When streaming service Disney+ finally hits UK screens on March 24, the first Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian will undoubtedly be top of most ‘must watch’ lists. Unfortunately due to the delayed release of the series to neighbouring territories such as the US, spoilers for the closing moments of the first episode have made there way online. Spoilers aside, the excellent pilot is still definitely well worth a watch for both old and new fans alike.
Taking place after the fall of the Empire (but before the emergence of the First Order), The Mandalorian follows lone bounty hunter Mando (Pedro Pascal) as he’s tasked with an ‘off the books’ mission to track down a mysterious bounty by the enigmatic Client (Werner Herzog), with Imperial connections. Teaming up with vapor farmer Kuiil (Nick Nolte) and fellow bounty hunter IG-11 (Taika Waititi) on the desert planet Arvala-7, Mando discovers a surprising target waiting for him.
Opening with a tense and surprisingly brutal cantina shootout, writer Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni quickly establish a darker tone for the series, exploring the more dangerous and grimy underbelly of the Star Wars universe. With a short runtime of 39 minutes, “Chapter 1” is surprisingly packed with visual world building, multiple action sequences and planets and even flashbacks to Mando’s childhood on the planet of Mandalore, immediately immersing you into the world. Annoying blue alien aside, the episode truly finds it’s feet once Mando accepts a mysterious commission from guild leader, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), setting up the intriguing mission-based narrative. It’s so refreshing to see a Star Wars property that doesn’t revolve around the Skywalkers, particularly after The Rise of Skywalker, with Favreau opting instead to forge a new path in the seemingly lawless Outer Rim, whilst acknowledging and incorporating nods to previous instalments.
Even without a whole load of lines, Games of Thrones and Narcos star Pedro Pascal manages to command scenes with his imposing physicality as the effective and deadly bounty hunter. Whilst initially coming across as cold and morally reprehensible, the stoic gunman becomes a more much complex and interesting character when his motivations come to light. Still, working for The Bounty Hunters’ Guild inhabits a morally grey area much like Solo. The episode also benefits from a strong supporting cast including Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, Werner Herzog Omid Abtahi and Taiki Waititi.
The episode truly excels in the stunning visuals; particularly the costume and production design, combined with a good balance of impressive practical and special effects. The world feels so authentic with vintage aesthetics and impressive creature work reminiscent of the original trilogy and Gareth Evan’s Rogue One. There’s also plenty of Easter eggs and influence from the wider Star Wars universe for both casual and super-fans alike. The Western inspired elements are particularly well complimented by Oscar-winning Black Panther composer Ludwig Göransson’s score, combining a “half-tech, half-classic” style described by director Favreau.
“Chapter 1” is a visually stunning, solid season premiere full of potential, with director Favreau opting for a big budget original tale whilst expanding upon the Star Wars universe post-Return of the Jedi. The surprising reveal in the cliffhanger certainly sets up an intriguing premise for the rest of the series, and I genuinely can’t wait for more.