Disney+'s 'The Mandalorian' Is the 'Star Wars' TV Show We've Been Waiting For
The Disney+ launch was always going to be a big deal -- Marvel, Star Wars, AND Disney's animated movies and shows all in the same place?? But for those of us who like to watch something new now and again, the brand-new streaming service included an extra incentive: The Mandalorian, Disney's extremely expensive live-action Star Wars show, set somewhere between the end of the original movie trilogy and the start of The Force Awakens. All we knew going in was that it had very little to do with the Jedi, and a lot to do with someone who looked a lot like the famous bounty hunter Boba Fett, but definitely was not him (though if you look closely, he IS in the show!).
Now that the service is up (after some early hiccups), we're all able to experience the first episode of the show at the same time: Episode 1 drops on November 12, with weekly episode drops for the seven after that starting this Friday, November 15. Disney+ did not offer advance screeners of the episodes to critics before the launch, which was initially a little worrying, but we needn't have been: The Mandalorian is off to a great start.
It's a tumultuous time in the galaxy. The Empire is gone, what remains of its leaders either dead or split up across the galaxy, Moffs becoming Warlords who rule over individual planets that govern themselves, where, more often than not, crime pays a lot more than following the rules. This is where we meet the nameless (so far) Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter claiming his prize in a seedy bar on a snowy planet. When he ferries his cargo of carbonite-encased criminals back to his home base, we're treated to a glimpse into how the famous Star Wars bounty hunter Guild system works: lots of chits and credits and fobs and negotiating between Guild members for bounties and fair prices. We love a union. The Mandalorian's boss, Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), tips him off to a hefty bounty set up by a crime boss known only as "the client" (Werner Herzog), who gives the Mandalorian (or "Mando," as the show's cast have nicknamed him) a down payment of a very special kind of metal in exchange for the capture of a mysterious individual.
Before journeying to find his next target, about which he only knows the age (50 years) and location (one of Star Wars' many desert planets), Mando makes a pit stop at his tribe's local armory. The smith, another Mandalorian like him, melts down the Beskar iron into a shiny new pauldron, which she attaches to Mando's shoulder. While she's working, we get a few millisecond flashbacks to some tumultuous event that apparently ripped Mando from the arms of his parents as a boy and into the tribe of Mandalorians, where he learned his bounty hunting trade.
Mando journeys to the desert planet his target is supposed to be on, but before he can make it a few steps away from his ship, he's charged by a herd of shark-faced blurrgs. Their herdsman shoots them with tranquilizers and then tells Mando he can help him get where he needs to go, and quickly teaches him how to ride a bucking blurrg. When do I get my blurrg? I'm ready for my blurrg.
After riding across the desert, Mando creeps toward what looks like a base guarded by a bunch of orange aliens. In the midst of a crazy shootout, he bumps into another bounty hunter, a droid called IG-11 (Taika Waititi), who can spin his body parts around and shoot his blasters really, really fast. Mando and IG-11 take control of the station and blast their way in to find their bounty, which turns out to be -- and this is a pretty huge twist -- a large-eared baby alien that looks like it's one of Yoda's species. When IG-11 makes a move to kill it, as per its instructions, Mando shoots him with no warning and then tenderly reaches out a finger for the baby alien to hold.
There's so much in this show to be excited about, from the lightning-fast fight scenes to large, mushy alien animals to this big Yoda alien mystery. The first episode does a great job setting up where we are, who we're dealing with, and throwing in little dashes of humor, like Mando and IG-11 constantly bickering about the droid's auto-destruct threats. Not to mention Mando's armor and cape look sooooooo cool. What's great about The Mandalorian is that it really feels like something different: a little bit of Rogue One, a little bit of A New Hope, but most of it is genuinely new, with a darker tone that makes it its own thing. Of all the Star Wars movies and shows that have been called "a western," this is the one that feels the most like it. Running through the desert on a galloping steed also helps.