The Mandalorian Season One Review

by thethreepennyguignol

I’m going to be real with you for a moment here: for a while, I was completely Star-Wars-ed out.

After writing about the whole entirety of the cinematic universe, and then engaging with the Discourse surrounding The Rise of Skywalker, by the time that I had space (heh) for The Mandalorian in my schedule, I just couldn’t be fucking bothered. I liked the thought of it, of course, had seen all the Baby Yoda gifs, and love Pedro Pascal with a burning passion that Game of Thrones seemed intent on wasting; but honestly, for the first time ever, the thought of dragging my ass to a galaxy far, far away seemed more a chore than a treat.

But, then, it was announced that my Lady and Saviour Asohka Tano was going to be in season two. And that means that I have to watch it. Legally. Actually. Straight-up three years in prison and then two more on probation if I don’t.

All this to say: The Mandalorian is going to be my next recapping project! Season two starts at the end of this month, and, once I have cleared the Halloween docket for good, I’m going to be going episode-by-episode through the second season of Star Wars’ premier, well, premiere.

But, if I’m going to start writing about season two, then I feel like I need to start by covering season one. This is going to be a one-and-done look at the season at large before I jump into the second series, because, honestly, The Mandalorian is an…interesting first season.

I’m always more drawn to writing about flawed shows than I am about outrightly great ones – sure, I could just say “God, this is great” week after week, but I feel like that gets tired after a while. Which is one of the reasons that I want to cover The Mandalorian – because I think that first season, while it has some real promise, also has some major problems.

Okay, but first, the good stuff: the music. That’s it. That’s all I want to talk about. I can’t remember the last time that I heard a TV show with a score as good as this, and I am obsessed with how evocative and spot-on this soundtrack is. If all The Mandalorian was happened to be Pedro Pascal in his Halloween costume looking over some paper-cut-out sand dunes while this music played in the background, I’d be fine with that.

Okay, actually, not just that. What appeals to me most about this show is the way that it seems to tap into a very specific brand of old-school action-adventure serials. Stylistically and tonally, it reminds me a lot of stuff that my dad shared with me when I was growing up from his own childhood: Captain Scarlett, The Lone Ranger, the Dollars trilogy. It’s got that simple morality and crisp, straightforward storytelling that manages to match over-arching plots with episodic arcs that feel relatively satisfying week-to-week. Star Wars naturally leans towards the Western as a franchise, so it makes sense that this major live-action series should take on the serials of that genre, too.

And there are really solid stand-out episodes of this first season, no doubt about it: Bryce Dallas Howard (!) directs the best, The Sanctuary, and even in the weakest outings (by which I mean the awful lost episode of a bad Doctor Who season, The Prisoner) benefit from the gorgeous Star Wars universe and setting. No matter what, this universe feels lived-in and constantly engaging, and that can elevate even the least interesting stories into something more impressive.

At worst, I think, The Mandalorian is boilerplate stuff. The aforementioned Prisoner and Gunslinger episodes, especially, suffer from some really lazy, tropey writing; it’s one thing to evoke the tone and style of classic serials, another to dip in to their outdated and boring methods of storytelling. With such a short season (only eight episodes), such weak writing really stands out, and leaves a hell of a lot of room for improvement in the season ahead.

But that’s what I’m looking forward to – improvement. In some ways, I’m glad that The Mandalorian season one was as flawed as it was, because it leaves plenty of space for the show to build on the good stuff that it left behind. There is the seed of something really classic here, something that finds that balance between classic storytelling and more modern techniques to blossom into something that allows for a deeper exploration of the stunning Star Wars universe as a whole. I’m not sure what to expect from season two, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s going to bring. And I can’t wait to share another adventure into a galaxy far, far away with you guys all over again!

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(header image via Forbes)