Since his first appearance in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, or for the five people who remember it the animated segment of 1979’s Star Wars Holiday Special, the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett has been an instant fan favorite. His signature armor and mysterious past infatuated Star Wars fans until his origins were revealed in Attack of the Clones. His race, the Mandalorians, were further explored in the animated series The Clone Wars and later again in Rebels, centered around Sabine Wren, the young artist and warrior. Throughout these on-screen appearances, and even in the secondary canon of the novels and comics, the Mandalorians themselves have remained a mysterious warrior culture who live by their own codes of honor. Now, Disney+’s The Mandalorian gives us our first live-action, in-depth look at one of the most beloved, yet unknown aspects of the Star Wars universe.
Chapter 1 of The Mandalorian is Star Wars’ first foray in into live action television, the aforementioned Holiday Special notwithstanding, and it throws us straight into an unexplored part of the timeline, shortly after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. We’re not introduced to matters of galactic importance, but brought into a world that would feel right at home in a spaghetti western, should you remove the prosthetic makeup on the aliens. The western feel extends to the score, which wouldn’t feel out of place behind either Han Solo or John Wayne. The lighting and cinematography add to the mood. We’re being shown the frontier, and the bounty hunters this series revolves around are the law here.
Like every good western, we begin in a bar, and our unnamed, masked protagonist (Pedro Pascal in the titular role) enters, drawing the kind of attention that allows him to quickly demonstrate he is a force to be reckoned with, effortlessly and wordlessly dispatching some nameless thugs. After a few more scenes demonstrating his abilities, the Mandalorian bounty hunter takes a job from a fallen Imperial officer, still clinging onto whatever power he can. The nature of this bounty is kept mysterious from both our hero and the audience, racking up just enough tension to keep us interested. The rest of the forty-minute episode is dedicated to the first part of this mission, where the Mandalorian encounters a rival bounty hunter and IG droid voiced by Taika Waititi.
Overall, the episode is both very Star Wars, yet something unique on its own. Director Dave Filoni, a longtime Star Wars alumni having served as series director of The Clone Wars, and writer/producer Jon Favreau have lovingly crafted a piece of the galactic underbelly we were promised in Solo, without the weight of the origin dragging it down. With more than enough action to satiate fans clamoring for gunfights, and humor scattered sparingly about, Chapter 1 of The Mandalorian gives fans hope not only for the series, but for the screen presence of the Star Wars universe beyond the familiar characters and storylines we’ve had so far. Even though there has been no mention of it in the series so far, The Force is strong with The Mandalorian.