The highly anticipated Disney Plus original, The Mandalorian, launches with a less than stellar premiere, but Pedro Pascal shines through his armor.
Written by series creator Jon Favreau and directed by the man behind many successful Star Wars animated shows, Dave Filoni, The Mandalorian premiere looks every bit like a Star Wars show. There are throwbacks to all the other franchise properties, and plenty of world-building to excite fans. But, despite a magnetic performance by Pedro Pascal (yes, through the armor), the premiere is lackluster in its story and execution.
The First Bounty
On an icy planet, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) enters a cantina – his presence breaks up a separate fight. Two thugs are planning to cut up a Mythrol and sell his parts for credits, but the appearance of the bounty hunter distracts them. If you enter a Star Wars cantina, someone’s going to want to pick a fight with you. Of course, the Mandalorian makes quick work of the thugs, much to the gratitude of the blue alien. If only saving the Mythrol life was part of the bargain.
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The Mandalorian is here to collect the Mythrol as bounty, but thankfully he needs to take him in alive. They tread through the icy terrain and board the bounty hunter’s ship. The alien tries hard to coax the bounty hunter into letting him go. Nothing works. The Mandalorian has a mission to fulfill, and he’s going to go through with it.
Realizing his efforts are in vain, the alien excuses himself to use the facilities and attempts to locate weapons. Instead, he comes across blocks of carbonite (similar to the one that Han Solo was encased in during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). The Mythrol is so stunned by his find that he doesn’t notice the bounty hunter is right behind him. He pushes the alien into the carbonite chamber, thus getting ready to collect his reward.
Rewards never come easy in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian’s boss, Greef Carga (played by Carl Weathers) offers him Imperial Credits. This displeases the protagonist because the show is set after the fall of the Empire – Imperial Credits aren’t a useful currency. Carga offers an exchange at half the price, and surprisingly the bounty hunter accepts. The Mandalorian is a man of few words, but he appears desperate. Why?
A New Job
Carga offers the bounty hunter new jobs via bounty pucks, and the Mandalorian wants to take them all. Carga doesn’t agree – there are others in the Guild, and he’s not getting as many offers as before because people don’t want to pay Guild rates. He does have one off-book job for The Mandalorian. This one is sans a puck, but the client has deep pockets.
The Mandalorian accepts and meets The Client (Werner Herzog). He is working with stormtroopers and the mysterious Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). They offer a down payment of Beskar metal for the safe return of the 50-year-old asset. Well, Dr. Pershing wants the bounty alive, The Client is more pragmatic and will pay a lower fee if ‘proof of termination’ is provided.
Beskar metal is sacred to Mandalorians and our protagonist is working with others of his kind of restore more pieces of this metal to their tribe. He returns to a Mandalorian base where he hands the metal over to a welder of some kind. She appears to be in charge of sponsoring ‘Foundlings’– we can only assume she is referring to young Mandalorians who will get Beskar metal armor when they join the Guild. The term conjures memories in the mind of our protagonist. As he watches a new shoulder guard being molded for him with part of the metal he’s earned, the Mandalorian recalls an attack on his home when he was a child, and how his parents sacrificed themselves to protect him.
Searching for the Asset
The Mandalorian doesn’t provide names for the systems that the character travels to, so we don’t know where the bounty hunter flies to for his mission. He lands and is attacked by some blurrgs – local wildlife who are not to be trifled with. The Mandalorian is helped by Kuill (Nick Nolte), a Yoda-like character who saves the character from being eaten and then provides the necessary exposition about the asset.
Many bounty hunters have attempted to capture the same prey, and they have all died. Kuill helped all of them, and this makes our protagonist re-think whether he wants Kuill’s help at all. But the creature insists, so the bounty hunter agrees. The only way to reach his destination is by riding a blurrg. Easier said than done, the creatures don’t like our hero, and it’s because he’s in too much of a hurry and way too aggressive. The moment he calms down, the creature lets him mount it.
When the Mandalorian and Kuill reach the location of the asset, the bounty hunter offers some credits for Kuill’s help. But Kuill doesn’t want it – he just wants all the mercenaries gone so the area can be peaceful once again. The reason he helped the Mandalorian is because he’s heard all about them, and believes that if anyone is going to end this cycle of violence, it’s him.
Getting to the asset is harder than expected. The area is amok with thugs, and to top it all, the bounty droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), is here on the same mission. Neither the Mandalorian, nor IG knew that someone else was on assignment, so they decide to split the reward and work together to get their quarry.
They’re going to need all the help they can get – they are ambushed by tons of armed guards. It takes some clever thinking on the Mandalorian’s part to finally save the day. When IG distracts the guns, the bounty hunter grabs a canon and blasts everyone to smithereens. He then uses the same canon to break down the impenetrable door that stands between him and the asset.
IG and the Mandalorian breakthrough and locate the asset. Except, it’s not some wizened old evil person – it’s a little baby green alien, who is the same species as Yoda. Yoda lived to be 900-years-old, so this little one is really young. The Mandalorian refuses to kill the baby, instead disposing of IG to save the baby’s life. So, will the Mandalorian escape with the baby, or will he hand the alien over to The Client? We’ll find out in the next episode.
The premiere episode is beautiful to look at but extremely derivative – the cantina scene, the baby Yoda storyline, the protagonist’s backstory, even the Mandalorian’s personality, which appears to be a mix of Cassian Andor’s pathos and Poe Dameron’s cockiness. It’s the same problem that Star Wars: The Force Awakens suffered from – homage turned into reproduction. The overly dramatic music in this episode didn’t help the cause; it felt as though the showrunners were trying to infuse some emotional heft to scenes and characters that hadn’t yet earned it.
The distinct lack of female characters in this episode (barring one) was distressing. Seems like Disney will never learn that the world is made up of more than one woman at a time. However, Gina Carano and Ming-Na Wen are part of the main cast, so one can assume they’ll have more screen time from the next episode onwards. Hopefully the next episodes will work harder on the quality of writing and direction rather than just the production values.
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