The Mandalorian season 1, episode 1 review: Chapter One

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN. Photo: François Duhamel/Lucasfilm
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN. Photo: François Duhamel/Lucasfilm /

“We have you four to one.” “I like those odds.” Minor spoilers for The Mandalorian season 1, episode 1 follow.

In a galaxy of outlaws, a sure-fire way to make money is to become a bounty hunter. Enter, The Mandalorian.

When the bounties dry up though, The Mandalorian takes a job from a wealthy client, a former Imperial officer.

Boba Fett, he is not

A brand new show within an established universe featuring a masked character. That’s an easy mixture to make an audience quickly care for a main character, right? That was sarcasm for those who couldn’t tell because that combination is often a recipe for disaster. From the first shot of this premiere episode though, The Mandalorian is established as such a layered character and someone who you can root for, even if he isn’t a squeaky-clean hero.

One of the key things about this character is to differentiate him from Boba Fett in the eyes of many Star Wars fans. If you’re a fan of The Clone Wars animated series though (raises own hand furiously), you know that the Mandalorian culture is vast and wide, not simply Boba or Jango Fett.

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Thankfully, the show differentiates and brings about the title character, and aspects of the Mandalorian culture, in a clever, fun way. Yes, he’s a Mandalorian and reveres his culture – at one point in the episode he goes to a Mandalorian blacksmith (who wears an awesome, Roman-inspired armor) where this is shown – but that there’s also more to him than we know right now. It’s not a subtle way of establishing a part of his backstory, but it’s well enough to leave you with more questions than answers.

But where the character really shines is when facing adversity in the episode. He can be vicious at times, while patient in others, stay silent or crack a joke, and, above all else, he’s not perfect. He’s a flawed character, making the danger that he’s in feel real. It’s very similar to how Indiana Jones is portrayed in many ways. But even when he’s in danger though, he sometimes makes a sarcastic joke that relies on dark humor, which is so reminiscent of the Original Trilogy of Star Wars. And it works because of Pedro Pascal’s spot-on delivery of the lines.

He doesn’t take the helmet off once in the episode, much like Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in Dredd. Unlike Dredd though, we can’t see the mouth, relying completely on Pascal’s delivery to convey the emotion and humor of scene – and he pretty much nails everything. He was a great casting.

A Western in space

One of the big things about Star Wars: A New Hope was that it was heavily inspired by Westerns of a few decades prior, among many other genres and films. The Mandalorian decides to triple down on the Western genre, essentially making another “Man with No Name” Sergio Leone film in the context of the Star Wars universe. It’s fantastic.

As this show is about a bounty hunter, there really needs to be a set tone and style, so that the show, if it didn’t have the twists that it does, would still succeed. The tone is dark, but never loses its sense of fun which is pretty much exactly what the series needs to be, especially given the way that the episode ends.

Even if the episode didn’t end the way that it does though, which is incredible, the style set-up here would’ve provided a good path for a more episodic, rather than serialized, show. It’s definitely going to be a serialized story though.

Fan service galore

On top of everything though, is plenty of fan service throughout the episode. There are so many little details that build the galaxy even more than it has already been built over the past 40 years. Species that are rarely seen in live-action are present in this episode. New species are introduced. Things that have been already established in Star Wars are shown in a different light. Everything that is fan service is done in such an authentic, different way so it doesn’t simply feel ham-fisted. Undoubtedly the best way to pull fan service off.

Much of the way that the episode is shot is also reminiscent of how Star Wars: A New Hope was shot. This is probably due to Dave Filoni directing the episode, which is also his first foray into the live-action world of Star Wars. Filoni worked very closely with George Lucas for years, so it’s unsurprising that in his first directorial effort, his style would mirror Lucas’. Because of that, this episode really feels like Star Wars in the most classical sense, which helps pull you into the series.

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The Mandalorian starts off with a bang and is a great mix of classic and modern Star Wars.