character who whilst out for himself was capable of changing his position as required.
The last three characters of note are not even ‘real’ actors two are puppets and the last a CGI droid. It is a testament to the show that such heart could be given to these characters, that these models could evoke so much emotion, this was helped by the voice acting of Nick Nolte and Taika Waitita.
It was this blend of live action, models, puppets and effects that made the original trilogy so gripping and 40 years on is evoked in this series. The CGI effects of the modern films and prequels which whilst of their time now look dated whereas this style continues to exemplify the ethos of the star wars universe.
The heart of the program comes obviously from ‘The Child’ and you must have been living in a bubble not to know what the child is but for those that don’t I will only say that it raises some interesting questions and provides the heart for the show. It brings out a tenderness in the hero which has been lacking in his life since the loss of his parents.
The real success of this show really comes down to two people. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. These two are the lead creators, producers and writers of the show. Jon brings a wealth of experience ideas and grounding to the production and Filoni’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe from his time producing The Clone Wars and Rebels is probably second only to Lucas himself. Had these two handled the sequel trilogy then things might have gone very differently.
The eight-episode run of the first season was excellent, there was no filler here and whilst there was a ‘show’ of the week element it all added to build the overall narrative towards a satisfying finale. It may seem that I have no issues with the show, I do, but they are tiny. I wanted to see more of the New Republic, the quick heal of the Mandalorian in the finale created a strange piece where the team separated and then re-joined with little reason and the bonding between him and IG-11 could have been done without this.
The show helped us see the other side of the galaxy outside of the temple, Senate and main cities. Great characters like Kuiil, the dock master on Tatooine, the criminals on the prison barge all helped us delve deeper into the universe in the same way my beloved expanded universe novels used to.
The addition of roundtable discussions by the actors, background staff and talented directors helps us understand the love, care, and talent put into this show. It makes me realise that this kind of detail is something we need to see on future Star Trek series, as good as they can be.
Lastly, I must compliment the music, it perfectly matches the western gunslinger vibe of the show, this is one of the shows I actually like to watch the credits for.
The Mandalorian sets the bar incredibly high for the production of sci fi series, its is as much a game changer as Star Trek was in the 60’s or Battlestar Galactica in the 2000’s. I look forward to season 2 with much anticipation.