REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: DISNEY+
A long time in the making, the Star Wars galaxy’s first foray into live action TV is finally here. Created by Iron Man director Jon Favreau – obviously a fan of men in metal suits – The Mandalorian follows a member of the armour-clad warrior culture first introduced to us in the form of Boba Fett.
Set five years after Return of the Jedi, when the Empire has fallen but the New Republic has not yet established peace and order, on the frontier planets far-flung from the cities of Coruscant, this is Star Wars as we saw it in the first act of A New Hope – a Western-esque world of scum and villainy.
The influence of Western and samurai movies is embodied in the eponymous hero; seemingly nameless and faceless, this Mandalorian merc travels from planet to planet, working for hire and collecting bounties. As the season begins, he’s hired by an Imperial remnant faction to collect a mysterious asset – a child. You’ve seen the memes, you know who it is.
It’s also no big spoiler that our Mando builds up a bond with Baby Yoda – sorry, ‘The Child’ – and that the Imperials can’t entirely be trusted. Mando and Child end up travelling the galaxy together, him taking on jobs while trying to protect and learn more about his adorable companion, the Imperials never far from their trail. The structure works brilliantly; whereas many modern series drag one story out over a long run of episodes, this takes the more traditional approach of giving us a full Star Wars adventure every week – the Mandalorian will land on a planet, encounter a problem, shoot stuff, and leave.
While these adventures, understandably, don’t have the epic battles you’d expect from a big-screen Star Wars movie, each episode is a fast and action-packed slice of TV, with highlights including the Mando defending a fishing village from a gang of raiders and an encounter with a feisty band of Jawas. Various allies join along the way, including Nick Nolte’s Ugnaught Kuill and Gina Carano’s ex-rebel Cara Dune, all building up to a Seven Samurai-esque standoff between this ragtag group and the Imperial faction led by Werner Herzog (yes, really) and Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito.
With directors including Favreau, Taika Waititi, and Bryce Dallas Howard, the show looks gorgeous, quickly establishing its own style – Waititi even gets some of his trademark deadpan humour into his episode – while feeling a definite part of the Star Wars universe; there are stunning planetary landscapes, those iconic wipes, and, while not an overbearing amount of continuity, plenty of recognisable aliens and droids.
What ties the whole series together is the developing lone-wolf-and-cub relationship between Mando and Child; as well as the cute puppetry, the performance of Pedro Pascal really sells this – we may not see his face under the helmet, but his growing affection for the Child, and the inner conflict of a man from an honourable society being made to do dirty jobs, are visible in the way he carries himself and his heavy armour.
The Mandalorian is a classic Western series with modern production values, set in the galaxy far, far away. Every episode is a Star Wars movie in half an hour, and a delight. And Baby Yoda is really, really cute.