Illustration by Waid Jones
So far, with two episodes down, Disney’s “The Mandalorian” is a mediocre entry into the Star Wars franchise’s excellent set of television shows that is saved by an adorable alien. While I like the show and feel it’s a great ride I’m having trouble falling in love with it.
“The Mandalorian” takes place in the 20-year span between the original trilogy and JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It explores the outer limits of the galaxy that were left with a power vacuum post empire.
It stars Pedro Pascal as a Mandalorian bounty hunter, think Boba Fett in the original trilogy.
The show is produced and created by Jon Favreau, you may know him from the first Iron Man movie and numerous producer credits in the Marvel Universe. Favreau and the team behind building the world of the show and setting the scene. Dramatic vistas and wide-open sequences work well to give the audience a feeling of a Star Wars adventure.
Another high point of the early episodes is their reliance on practical effects and miniatures to create the space sequences that harken back to the original trilogy. With this comes a descent sprinkling of computer generated VFX that only once or twice pulled me out of the show’s world.
The first episode’s opening sequence is filled with complexity and grit which is a welcome direction for the franchise. shows us a lot about the world, but not really about the character. It brings a cinematic vision to the franchise that comes from the
The show, however, fails to create human connection with the main character. While Pascal brings as much nuance as possible to his performance of the series’ as yet unnamed, main character his ability to connect with the audience is limited by both the character’s anonymity and his refusal to remove his helmet
This isn’t surprising though, as the bread crumb level of storytelling is nothing new to television or the most recent entries to the Star Wars Franchise. JJ Abrams is to thank for this lack of information and the show’s stuttering start. The lens flare loving director made star wars a puzzle and Favreau’s “The Mandalorian” embraced this.
If you really look at the first two episodes of the show we’ve covered very little narrative ground and set up almost nothing about the characters.
We don’t even really know the main character’s name! Before you say it, Pedro Pascal let slip in an interview that the character’s name is not Mando.
These issues with characters connection have plagued non-numbered entries into the Star Wars franchises since Rogue One killed of a character after failing to make us care about her. This could be excused in a much less intimate iteration of the franchise, but “The Mandalorian” hinges on us building a connection with a single protagonist instead of the haphazard teams of the rest of the Star Wars films and TV Shows.
Rogue One, Solo and every numbered episode of the Star Wars franchise features a group of characters, and in the instances that we follow one the actor isn’t limited by having their face covered.
In all other entries into the Star Wars franchise helmets have been used to temporarily mask identity or to remove the humanity of a character. Darth Vader, storm troopers and bounty hunters were meant to be semi-one-dimensional villains. Vader doesn’t begin to gain complexity as a character until well into episode five and even this is only as a way to drive the plot.
This is the major flaw in “The Mandalorian” that keeps me from saying it’s amazing, because hidden behind fantastic world building and a deep background are lackluster, flat characters. Each character relies on a gimmick, whether it’s one line they repeat or general cuteness these in-built character tropes prevent them from having depth.
Hopefully, as the show progresses we’ll get real character development and meaningful storylines, but so far, it’s relying on a strange mix of monster of the week and continuous narrative storytelling that fails to really find a voice.
The show stands as one of the flagship pieces of Disney+ and it’s hard to say that it justifies the service, or your time, on its own. If you’ve been wanting something different out of Star Wars then this show is perfect for you, and hopefully as it progresses I’ll be proven wrong and can begin to really connect with the Pascal’s character.
If you’re not a die-hard Star Wars fan the only reason to watch the show is the amount of cuteness that baby Yoda provides.