So here we are, at last! The release of the fabled Mandalorian series on Disney+ is upon us—just the one episode, running a cool 38 minutes—and thus begins the breathless and effusive coverage befitting the juggernaut combo of Disney and Star Wars. It’s impossible review a series after just one episode, but given how intense this particular premiere event was (as the marquee series for a brand new streaming service), it’s worth diving in to what worked and didn’t for the Disney launch and The Mandalorian in particular:
It is known: Disney has a ton of money, possibly a frightening amount, and they are wisely showing it off with The Mandalorian. This was a very strong start on every front. As one would expect from a Star Wars property, a fully-formed fantasy world is immediately presented to us here, filled with interesting characters and lively backgrounds. It has a cinematic quality. Things click and whir and bleep and boop alongside foreign chatter and a host of interesting creatures. The world of The Mandalorian immediately feels lived in, so even though we don’t know much about this particular story yet, there’s no time wasted with setup.
The more negative side to that lack of setup is that the show feels like it’s made for uber fans who will be constantly spotting references and connections to other Star Wars properties. As someone who has watched each Star Wars movie exactly once, the first episode did create a palpable feeling of discombobulation. Are we supposed to know who this person or that person is, or where they fit into the lore? And is that necessary for us to really understand what’s going on? Maybe I felt this more acutely than most casual viewers since it’s my job to parse through the particulars. But even though there’s clearly a lot more to the story, if you come into this knowing nothing, there’s still enough narratively to hold onto for the ride. And I do ultimately respect the fact that the show hits the ground running—even if it has left some of us behind.
I never thought I’d be nostalgic for weekly release, but God Bless Disney for a weekly release schedule. Binge culture can be fun, but it can also be taxing and overwhelming for those curating its many, many hours of programming. Appointment television to be discussed around the ol’ watercooler (virtual or literal) feels like it has largely gone by the wayside, but maybe Disney will help bring it back. Also, I’m not mad that the episode is really just over a half hour of content. Again, life is too short for TV shows that take several hourlong episodes to “get good.” The Mandalorian immediately gives us something interesting and worth watching from the start in a tightly-paced episode (written by Jon Favreau).
I hesitate to thank or bless Disney for anything, because I’m not in the habit of praising mega-massive powerful corporations. One of the reasons there was such a mad dash to get the The Mandalorian today, on the site’s launch (which has overwhelmed its servers with enthusiastic fans) was because everyone in media was also trying to access it for articles. Due to that late episode reveal, Disney withheld screeners (and will continue to do so throughout the season, as far as we understand). But even late last night, there were no login instructions for how to access the app, or where. Journalists on the east coast stayed up until 3am, and west coasters woke up at 3am to binge and write. Was it worth it? Who knows, and probably “who cares?” for those not in media, but the fact that the industry is being controlled by these highly-managed rollouts is discouraging.
Well this was … just fine! The end of the first episode introduced us to a baby Yoda. He is 50 years old and just born, in Yoda Years, but then again, what exactly is this thing? What is Yoda’s race? For now we’ll just call it “a” Yoda instead of “the” Yoda, but could it be “the” Yoda in some way? It’s a curious reveal, but one that certainly sets up some interesting intersections within Star Wars lore, even for this casual watcher.
Lil CG Baby Yoda may have been the one who stole the show in this premiere, but The Mandalorian has managed to assemble a very fun and random human cast, including Werner Herzog and Taika Waititi. Of important note, The Mandalorian is not a humorless slog (which I was worried it might be); it’s clever and fun, and there’s a kind of surreal meta humor to seeing Herzog play a mysterious Client for the Mandalorian himself. Everyone wants to be in a Star Wars property these days, so I applaud the series for making some really out-of-the-box casting choices.
Guys, when you cast Pedro Pascal as your hero and we don’t get to literally see him for the entire first episode, I mean what a waste. Why would you hide that face? Even though the Mandalorian never removed his helmet and was completely suited up throughout this inaugural episode, Pascal managed to give him a surprising amount of charm and swagger. This man is a professional, folks. Show his face!
The Mandalorian is currently available on Disney+
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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