The Star Wars universe as a whole is in a very curious and rather tenuous spot right now. Mainly because the sequel trilogy ended on a very lukewarm note with The Rise of Skywalker (yes, it’ll make a billion dollars but it’s a VERY divisive film, like its predecessor), the animated series that are out there aren’t as quality as Rebels or Clone Wars (Resistance is about to get canceled) and the future in terms of movies is VERY up for debate (the Game of Thrones showrunners films are done and Rian Johnson’s ones are very much on hiatus), so what can save us from this? Well, as this The Mandalorian Season 1 review will hopefully show you, a cowboy…a space cowboy with a Baby Yoda.
Before we begin, we apologize for the latest of this The Mandalorian Season 1 review. Timing, plus holidays, plus waiting for the season to be over led to many delays.
The Mandalorian Season 1 is set in the time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, in a time where the Empire is on the outs, but still in power somewhat via Warlords and those still clinging to power. The New Republic is still trying to establish itself as worthy of galactic trust, and the law isn’t what it needs to be to keep everyone safe. Thus, bounty hunters are one of the true ways to get things done, and that’s where “Mando” comes in.
“Mando” is, as his name suggests, a Mandalorian, and one that makes his living off being a bounty hunter. But unlike say Jango or Boba Fett, he’s not doing it for glory or for money, he’s doing it because the Mandalorian race is nearly gone. He’s one of the few allowed to be topside in the universe, and his bounties help bring much-needed money and materials to their creed, allowing them to survive. This immediately makes him very honorable, and someone to connect to, even though we don’t see his face until the final episode of the season.
Of course, things go very wrong for him when a mission for a high-priced bounty gets him involved with the new greatest internet meme in the world…Baby Yoda. Yes, it’s not actually Baby Yoda, but “The Child” as he’s also known since he doesn’t have a name, and it’s from Yoda’s race (and Yaddle’s race if you know the lore) and thus…Baby Yoda.
When his honor dictates that he saves the child from the client who hired him, Mando finds himself on the run from the Bounty Hunter’s Guild, the remaining Imperial forces, and more.
Those who know the legendary Japanese film Man and Cub will know what to expect here. Mando has to protect Baby Yoda, who is all too willing to protect Mando in return…because he can use The Force! Because of course he can…
No joke though, their scenes are great together, because Mando doesn’t know how to take care of a kid, and Baby Yoda is really great at BEING a kid. Including nearly wrecking his ship because he was curious about something, “We need someone to watch it!”
Fun fact, Baby Yoda was originally supposed to be a 3D character. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni (two very brilliant and gifted writers and directors) fought for him to be a puppet, and it came off MUCH better that he was. Especially during certain interaction scenes with Baby Yoda, Mando, Cara Dunne, Kuill, and more. It wouldn’t have had the same feeling if it was a 3D character.
The Mandalorian wisely stays away from many of the “main characters” of this time period, and instead focuses on the ones on the “outskirts” of the universe. Mando is a great example of this. But also, there’s Republic Shock Trooper Cara Dunne (played amazingly by Gina Carrano), Greef Carga (played by Carl Weathers) the leader of the Bounty Hunters Guild, and an Ugnot named Kuill (“I have spoken”) and more. It’s a small cast, but it works in the show’s favor for the most part. There are some really good performances here, especially from Pedro Pascal (Mando) and Gina Carrano.
The story arc for the 8-episode season is pretty simple. The first three episodes are basically about getting Baby Yoda and returning it to “the client”, then there’s three episodes of “keep away” and then the two-episode finale about finishing the fight.
I’ve noted in my thoughts about the Marvel/Netflix series (rest in peace) that short episode orders usually work in the series favor. It allows for more in-depth stories and better character focus. At times, The Mandalorian does that great, but other times…? Not so much.
For example, the second episode is primarily about Mando fighting Jawas (I kid you not) and just trying to get his ship back together. Sure, this is where Baby Yoda decides to reveal he’s a Force user, but that could’ve been done another way. Episode five was about getting enough money to repair his ship, and then episode six was about meeting some of his old crew…and then getting rid of them when they betrayed him.
Now sure, these episodes served a purpose in some ways, including fleshing out Mando’s backstory in “The Prisoner” but there were likely better ways to make this work. And some characters who were introduced, including the one played by the amazing Ming-Na Wen, didn’t even get a chance to shine.
Why this season needed so many filler episodes is beyond me, and sometimes, they went into REALLY tropey territory in the ones that did matter. Like in “Sanctuary” where Mando met a widow (because of course he did) who fell for him (because of course she did) and begged him to stay and “be happy” and he almost did!
Thankfully though, there were other ways that helped solidify the first season of The Mandalorian as a great beginning of a new show. The action, for example, is top-notch, including some fun suspense fights, large-scale battles, and more.
Also, the fleshing out of this part of the Star Wars universe was good, including a much-needed look into the Mandalorian race (which had only been touched on in the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons), with “This is the way” now being the new internet catchphrase, because it’s simple and effective.
Plus, they made Mando a character to cheer for throughout. He’s funny, serious, able to be both honorable and clever in dealing with situations, and they give him enough quirks and flaws to make him someone you can’t help but want to root for. Season 2 is already underway, and many can’t wait to see him again.
In the end, I hope this The Mandalorian Season 1 review proves that sometimes when you need a new view on a universe, you go away from what “established” it, and work with something new. That’s what The Mandalorian did. Many have noted it may be the best Star Wars story in recent memory, and I would more or less agree with that statement.
The Mandolorian Season 1 Review
The Mandalorian Season 1 has proven that there is plenty more to mine story-wise in the Star Wars universe. Plenty of fun characters make this a memorable first season despite some questionable tactics in the episodes.