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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