Life tests our values at inopportune times. When we least expect it, our very existence can become upended by life’s various curveballs that threaten our beliefs and resolve. These despairing moments may include the likes of getting fired from a job, enduring a break up, or winning a lifetime gift certificate to the golden corral. Life’s randomness rests on the border between cruelty and irony, forcing us to adapt or outright change aspects of our character in order to survive.
The Mandalorian features fictional versions of these life altering scenarios. Early on in the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, the titular nameless Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is confronted with a troubling circumstance. After he defeats a slew of enemies with his personal grit and gadgets in a thrilling action set piece, the bounty hunter learns that his mark is the adorably memeable baby yoda. From there, the Mandalorian is set with a difficult decision: fulfill his duty to the bounty hunting guild by turning baby Yoda over to the remnants of the evil empire or save baby Yoda from his would-be imperial captors. The latter answer may seem like the obvious choice, but stealing baby yoda away from the Empire’s clutches would have violent repercussions that the morally ambiguous Mandalorian would rather avoid. It’s damn good television
The Mandalorian regularly pits its antihero in many similarly morally perilous predicaments for our entertainment. In fact, all eight episodes of the Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) helmed adventure include at least one moment where the Mandalorian’s personal values are thrown into disarray; moments where he has to make a decision that’s true to his character. These moments often change him and allows him to grow as a person, and as a result, The Mandalorian works as a good action drama with solid character development.
The Mandalorian’s episodic nature works in the show’s favor. Even though the series contains an overarching plot involving baby Yoda and the empire, the show is mostly about smaller character building moments. Most of the episodes, save for the last 2, are self-contained adventures with their own lessons, morals, and fisticuff action. In this regard, the show lives up to Star Wars’ legacy as an adventure serial.
This likely isn’t a coincidence. Aside from its outer space setting, The Mandalorian embodies the spirit of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western or an Akira Kurasowa samurai fable. The show favors small scale action over the big scale battle sequences seen in movies like Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, and The Mandalorian is better for it. The character beats, Pedro Pascal emoting the Mandalorian’s emotions despite wearing a mask, and the practical special effects via the cute puppet Baby Yoda or the fight choreography simultaneously bestow the show with grit and personality. It’s a blast.
The characters shine due to The Mandalorian’s small-time narrative. Despite wearing a mask for the whole show, Pedro Pascal is an intimidating presence with his cool voice and warrior-like demeanor alone. Carl Weathers makes the most of his screen time as the leader of a local bounty hunting guild. Gina Carano presents a great foil and potential romantic interest for our protagonist. Werner Herzog is memorable as an imperial officer. Taika Waititi has a terrific take on the murderous droid character type. And of course there is the cute scene stealing baby yoda with his lovable wiggly ears and baby green face. Need I say more?
The Mandalorian brings big budget action to the small screen. While the series acts as Disney’s first major release on its new online streaming platform Disney +, The Mandalorian is comparable to a network television show equipped with enough money to fill a star destroyer. The series’ episodic nature, focus on character development, and penchant for outer space western action combines to bring big budget sci-fi action to our home television screens.
Overall, The Mandalorian is a blast. Despite being a good Star Wars adventure rather than a revolutionary one, The Mandalorian hits all the marks for a sure fire hit. The characters are fun, the action is explosive, and Baby Yoda ranks as one of the best adorable Star Wars side characters, easily on par with the Porgs, Babu Frik, and the Ewoks. This Star Wars side adventure is well worth a watch.
This is the way, indeed.