Rewind Reviews – The Mandalorian: Season One

Posted on 29 October 2020
By Andrew Siddall
  • Share:

Caution: This review contains MILD SPOILERS for The Mandalorian: Season 1.

The possibility of a live-action Star Wars TV series was always appealing for fans, and when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, that became a reality with the brand new series exclusive to online streaming service Disney+, The Mandalorian – Season 1.

Set five years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire, The Mandalorian follows a lone Bounty Hunter as he completes missions and claims the rewards across the galaxy. But when he’s tasked with acquiring a special asset, things take an unexpected twist when he discovers what it is.

‘Mando’ aka Din Djarin is played by Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), who does a phenomenal job as the masked gunslinger. Most of his performance comes through his voice, but subtle movements and actions really help build the character and you can see his mind working. It’s great to see that each episode further develops him with more and more personality coming through, and it makes him more relatable and accessible.

It’s unclear how much of the role Pascal physically performed and how much was his stunt doubles, but combined, they have created a fantastic, new, badass addition to the Star Wars Universe.

The asset, as it is revealed, is The Child, who the fans have affectionately named “Baby Yoda”. The adorable green creature became an instant hit the moment he appeared onscreen, and it is impossible not to care about him. The animatronics work on him is fantastic. He feels real and authentic in a way that isn’t possible through effects alone, and he steals the show.

Helping Mando along his journey is Carl Weathers (Rocky) as Greef Karga and Gina Carano (Deadpool) as Cara Dune. They both have great parts and their relationship to Din evolves as the series progresses. They each get their time to shine and show off what they can do, and we get to learn a little about who they are. Carl and Gina do a good job with their roles and they are welcome additions to the series.

Also making brief appearances are Nick Nolte (Cape Fear) as Kuiil and director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) as IG-11. They aren’t in the show as much as the other characters, but they have important roles to play. Taika even gets to inject his hilarious style of humour into the final episode, which he also directed.

Throughout the series we are introduced to a number of varying antagonists, from mercenaries, Werner Herzog’s Client and Stormtroopers to Mudhorns and Jawas. But the central villain is Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) as Moff Gideon.

He doesn’t get much to do, only appearing in the final two episodes, so we don’t know a lot about him at this point. Esposito is still great in the role. He feels like a genuine threat and makes his presence known.

The main story follows the Mandalorian as he attempts to protect the Child from the remnants of the Empire and the other Bounty Hunters in hot pursuit. It’s a great action-driven story that gives the writers a way of exploring more of the Galaxy whilst keeping the focus on the central characters and their developing relationship.

The series consists of eight episodes, following different adventures, such as collecting eggs, gathering bounties and prison breakouts. Each of the writers and directors get to play towards their strengths, which gives each episode a slightly different style and tone, but it never feels inconsistent.

The best episodes are easily The Sin, The Prisoner and Redemption. The stakes are high for each episode with a lot on the line. They also do a brilliant job of showing more about who Mando is, from his history to his choices. Each episode is great and it’s hard to decide on the best one.

Obviously, there are some episodes that aren’t quite as good as the rest, and those are Sanctuary and The Gunslinger. This isn’t to say they are bad, in fact every episode is either good or great.

These two episodes only really act as filler and explore stories we’ve already seen in Star Wars before, but they do introduce some good characters, like Cara and a severely underutilised Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and do have some great moments, such as the sentient AT-ST and the Mos Eisley cantina, alongside a few sneaky Easter eggs for the Season 2 and beyond.

Action is a big part of the series. For the most part, the battles are kept smaller and the stakes remain personal, which helps to focus more on the characters. The action is brilliantly handled and fun to watch.

The more fantastical elements of Star Wars have been toned down to keep this series more gritty, which works well. It stills feels very much like a Star Wars product and fits really nicely into the wider Universe without the need to constantly throw references and Easter eggs to other films and characters into every scene.

The design and aesthetics certainly help to make this feel like part of the Star Wars continuity, with its lived-in world. Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest looks great and stands out from the thousands of other ships in Star Wars. It does have a hint of the Serenity from Firefly (2003) about it, but that isn’t bad. Everything looks great and even has echoes of the western genre with its brown colour tone.

For a TV show, this has shockingly good effects, which has certainly benefitted from a movie-like budget. The ships and space sequences look absolutely gorgeous and realistic. Some of the alien creatures don’t look quite as good, but they doesn’t stick out nor distract from the story, and they are still far beyond what appears on most TV shows.

It may be a surprise to many who haven’t seen Disney Gallery that the majority of the scenes were filmed indoors without a green or blue screen. Instead, this is the first production to utilise ILM’s The Volume, previously known as Stagecraft. It is an incredible new system that creates large virtual environments in real time. It allows the show to be made much quicker and safer, and it looks incredible.

It is impressive how good the show looks for something on a streaming service. This could quite easily be a big-screen adventure and wouldn’t look cheap, thanks to the directors and the wizards at ILM, and would leave most viewers perfectly happy they were getting their money’s worth.

The music for the series was composed by Academy Award winning composer Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther). The soundtrack is gorgeous, epic and mysterious in equal measure. It heightens the science-fiction/western vibes brilliantly, giving us a very different sound for this part of the Galaxy. It has a Star Wars tone to it, but it never tries to copy it, and it’s all the better for it. Ludwig has created some great music over the past few years and is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

After the Disney sequel trilogy split audiences and critics alike, it’s refreshing to see something that has managed to unite them once again. How long the show can go on for is up to creators Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), but it’s great to know that more is on the way.

Overall, this is a fantastic start to the series. The Mandalorian explores new and exciting areas of the Star Wars galaxy in a way that newcomers can engage with, and fans will love. With a perfect cast, an engaging story, some spectacular effects and a fantastic soundtrack, this is definitely worth a watch.

Rewind Rating: 4.5/5. “This is the way.”