The Mandalorian – ‘Chapter 1’ Review, Giveaway, and Discussion
Disney’s new streaming service is now live, and the long awaited debut of the first ever live-action Star Wars television series, The Mandalorian, is finally here! Read on for our spoiler free review, and before you go, be sure to share your own thoughts of the series premiere in the comments and enter for your chance to win a 6” Black Series Mandalorian figure from Hasbro. There will be a spoiler recap section at the end of the article, but you will get plenty of warning before venturing into the spoiler zone if you haven’t seen the show yet.
Before we get started, I want to plug our new YouTube series “The Mando Fan Show” which will also make its debut later today. On the Mando Fan Show, you’ll get to hear from John, Lacey, and James of the Resistance Broadcast as they discuss their own thoughts about each episode as they air, so stay tuned! Our Resistance trio will also be joined by a few guests in the weeks ahead. Check out the schedule below.
In effort to avoid spoilers, I’m going to just spend the next few moments giving my overall impression of the pilot episode and then some things I may have liked or disliked about the show. After those few words, I’ll give it a rating out of 10, and then we’ll talk about our giveaway before moving down into the spoiler discussion.
Over the years, I have seen many television shows that start off a little slow but end up finding their stride after a few episodes (or even after a season or two). Both the Clone Wars and Rebels were like this for me. Both of those shows really started getting good once they established their identity around the end of their second seasons. This is not to say that these shows were bad; they just took their sweet time finding what worked and what didn’t before ultimately becoming some pretty satisfying Star Wars stories when all was said and done. But this is not the case with The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian knows exactly what it is, and it wastes no time establishing its place in the Star Wars saga. The tone is clear from the start and the main character, although unknown and mysterious, instantly establishes himself as someone to root for. The stakes are high from the beginning, and the show is serious and gritty without being overly dark or depressing. The lived-in universe matches the aesthetic of the original trilogy while still offering its own unique look and feel. This is the Star Wars that a lot of fans have been wanting to see for some time, and if this first episode is anything to go by, the wait was worth it.
Pedro Pascal is perfect as the show’s titular bounty hunter. He definitely captures that Clint Eastwood vibe from Sergio Leone’s classic “Dollars Trilogy”, and he comes off as a fierce combatant and gunslinger without ever seeming too powerful. He may be the best fighter in any room, but he’s not invincible, and because of the way the gunfights are handled in this episode, there’s always a healthy level of tension. In the back of your mind, you know he’ll come out the winner, but the stakes still feel high during the fight.
The first episode doesn’t introduce us to a lot of the show’s characters, focusing more on the Mandalorian himself and setting up the plot of the series moving forward, but we do get to meet Mando’s contact in the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), an Ugnaught named Kuiil (Nick Nolte), and the assassin droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi). But we’ll talk more about a couple of these characters in the spoiler section at the end. Speaking of IG-11, his inclusion in this episode adds a good helping of situational humor to the show. That’s one of the things that impressed me about the show, is how it still has comical moments without trying too hard. It feels natural and adds an appropriate degree of levity.
I’m still a little baffled at the “best in the parsec” comment from Werner Herzog’s character (I thought we fixed this confusion in Solo, yet here we are again…). So what exactly is a parsec? In the original Star Wars, Han Solo’s comment seemed to suggest a unit of time, but in Solo: A Star Wars Story it was explained through the context of the Kessel Run scene that a parsec was indeed a unit of astronomical distance, much like the real world parsec that is equal to approximately 3.26 light years. But then Herzog says the Mandalorian is the best in the parsec, implying area, not distance. This is a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things (and would be less so if I wasn’t such a freak for the details), but it just adds confusion to something that I thought I had figured out at this point.
Other than that minor gripe, my only other complaint is that the show was a lot shorter than I was thinking it would be, clocking in at a little less than forty minutes. I was hoping it would be about an hour in length, but after watching the show, the pacing is so perfect that I think it was just as long as it needed to be.
I’m excited to watch this episode again later today to fully digest the show, but Dave Filoni (Clone Wars, Rebels) has certainly made a great first impression with his live action directorial debut, and I can’t wait to see the second episode of the series this Friday (November 15th). I have spoken.
In celebration of the show’s premiere episode, we are giving away a 6” Black Series figure of the Mandalorian from Hasbro to one random commenter in the comment section of this review. So go watch the episode for yourself and leave a comment below for your chance to win!
We now come to the spoiler section of the article, so from this point on, read at your own risk if you haven’t watched the episode.
So the episode begins with the cantina scene that has been shown in pretty much all the promo clips and trailers so far. An alien patron of the cantina is being harassed by some thugs and Mando steps in to save the day…or not. Turns out, the blue-skinned Mythrol had a bounty on his head and Mando was just there to collect it for himself. As the guy starts trying to talk his way out of his situation, Mando gives us one of the coolest opening lines ever.
“I can bring you in warm [touches blaster] or I can bring you in cold…”
With his bounty in tow, Mando heads to his ship on the ice where he has to deal with a giant ravinak creature before heading into space with his quarry. The ravinak is a creature that lives under the ice and bursts up from below to catch its prey, similar to the graboids in the Tremors series. When the ravinak latches on to his ship, a pre-Empire era Razor Crest, a shock from the end of Mando’s rifle is enough to cause the beast to let go. After encasing the Mythrol in carbonite via a carbon freeze installation onboard his ship, Mando delivers the goods to his contact in the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, Greef Carga.
Mando is disappointed with the take, as Carga initially offers him imperial credits. With the Empire now a thing of the past, these credits are not as valuable as they once were, so he settles for a smaller payment in Calamari flan instead. Since the fall of the Empire, no one is wanting to pay Guild rates anymore, so bounty hunters are having to scrape by. Mando’s disappointment continues when Carga can only offer him a meager bounty target that wouldn’t even cover the cost of fuel as Mando is quick to point out. At this, Carga reveals that there is one job, a more lucrative opportunity.
This new job leads Mando to Herzog’s character, who at this point is still a little mysterious as we don’t really know who he is, only that he surrounds himself with guards decked out in imperial stormtrooper armor. The job is a simple grab-n-go, but the details provided from Herzog’s character are a little scarce. For security, Mando is only given the target’s age (fifty years old) and a tracker to their location. He takes the job and is given a down payment of Beskar steel that is later fashioned into a shoulder pauldron for his armor.
This is where the show really starts to get interesting. We know that Mando is a member of the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, an institution that has been around since The Mandalorian Armor, the first novel in K.W. Jeter’s “The Bounty Hunter Wars” trilogy. But what we soon discover is that he is also part of a smaller faction within the guild that is made up of other Mandalorians. This sect operates under the banner of the mythosaur skull that has been previously associated with the armor of the notorious Boba Fett. The mythosaur was a dragonlike creature native to Mandalore. As referenced later in the episode, the ancient Mandalorians once rode these creatures into battle.
This scene is light on exposition but heavy on clues about Mando’s past and the mysterious organization. As the Mandalorian armorer fashions his new pauldron, a couple of flashbacks reveal what appears to be a young Mando separated from his parents, presumably under the thumb of imperial oppression. The armorer is pleased that the excess of Beskar steel would sponsor many foundlings, to which Mando replies that he was once one himself, whatever that means. If I had to guess, I’d say that it just means that he was a lost child of Mandalore that became separated from the tribe in the Great Purge that is referenced. He was most likely picked up by the other Mandos at some point and raised in their ways. I imagine that’s what a foundling is, but it’s unclear at this point.
From here, Mando heads to the planet where his target awaits and has a run in with a couple of blurrgs, two legged beasts that first appeared in the Ryloth arc of the first season of the Clone Wars series. The blurrgs get the better of him, but he is rescued by an ugnaught blurrg rancher (or something along those lines) named Kuiil. Kuill then agrees to help Mando by leading him to his target. He informs Mando that the only way to reach the compound is by riding a blurrg, given the terrain that must be crossed to get there. He struggles initially, but calling back to his ancestors’ natural affinity for beast riding helps him eventually get the hang of it.
At the compound, Kuiil leaves Mando to his mission, and the bounty hunter begins his plan of attack against his bounty’s Nikto protectors. But he has to call an audible when he discovers that the droid bounty hunter IG-11 is also on the job. The two of them work together, eventually taking down the enemy and blasting their way into the locked room where their shared bounty awaits.
Now we come to the end of the episode, which involves a pretty interesting twist in a moment that will leave a lot of viewers scratching their heads. It is revealed that the target is an infant of Yoda’s species (above). He/she is indeed fifty years old, but for a species that can live to be nine-hundred, a fifty-year infancy is not really that surprising. When Mando realizes that IG-11 has no intention of taking the infant alive, he follows his heart, blasting the droid into oblivion.
That’s it for chapter one. I imagine that the rest of the series will reveal what’s so important about this little one and why Herzog’s character wants him/her eliminated. We still haven’t met Gina Carano’s Cara Dune or Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand, so I guess we’ll have to learn about them later on. Like I mentioned above, be sure to check out our Mando Fan Show later today, and check back after episode two for another review and Mandalorian merch giveaway!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.