When Disney+ first dropped with the latest Star Wars project wrapped in fresh mystery, no one quite knew what to expect. Maybe that’s been part of the charm. But it’s safe to say that The Mandalorian has blown away all expectations and has been quite the successful first outing for a Star Wars live action series. After nearly a month to process our feelings on the show here are some of our thoughts. We hope to hear yours as well!
Breaking New Grounds
Probably the best thing about the Mandalorian was that it was something completely new. Yes, there were familiar themes of Star Wars like found family, doing the right thing, breaking perceptions, and so on. But seeing those themes play out in new ways, with new characters, felt like a whole new Star Wars. Perfectly capture the familiar while presenting the new. Something Star Wars has taken time to learn but is clearly getting better at.
And it’s not just about adding in new faces and places. The Mandalorian also chose to forgo a lot of familiarity as well. We may have just gotten our first and best look at Star Wars as it moves away from the Skywalker Saga. With no wizards or laser swords (mostly) to speak of in the show, placing the success of the show on an armor clad, gun slinging, Jawa hating, Mandalorian sounds cool, but there was no telling if it could have longevity. But Jon Favreau gambled in a game of sabacc and won.
With the bromance of Jon and former supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (and creator of many more wonderful Star Wars animation projects) Dave Filoni, The Mandalorian was in the safe hands of two guys who get Star Wars in a way not too many others do. Add in a stellar line up of directors: Deborah Chow, Rik Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi; and you have the makings of something great. At least that’s what President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy thought. And with the full support of Lucasfilm and the latest streaming platform of Disney, The Mandalorian was sure to deliver on exactly what Star Wars and Star Wars wanted and needed. Something new. It was hard to imagine when the first details of the show dropped on Jon’s Instagram exactly how it would all play out. But then when the first glimpse of footage was shown at Star Wars Celebration 2019, it all began coming together.
Then, 7 months later, the show dropped. I remember my wife and I scrambled early that morning to download the app to our Apple TV and put on the first chapter. Like many others probably, we didn’t take time to appreciate the vast library of other nostalgia heavy Disney shows and movies. We were in a mission. And so was the Mando. There’s no way to quite describe the way the first episode hit us for the very first time. I just remember looking at each other and non verbally agreeing in our secret marriage-forcelink language... “Again!”
The first episode we agreed was probably the most fan service heavy. And no, we aren’t using that in a bad way. It was the first episode of a new Star Wars show in a new medium with new characters. It had to play up the familiar, nostalgic, and cool features so we could better except the new stuff that was coming. But none the less the first episode did it’s job. It tickle presented the kind of humor we could expect, it didn’t quite play all of the Mando’s morality cards so that we’d still be on edge of where he would fall. It packed in epic action that at times used amazingly smooth digital effects. It was an amazing first outing. We and many were hooked. Especially when our new favorite droid graced the screen and killed a whole bunch of dudes.
And come on. The introduced baby Yoda. Everybody loves baby Yoda. Have you seen all the memes??. For the purposes of the article and appeased nerds who hate that he is called baby Yoda, we will call him Yogurt for the remainder.
Even in the first episode, the holy union of Jon and Dave pulled no punches. They warmed us up with familiar droids and aliens and the smooth talking of Carl Weathers as guild leader Greef Karga. And then they hit us with the unexpected reveal that our Mando is not alone. There are many Mandalorians living in hiding under the settlement in Nevarro. You just can’t imagine how much I squealed. We were introduced to the absolutely incredible Armorer, seemingly the leader of this rag tag clan. Given flashbacks of The Mando’s back story. Oh and did we mention Yogurt? All of this was expected late in the game at best or completely unexpected at least. It was never guaranteed we’d seem more Mandalorians. Nor that we would learn any details about the title character in the first season. And no one saw Yogurt coming. And yet in the first episode we are blown away by all of it.
Along the next episodes we get introduced to more great characters turned allies of our lead man. Former slave and master technician, Kuiil. A former Rebel Shocktrooper and all around boss, Cara Dune. And the late returning but never failing kill bot himself, IG-11. Greef Karga even makes amends after some bad blood in Chapter 3 and becomes a friend. And throughout his interactions with these characters, we learn that the Mando isn’t exactly the rogue gunslinger bad boy he may have been thought to be. He is a man of honor and compassion. A man of duty and justice. A man who doesn’t always have it together and looks the coolest. A man who looks great in a papouse. Seriously.
When we first looked forward to the show we looked forward to the scum and villainy, the anti hero with no real moral compass. We wanted a guy you could root for sometimes but most of the time knew was wrong. We wanted to see that character grow into who the Mandalorian proved to be from the get go. It brings back memories of Mandalorians of old legends stories. This definitely gave me some Boba Fett vibes ala Legacy of the Force. Much of what made me love Mandalorian character a back I’m the day resurfaced here. And of course some of this elements appear in Mandalorian’s first return in The Clone Wars animated series. They were definitely a bit of a different breed. But now the door has been opened to really expand the canon lore of the Mandalorian people past just cool armor and jet packs to a group of people to admire and seek to resemble in ones own life. Which isn’t that one of the greatest themes of Star Wars? Simply being inspired to be a better person and to do the right thing?
The Mandalorian did something new and epic and it succeeded. I really believe part of its success is due to the lack of expectations by fans going in. Sure there were generalized expectations about whether it’s be good or not. But really there was no preconceived narrative for the character a and story of The Mandalorian like there were for oh let’s say the entirety of the sequel trilogy?
We love the sequel films, don’t get me wrong. But they were divisive. And part of that is that fans had ideas and opinions about the character a and narrative and where it should go. And because we are not in control, it didn’t end up going where we thought. And that can be upsetting (in our case it was a good thing!). But there was none of that lingering over The Mandalorian. It was so new we had no real room to get attached to theories.
It makes me wonder how the second season will go over now that there is room for people to form their own narratives, but I believe Jon and Dave’s clear vision for the show and their characters will steer fans along the way.
The first season was a hit. And while fans are learning to digest Star Wars spread across 4.5 hours rather than the usual 2 or so. I think even the “filler” of the first season was made meaningful. Something I’m sure Dave Filoni helped with since, in our opinion, he made Clone Wars “filler” unskippable. In the end we got a show with a lot of humor, action, and heart. And I think that’s all because of the capable hands it was in from start to finish. The Mandalorian was clearly made by people who love Star Wars. And more than ever we are looking forward to a new world of Star Wars content beginning this year. 2020 will be big for streaming shows, books, and comics in the Star Wars universe, with The Mandalorian season two coming this fall as well. Lots to look forward to. And lots to love.
Be sure to let us know your thoughts as well and join the conversation!
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