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Review: The Mandalorian Chapter 1

The Mandalorian introduces a mysterious anti-hero, an adorable target, and promises of intriguing lore
Rating: 7/10

The first season of the Mandalorian was released alongside Disney+, and after subscribing primarily to watch Hamilton (2020), I decided to catch up to the Mandalorian hype. Am I watching for Baby Yoda? Mostly, but the Boba and Jango Fett characters were always some of my favorite in the original Star Wars trilogies, and I'm excited to learn more of the lore.

In typical Star Wars fashion, the scene is set in an alien bar, and the extras are all galactic ruffians. A fish-like alien is about to be gutted, but our protagonist (Pedro Pascal) appears in the doorway in a manner reminiscent of traditional westerns. The iconic cowboy hat has been replaced by a familiar mask, and we are met with curiosity at what lies underneath the metal.

The anti-hero has arrived

The initial characterization is interesting: the Mandalorian's entrance emanates a savior overtone until we find out that he is also after the fish-man. He is, after all, a bounty hunter, and saving a fish-man is less about heroics and more about nabbing the bounty for himself. Pragmatism seems to be his guiding principle.

After a close encounter with some giant space walruses and a nice reference to Han Solo's carbon frozen state in Empire Strikes Back (1980), we start to learn more about our anti-hero. Their race (species?) seems to be nearly wiped out, and there appears to be some sort of orphan backstory to his character. His reputation—both as an individual and as a Mandalorian—precedes him, and the show not so subtly implies an interesting history that will grip the viewer's curiosity.

A mysterious client (played by German director Werner Herzog) gives him the vaguest of assignments (all I know is the previous location and the target's age?) and he is off to, you guessed it, a desert planet. After using sand dunes to invoke nostalgia for decades, Star Wars really needs a new trick.

I can't believe a renowned bounty hunter was almost taken out by a Blurrg, but what makes even less sense is how Kuiil insists that he must learn to ride one to get to the target's base. There seems to be no purpose of this sequence except for Kuiil to insert some Mandalorian lore ("your ancestors rode the great Mythosaur"), as it is soon revealed that a gunslinging droid has somehow made it to the target base even before the Mandalorian. Did the droid tame and ride a Blurrg, too, or did our hero just get duped? Anyway, I have spoken.

You have to ride a Blurrg (not really). I have spoken.

As much as I think shoot-out scenes are a waste of time, money, and cinematic space, it was pretty cool to see the droid's arms rotate freely in all directions while it gunned down all the enemies. BB-8 may have been cute, but IG-11 is badass. It almost feels like they're going to develop some sort of camaraderie, but then the Mandalorian decides to blast IG-11 out of commission rather than allow it to terminate their target—BABY YODA!

I get the hype now

This character foil effectively establishes the complexity of our anti-hero. The droid is the paragon of pragmatism, as it can only carry out orders without weighing any sense of emotion or morality. The Mandalorian falls short of that callous bounty-mongering. Perhaps his own background as an orphan softens him—he decides to spare the target and take him in alive. The episode ends with a great shot: hunter and hunted reaching out to each other, their hands nearly touching in a moment of mutual curiosity.

Altogether, the production value is good, and the nostalgic references are satisfying. I wasn't too impressed with the story, but I am intrigued to learn more about the origins of both main characters. Great Purge? Foundlings? Beskar Steel? Ancestors riding the great Mythosaur? I'm looking forward to the next episode and what answers it may bring.