The Mandalorian

By Kai-Arne Zimny

You’ve probably already heard that The Mandalorian was nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Children’s Program. And even if you weren’t familiar with the term Mandalorian before, chances are you’ve seen one: Boba Fett, the green-armored bounty hunter in the classic Star Wars film is a Mandalorian, a member of a clan-based society within the Star Wars universe known for their code of honor and warrior ways. We never saw Boba Fett’s face, he didn’t say much, and he didn’t take up much screen time. All this didn’t stop him from becoming a fan favorite back in the day. But would such a character work as a protagonist of a series?

Five years have passed since Luke Skywalker redeemed his father Darth Vader, ended the Galactic Empire in the process, and together with his trusted friends paved the way for the creation of a new republic. However, in The Mandalorian (2019 –) we hear of neither of the two – or any other – iconic Star Wars character. No Princess Leia. No Han Solo. No Chewie or R2-D2.

The plot revolves around a man under a silver helmet: The Mandalorian whom everyone just calls “Mando.” Played by Pedro Pascal, he is a lonesome bounty hunter who never asks unnecessary questions and is not to be messed with. Never ever does he take off his helmet in front of anyone – “This is the way,” as they say on Mandalore. But one day everything changes: On a highly-paid mission for former Imperials (yes, their remnants are still around), his target person is a baby. Not knowing anything about the child but its obvious importance, Mando decides not to bring it in. He takes the mysterious little one and runs …

What is there to say about our Mandalorian hero? First of all, he’s not Boba Fett. His backstory is minimal – we only know of early pain and loss. One of the first lines buzzing through the speaker of his helmet are, “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.” Yes, he’s supposed to be tough and cool, but the writers refrain from turning him into an uninteresting cliché. There’s something going on under that helmet. As mentioned before, he never takes it off in front of anyone, which includes us! We must sit through the whole season before we finally get a glimpse at his face. Did I get curious? Yes. Did it bother me? No! And sometimes I could swear I detected some kind of facial expression on that stoic silver mask.

Not a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord to be seen! And yet The Mandalorian stays true to some very early Star Wars roots: For instance, when we met Han Solo in 1977’s first Star Wars film, he was an intergalactic pistolero, and the cantina on Luke’s home planet Tatooine was basically a shady, galactic saloon. The Mandalorian fleshes out this lightsaber-and-meditation-free aspect of Star Wars, which is all about bounty hunters, betrayal, smugglers and smoking colts … uhm, I mean flashing blasters. The galaxy far far away feels harsh and run-down. Even the ex-Imperial Stormtroopers we get to see wear dirty armor, in contrast to their shining white in the original movies. It is quite literally a Western set in space.

It’s that marriage of something old and something new that makes this very first live-action series set in the Star Wars galaxy work. It all looks and feels familiar but is just fresh and different and, last but not least, atmospheric enough to be liked even by people who’ve had enough of Disney’s Star Wars. Especially now in the aftermath of the sequel trilogy, it’s good to see Disney is creating something easily enjoyable for pretty much all Star Wars fans. That being said, I believe it’s possible to watch it without ever having seen a Star Wars film, even though I doubt that complete Star Wars newbies are the target audience.

Disney launched this show along with its new streaming service Disney+. I have to admit, right before I started watching The Mandalorian, I felt a bit like one of the show’s many sneaky characters myself. Because I went in with a plan. Let me walk you through, ok? So, the first season of The Mandalorian spans 8 episodes á 30 to 40 minutes each. Also, Disney+ offers a free 7-day trial. “I like those numbers,” I thought to myself with a confident grin. To my chagrin, only two episodes were available at the time! Disney+ publishes new episodes on a weekly basis – to discourage binge watching, they claim. Well, they surely discouraged some binge watching on my part, and after two interesting and enjoyable episodes, I had no choice but to slowly move my finger away from the “cancel trial” button and mutter: “You won this round, Disney!”

Well, there’ll be more rounds to come. Filming for the second season of The Mandalorian has already been wrapped up, and even a third season has been confirmed.

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