The Mandalorian, a Star Wars space-western, recently premiered on the new streaming platform Disney+. So far, five out of eight episodes have been released, and the series is easily the biggest attraction on the still-new site. An engaging show, The Mandalorian has lived up to the hype so far and is a good sign for the original Disney content to come.
While obviously set in the Star Wars universe, The Mandalorian has been largely independent of the movies’ story. Set between episodes six and seven, the show follows the eponymous Mandalorian, a stoic bounty hunter played by Pedro Pascal, as he completes a set of jobs. Pascal’s performance encapsulates the broody western perfectly. We see little of his emotions, as Pascal’s face is under a mask the entire time, and he only speaks occasionally. Yet the lack of emotion defines not only the character but his culture. The absence of an emotive protagonist immerses viewers in the intriguing but emotionless life the Mandalorians are forced to lead.
Yet the show’s near-somber tone does not prevent it from having some of the classic Star Wars fun. While the main character remains serious throughout, there are plenty of fun and interesting aliens in the world around him, including the now famous adorable baby of the same species as Yoda. Although the show is mostly serious, there are times when the occasional light-hearted tone takes away from the story — the camp causes otherwise weighty moments to hit less hard. But on the whole, the show manages to juggle these disparate tones of different parts rather well, keeping them separated enough that they don’t interfere with each other.
The Mandalorian has been able to balance these contrasting aspects due to its episodic nature. While the show has a vague overarching storyline, each episode is almost completely self-contained, and some episodes are vastly different tonally from the overarching storyline. Despite the show’s tonal shift, the protagonist remains stagnant, acting in the same manner as he faces new characters and environments. However, by incorporating a campy theme, the show gives up on its serious dramatic tone, one of its best potential assets. Particularly of late, dramas, such as Game of Thrones, have taken advantage of the ability to tell more nuanced, longer-form stories over the course of several episodes. By restricting itself to anthology-like stories, The Mandalorian is unlikely to ever reach the level some other Star Wars dramas do, yet it does an excellent job as a set of enjoyable, self-contained episodes.
I would be remiss to discuss a Star Wars show without mentioning the score. While nowhere near as iconic as the John Williams score of the movies, Ludwig Göransson does an excellent job with what is perhaps the best Star Wars music outside of the central series. Göransson’s score helps make what would already be a good series stand out, and it is almost worth getting involved with the show for the music alone.
Ultimately, I have almost only good things to say about The Mandalorian. While its episodic nature and scope may prevent it from ever truly excelling, it reaches its artistic goals excellently, and is a fun watch with plenty of good music and quotable lines. All told, the show is an excellent sign for the future of Disney+, and I would strongly recommend watching it.