My initial thoughts on The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV show. What did I like, what did I dislike?

More Star Wars content? Obviously, I’ve had Star Wars on my brain lately, thanks to Disney flooding us with Star Wars stuff, both new (The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian) and old (everything else that came to Disney+ in November).

Initially I was more excited about The Rise of Skywalker, since I love the sequel trilogy characters and was eagerly anticipating this trilogy’s conclusion.

The Rise of Skywalker, of course, was a massive disappointment, but how did The Mandalorian fare?

Way, way better!

Breathing room

The best thing about The Mandalorian is that it gives the Star Wars universe a little more room to breath. All of the movies, and in particular The Rise of Skywalker, move at a brisk pace, jumping from scene to scene and planet to planet as they inexorably move our heroes and villains into conflict.

The Mandalorian takes its time. Even though most individual episodes set up a conflict and resolve it in 30 or so minutes, they never feel rushed, like they have to get to the next thing. Allowing the Star Wars universe to breath a bit is absolutely the best thing this show could have done. (Incidentally, it’s not the first Star Wars TV show to do so; Star Wars Rebels does an amazing job making the galaxy feel a little more real.)

Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda, of course, is a highlight of the show. He’s cute, the puppetry is amazing, and he gives you a reason to root for the title character when otherwise, there isn’t really much to go on.

My biggest complaint, though, does have to do with Baby Yoda. I was kinda hoping this show would steer clear of anything to do with The Force or the Jedi, at least for a season or so. I feel like there have to be stories in this world that don’t involve the Jedi, but we’ve yet to see them. (Solo came close! Dropping Darth Maul into the end as having masterminded everything undermines it though.)

Pacing

The other thing I didn’t love about the season was the way the episodes were paced out. The first three episodes about Baby Yoda, essentially: Tracking the bounty, getting him off the planet, and deciding not to give him over to the Empire. And the last two are about him: Confronting the Empire and then finally escaping.

Centering beginning and end of the season on Baby Yoda’s story the middle three episodes feel like filler side quests. Breaking them up and spacing all the episodes out in a different order might have made these episodes feel more consequential and the season more coherent.

Genre Crossing Experiments

Don’t take that to mean those three episodes aren’t good, though! They are, and the best thing about them is how they showcase the different types of stories that can be told in this format. We get a buddy team-up, a Seven Samurai homage, and a prison break (which has a touch of Alien-esque suspense but in too).

I hope that’s what the show continues to deliver. Just, make sure to pace the mean plot and the the side quests out more evenly.

Supporting Characters

In addition to Baby Yoda I quite enjoyed the supporting cast in the show. I loved Carl Weathers chewing the scenery, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Gina Carano’s performance. I hope we get more of both characters in the second season. (RIP to Nick Nolte’s Kuiil, gone too soon.)

As for Moff Gideon, I didn’t really get a good handle on him from the two episodes. It’s not clear why he killed Werner Herzog (brilliant, as always) and his men, and it’s definitely odd how he said he wanted Baby Yoda alive but then proceeded to try and kill the entire group multiple times once Baby Yoda was back in their hands. Maybe he’s just insane? Either that or that’s one of the few times the writing slipped up.

*****
I approach season two (coming fall of this year, apparently) with some trepidation. After all, Star Wars, more often than not, disappoints. Hopefully season one was not a fluke and Disney allows Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and crew to build off what they’ve done here and actually push things forward into new territory.