The Star Wars Universe is massive and diverse — the opinions of its fan base even more so. The modern mythology of the franchise is such a personal experience for its viewers that many push their own perception of it as ‘The One True Interpretation’ – which is obviously a load of Bantha crap.
To create a series based on the culture of one of the most beloved characters in the original trilogy, Boba Fett, is a risky move. Fortunately, Disney were able to gather an incredible team of directors and writers who were then led by show-runner Jon Favreau. Season one of The Mandalorian is what Star Wars should always be: a fun adventure inspired by film history, while advancing diversity in popular culture.
The show introduces us to Pedro Pascall as the main protagonist – referred to as ‘Mando’ – just like a spaghetti western would. He is stoic, silent, and dripping with ‘cool guy’ energy as he kicks alien butt in a run down cantina on some backwater planet. He nabs his target and collects his bounty. All in a days work for a Mandolorian in the Bounty Hunting Guild.
The paradigm shift happens when he’s given a bounty for the cutest creature in the history of television. We get snippets of Mando’s past in flashbacks and conversations with others in his Mandalorian community. These snippets help the audience understand the decisions Mando makes in regards to the fate of the Real Life Funko Pop that the world has named ‘Baby Yoda.’
Several settings in the series do a fantastic job of inviting us further into the Star Wars universe, presenting familiar architecture, designs, and even exact locations through an entirely new perspective. The main trilogies are on such a huge scale – both thematically and physically – that we don’t get to explore the nooks and corners of the galaxy with as much intimacy. Whereas The Mandalorian revels in these small details. The series really ties a lot of the canon together, even from the animated Clone Wars series, and Rebels (who’s show-runner Dave Feloni directed a couple episodes in this series).
The Mandalorian makes no attempt to hide its western and samurai influences, and this is not a bad thing. As so much of Star Wars is based on these two genres (who incidentally were inspired by one another), to see the homages refined and perfected in The Mandalorian is endlessly satisfying. The music is also incredible; there is an ease in which Star Wars properties get wrapped up in attempt to replicate John Williams’ original style, giving mediocre results. With devotion to the western genre, composer Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, Creed) instead took inspiration from Ennio Morricone (One Upon A Time in the West) and sprinkled some of William’s flavor in there to create something new.
As great as the design and music of the show is, the best part of the series is its treatment of women and people of colour. Towards the beginning of the series, I was seriously concerned about the lack of ladies on screen but by the end, it much improved. Mando and his green son encounter all kinds of different people on their travels, and two of them are exciting multi-dimensional women characters: ex-soldier Cara Dune played by Gina Carano and mechanic Peli Motto played by Amy Sedaris.
Despite the Mandalorian rule to never remove one’s helmet, I’m still counting Pedro Pascal’s performance as Latinx representation. He did a seemingly impossible job of acting through his mask, with expert physicality.
There were five different directors in season one and only one of them is a white man, Dave Feloni. It was a pleasure to see Star Wars from the perspectives of women like Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard, and men of colour Rick Famuyiwa and Taika Watiti. It’s not only important to make sure the Star Wars Universe grows as a diverse franchise but for the TV and film industry itself to develop into a more inclusive industry. The Mandalorian is setting a fantastic example for how a property that has been plagued by white boy rage can be a vehicle of diversity in science fiction.
There wasn’t a lot to dislike in this debut season. However, the sixth episode was a little weak and disjointed in comparison to its peers. Carl Weather’s performance as Greef Carga the bounty hunter agent also seemed forced at times, leaving me disappointed in such a seasoned actor.
The Mandalorian is just great fun, and it achieves this without being silly and overly quippy. And, in Baby Yoda, it seems like the entire fan community can finally agree on something. Jon Favreau and the team captured lightning in a bottle with this first season. I cannot wait to see where we go in season two, but we must wait. It is the way.
The Mandalorian is available to stream in the US on Disney+
by Jamie Stewart