The Mandalorian: Star Wars at its Finest
It may have taken several tumultuous years and constant battling with the Star Wars Fandom, but Disney has finally discovered their niche regarding Star Wars Television; The Mandalorian. The flagship series of their new streaming service, Disney Plus, combines the elements which make Star Wars fun and engaging for audiences of all ages, while eliminating the needless writing, badly written characters, and irritating dialogue which has given the New Trilogy a controversial reputation, at best.
Pedro Pascal's titular character traverses a lawless Outer Rim, an outlying and expansive Galactic territory without any central authority to guide it. After the devastating Clone Wars and subsequent theft of natural resources and economic value by the Galactic Empire, the Rim has become even more a hive of scum and villainy than ever before. With no semblance of political order established, illegal enterprises such as drugs and mercenary work flourish and become part of local cultures and ways of life. Among this network of dastardly crimelords, cowering civilians, and petty villains is the Mandalorian, a remnant of a long-lost and honorbound warrior culture nearly extinguished by the Empire. For Star Wars fans, this show is a practical cavalcade of fanservice, consisting of throwbacks and references to past Star Wars movies and canons, (such as the inclusion of an IG Assassin Droid)
while also creating a new frontier and direction for the previously aimless Disney-brand Star Wars which has received no end of lambasting. For non Star Wars fans, or maybe just casual fans that only watched the essential movies, they'll be pleased by the outward references they WILL understand, and the aesthetic, cinematography, and overall atmosphere the show exudes.
Now, the Mandalorian character himself is your classic Star Wars protagonist, fashioned in the likes of Han Solo or Indiana Jones (both played by Harrison Ford, funny enough), a scoundrel that does virtually any job for the right monetary compensation, but with a hidden soft-side that relates to his traumatizing past. And while this may seem obscure to more casual watchers, I appreciated the addition of Separatist Droids in the Mandalorian's flashbacks to his childhood's swift conclusion. However, given the show is set after Return of the Jedi, but before the Force Awakens, the overarching antagonists are undoubtedly the shadows of the former Galactic Empire. The Mandalorian meets his first companion (and the show's posterboy), an adorable Baby Yoda, at the behest of an Imperial bureaucrat who requires the Force-Sensitive child for an unknown reason. After disobeying his contract and rescuing the Baby Yoda from a surgery of deadly nature, the Imperial Remnant sets a bounty on our heart-of-gold hero, setting into motion the show's dynamic plot.
In fact, that's a major strength this show offers, the amount of theorizing and connecting major Star Wars fans can do with the known canon. Of course, I did state previously this experience is a treat for casual fans or non-Star Wars fans in general, but for those with an extensive knowledge of this franchise's canon, you'll be theorizing all day about what connections does this shadowy Imperial remnant hold with the First Order, what is the endgame of the nameless bureaucrat, what's the nature of the 'Great Purge' the Mandalorians mention, why is Baby Yoda so cute, and so on. Similar to MCU films, this tale builds off lore already created and known to a general audience. However, unlike a select few MCU films (Iron Man 2, Dark World, Age of Ultron, etc), it doesn't rely completely on background information and recognizable characters to make itself an enjoyable experience to watch. In fact, the Mandalorian is devoid of 'character-crutches', in the sense that all the characters its introducing are new in the Star Wars universe. Solo debuted... Han Solo, Rogue One had a Leia cameo, etcetera. Not to say that's a bad thing, far from it, those films did well at filling in time-gaps of those characters, but I believe Disney finally realized after years of attempting to cater to a demographic it alienated, that it needed to attempt something new. And it passed with flying colors.
Each episode delivers a unique situation. Of course, there's been a formula developing over the past four episodes, a status quo this show is easing into, but even then, it never sticks too close to this writing apparatus. To explain, the current way of things is this: 'Mandalorian runs into a problem, Baby Yoda helps out/looks very cute, Mandalorian makes new friends, Mandalorian does something badass, Mandalorian does something badass with new friends, Mandalorian reveals a nicer side of himself, the day is saved and everyone with a moral conscious rejoices while the scumbag bounty hunters and Imperial killers twirl their mustaches and plot their next device.' However, this show's extremely young, and judging it based on a set of events that'll naturally transpire throughout the episodes is completely unfair. Even with this series of events I've laid out, there are constant variations and dynamic actions which continue making one want to watch. In the newest episode, the Mandalorian works with an ex-New Republic commando to train a village against an army of space barbarians (that kinda resemble Orcs from Lord of the Rings). There's always a new concept, a new story, and new direction introduced in each episode, from nasty encounters with grovelling Jawas to shootouts amplified by the arrival of an entire Mandalorian battalion against a town's worth of mercenaries (yes, it happens, and it's awesome), to Baby Yoda using Force abilities to take down a wild animal.
If I was forced to uncover any downsides about this viewing pleasure, I'd be very nitpicky and point out the Mandalorian's hasn't gotten any 'real' groupies yet, save Baby Yoda, but he's more like the show's overarching MacGuffin and character development foil. But even then, this show is within its first season and still introducing so much about our lead character, his new companion's past, the history of Mandalore after the Clone Wars, the Imperial Remnant, and so much more. To judge it now on minor grounds would just be harsh and reckless, and given by the show's direction thus far, it's sure to continue raising the bar for Star Wars media henceforth.
Ultimately, the Mandalorian gives off a distinct, gritty feel, but doesn't remain overly entrenched in such. There's light-hearted moments (usually delivered by Baby Yoda) and scenes which develop the Mandalorian's character beyond a faceless force for good and justice in this wild, wild Galaxy. You can feel a Western-style atmosphere injected in each sector of this show, and with such high screenwriting and production quality, there's no questioning why Disney Plus made this their flagship series. Trust me, this is a watch that won't waste your time.
Now I just really hope they make an Old Republic show...