On Nov. 12, a galaxy far, far away arrived to a whole new world — the world of streaming services. Over the course of its first week, Disney+ rolled out the first new episodes of “The Mandalorian” (TV-PG).
Taking place in the years following the collapse of the Galactic Empire, the series follows a nameless bounty hunter as he takes up a new and mysterious assignment. Our lead protagonist — a Mandalorian clad in the armor first made famous on the big screen by Boba Fett — is just as mysterious as the cargo he is pursuing.
Behind the helmet is actor Pedro Pascal, no stranger to prestige television series such as “Narcos” and “Game of Thrones.” That said, he isn’t easily recognizable, as he has yet to remove his helmet. This is no inhibition for Pascal’s acting, however.
Without the aid of facial expressions and minimal lines, Pascal masters his physical mannerisms and vocal inflections to emote through the metal disguise. This builds a complex character out of elements such as posture and simple head nods.
It is vital this character works, as he is thus far the sole focus of the first two episodes. Actress Gina Carano’s mystery character, who was heavily featured in the marketing as the Mandalorian’s partner in crime, has yet to make an appearance. A quirky alien voiced by Nick Nolte is a blast to have along for the ride on this chapter of the journey, but the world fully belongs to the titular character.
And what a world it is! From the first moments of the pilot, viewers are immersed in the lore of the Bounty Hunters Guild and Mandalorian culture, with tiny glimpses into what life in a galaxy without the Emperor is like for ordinary citizens living on these backwater planets.
Franchise newcomer Jon Favreau and Star Wars animation veteran Dave Filoni know exactly what made the original films stand out over 40 years ago. Beneath the magical wonder and swashbuckling adventure, there is a rusty, broken-down and lived-in world of cantankerous aliens, patchwork ships and seedy business deals. It is in this world that “The Mandalorian” thrives, filling the episodes with tension, humor and heart-pounding action sequences.
Setting the pace for the adventure is the intense, ear-wormy score concocted by Ludwig Göransson. The 35-year-old composing prodigy further cements his place among the contemporary greats of his field, following up his huge year in 2018, in which he won an Oscar for his work on Marvel’s “Black Panther” and the Song of the Year Grammy for his work producing Childish Gambino’s hit “This is America.”
The score fits perfectly into the world and feels at home within the hallowed playlist rotations of John Williams’ legendary orchestral combinations for the big-screen films.
I would be hard-pressed to delve further into the plot of these first two episodes without revealing a major surprise for those lucky enough not to have been already spoiled by the internet. I will leave it at this — the new addition will melt your hearts and leave you even more impatient for the next episode.
I can say this: there are blasters, there are spaceships, there are very angry Jawas with an outsized taste for eggs and there is one determined Mandalorian well on his way to making himself an iconic place in Star Wars lore.
I can really only complain that I wish the episodes were longer. The first two combined only complete about 70 minutes of screentime. That said, if shorter episodes are the price to pay for this cinema-level production value (from the creatures to a jaw-dropping sandcrawler action sequence), it’s a price I, like our favorite bounty hunters employers, am willing to pay.
Disney+ has entered the streaming wars swinging with the launch of the first of many original series to come from their top IPs. Another Star Wars adventure starring Diego Luna’s roguish rebel Cassion Andor from “Rogue One” is on the way, as are multiple series starring the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans of these properties can only hope they will live up to the quality of “The Mandalorian.”