5 thoughts on the first episode of "The Mandalorian"
"The Mandalorian," the crown jewel of the debut Disney+ lineup, debuted with the service on Nov. 12. With it came a brand-new chapter in the "Star Wars" universe: live-action television. Well, "television" in the loosest sense of the word; it's more of a film split up into eight parts, but that's how Disney is describing the show, so that's what we'll go with.
Wondering whether or not you should check out the latest installment in the "Star Wars" saga? Check out my five thoughts on the first episode below.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
1. Desolation has never looked so good
The first, and arguably most impressive aspect, of "The Mandalorian" has to be the worlds that it creates. Never before on the small screen have alien worlds looked so lifelike. Gone are the cardboard sound stages of "Star Trek" and the poorly disguised backlots of "The Twilight Zone." Every location and set in the first chapter looks like it has been lived in for hundreds of years, like a place you could visit right now if you wanted to. Which is incredible, because there are sets entirely computer generated, like the ice planet that hosts the first action setpiece. The show arguably looks better than some of the theatrical "Star Wars" films, an impressive feat.
The cinematography deserves another special mention. It's beautiful. Every single shot in the episode is gorgeous. From the ice planet to the desert planets and everywhere else in between (pretty much just the indoors, but whatever), the cinematography made me take special note of just how gorgeous everything was shot. Like a chef pouring a dash of salt on a dish, it was magnificent.
2. There's a storm a-brewing
So the plot: The titular Mandalorian (currently without a name, though I choose to refer to him as Mandy) is a bounty hunter, sent on a mission to retrieve an unknown bounty. That's pretty much the gist of it. When he goes to retrieve the bounty, he is sent to a planet he has never been to before with strange creatures, surprises – and the bounty is not what he thinks it to be. It's the plot of every other bounty hunter show ever made in history, but it works. The "Star Wars" aspect alone makes it new and relatively exciting.
The action of the first episode is thrilling. There haven't been fights like this in the galaxy far, far away that we've seen before. Everything feels grounded and, for lack of a better word, real. These characters aren't superheroes; there are no Jedi around. Mandy fights with his fists, his blaster and a sick flamethrower attached to his wrist. He can't simply use the Force to solve his problems, which makes it exciting to see how he'll win his fights.
It also makes the twist at the end of the episode intriguing. No, I'm not going to tell you – watch the episode yourself – but you have not idea what's going to happen next.
3. The characters are ... interesting
Pedro Pascal plays Mandy, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" and other Spaghetti Westerns. What Clint Eastwood had that Pascal doesn't, though, was a face. Pascal's body is covered from head to toe in armor, making it difficult to connect with him. Creating connections with the audience without being able to emote with your eyes in an incredibly difficult task, and something that Pascal doesn't fully achieve. His Mandy is a still, stoic figure, one without many character traits – at least in this episode; more are likely to be revealed in further episodes. That makes for an interesting choice for a lead character, but we'll see how this goes.
Outside of Mandy, the other characters introduced didn't have much to do. Werner Herzog somehow plays the client who hires Mandy, and he's excellent as always. Carl Weathers plays the leader of the bounty hunting guild, and he's fine, but he isn't given anything to do in his one scene. If Gina Carano was in the episode, I didn't remember her, which isn't a great sign for the second-billed cast member of the show.
As the show continues, more characters will assumably fill out the world – hopefully with more impact than the characters in this episode.
4. The characters are also infuriating
At the beginning of the episode, Mandy picks up a bounty on an ice planet. After killing a couple of thugs, he grabs a blue alien, Mythrol, played by Horatio Sanz, who is apparently wanted for some unknown reason that is never explained to the audience. Mythrol is one of the most annoying characters in the "Star Wars" universe – impressive for a world where Jar Jar Binks exists – and every time that he spoke, my eyes rolled so far back into my head they made it back around front. Everything he said was painfully unfunny. I suppose that was supposed to make it a joy when he gets frozen in carbonite midway through the episode. It didn't. It only made the firs half a slog, especially considering Mandy is extra stoic in the beginning.
Everyone else, as said before, was at least fine, if underused. Taika Waititi, best known for directing "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Jojo Rabbit" plays a bounty hunter droid. He's great, and the droid is both fearsome and funny, but he's not in the episode long enough to make a real lasting impact.
5. All in all, I'm intrigued
Even with the stoic lead character and underused supporting cast, the episode was still intriguing. Every set piece was incredible, the cinematography can only be described as gorgeous, and the story set up looks to be interesting at least. Now, if they can get Mandy to be an interesting character, the show will really start cooking with gas.
Episode grade: B
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