From the opening scene, one thing about The Mandalorian is clear. This is old-school Star Wars. The shine of the prequel trilogy and the grandeur of the sequel trilogy are completely absent. Instead, we’re greeted with a dark, naturally lit cantina filled with non-humans speaking a language that requires subtitles. Otherworldly music fills the silence. It’s 1977 all over again. If nothing else, the premiere episode of the first Star Wars live-action television show establishes a tone that perfectly matches the original trilogy. Thankfully, The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1 does much more than that.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is review is a redo of our original review as we never finished our reviews initially. Each episode of Season 1 is being re-reviewed (or reviewed the first time) ahead of the Season 2 premiere on October 30th and written as if we were viewing the episode for the first time.
SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1, The Mandalorian. If you have not seen the episode and want to remain spoiler-free, do not continue reading.
I can bring you in warm…
The cold open of the show makes one the clear right away: the Mandalorian isn’t screwing around. The opening scene gives us all of the fighting skills we’ve come to love from Mandalorians in both The Clone Wars and Rebels, but barely got a live-action glimpse of in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Whether Jango Fett is actually a Mandalorian is a separate debate, but it’s clear throughout The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1 that Mando is every bit the badass warrior his name suggests. As impressive as this was, what stuck with me the most in the opening scenes was the Mandalorian’s compassion.
When he confronts his bounty, an unnamed Mythrol played by Saturday Night Live alum Horatio Sanz, he gives him a chance to be turned in breathing. Later, when his ship is attacked by a giant walrus-like sea creature, Mando doesn’t go for the kill. Instead, he uses the shock feature of his rifle to simply force the creature to let go. After already showing his willingness to kill quickly, these compassionate choices really stood out and help inform the Mandalorian’s character. He’s not a murderer. He’s a bounty hunter. Given another famous (possibly) Mandalorian bounty hunter’s reputation for killing, that’s a key distinction and serves to inform his decisions later in the episode.
Man with no name…or face
Upon returning to what appears to be the Mandalorian’s base planet, we see Mando meet with several interesting characters, some he knows and some he doesn’t. The key thing throughout every encounter is Mando never takes off his helmet, even amongst friends or his own people. The Mythrol even asks him about it, but the Mandalorian doesn’t answer the question. His refusal to reveal his face remains a mystery. Hopefully, we get an explanation by the end of the season.
The Mandalorian also never reveals his name throughout episode. Everyone simply refers to him as Mando, giving the impression that no one knows his name or cares to. It simply isn’t important. His bounty hunter reputation clearly proceeds him, and that’s all Mando needs people to know. The entire scenario gives The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1 the feel of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western film. The entire episode hits that tone perfectly, right down to the simple but effective musical theme.
As is the tradition in Star Wars, the soundtrack of The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1 steals the show. Composer Ludwig Göransson hits all of the right notes, creating a score that sounds nothing like we’ve ever heard in Star Wars, but fits perfectly into the universe. The deep wooden flute tones that kick off the main theme are haunting, mysterious, and evoke Ennio Morricone’s classic title track from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly so well that The Mandalorian feels more like a Western than a Star Wars show.
Most of the tracks are simple, but in key moments the main theme gains the space opera tone made famous by John Williams. It lacks the full orchestra sound of the main Star Wars theme and isn’t nearly as bombastic, but the epic feeling is still there. Music has always made Star Wars stand out, and Göransson’s score certainly does that in this episode.
The Big Reveal
No review of The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 1 would be complete without mentioning the massive reveal at the end. Mando’s target is none other than a member of Yoda’s species! We don’t know the child-like alien’s name or gender, but it certainly looks like a baby Yoda. Still, the bounty is mentioned multiple times to be 50 years old, which actually brings up way more questions than it answers.
The Mandalorian is set approximately 9 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Yoda is gone, but lived to be over 900 years old. The IG unit that helps Mando fight off the target’s captors notes that many species age differently, which could explain why a 50-year-old creature looks like a toddler in a floating pram. Could we finally learn what the heck Yoda is? Hopefully we’ll find out more next week.
A Great Debut for Dave Filoni
This episode was not just produced by Dave Filoni, previously of The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance. He also made his live-action directorial debut in the episode, and he’s off to a great start. The pacing of this episode is fantastic, moving smoothly from scene to scene without lingering too long on little details. Filoni gives the viewer just enough to stay curious without giving too much away.
My one big complaint is the length of the episode. With the advantage of the streaming format and the lack of commercial breaks, it feels like a waste to only give us 38 minutes (not counting the credits). While traditional hour-long dramas on TV are only about 43 minutes long, I’d hoped The Mandalorian would end up closer to Netflix shows and be nearly a full hour with every episode. Hopefully, future episodes are at least as long.
All episodes of The Mandalorian Season 1 are streaming now, exclusively on Disney+.
The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 19
For a series opener, The Mandalorian couldn’t get much better. The pacing is great, but the feel of classic Star Wars is even better. The music also helps elevate the show to another level in quality, one not often seen on television.
I can’t wait to watch it again!