After nearly two months, the debut season of Disney’s much-anticipated The
Mandalorian has come to an end. It has struck a different chord among Star Wars fans, somehow uniting all of us in our adoration. Now that we have had the chance to examine the series in its entirety, it is high time to evaluate it on its merit. In hindsight, Disney’s decision to release the series one episode at a time comes across as pure genius, especially since Baby Yoda, forever etched in our collective psyche as one of the most prolific memes in internet history, was introduced in the very first episode. This guaranteed instant popularity and the likelihood that interest in the show would last at least until the following week. Any such worries to the contrary would have been unfounded, as it is now abundantly clear that Disney has a roaring success on its hands. An abundance of memorable (if sometimes short-lived) characters are among the myriad of reasons that the show is an absolute delight.
Despite its near-universal approval, the show is not without its issues. After a thrilling start and an equally compelling sophomore episode, The Mandalorian fell into a bit of a lull. Four consecutive serial-like episodes felt very much like a sci-fi version of the spaghetti westerns popular in the 60s and 70s, but they did little to advance the overarching narrative that had ostensibly been established by the titular character’s discovery of America’s favorite Little Green Man. As standalone episodes, they were all wildly entertaining and a satisfying display of Mando’s abilities. But as each one ended, I couldn’t help but feel we were no closer to understanding Pedro Pascal’s helmeted hero, or his (relatively) young companion, than we were after the second episode. After enduring the TV equivalent of sitting in traffic for a month, Mando stomped on the gas yet again to deliver a heart pounding two-part finale. Giancarlo Esposito makes his first appearance as the latest eerily cruel baddie, and the show is pulled out of the proverbial quicksand. The stage is now set for one of the finest stories to come out of the Star Wars cinematic universe.
While a strong start, middling body, and exciting conclusion make for a head-tilting formula, it would appear the series is primed for a more focused direction in season two, which has already been announced. From a critical perspective, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious reason why Mando sticks out from other Star Wars productions. The acting, fight choreography, dialogue, visual effects, etc. are mostly on par with what we’ve seen from the franchise before, save for the resurgence of practical effects, which are a welcome addition. What can unequivocally be said about Mando is that it has tremendous potential. While it should be recognized that the show’s success could be partly credited to the predictable popularity of Baby Yoda and, to a lesser degree, the anti-nostalgia factor of the Fandom Menace, Mando has plenty to say for itself. It didn’t feel like it at times, but Jon Favreau seems to know where this is going. I’m going to trust that he gets us there.
Joey’s grade: A-