TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode One

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode One – “Chapter One”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Dave Filoni

So…what’s a Mandalorian? It all began with Ralph McQuarrie, and Joe Johnston’s production art during The Empire Strikes Back. The sketches of armored, hyper-weaponed soldiers were thought to be super commandoes from the planet Mandalore, specialized in hunting down and killing Jedi. Boba Fett was the first character to wear the gear, but the name “Mandalorian” wouldn’t be used until the Star Wars comic book in 1983. As the decades wore on, these people were expanded in the comics, particularly in the Dark Horse published material. These ideas were tweaked and some instances overhauled by the Clone Wars animated series.

The Mandalorians are a separatist religious-cultural group from Mandalore. They have been exiled to their moon Concordia because of their belief system, which positions them as masked & armored warrior people. Weapons are a religious symbol, and the construction of their armor is part of their growth in the belief system. They became a target of the corrupt Old Republic during Chancellor Palpatine’s reign and remained on the fringes, as they preferred during the Empire’s expanse.

The Disney+ series centers on Dyn Jarren, a Mandalorian who is still on his religious path. As we see in the first episode, he’s still troubled by PTSD from violent experiences as a child. My own interpretation is that this may have been an attack by groups opposed to the Mandalorian religion. Or he’s an orphan brought into the belief after his parents were struck down. I’m not sure how much more backstory we’ll get for Jarren because he’s definitely being positioned as an archetypal Western antihero.

This opening episode gives us an opening sequence that establishes the regular routine for Jarren. He picks up a puck for an open bounty, travels out to the middle of nowhere, rounds up the target, and returns for the credits. We learn early on that the series takes place in the years following the collapse of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, and that fact has me very excited. I love the idea of getting to explore this period of instability, a sort of Reconstruction Era for Star Wars. Being Imperial is no longer something that will command respect and obedience, and we have already seen some officials in a state of decline.

Jarren picks up an off the books bounty from an unnamed client, obviously an Imperial official, some governor or lieutenant in the Outer Rim. He’s able to keep a few Stormtroopers under his thumb, though from the looks of their armor, they’ve seen better days. The bounty is never described in detail, just told the target is fifty years old and located on a desolate planet. Jarren arrives, and we immediately see how this show will challenge a lot of fan expectations and why it’s a good thing this isn’t a Boba Fett show.

If Boba had been the star, we’d be met with endless scenes of him being flawlessly badass. With Jarren, we have a blank slate and a character who gets their ass beaten regularly. It’s absolutely wonderful. Jarren is saved by Kuiil, an Ughnaught moisture farmer living his days peacefully on this world. The Ughnaught species is another little detail thrown into Empire that has been recurring but never given up depth or development. They were background servile characters in Cloud City, but in The Mandalorian, we get development through this character. Kuiil prefers to avoid violence but also wants to live a free & independent life. He needs Jarren to help clear out the same criminal cartel that is protecting the bounty.

The final moment of this episode was a pleasant surprise and showed how well the marketing materials had hidden the real premise of the series. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the peripheral Star Wars films and shows, but The Mandalorian has me very intrigued with that last shot and its promise of exploring one of the mysterious parts of the mythology. My biggest worry is that Jarren won’t get the necessary character development we need to be invested in him, but here’s to crossing my fingers the showrunners know what they are doing.

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