A few short weeks ago, we, the fans of Star Wars, had no idea how quickly we would be captivated by a character with absolutely no ability to show facial expressions. And that’s just “Baby Yoda.” Even better is the character the show is named for, the Mandalorian, who never reveals his face because “that is the way.” This is one series that works its way into the greater Lucasfilm universe as a wonderful addition and a return to the brand of storytelling that made Star Wars fun in the first place.
The setting is a post-Empire world following the death of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, and the destruction of the second Death Star. Rey, the character who debuts in The Force Awakens, has yet to be born. Into the scattered remnants of rebellion and rule steps the bounty hunter referred to in the series title, which premiered with Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+.
Disney quite smartly turned their flagship launch over to Jon Favreau who essentially launched the juggernaut Marvel Universe by directing the first movie. He also directed the best Christmas movie of the last twenty years, and has launched a number of other notable movies and television series. Iron Man and Elf should be mentioned because Favreau is no stranger to the art of crafting complex, captivating characters with meaningful action and mingling them with heart-warming and whimsical situations. That’s precisely what The Mandalorian offers.
While George Lucas may have searched for inspiration for the original Star Wars films in old Western movies and World War II dogfight scenes, producers may have gone East instead for The Mandalorian. A series of manga and movies from Japan features a samurai assassin with his young son in tow. The series is called Lone Wolf and Cub and depicts a violent and treacherous world where the assassin struggles to regain his honor while keeping the little tyke out of danger. The series was also referred to as the white-space: pre-wrap; Baby Cartseries, and if you don’t appreciate the poetry in that, watch an episode of The Mandalorian to see the connection. And, where characters refer to the hero as “Mando,” it would be even better if he were called “Manny” since that’s his job description when he’s not chasing down bounties or battling monsters, human and otherwise. The plot is awesome.
There are fresh corners of the galaxy explored, fantastic new creatures, and light thrown upon shadowy dealings only hinted at until now. Each episode offers new challenges, new friends, and new aspects to the hero’s journey—and the journey of the kid in his care. The kid is not Yoda, by the way, but apparently the same species and it will be interesting to find out how the kid came to be, as a fifty-year-old creature, unique in all the universe. The series is wonderfully realized, with mostly practical effects and puppets taking center stage. The CGI is well done, when implemented, but the “Baby Yoda” is so much more appealing despite the lack of polished articulation. Pedro Pascal gives the gruff-voiced Mandalorian more than enough expressiveness as well, even though we never see his face, with his body language and bounty hunter moves.
If there are any soft spots in the story, Moff Gideon comes along late in the series. So far, he hasn’t emerged as a villain we love to hate. Not yet. But with any luck, he’ll prove to be a worthy adversary. It’s all right for now that there are some uncertainties. Second seasons exist for a reason. That is the way. In any case, the first season of The Mandalorian is well worth the subscription and your time.
I have spoken.