‘The Mandalorian’ arrived late to the UK, given that Disney Plus didn’t launch here until March, having been available elsewhere as early as November. However, the hype arrived a long time before that and, consequently, this show had a lot to live up to by the time I got around to watching it.
Probably more so for me, given that I’ve just re-watched all of the movies and quite a lot of other Star Wars related stuff in order to be able to spend this entire month writing about the franchise, in what, I began to realise some weeks ago, was quite an ill-conceived and fairly pointless project.
But we’ve all had to get through lockdown in our own way haven’t we? I couldn’t escape to a farm in Durham, so I had to escape to ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’. Which was probably the more ethical choice really.
Anyway, I saved writing about ‘The Mandalorian’ until last (I know there is one more day of May, but I thought I’d use that to craft some kind of ‘conclusion’ to this madness), because, based on everything I’d read, looking at who was involved and considering its astronomical budget, I pretty much expected it to be excellent.
And, having just watched the last episode of series one, I can confirm that it ticked all the right boxes for me. I can’t wait until series two.
But before I go any further, I should, for the sake of completion if nothing else, issue my final spoiler alert of the month:
Spoiler alert: I’m going to write about ‘The Mandalorian’ now. I doubt I’ll give too much of the plot away, but there may still be one or two spoilers in the text that follows. Because this is the way.
The first live-action Star Wars ‘TV show’ was always going to be a bit of a risk given the notoriously difficult to meet expectations of Star Wars fans, but ‘The Mandalorian’ is almost a masterclass in expectation management.
Firstly, it’s set between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens’ but much closer to the former, which is pretty much a blank canvas in terms of the Star Wars chronology. Perhaps that period has been covered in some of the novels, but there are no existing movies or cartoons set in the time period. Also, the sequel trilogy rendered a lot of the novels non-canon, so it’s fairly likely that there won’t be any existing Star Wars material that massively contradicts the events covered within the show.
Secondly, ‘The Mandalorian’ is deliberately set in the outer reaches of the galaxy, pretty far away from any likely era-defining events, and certainly far away from any Skywalkers. There’s not even a cameo for C3PO. And he normally turns up in everything, whether you want him to or not.
Thirdly, it centres around the coolest looking characters in the Star Wars universe – the Mandalorians. They’re cool because they all dress like Boba Fett, who was pretty much everyone’s favourite action figure. But, Boba Fett never really did anything in the movies and wasn’t even a proper Mandalorian, so the first live-action incarnation of the Mandalorians was also a fairly blank canvas. They did turn up in the various cartoon series a bit, but there was still plenty of room for interpretation in this show. As long as they looked a bit like Boba Fett. Which they did.
‘The Mandalorian’ manages to strike the (not always easy) balance of providing lots of references for die-hard Star Wars fans, while trying to be accessible to anyone who is coming to this without any knowledge of the movies. It’s hard to be objective, I am obviously a massive Star Wars fan, but I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy this show even if it wasn’t based on Star Wars. It looks and feels like Star Wars a lot of the time, but it is also very much its own thing and there were times when it reminded me a bit of the brilliant and short-lived 2002 show ‘Firefly’, which is probably not that surprising given that it would be reasonable to describe both shows as ‘Space Westerns’.
‘The Mandalorian’ is definitely a Star Wars show, but its greatest strength in many respects, is that it isn’t too ‘Star-Wars-y’. There are stormtroopers, X-Wings, and Tie-Fighters but there isn’t a Jedi in sight. Apart from ‘Baby Yoda’. But he isn’t technically a Jedi. Oh and there are no lightsabers. There is a darksaber. Which is a bit like a lightsaber. But it definitely isn’t a lightsaber. Although I couldn’t really tell you the difference.
The Force is strong with ‘The Mandalorian’ but it’s quite possibly because the Force isn’t in it very much.
Best character – The Child (AKA Baby Yoda)
Having been bombarded with ‘Baby Yoda’ memes for months before actually getting to see the character on-screen, I was apprehensive to say the least. But, while he has no dialogue, and is played, essentially, by a puppet, it’s hard to see past this little fella as the best thing about the show. Which is harsh on the titular character who is pretty fantastic too. Although, if I hadn’t gone with ‘Baby Yoda’ I’d probably have gone with Taika Waititi’s IG11 rather than The Mandalorian, so he wouldn’t have got a look-in anyway.
Worst character – Toro Calican
I didn’t hate him or anything, but the show was mostly full of eminently likeable (if admittedly fairly two-dimensional) characters and this guy was pretty much the one exception. Being a bounty hunter without any of the requisite skills makes him one of the least cool characters anyway but then he kills off a character who had the potential to be genuinely pretty cool in Fennec Shand, before she got a chance to actually do anything cool. Which makes Toro even less cool.
Unsung hero – Paz Visla
This honour could have gone to more significant characters, such as the aforementioned IG11, or the Nick-Nolte-voiced Kuiil, both of who sacrifice themselves to save ‘The Child’. However, Paz Visla gets the nod, because he’s a Mandalorian, in a show called ‘The Mandalorian’ and he’s barely in it. Also, when he is in it, he goes out of his way to save the life of the titular Mandalorian, even though it’s been established in an earlier scene that he doesn’t really like him.
And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘The Mandalorian’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write some sort of conclusion to my month long tribute to Star Wars in an effort to justify what has, almost certainly, been a colossal waste of time.
I have spoken.