The Mandalorian is a space Western and action-adventure television series created by Jon Favreau, who also wrote the series alongside Rick Famuyiwa and Dave Filoni. The show is set in the Star Wars universe, a short while after the events of Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and before The Force Awakens. The series aired in 2019 and ran for two seasons so far, with a third already on the way.
The series features Pedro Pascal as the titular character of The Mandalorian, Gina Carano as Cara Dune, and Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon. In the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, the show’s first season received a whopping 7 wins, including in the categories of Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score), Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour), Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie and more. It received another eight Primetime Emmy nominations that year. In 2021, it was additionally nominated for Best Television Series – Drama at the Golden Globes.
While The Mandalorian is set in the Star Wars universe and makes many references to the original movie trilogy, it also marks a significant departure from the Skywalker saga. Instead of following a Jedi who is on a quest to save the galaxy far, far away from the Empire’s grip, the series instead follows a Mandalorian, a member of a fictional people hailing from the planet Mandalore. Only a few Mandalore clans survived the Empire’s attacks on their planet, bringing their warrior cultures to other worlds, where they became bounty hunters. This setup brings an interesting twist to the story’s main character, who can never take his armor or helmet off, as this is the Mandalorian way. Keen-eared viewers will recognize that The Mandalorian is played by Pedro Pascal, known for his role as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones. Even though we don’t see his face (most of the time), his movements and voice bring a lot of character to the Mandalorian – a testimony to his acting prowess.
The character of the Mandalorian, or Mando for short, has a strong personality, shaped by a deep-seated belief in Mandalorian traditions and his own past experiences. Yet, throughout the show, he learns to overcome his prejudices and even let go of his strict adherence to tradition, for the sake of the greater good. His personal growth makes the otherwise stoic character incredibly likable, most of all because of his relationship with “baby Yoda”. I’ve put this character’s name in quotes because that’s not his actual name. And as he isn’t given a proper name until the show’s second season, fans of the show have nicknamed him “baby Yoda”, because of his striking similarity to Yoda of the Star Wars movies. This isn’t much of a spoiler as he meets the wonderfully cute creature by the end of the first episode, and this event is the first of many to shape Mando’s character arc.
Mando’s personal growth is followed by improvements in his bounty hunting arsenal. From getting new bits of armor, to exceedingly rare weapons and other equipment, Mando’s constant improvements are mirrored by increasingly dire threats. All of this setup culminates during intense battles, during which Mando has to use everything at his disposal to achieve victory. This constant cycle of setup and payoff improves the flow of the show’s episodes, giving viewers a sense of progression even when the main storyline concerning “baby Yoda” isn’t in the forefront the entire time.
The show’s themes of loyalty, friendship, and fatherhood are something we haven’t seen in popular television for a while. They might even seem antiquated on paper, but they really work on-screen. Their universal appeal is a boon to the show’s fantastic characters, helping invest viewers into their interpersonal relationships. Scenes that reveal the characters’ inner emotions, and the cute and sometimes silly scenes with “baby Yoda”, are juxtaposed with Mando’s militaristic culture and a burgeoning galactic conflict to form a balance, offering viewers of all sorts something interesting to watch. Whether you’re in it for the immediate action, the Western-like episodic adventures, or the contemplative quiet moments, the show has you covered.
And fans of Star Wars will be happy to know that the show features characters from the original trilogy, as well as introducing fan-favorite characters from the extended Star Wars universe, who are seen in live action for the first time. Perhaps most important is the fact that, while staying true to its Star Wars source material, The Mandalorian feels completely unique. The sound of its soundtrack, the smaller scale of its goings-on, the intimate setting of the tight quarters of Mando’s ship, all give the show a distinctive personality. With nearly every episode of the show having a memorable phrase or scene, it’s no wonder that the show has spawned as many memes around the Internet as it has, contributing to its already significant popularity.
I would recommend this show to anyone looking for something new to watch, even those who aren’t in it for Star Wars. The Mandalorian is perfectly watchable as an action-adventure series and might even be a gateway into the Star Wars universe for the few among us who haven’t seen it and grown to love it already.
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