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The Mandalorian: Season 1 - Review

The Mandalorian

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT SEEMS to have taken an age [four months] to arrive for UK audiences but Disney+ flagship Star Wars series The Mandalorian proves well worth the wait.

Of course, most of its secrets are out… from the global phenomenon that is Baby Yoda to some of the ways it links in to Star Wars folklore. But it’s testament to the quality of showrunner Jon Favreau’s vision and creativity that such knowledge in no way detracts from the enjoyment of finally being able to see it for yourself. In short, The Mandalorian is a delight that demands repeat viewing.

Set five years after the fall of the Empire, the show focuses on a Mandalorian gun-for-hire (Pedro Pascal), who carves out a living by tracking down strays for the bounty hunter’s guild.

After accepting an off-the-books job from a former Imperial named The Client (Werner Herzog in deliciously malevolent fashion), he becomes the unlikely custodian of a small, green child – aka Baby Yoda – and surrounded by trouble after his conscience is stirred into serving as its protector.

Over the course of a series of adventures [and episodes], The Mandalorian acquires his own ‘team’, who quickly find themselves at odds with the emerging First Order. But throughout, questions linger: ranging from just who is Baby Yoda to how far do his powers extend and what, exactly, do the Imperials want with him?

Favreau and his creative team have fun playing around within the Star Wars universe, dropping in plenty of ‘Easter egg’ moments and reveals to excite and enthral the core fanbase. But he also draws plenty of inspiration from classic Westerns, whether taking on the ‘Man With No Name’ vibe of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns (by virtue of Mando’s lone gunslinger of few words) or placing him in predicaments that echo the likes of The Magnificent Seven or even The Wild Bunch.

As such, the series has a more down and dusty, gritty feel than some of the more recent Star Wars entries and actually feels more rife with possibility than most recent big screen entry, The Rise of Skywalker, which disappointed by playing things so straight.

Indeed, with later episodes such as The Prisoner, The Reckoning and series finale Redemption, the first season of The Mandalorian reached some thrilling highs, in which ‘legends’ were made, wider questions were posed and excitement levels reached fever pitch (as evidenced with the cliffhanger ending to penultimate episode The Reckoning).

The final episode, especially, set up some delicious possibilities for the forthcoming sophomore run, while dropping in some genuinely crowd-pleasing, fan baiting moments [no spoilers here].

And while continually building momentum across each episode, the series never lost sight of its core characters, thereby creating some already iconic additions to the wider Star Wars universe.

The Mandalorian

Pascal’s Mando is a superb leading man: enigmatic yet sympathetic, a cool, calculated and entirely unflappable hero who somehow manages to maintain a consistent feeling of ‘cool’ despite being deprived of much emotional output by virtue of never seeing his face. Indeed, a recurring gag of the first season is whether or not we will ever be afforded a glimpse of the actor behind the helmet and what it would mean if we did.

But the supporting players were equally great. Baby Yoda, of course, gets most of the plaudits for being just so darn cute. He’s funny, endearing, brave and comic, providing a consistently engaging foil to Mando’s more testosterone-leaning heroics.

Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga was another interesting character given the way he switched sides, while Gina Carano added some suitably gung-ho feminism to her veteran Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune. Nick Nolte’s gruff Kuiil was brilliantly droll and nicely loyal with his “I have spoken” sure to be embraced as a buzz catchphrase for the series (along with “this is the way”), while Thor: Ragnorak luminary Taika Waititi provided plenty of charisma [and more than a little trigger-happy danger] to his version of a Star Wars droid in IG-11.

Indeed, Waititi even doubled down as director of the final episode, bringing trademark excitement and absurdist wit to one of the undoubted series highlights: the opening exchange between two Stormtroopers is priceless.

Put together, The Mandalorian was beautiful to look at, populated by memorable and expertly drawn characters, packed with classic scenes and dialogue and evocative of both Star Wars folklore and wider cinema language. It’s a treat from start to finish that ensures Disney’s Star Wars universe remains an exciting one to be a part of.

The Mandalorian: Season 1 is streaming now on Disney+.