SERIES REVIEW: 'The Mandalorian' may have cracked Star Wars code

Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian in the Disney+ series 'The Mandalorian'. | Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

As of last week, the new Disney+ streaming service has come out, allowing viewers a selection of content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. The launch has already gained over 10 million subscribers, and reactions to the service vary, from logging on issues to content not yet available. Trying to wrap one's head the sheer amount of content, from old Mickey Mouse cartoons to episodes of The Simpsons, is going to take a while to navigate, but there's time to sort it out.

Despite a whole section devoted to Star Wars, Disney is still trying to figure out Star Wars in light of a few production, critic, and box office mishaps. The Last Jedi split Star Wars fans, and that carried over into a low audience turnout for Solo: A Star Wars Story. With a new Star Wars movie coming out next month, an active reaction is guaranteed, but it's anyone's guess how The Rise of Skywalker will perform for fans and financials.

Fortunately, part of the Disney+ appeal are the new shows premiering on the service, one of which being The Mandalorian, a space opera western set in the Star Wars universe. With a more cautious approach than expected, the words “Star Wars” aren't listed anywhere in the series title.

Set five years after Return of the Jedi, the galaxy is learning to get by in a post-Empire world, and for bounty hunters, business remains lucrative. The series focuses on a character simply known as “The Mandalorian,” a hunter that wears armor similar to Boba Fett, going job to job making money from those that hire him.

The viewer learns next to nothing about the series protagonist. There's no backstory or overreaching goal established. Viewers don't even get to see the character's face or learn his name. While this sounds extremely limiting, it works so well to the point that there's some hope that many of these elements are never revealed.

What we do learn about the character is that he's pragmatic, dedicated to his job and a code of honor, and has a wry sense of humor to the situations and characters around him. Even while wearing a helmet for the entirety of the first episode, Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones) projects personality into this mysterious character. The rest of the cast for this episode is just as stellar with Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, and Taika Waititi.

The first episode, is written by Jon Favreau and directed by Dave Filoni. For Star Wars fans, Filoni is a familiar name, having been the showrunner to the animated Clone Wars and Rebels series. For the more casual viewer that doesn't deep dive into all things Star Wars, Filoni is the guy that understands what makes Star Wars fun.

After a routine capture, the Mandalorian's next contract comes from a former Imperial officer that hires the bounty hunter to kill a mark around 50 years old. For the Star Wars galaxy, 50 years can mean a lot of things, as the Mandalorian soon discovers.

Visually, this is a gorgeous, cinematic quality show that really calls back to the dirt and grit of 1977's Star Wars, right down to scene transitions. Many of the effects are practical, and there's more than enough fan service. One character, a droid bounty hunter called IG-11, is fascinating to watch in motion, and provides a combination of great action and character interaction.

For a non-Star Wars enthusiast, the series feels different enough to be its own standalone show that doesn't require encyclopedic knowledge of the series lore. For those that do follow Star Wars, there's more than enough to please long-time fans.

The release schedule for The Mandalorian looks sporadic, so don't expect to binge watch it all at once. But the hook at the end of Chapter 1 is enough to keep interest about what happens next (though hopefully that won't spoil other long-time Star Wars mysteries).

Disney may have finally cracked the Star Wars code, as the future of the franchise may be better suited for the small screen.

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