In that great hinterland between the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983 (Episode VI) and The Phantom Menace in 1999 (Episode I – keep up!) the one thing that Star Wars fans clamoured for was ‘more’. Three films was not enough!
Sure, there were endless novels and other media that expanded the Star Wars universe, but nothing is canon until it’s a movie. Fast forward through Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in 2012 and up to present day there are now more Star Wars than you can shake a lightsabre at. Yet even so, announcement of The Mandalorian zipped excitement into lightspeed.
Developed by Jon Favreau (who also serves as showrunner), The Mandalorian is set 25 years after the events of Return of the Jedi but before The Force Awakens. This is a galaxy where the fall of the Galactic Empire has caused a lawless power vacuum in which mercenaries and bounty hunters prosper. If a client wants the best of the best among these fighters for hire then they turn to The Mandalorian (or Din Djarin to his own kind).
The Star Wars movies, by the very nature of the time limitations of the format, have only ever suggested at the wider universe in the franchise. Even with only 8 short episodes, The Mandalorian skilfully paints in the detail of daily life in such a universe.
Ships need constant repair. Droids can be specialised and deadly. Wars are brutal and indiscriminate. Money talks more than principle in a ground force world operating separately from the epic struggles of Galactic Empires and Rebel Alliances.
The Mandalorian crafts a lawless landscape which takes the Wild West influence of the movies and gallops away with it like an angry Mudhorn.
The series hinges on the charisma of its titular character, played by Pedro Pascal (Triple Frontier): a hard ask for any actor considering the need to remain permanently masked. Yet even beneath the gleaming armour, Pascal depicts a man for whom there is nothing in life beyond the next bounty. His vocal performance is measured but betrays emotion during key moments which means that despite the rather standard ‘bounty hunter’ personality, you do connect with him. Especially when Baby Yoda comes into play…
Ah, Baby Yoda. Whilst the U.S. was watching The Mandalorian ahead of other territories, social media was awash with Baby Yoda memes. The idea to centre the plot around protecting a tiny ball of green cuteness was a genius one. It drives Din Djarin to find out new things about himself, allows for the introduction of The Force without all burden of the movies, and keeps the episodes unified even when they stray into ‘heist’ or ‘seige’ plots. You will love Baby Yoda. This is the content you are looking for.
Another major plus of the show is that it finally has the room to start exploring the races that populate the Star Wars universe, specifically the Mandalorians. Yes, Mandalorian is a creed, not a person (move over Boba Fett) and time underground with them where we learn their rituals and drive to survive is time well spent. All this is used sparingly through the series but effectively. We get enough to pique our interest but the show never sinks into a Sarlacc pit of excessive information.
Cards on the table: I’m not much of a Star Wars fan. I enjoy the adventure elements, sure, but have often felt that in the clamour for more of a franchise, that originally came to a halt in 1983, there was way more fan led gravitas afforded to it than was justified. Something that has only continued with the new movies.
However, The Mandalorian ticks everything I never knew I wanted from George Lucas’ brainchild. It has the desperate clinging to existence that westerns revel at. It has exciting missions like Oceans Eleven in space. It actually expands on the mythos of its alien lives. And all this is told through a faceless protagonist that, frankly, has more personality than anyone in the new clutch of movies. This is The Mandalorian. This is the way.
Written by Michael Record