The very first Star Wars live-action television show has launched on Disney+, and the amount of fanfare it has received is second only to fan anticipation. So how was our very first sampling?
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) captures a bounty, then encases the bounty in carbonite aboard his ship, the Razor Crest, when the guy thinks of escaping. He returns to Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) to collect on several bounties, all of them small paydays. Carga lets him know about a bigger bounty, one that he has to go in person to receive details for. He arrives at the lair of The Client (Werner Herzog), a former Imperial officer, who is seeking a bounty that the Empire and other interested parties have been hunting for fifty years. His reward for this bounty will be a payment of beskar—the special steel used to make Mandalorian armor.
The Mandalorian takes an upront payment and brings the beskar back to an isolated camp of Mandalorian people. There, a blacksmith known as the Armorer (Emily Swallow) forges the block of beskar into a new piece of armor for him (a pauldron), pleased that the rest of his payment will allow other “foundlings” to receive armor. We see flashbacks where the Mandalorian recalls being with his family as a child, falling under attack, and being hidden by his father.
The Mandalorian travels to another planet to track down this bounty and meets an Ugnaught moisture farmer named Kuiil (Nick Nolte). Kuiil notes that all bounty hunters who arrive for this particular prize die, but agrees to help the Mandalorian reach it in hopes that he can finally get the bounty and bring some peace to this backwater world. He insists that they ride Blurrgs to the location, which the Mandalorian is less than keen on. With some needling from Kuiil, he learns how to ride and makes it to the bunker where the bounty is. Kuiil leaves, and as the Mandalorian plans his sneak attack, IG-11 (Taika Waititi) appears out of nowhere and barrels in to nab the bounty himself. There are too many people guarding the bounty, so the Mandalorian advises IG-11 to team with him, which the droid agrees to. They manage to break into the bunker, and find the bounty—a baby Yoda. (Yoda’s species does not have a canonical name thus far, so I’m allowed to call it that.)
IG-11 says that he was instructed to bring the little one in dead… so the Mandalorian shoots him in the central processor, and is stuck with a very unexpected bounty.
There is one thing you should know going into this with me: I’m a sucker for all things Mandalorian. I’ve had a replica of Boba Fett’s helmet on hand since I was eleven years old, I stayed up way past my bedtime to read the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, I fawned over Sabine Wren all throughout Star Wars: Rebels. My own personal apprehensions aside (I miss Boba Fett’s stories in the Legends canon), this is very much where I live. This is my Mos Eisley cantina jam, as it were. So it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I am all in for this beautiful nonsense.
It’s a first episode, so things are still a little wonky and they overplay their hand a few times. Things get very tropey in regard to cowboy narratives—as much fun as it is to watch, the idea of someone being able to instantly ride an animal that was bucking them off second ago by hushing at it a couple times is still very goofy—but Star Wars is about dealing in tropes, so I can’t fault them overmuch when they lean a little too hard. In terms of imagery, the show is gorgeous, only helped by the fact that the first episode is directed by Dave Filoni, the man behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels. If anyone knows how to wring every last ounce out of the Star Wars visual vernacular, it’s him.
There’s mention of a Bondsman Guild, which is very similar to the Legends canon’s Bounty Hunter’s Guild. Which is interesting because that guild didn’t work out so well in the end. It kinda ate itself. Something to look out for….
We’re only one episode in, and Pedro Pascal is just perfection on a plate. He knows exactly how to work underneath that armor to still convey expression—every head tilt, stillness, lean, it’s all perfectly calculated. He puts just enough emotion in his voice to pull you in without giving away too much. It’s also great to have this conceit of him “earning” the rest of his beskar armor. The Armorer asked him if his “signet” had been revealed, which could be a matter of selection or rediscovery; the Mandalorians are a people grouped by clans, so it could be that he either needs to rediscover his clan signet, or establish his own.
A few notes on that, by the way. In the Legends canon, the Mandalorian people had very specific terms on adoption—they would adopt anyone in need of a family, and once they were adopted, they were blood relatives by Mandalorian definition. Jango Fett was one of these adoptees, brought into the Mandalorian culture as a child. Given the flashbacks we’re seeing from The Mandalorian, this could be a instance of recanonization… perhaps he was adopted by the Mandalorians after his home was destroyed (by the Empire ostensibly).
But there’s another possibility at work here. The Empire was very frightened of the Mandalorians—they’re great warriors clad in nearly impenetrable armor—and we could be witnessing the vestiges of genocide. During the events of Star Wars: Rebels, it was revealed that the Empire recruited Mandalorians to their army in the hopes of getting one of their kids to develop a weapon to destroy beskar. They found one, Sabine Wren, who later realized how the weapon she created would be used, and destroyed her prototype. Having lost the ability to destroy beskar, it’s possible that the Empire went with Option B: wipe out the Mandalorians and get access to the metal for themselves.
The Client having a hoard of beskar stamped with the Imperial seal is a huge reveal. The Empire shouldn’t have that metal, and wouldn’t unless they found a way to get the Mandalorians out of the picture. The Armorer makes mention that the stamped beskar is from “the Great Purge”. People around the galaxy don’t seem to know much about the Mandalorians anymore—it’s all hearsay and rumors, much like the Jedi. They’re steeped in mystery, and people are surprised to see them out and about. The Armorer also mentions that the new beskar could go toward armor sets for “foundlings”, which could mean that they’re adopting kid into their ranks… or they’re searching for any survivors.
Are the Mandalorian people nearing extinction? And if that’s the case, is this really what the show is really about? Not a lone cowboy who does what he needs to do in order to survive, but a man trying to rebuild his people, his culture, from the inside out? Because that would be an incredible story (and would also explain why the Mandalorian is such a soft touch for cute Yoda babies).
There’s still a lot of fun stuff in this episode outside all the terrible theorizing one might do. Kuiil is hilarious for the fact that no matter how many prosthetics you cover him in, Nick Nolte is always visibly Nick Nolte. The Armorer’s armor and whole look is absolutely gorgeous—I would die for my new Mandalorian blacksmith mom. The Mandalorian and IG-11 make a wonderful team of brainless shooty boys, and I kind of hope the droid comes back despite the giant hole in his head. (Don’t waste Taika Waititi like that, we need more.)
That’s without me really harping on the BABY YODA. THERE’S A BABY YODA IN THIS DAMN SHOW. I CANNOT. LEAVE ME HERE. I WILL NEVER FUNCTION AGAIN. BIG SPACE BABY EYES.
That baby could mean a lot of things, and probably none of the things we’re expecting. I mean, it could be Force-sensitive. Or Yoda’s species could just be very rare. Or it could be Yoda’s… kid? Nephew? Something? (also let’s not even get into the fact that if a baby Yoda is actually fifty years old, Yoda should only be the equivalent of like… 45 when he dies or something. Maybe their aging accelerates after a while.) But we’re not anywhere near getting our answers yet. We’ve also got plenty of characters to meet, all of whom I’m excited for. My biggest complaint is that the episode was too short. They’re writing these things like they’ve got an hour slot with twenty minutes of commercials, which they aren’t. Maybe that changes episode to episode, but if not, I hope they try to push for the full hour in season two.
I’m already assuming there will be a season two. Someone needs to hold me back.
Asides and stray thoughts:
- Can Werner Herzog be in every Star War? That was such a gift.
- The Mandalorian has a carbonite chamber on his ship. Now, in the Legends canon, Boba Fett gained quite a bit of fame for getting Jabba to pay more on Han Solo’s bounty because he insisted that by being encased in carbonite, the bounty had been elevated from mere cargo to… art. And he got his extra credits. It’s possible that this story could be re-canonized, which could explain how the Mandalorian thought to install the chamber on his ship. Either way, it’s a fun nod.
- The mention that Mandalorians “never take off their helmets” is another Legends canon thing that was popularized by Boba Fett. He made a point of using the armor as a theatrical tool, and never took his helmet off in front of people.
- Someone is roasting up Kowakian monkey-lizards on the planet where the Mandalorian takes his bounties. Fans know that critter because Salacious B. Crumb was Jabba the Hutt’s court jester on Tatooine. But it’s true that plenty of people do use them as food. (Jabba threatened Crumb with the same fate if he couldn’t keep making Jabba laugh.)
- The doorman for The Client is also the same one used at the front of Jabba’s palace. Interesting that Threepio seemed never to have encountered one before… maybe only real shady people use that model.
- The skull over the Mandalorian hideaway is a common crest of their people, found on their homeworld and on many sets of beskar armor, including Fett’s. Its origin is unknown technically, though many theories have come up; some insisted it was a bantha skull (though it doesn’t look very similar), and some even call it the skull of the “mythosaur”, giant lizard creatures that inhabited Mandalore before the Mandalorians themselves.
Chapter 2 airs on Friday—we don’t have long to wait for more! BABY YODA COMPELS YOU.
Emmet Asher-Perrin is trying not to freak out about Mandalorian stuff, but is definitely going to fail for the next six weeks. You can bug him on Twitter, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.