Episode #1: Not a Great Start
The first episode of the Mandalorian as a whole didn’t work for me. It felt clunky and stilted and awkward. Who is said Mandalorian? What’s his personality? What motivates him? Not even on like an existential level, just what is his motivation in this episode? I get he’s supposed to be mysterious badass, but there’s nothing to latch onto in terms of engaging with his character. Really, there is not character there by the end of the episode.
There’s a reason these kind of tough silent badass characters in westerns or noirs or whatever nearly always are paired with a newbie or innocent; it lets the badass keep his mystique while still giving the audience someone to latch on to.
The lack of a main character was my biggest problem with the episode, but the structure of the episode as a whole doesn’t work well. It’s too disconnected and episodic without a clear through line in terms of character or plot. An action sequence unrelated to the main plot at the beginning of a story to prove the main character is a badass is a perfectly serviceable trope, but the Mandolorian burns ten of its 35 minutes on a hunt that has nothing to do with the plot and the only character insight it gives us is that he’s a badass.
The episode then proceeds to have a bunch of elements that feel like it was jumping ahead of where the series is at. Instead of setting up who the mandalorian is and why we should care, it instead decides to spend it’s time with random flashbacks of people screaming and running with little to no context, him learning to ride an alien creatures (there’s nothing that says badass like falling off a horse, amirite), and a robot that shows up with no build up in the second half of the episode and leaves it just as abruptly.
The episode needed to be lean and bereft of anything that didn’t move the plot forward or give us a reason to care about the Mandalorian. A much better structure would’ve, just as an example, followed the mando through a whole hunt. Maybe when he tries to leave the original planet with blueface alien his ship is blown up or they’re stopped by a crime syndicate or something, and the rest of the episode is him trying to get off the planet with his bounty. You could punch up the character of blueface alien, start a dialogue between him and mando that actually gives us an insight into his character. Something like that.
And then there’s just a lot of small things that bugged me: his armor being too shiny and not covering anything, how dumb his rifle looks (yes I know it’s from the christmas special, no I don’t care), his overly jokey and every-guy dialogue in the second half of the episode that kind of spoils any mystique built up to that point, that the gatling blaster can carve through a reinforced armor door but not a sandstone pillar.
Episode #2: The Mandalorian Anti Badass
Oh, so Mando is supposed to be a bit shit at being a bounty hunter. I can work with that. Though visually it really should be clearer.
I will say that the visuals are lovely and the music is great, and often first episodes are awkward. Nothing in these first episodes ruins the series as a whole or could keep it from improving, but it’s also not good.
And yes, baby Yoda is the cutest thing on two feet.
Episode #3: Bored With The Format
Lets do this in bullet points.
- I increasingly think it was a mistake to cast Pedro Pascal as Mando. He’s a great actor, but none of that comes through the helmet, and you can tell he’s not entirely comfortable in the armor. There are some fantastic physical performers out there (the fishman actor from The Shape of Water that Del Toro uses in everything, for example) that could’ve embodied the idea of the armor as a second skin that the Mandalorians have.
- Speaking of Mandalorians, why wasn’t that hissy fit confrontation included in the first episode? It’s not that long, and it really helps ground Mando’s character and give him a motivation by making it clear that he’s been entrusted with the responsibility to represent the Mandalorians above ground.
- The Mandalorian’s competence really shifts from scene to scene, doesn’t it? Sometimes he’s useless (episode 2 with failing at catching the Jawas and losing to the mudhorn somehow), and sometimes he’s a badass infiltrating a stormtrooper safe house.
Episode #4: The Good, the Bad, and the Mandalorian
Really leaning hard into this whole western thing, aren’t we?
- The native coding for the villagers is uncomfortable considering just how reminiscent this episode is of a western. There’s a lot of history there.
- Gina Carano’s acting leaves a lot to be desired. Were there no actual actors available?
- Her character hyping the AT-ST is hilarious considering how in their first outing in ROTJ they got destroyed by a bunch of teddy bears.
- At least the shots of it in action are pretty dope.
- Why is this show so dark all the time? It’s really hard to make out the fisticuffs.
- Do Mandalorians have sex with their helmet on?
Episode #5: Plot And Not Much Else
The big problem with this episode is that it’s entirely impersonal. Plot happens, but it means nothing from a character or thematic perspective. A better episode would’ve seen some kind of bond be formed between Mando and the kid so that the kid’s betrayal and the Mandalorian having to kill him would’ve had some weight and meant something.
The obvious route would’ve been to have the kid remind Mando of himself, which would’ve given some insight into his character and motivations, and bounty hunting itself. Considering how extensively the show cribs from westerns it’s bizarre they didn’t go this direction. The pairing of the old veteran gunslinger and the young brash one is a really common one in the genre. Unforgiven, for example, uses the pairing to show the difference in the appeal of bounty hunting vs the ugly reality.
That’s honestly kind of the thing about the Mandalorian as a show; on the surface it’s a passable pastiche of different westerns, but doesn’t have anything going on beneath the surface and isn’t a particularly good smart example of the genre.
Photo Credit: IMDB