The main point to remember as a devout Star Wars fan is that if you go into any new Disney-released Star Wars material with low expectations or high expectations, you are going to be disappointed. If you have low expectations, it will probably meet them and you’ll complain about it. If you have high expectations, it won’t live up to them and you’ll complain about it. I have learned with the Disney takeover to take a step back, to keep hopes in check, and to give things time. I no longer make a judgement call the first time I view something. TFA is one of my favorite Star Wars movies, but it took me about three viewings before I warmed up to it.
I also have a new way of watching Star Wars lately with the bombardment of new shows, books, and movies. I really had to dig deep over the past few years after my disappointment with The Last Jedi and figure out what makes me love Star Wars? What entertains and delights me? Does it spark my imagination? Does it make me want to jump in and also be part of that storyline? That is now my only criteria for anything involving Star Wars. It’s simple, but also so, so hard. It is what drew me to Star Wars in the first place.
Did the first episode of the Mandalorian entertain and delight me? Yes. Did it take a while to find it’s footing? Yes. Were some parts awkward and rushed? Yes. But, after all that, the core of it has found favor in my heart.
There are parts of me right now that wants to hold it a bit at arms length because of what happened with Rebels and how it went off into woowoo world (just a bit too much mythology about the Force and characters that I thought they handled incorrectly). However, something tells me The Mandalorian won’t be handled the same way; call it the Force.
Initially, the episode started off with a clear indication that they were trying to rope in as many people as possible – hardcore Star Wars fans and the non-fan. There was action, death, and attempted humor. The visuals were stunning and the dialogue stayed away from anything that would leave a non-Star Wars fan scratching their head. I appreciated that, though I found the character Mytrhol to be pushing it too far (though we did get to see a bathroom in Star Wars, yay!) into the realm of funny-not-funny.
Once the Mandalorian (Mando) turned in his bounty, things began to get juicier. He’s given a mission that has very little details attached to it, other than location and that the bounty is 50 years old. The down payment, however, is beskar metal – an association from the other Star Wars TV shows. If you know anything about Mandalorian culture, this is a big part of their armor and backstory. This was one of the first larger tie-ins to more devout fans who have followed Star Wars. Mando takes the beskar and brings it to a Mandalorian Armorer (this is going to get confusing…too many Mandalorians and not enough individual names! :P) where it is welded into a shoulder plate for him and he donates the rest to Foundlings.
Once on his mission, Mando lands on a rocky, deserty planet (wouldn’t be Star Wars without that, eh?) where he meets an Ugnaught, Kuiil, who helps him on his way. Getting to where the 50-year-old bounty is located, Mando finds out that a Bounty Droid, IG-11 has also arrived at the same spot. Two bounty hunters were given the same mission from the Bounty Guild, which from their quick exchange, seems like that might be a no-no. I found the humor in these scenes to be much better than the rest of the episode, the action to be more satisfying, and the dialogue to be closer to what we know of Star Wars. After killing everyone guarding the bounty, which took up a good five minutes, IG-11 and Mando find their bounty which is a little baby Yoda-species. IG-11 insists on terminating the bounty, so Mando kills IG-11 instead. The last shot is the Mando reaching out to touch the baby Yoda-species finger.
Did it Entertain and Delight Me?
This episode entertained and delighted me. There were many shots in this episode that hearkened back to ANH, with the cantina scenes almost playing out directly to George Lucas’ original style, even down to how the characters were positioned. When Mando was attempting to shoot the Blurrgs, it was very reminiscent to Luke watching the sandpeople in ANH. There were quite a few nods like this to ANH, and I appreciated that.
The planets were beautiful, and the composite of the scenes were done extremely well. The dialogue and humor between Mando and IG-11 kept my husband and I laughing. Last night we were extremely frustrated with my daughter and my husband blurted out, “I will initiate self-destruct!” I am sad that Mando shot him; I have a fervent hope that he reprograms him in the next episode. I always thought K-2SO was a droid that pushed sarcasm (and inadvertently, humor) to the point that it was unbelievable and it grated on me. I feel like IG-11 hit the mark (no pun intended, but he was an amazing shot) perfectly.
The storyline, though sparse and at times went either too fast or too slow, left me chewing on it and looking it up online later. I wondered about Foundlings specifically. Are they young Mandalorians or are they orphaned children who are brought up in the Mandalorian culture? The flashback scenes seem to indicate that maybe Mando is not originally a Mandalorian. They seemed to stress so much that Mandalorians almost never remove their mask (which is incorrect from what we have seen before, yet we also have to keep in mind that most Mandalorians we’ve seen prior to this show have been pre-ANH), but we see him, and possibly his parents, without one when his village is coming under fire. He also never responded to Kuiil’s reference that his ancestors rode the Mythosaur. Whether that was an evasion or just did not seem to need an answer has me puzzled. When the Armorer mentioned the signet that Mando lacks, is it because he has not yet been adopted into a clan? Am I reading too much into this?
I didn’t mind the baby-Yoda species at all! I have read that other fans are angered by it, but I find it intriguing. Prior to this episode, there were only two that we have seen on screen: the famous Yoda and Yaddle. Yaddle only appeared in TPM, sat on the high Jedi Council, and also had no dialogue. Does that mean that all of their species are highly Force sensitive? And because of that, the births are rare? We know they live extremely long lives, so being 50 years old and still a baby makes sense. It also could be a strong indication on why so many people are after the baby, especially the disarrayed Empire. The only thing that might possibly anger me about this scenario is that George Lucas kept Yoda’s species name a locked-down secret. He never told anyone what species Yoda was, even after we saw Yaddle in Episode I. I appreciated that secret and I like it. But in Disney’s era of bringing everything into the open, I’m hoping that they still keep this one little secret from Lucas’ era.
I can see why fans, and non-fans/reviewers, could have disliked this episode. As I mentioned before, sometimes the scenes went too slow and sometimes they went too fast. For all the hype, you could tell this was made on a TV show budget as opposed to a movie budget and that was a bit jarring at first for me. If I’m seeing live-action Star Wars, I expect a bit more, but I adjusted quickly. I did not find it hard to watch a character in the mask the entire time, but again, for someone who is not used to the Star Wars and Mandalorian culture, watching an entire episode of a main character and never seeing his face could be difficult.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode and I think that we cannot judge this series on the first episode. Pilots are always a little off-balanced and it takes a while for a TV show to find it’s groove. I think this will definitely find it’s footing, and when it does, I’ll have more to smile about.